Donald Trump is giving away decades of U.S. influence and power to Russia. This is destroying alliances, bolstering strongmen, undermining democracy worldwide and severely weakening our national security. You’re either with Trump or with America. You can’t be for both.Read More »
The Russians and Chinese understand the U.S. is hobbled by a weak and incompetent president. These two hostile nations, these totalitarian states have greatly improved their ties. My fear is that they will work together in this unprecedented time, when the American commander in chief is a buffoon who has undermined allies and has no real allegiance to democracy. Foes of the US likely see this as an opportune time to make aggressive moves.While our military is strong, the fish rots from the head, and Trump is calling the shots. I have no confidence that we would prevail in a prolonged conflict with Trump making key decisions. And never forget, Trump thinks he knows more about military operations than the Generals
Traditional conservatives, who just want to screw over working Americans on taxes and trade, as well as start a profitable war every now and again, are in a state of outright panic as Trump has fully taken over the Republican Party. For this Koch Brothers crowd, racism is primarily a cynical political device to occasionally trot out during campaigns. Think George H.W. Bush’s Willie Horton ad. They use racism and xenophobia to create fear and trick the rubes into voting for corporate Republicans, who once in office, pay lip service to the bigotry – while shilling for the banks. After all, they want cheap immigrant labor, not a wall.
Many of the rank and file Republicans in the Red States have finally caught on to this scheme and are demanding a reordering of the GOP coalition. The few remaining elite Republicans are horrified. They often live in urban centers, have little in common with this angry, bitter rural base. They don’t eat at the Waffle House and they can’t figure out what the hell chicken fried steak is? Is it chicken or steak? It has to come from a chicken or a cow, which one is it?
These Cadillac Conservatives love to champion the 2nd Amendment, but most of their hunting is done in the Chelsea Market for the greenest arugula and organic, cage free eggs. They no longer have anything culturally in common with the rabid, frothing at the mouth Base. They used to bond over the NFL, but apparently less so after Colin Kaepernick’s on-field protests against police brutality.
The elite Republicans are also confused over how to handle Trump’s latest race-baiting outbursts. To them, what Trump is doing is gauche. Cadillac Conservatives are used to couching their racism, but Trump has shown you can win by appealing to the couch potatoes watching FOX News and screaming racist and homophobic insults at the television.
So, to deal with these changes to the party faithful and try to control the rebellious base, a handful of snobby Republicans hosted a conference in DC. The goal was to embrace the term nationalism – and reframe it in a non-bigoted way. Which is like trying to reframe ice cream as health food because it has milk.
This is how The New York Times covered the conference: “Ever since Donald J. Trump laid waste to its ideologicalshibboleths with his victory at the polls, the conservative intellectual class has been scrambling to keep up with him.”
First, conservative intellectual class is an oxymoron. These are the people who brought us trickle down economics, said the Iraqis would greet us with flowers, offer thoughts and prayers after each gun massacre and don’t believe in climate catastrophe. What good idea has the so-called conservative intellectual class given the world in recent decades? Well, Mitt Romney did give us ObamaCare in Massachusetts – but he had to disavow that. But I digress.
So, back to this National Conservatism Conference, where the former Grand Poobah’s of the Republican Party decided that if you can’t beat The Base, fool them, and make it look like you are joining them. These fancy Republicans are now trying culturally appropriate Trump’s nationalism and claim it as their own.
According to the Times: 500 policy thinkers, theorists, journalists and students gathered in a ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton for the start of a three-day event dedicated to charting a new path for conservatism under the banner of nationalism. And not the kind associated with tiki torches and Nazi salutes, the conference was at pains to make clear.
In today’s GOP, that’s like saying we support restaurants without utensils or banks without ATM’s. With Trump’s election, the hideous horse of bigotry has not only has left the barn, he’s left Kentucky and galloped halfway to North Carolina. To paraphrase Natalie Merchant from the band 10,000 Maniacs Trump has correctly read the base and he’s giving them what they want. And, what they want is to take of the gloves, take off the mask and show their true heinous colors.
For example, did you see the sickening Internet ad forwarded on Twitter by the Republican Country Chairman’s Association of Illinois? It had unflattering pictures of the Democratic Congresswomen in “The Squad” with the headline “The Jihad Squad.” It was captioned, “Political Jihad is their game.” It ended with a spoonful of required conservative victimhood saying, “If you don’t agree with their socialist ideology you’re racist.” No, we are calling y
ou racist because you are creating racist ads like the one in question.
Scorched by the criticism, the Illinois GOP chairman apologized and said, the ad did not reflect the party’s values. Like hell it didn’t. We all witnessed Trump’s vile North Carolina rally. We all heard the vicious chants of “send her back.” So, don’t tell us that you don’t value racial incitement and religious bigotry. In today’s Republican Party, that seems to be all the base values. That is who they are and what they stand for.
So, this fancy Republican conference of pseudo intellectuals at The DC Ritz – no doubt a regular Tea Party hangout – branded their new effort “Conservative Nationalism.” But this is where it gets interesting. Many in the crowd were turning their backs on unfettered free market capitalism, they rejected globalism and military adventurism and basically every policy the Republican Party for decades has stood for.
So, as I said earlier, much of The Base has finally caught on that they are the ones being exploited by Fat Cat, tax-cut happy Republicans. They know that they saw virtually no personal benefit from the huge Trump tax-cuts for millionaires and billionaires. The last thing they want is a bunch of snooty pencil pushing, Ivory Tower Ritz Republicans from the Upper East Side wrapping musty old failed conservatism in a shiny new package called “National Conservatism.”
Ironically, what they increasingly support are progressive policies that help their families. They want healthcare and help with childcare. Many of these folks work in restaurants or Wal-Mart, so they support a higher minimum wage. They are humiliated because they can’t afford to send their children to college without going deep into debt. They want fiscal policies to improve their lives, not make the 1-percent even richer.
This new reality creates a conundrum for The Base. They can continue supporting the modern GOP – which gives them permission to openly and proudly express their racism hate under the banner of casting off political correctness – but with the cost of being taken advantage of economically by Country Club set.
Or, they can vote for Democrats and improve their economic station in life, but at the price of curbing ostentatious displays of bigotry in the public square. Up to now, the rabble has chosen hate over helping their families and has voted Republican
But the times are a changing. The Base feels empowered and they are beginning to wonder if they can’t have it all. Why not have a more economically equal society – but still be able enjoy the sport of immigrant bashing? Why not be anti-Koch Brothers, while being anti-Semitic at the same time? As long as we are free to be racist, do we really need a free market? This solves the dilemma, for example, of a white worker who supports his union, but also wants to build a wall at the Mexican border and insult his gay neighbors.
This is important. FOX News commentator Tucker Carlson stole the show at the conference with a speech he titled, “Big Business Hates Your Family.” According to Carlson:
“The main threat to your ability to live your life as you choose, does not come from the government, it comes from the private sector,” he declared. “I can’t believe I’m saying that!” But, he did say it and the crowd loved it.
Carlson recently praised some of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s economic ideas. What he and Steve Bannon have figured out before the rest of the Republican Party, is that the road to future power may be decoupling free market capitalism from conservatism. What Republicans seem to want are conservative social policies combined with relatively progressive economic policies, which are administered by a strongman who is unaffected by the cumbersome rules of the U.S. Constitution.
The name for this is not National Conservatism. It’s a form of National Socialism. Let that sink in for a minute.
Of course, Republicans would never use the word socialist. They would veil their socialism in nationalistic terms. For instance, to justify a national healthcare plan, they would call it Patriot Care and sell it by saying, “a healthy nation is a wealthy nation.” They might offer the Yankee Doodle Dandy Plan and make sure people signed up by the 4th of July.
But don’t think that Donald Trump in – God Forbid — a second term would have any allegiance to the Republican elite who, behind the scenes, have nothing but contempt for his ignorance and incompetence, not to mention his boorishness and bigotry. And, as a populist, in worst sense of the word, who is independently wealthy, Trump can make significant changes because he isn’t reliant on Koch Brother cash.
Obviously, the Republican Party is not there yet. As the conference shows, this fight is still playing out. But the outlines of a potentially emerging National Socialism are plain to see for anyone who is looking and paying attention to trends.
I watched the entire Trump rally in Greenville, North Carolina with alarm for the future of the United States of America. We have a certified demagogue in the Oval Office with a Republican base that increasingly seems to support democracy only if their side wins. This crass army of angry malcontents raucously invokes America, while sledge hammering our norms and institutions that have kept us safe and prosperous. They nurse grievances, spread conspiracy theories, create lists of enemies, troll online, express contempt for our government and foment divisions in an increasingly diverse society, all while fancying themselves victims. Are they not the slightest bit concerned where this all leads?
In normal times, this threat would be worrying but still manageable. We could chalk this unpleasantness up to the ranting and raving of a few loud extremists on the fringes of polite society. But now the boisterous and bizarre have their sites on shattering polite society and their increasingly vicious voices are amplified by the presidency, the largest megaphone in the world. Worse, an entire political Party in a two-party system has either backed this dangerous agenda with a full-throated roar or has been cowed into silence.
Even more frightening is the existence of a perverse media universe that ensures Trump’s followers never have to be confronted with facts or reality. FOX News Channel has become unofficial state television parroting Donald Trump’s self-serving worldview. The liberal abandonment of talk radio has terribly backfired and turned the cars of millions of people into rolling propaganda pods. The Internet is now a vast wasteland of right wing disinformation and raw rhetorical sewage that has tainted political discourse. The dire situation has been greatly exacerbated by social media companies who would rather allow Nazis to network and the Russians to influence our elections than crack down and risk losing a portion of their tainted audience.
Meanwhile, the normal media gatekeepers are dismissed as “fake news” and the more venerable GOP leaders who might step up to counter what they know is wrong are too cowardly. On the rare occasion they do summon the courage to question the direction of the Party, they are summarily sliced to bits by Trump’s toxic tweets and subjected to abusive attacks and ultimate banishment.
Into this vortex of vituperation we had Trump’s vile North Carolina rally. The President made clear that there are no moral limits and he will keep going lower and lower until he high-fives Satan. The Republican Party has enthusiastically jumped on board and name-calling is now official strategy, while questioning one’s patriotism is an acceptable tactic, especially if the person has dark skin and a foreign-sounding name.
Let’s be crystal clear: The attacks on “The Squad” (Reps’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib) were so far beyond the pale that it was incitement to violence. When you claim that minority women elected to Congress hate America and sympathize with Al Qaeda terrorists you are practically begging for a mentally unstable “patriot” to commit unspeakable acts. If you don’t think violence could occur, remember the whacko who was goaded by right wing media into storming a Washington, DC pizzeria with an assault rifle because he believed the restaurant housed a secret Democratic child sex ring. Words have consequences and if any of these women are harmed, not only Trump, but every single Republican has blood on their hands. The violent writing is on the wall, so how much longer will Republicans refuse to read it?
The animated mob at the rally, ironically in a nation of immigrants, was enraptured with each racist and xenophobic utterance. They dutifully played their role in Trump’s one man Broadway for Bigots play by rabidly chanting, “Send her back.” Since all of these congresswomen are American citizens, the meaning was clear: Only white Christians are true Americans and everyone else is just taking up space and weakening the country.
It was also disconcerting that one of the largest cheers at the rally came when Trump said that he would protect the crowd’s guns from being taken away. The implication is that armed conflict is an option if this agitated demographic, whose sense of victimization and entitlement is stoked daily by right wing media, doesn’t get their way.
It is chilling how Trump indoctrinates his followers with the lie that he has accomplished amazing things and so much more could have been done if not for a witch-hunt led by traitors who have treated him unfairly. If only these obstacles to American greatness could be removed, the nation would soar to unprecedented heights, he implies. Given his obvious “historic” achievements and support of 95-percent of Americans, as Don Jr. told Fox & Friends, the crowd is left to wonder how Trump could not win reelection unless nefarious forces cheated and orchestrated a coup.
If political violence is on the horizon, Trump telegraphed at his rally that he would scapegoat ANTIFA, perhaps justifying force by right wing militias. In the coming months, expect to see any action by ANTIFA played on loop in right wing media – with the intended effect of making Trump’s well armed mob feel as if they are under siege with no alternative but to head into the streets to fight back if Trump loses the election. No doubt, if this squalid day comes to pass, any liberal wearing an Obama T-shirt or a hat with a rainbow flag will likely be targeted as ANTIFA and potentially subjected to violence. These are scary times and given the history of unspeakable crimes against humanity in the past century, we should not be naïve enough to think it could not happen here. In fact, it did happen here if you’ll recall the Civil War.
The most notable insight of watching the rally was to see how Trump strategically uses these adrenaline-pumping circus-like events to browbeat Republicans into submission. Current GOP lawmakers or candidates are called up on-stage for recognition. For politicians used to average size crowds in high school gymnasiums, the adoration is a revelation. It is clear that they are dumbstruck and awed by the rock star like atmosphere. The experience serves as both aphrodisiac and warning. If you play ball with Donald Trump you will get the hero treatment – and if you don’t you will get the zero treatment. You will be lionized or thrown naked into the lion’s den – there is no in-between.
It is unnerving to watch these politicians prostrate themselves at Trump’s feet and swear allegiance, not to U.S. Constitution, but to a megalomaniacal demagogue. If you wonder why the “Family Values” GOP defers to an accused rapist who pals around with pedophiles like Jeff Epstein, just watch the entire rally to understand the source of Trump’s power.
An interesting aside is how Trump avoided overt anti-gay attacks at his rally. His record on LGBT issues is atrocious, but even when he had his chance to go after the sexual orientation of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, he mainly focused on making fun of his name. This should not provide a false sense of security. The Trump Administration has clearly figured that when it comes to LGBT people, it’s better to avoid public name-calling (for now) and instead quietly undo existing protections, single out transgender Americans for discrimination and pack the court with young anti-LGBT judges who will do untold damage for decades to come. Let’s also not be delusional: For the Mike Pence-loving right wing hoards wildly cheering at the rally, there is no place in America for LGBT people. Well, there is and it’s called The Closet.
I’d like to be optimistic and say that I believe this story has a happy ending. However, it’s impossible to do so when we have a President using the full power and prestige of the office to divide us into warring factions. When we have a president who claims that he is the victim of a coup and that the only legitimate election outcome is his own victory, when our leader has vowed to accept foreign assistance from the same hostile foreign power that helped elect him in the first place, when such corruption is touted as virtuous on the conservative media ecosystem and a GOP establishment that believes their best shot at remaining in power is limiting the number of voters through suppression at the ballot box.
I’m not sure how this ends, but I do know the current trajectory is unsustainable. When one political Party and it’s charismatic cult leader unrelentingly smashes our institutions, eventually they will crumble. What comes next is anybody’s guess, but we can be pretty certain that it won’t offer the freedom and liberty of our current democratically elected form of government. That’s why it is our duty to defend our democracy from a authoritarian dystopia that threatens our national security and a stable future.Read More »
What happened in Charlottesville this weekend didn’t just randomly occur. It was a very predictable culmination of one of the most disgraceful years in American political history.
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy, his biggest political achievement was leading the Birther movement, which questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in America. Trump launched his campaign by scapegoating Mexican immigrants, even comparing these so-called “bad Hombres” to criminals and rapists.
From Day 1, white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups had found their man and rallied around Trump’s campaign. This was well documented.
Instead of acting responsibly and relegating Trump and his crackpot supporters to the fringe, CNN and MSNBC gave Trump perhaps the largest platform, with the biggest megaphone, in American history. This serial liar with Nazi supporters received three billion dollars in free media, and he was a ubiquitous presence in our homes for nearly two years.
The networks loved Trump because he made them money. People would tune into see his racist rants, and the networks would convert those eyeballs into advertising revenue. To make a short-term profit, the media checked its ethics, surrendered its moral authority, and ignored the unsavory, and often violent, elements that created havoc at Trump rallies.
The warning signs were there. On August 19, 2015, two lowlifes beat a Hispanic man with a pipe in Boston while yelling, “Donald Trump was right,” and “All these illegals need to be deported.” But the corporate media continued to prostitute itself and pretend this was an anomaly, rather than a fixture of Trump’s rhetoric.
Instead of harshly condemning Trump’s frequent attacks on Muslims and Latinos, the media tried to explain away his rougher edges. Trump was a regular on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, which repeatedly allowed the reality star to use that platform to set the day’s news agenda. While Trump often received favorable news coverage, Hillary Clinton was routinely savaged, and Bernie Sanders was mostly ignored.
CNN was the worst of all. They should have dropped most of their Trump coverage for the good of America. Instead, they saturated the airwaves with this bigoted blowhard.
They degraded their news operation by hiring Trump apologists, such as Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany, and Corey Lewandowski. These apparatchiks spun Trumps constant lies and excused his overt racism. They normalized his bigotry and turned this hate-mongering millionaire, into an “everyday man of the people, who just wanted to bring back their jobs in the coal mine.”
The media played with fire, and this weekend, America was burned – as the white supremacists and neo-Nazis, inspired by Trump’s victory, felt secure enough to come out of the closet and parade in a liberal college town like Charlottesville.
Republicans are also partially responsible for what happened in Charlottesville. They have long considered racists just another constituency, and Donald Trump knows they are his base. This is why he pathetically failed to condemn the neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville saying, it was an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.
That statement, if you think about it, is the triumph of FOX News, which has perfected the art of false equivalency. With its propaganda slogan “Fair and Balanced,” FOX promotes the Big Lie that there are two legitimate sides to every issue.
So, if have Gay Pride, to be fair and balanced, you must promote Straight Pride. If you interview an advocate for Black Lives Matter, to be fair and balanced, you must promote a racist from Blue Lives Matter or White Lives Matter. This is how FOX promotes bigotry, while giving itself plausible deniability.
I’ve heard many Republicans make the false claim that the racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia displayed in Charlottesville is not real conservatism. I guess that’s true if you conveniently ignore history.
Barry Goldwater, the Godfather of the modern conservative movement, voted against the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Richard Nixon rolled out the Southern Strategy, stressing the code words “law and order.” What it really did was exploit racial tension so Republicans could take over the south. It was an overwhelming success. Today, we euphemistically call these states that switched parties due to racism, Red States.
Nixon also targeted minorities with a phony War on Drugs. Last year, Nixon’s domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman told Harpers:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin.
And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders. Raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
When Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination, he kicked off his presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi. This town was the site where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. During his speech, he unforgivably told the crowd, “I believe in states’ rights.”
George H.W. Bush embraced Family Values Republicans and let the infamous haters Pat Robertson and Pat Buchannan spew bile from the 1992 convention in Houston. He also ran the infamous race baiting Willie Horton ad.
In 2000, the George W. Bush campaign, led by Karl Rove, helped place 11 referendums on ballots to ban gay marriage. The idea was to mobilize conservative voters, mostly in swing states, such as Ohio. All 11 bans passed and George W. Bush was reelected.
Let’s also not forget that Republican presidential candidates lined up for years to speak at Bob Jones University, which banned interracial dating. It wasn’t until George W. Bush took flack for his appearance in 2000, that Republicans stopped bowing down to this racist school.
Modern conservatism is a scam that rich whites perpetrate on poor whites. It’s a bait and switch, where wealthy Republicans stir up the base by creating minority scapegoats. The white rubes then come out to vote Republican. But, once in office, they generally ignore the rubes and give massive tax cuts to themselves.
But these fools never catch on. The latest version is Trump’s refrain, “Drain the Swamp.” When he was elected, however, he filled key positions with swamp dwellers from Goldman Sachs.
The greatest distillation of conservative strategy came from the late political operative Lee Atwater:
And even after all the advances in Civil Rights and the election of Barack Obama, confederate monuments shamefully still dotted the south. This changed on June 17, 2015 when white supremacist Dylan Roof murdered nine African Americans praying at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Those defending confederate monuments call it their heritage. They are correct, but it’s a heritage of hate, in the service of slavery. These monuments are trophies to traitors, who rebelled against the United States of America. They only place for these plaques to prejudice are in a museum, where the hate and bigotry can be put into a historical context, instead of celebrated in the public square.
The fireworks in Charlottesville began over anger about plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. I personally think Lee’s monument should be replaced by a statue of Heather Heyer, the counterdemonstrator who was murdered by Nazi, Alex Fields Jr., who he rammed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd, also injuring 19 people.
Donald Trump’s flaccid reaction to this Nazi violence is a pockmark on his presidency. By not standing up to his base, he has debased the office.
Indeed, former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke said:
“We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump.”
Since 2001, there is an average of more than 300 violent attacks a year in the United States linked to right wing extremists, according to a study by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Since 9/11 jihadists have murdered 95 people in the U.S, while right wing extremists have killed 68 people.
What happened in Charlottesville was an act of terrorism. Where the hell is Trump’s “War on Terror” now? We don’t need a brown war on terror – we need a war on all terrorism, and that includes his base.
Trump also needs to clean house, with the stain on his legacy extending to staff. His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is a white nationalist. Another key advisor, Sebastian Gorka, is tied to neo-Nazi groups in Hungary. This is completely unacceptable, and if the president doesn’t want to get blamed for right wing violence, he needs to begin by firing these extremists.
It’s time the conservative movement stops tolerating those who spread intolerance. They need to be crystal clear and remove these haters from their base. And the media should stop giving coverage to politicians who pander to undesirable right wing elements. Enough is enough, already.
This is Wayne Besen for today’s daily Reality Check.Read More »