This afternoon in Missouri. The overcast sky (and rain) cleared about twenty minutes before totality.
Missouri’s 2nd congressional district is relatively wealthy, mostly white and traditionally conservative. For years it was represented by retrograde moron and dominionist Christian, Todd Akin, who worried the issue of something he called “legitimate rape” like a dog worrying a bone until he found himself out of a job. His replacement, GOP Rep. Ann Wagner, who can best be described as a political Mommy Dearest, is preoccupied with the sad plight of bankers and financiers whom she struggles to protect, while cloyingly reassuring her other constituents that she has only their welfare in mind – a position the defense of which has necessitated that she rarely make contact with folks from her district who might be inclined to ask inconvenient questions.
We in the 2nd district may be able to tell a different story, though, after 2018. In past election cycles, Wagner has had few opponents who have been able to go up against her scads of banking industry money and local connections and she has easily prevailed. But all things must pass; change is inevitable.
Democratic strategists see the possibility of an upset in the 2nd – how much of a possibility and how seriously the Democratic party plans to support it has yet to be determined; it’s early days yet. Nevertheless, the party’s interest, coupled, I suspect, with the renewed activism triggered by the truly hideous garden path down which Republicans, led by their Trump man-baby, are taking us, has led to several viable candidates stepping up to take Wagner on.
One of those candidates, Kelli Dunaway, was profiled by Gloria Bilchik of Occasional Planet, and based on Bilchik’s comments, certainly seems promising. Another, Mark Osmark, currently employed as a consultant with Deloitte, met with a few members of the Queeny and Lafayette Townships’ Democratic Club last Wednesday (Aug. 16) and also managed to come across as an excellent alternative to the artificial and subtly doctrinaire Wagner. The following comments reflect my impressions of Osmack and what he had to say, in my language, not his – but if I misstate any facts, I would welcome corrections.
Like Dunaway, Osmack, is a newbie when it comes to running for office, although, again like Dunaway, he’s spent some time lurking on the periphery of the political world, putting in stints with both Claire McCaskill and Tammy Duckworth. He implied that he learned from these two distinctive politicians the importance of persevering in the face of obstacles, as well as more than a little about the realities of political give-and-take – and in spite of that baptism, he still believes that government has the power to make lives better for everyday people.
Osmack is a fluent and graceful speaker. Without once mentioning that he was awarded a bronze star, he was able to convey the importance of his two combat tours in Afghanistan. What he focused on when he spoke about his time in the military, was the importance of stepping up and accepting the challenges of leadership – he was a platoon leader – no matter how daunting it might seem.
Apropos of his experience in the service as well as his readiness to start big and run for the US Congress, he noted that no one would ever do anything if they waited until they’re “ready” for new challenges, but instead, one succeeds by stepping up and purposefully addressing the task in hand. To very loosely paraphrase, he presented his approach to the challenges of public service as some thing you just do because it has to be done and there’s no alternative but to succeed.
Osmack demonstrated familiarity with the ins-and-outs of the major political issues of the day as well as the lay of the land in the 2nd district. His offered acceptable if not daring answers to specific questions concerning such political danger zones as local racism (he won’t shy away from calling out racism despite the fact that the 2nd is a staid, predominantly white district), and, that major spoiler, reproductive rights (he “hates” abortion, but defends the right of women to choose to have a safe, legal abortion). What was impressive in his answers, though, was the way they were laid out clearly within a fully-fleshed, often personal, context that could help to make them palatable to many who are not firmly located on one or the other ends of the political spectrum.
Osmack’s answer to a question about gun violence was typical of his seemingly anecdotal but still laser-sharp approach to explaining his positions. After establishing his military bona fides as a man who knows about guns, he recounted his experience as the victim of an attempted car-jacking. His made the point that the perpetrator was armed with a gun and clearly understood how to deploy it; had Osmack been carrying a firearm and had he attempted to use it, he said that he is convinced he could now be dead. And had there been a gun concealed in his car, a criminal with one gun would now be, he noted, a criminal with two guns – an important point since most authorities agree that the proliferation of illegal guns on our streets is fueled partly by the theft of legal guns.
Nor is Osmack in denial about the potential roadblocks he may need to overcome to win the Democratic primary and prevail over Wagner in 2018. When asked about Wagner’s war-chest, his noted that money isn’t the whole picture and he doesn’t really need to match her reserves: there’s only so many TV spots etc. that can be purchased. He’s equally que sera, sera when it comes to the question of Democratic Party support and his current primary rivals. As noted above, it’s early times yet, and Osmack let us know that he is aware of that fact.
Given that it is early times, what did I learn last Wednesday? First, Osmack could be a real contender. He’s got serious potential and I hope, no matter what happens in the months ahead, that we see more of him in the Missouri political arena. Second, Democrats in the 2nd may be in the almost unprecedented situation of having an embarrassment of riches when it comes to possible challengers to Wagner. I’m looking forward to a promised panel discussion (or debate?) later on when we are closer to the primary.
Oh yes … I’m also feeling just a little more optimistic about being able to say adiós amiga once and for all to Ann Wagner.
Yesterday at the Missouri Ethics Commission for one of the committees opposed to organized labor and promoting “right to get paid less”:
C171080 08/18/2017 Liberty Alliance Red Bird Ready-Mix Company 755 South New Ballas Rd Suite 150 St Louis MO 63141 8/17/2017 $10,000.00
Or concrete, your choice.
Campaign Finance: okay, now they’re getting serious… (August 1, 2017)
Campaign Finance: following the money (August 8, 2017)
Campaign Finance: Is anyone surprised? (August 9, 2017)
Campaign Finance: self interest (August 15, 2017)
Campaign Finance: alrighty then (August 17, 2017)
On Thursday morning in Warrensburg Senator Claire McCaskill (D) continued her long chain of open public town halls for Missourians. Close to one hundred people attended and participated in the hour long event.
As it has been over the past year and in past years the format for these town halls was the same as previous ones held by Senator McCaskill. Anyone can submit a written question. An individual in the audience who volunteers that they “would probably never vote for” the senator is asked to randomly select the questions from a basket. That volunteer gets to ask the last question.
At this particular town hall, unlike previous ones for Senator McCaskill we’ve covered this summer, we noticed that the volunteer was screening out and selecting the questions. Individuals in the audience noticed the same and insistently called him out. The silliness in his behavior, whether it’s emblematic of a larger cultural dynamic or not, is that there weren’t any questions Claire McCaskill hasn’t heard before and couldn’t easily handle. The unfairness in the activity was that some other individuals who had submitted questions for their senator had someone else screen them out of the process. That’s not fairness in anyone’s book.
Once the behavior was pointed out it was quickly resolved. Speaking out and speaking up can work.
There were other interesting exchanges:
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): [….] Uh, uh, we got a letter. [laughter] Um, this is not a, uh, [voice, in whisper: “Thank you.”] there’s no, nobody put their name on this.
[reading] In America we are observing groups decide they don’t like certain statues, nativity scenes, veteran’s symbols, even the American flag. Do you believe a group of twenty or a hundred have a legal right to tear down what they disagree with? What about the twenty or a hundred people standing there trying to protect the statues, nativity scenes, veteran’s symbols? Do they have a legal right to protect it? How would you solve this problem? This week I have watched news channels that have tried to convince everyone that if you are white and conservative you are a racist, white supremacist or neo-Nazi. Are you doing anything in your power to counteract this nonsense?
Um, I disagree with some of the things in this. Um [crosstalk]…
Voice: That’s me, Abby Phillips. I didn’t know we were supposed to put our name on [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: That’s fine.
Voice: I’m proud of my question.
Senator McCaskill: Yeah, no, not a problem. Thank you for asking it. Um, I think anybody who destroys a public, a public statue or building, anybody who does any damage should be prosecuted for it. Um, so that’s what you do when someone destroys public buildings or destroys public statues. You prosecute them.
I think local communities and states should have the right to decide what they want to erect in terms of statues and what they want to take down in terms of statues. I believe very much in separation of church and state. [applause] I don’t think public money should be used to promote one religion over another. Private money, I’ve got no problem with it. Public money, public spaces, should not favor one religion over another. Not in a country that was founded on the premise of freedom of religion. People who came to this country were escaping religious prosecute, persecution for what they believed in. So, freedom of religion is really one of our core values in this country. And that’s why I don’t think public money should ever take sides with one religion over another.
Um, I think the people who are, people who are protesting have the right to protest and say whatever they want to say or do in this country. But that doesn’t mean that my father, who fought in World War Two, that I don’t have the obligation to speak out against hundreds of people carrying swastikas. [applause]
Voice: You know what, my father fought in World War Two, also. He was in Germany. But, what I’m trying, the point I’m trying to make is, what I’m seeing on TV they’re stereotyping people like me. I am a white, conservative woman. And so now, all of a sudden, all I’m hearing on TV is because I’m a white, conservative woman then I’m a racist, white supremacist, neo-Nazi. [voices: “No.” “Not true.” “Which answer do you want?”] No, I know, I know, I’m in the middle of Democrats, I understand that. But, but, they thing is what, what we’re getting sick of, and I hope both sides are, is that they’re, they’re doing word games in Washington, D.C. and on the media. It’s all games and it’s all true manipulation. It’s what they call the spin. And somebody besides me has to be sick of this. [crosstalk]
Senator McCaskill: I don’t think there’s any question. Yeah, let me [crosstalk]…speak a little to that.
Second voice: I’m sure that African Americans [crosstalk]…
Voice: Really, you know, I, I don’t blame people for fighting. [crosstalk]
Senator McCaskill: [crosstalk]First of all let me say, let me just say clearly that you are a white, conservative woman and I don’t think anybody in this room thinks you’re a racist. Anybody. [applause]
Voice: But, but it’s being, wait, but we’re being stereotyped that way it’s what I’m trying to tell you [crosstalk] and I just…
Senator McCaskill: Well, I think that, if that, if that’s being stereotyped that way that’s just as unfair as stereotyping every black person as somebody who’s a terrorist in Black Lives Matters [inaudible][applause][crosstalk]…
Voice: [inaudible][crosstalk] I don’t do that. You know, I don’t do that.
Senator McCaskill: But, and you don’t do that. And the people in this room don’t do that. But it, those stereotypes are going on, too. So, here’s the problem we have, and I don’t know how we get over this problem, [voice: “I don’t either.”] believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. [….]
Do you think Senator Roy Blunt (r) will hold open public town halls in Missouri any time soon? Or ever?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D) held several scheduled open public town halls today across west central Missouri.
Starting after 11:00 this morning close to a hundred people participated in the hour long town hall in Warrensburg. After the town hall Senator McCaskill took questions from the press.
The transcript of the Press Q and A:
Question:…What are you really hearing? Is, is it all about health care?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Health care. Um, public education. A lot of people worried about public education, especially in rural communities. Because they’ve heard all the [Secretary of Education] Betsy DeVos talk about we need to have private schools get a chance and using public money for private school. So, people are really on fire about [crosstalk] protecting public schools.
Question: There’s, there’s a lot of resistance about that in rural Missouri, [crosstalk] isn’t there?
Senator McCaskill: A lot of resistance to that. Because the public, there aren’t private schools in rural Missouri. So when you take money out of public schools you are hurting, uh, the only schools they have. They don’t have that private school choice. So it’s really, um, a gut punch to rural Missouri because that’s the beating heart of rural communities, are their public school systems, so. Um, public education, transportation, a fair amount about transportation. Those are kind of the big three. Uh, some worries about Ag[riculture] in rural areas because of the NAFTA negotiations, um, commodities producers worried that they’re gonna have retaliation from Canada and Mexico on. That’s our number one and number two export for corn and beans in Missouri. So there’s some concern about that. Um, you know, certainly, I’ve gotten a lot of questions in a lot of the town halls about President Trump and, um, you know, what can you do and worries about North Korea and worries about Charlottesville [Virginia] and, um, so those come up with some regularity. But I’d say that certainly the thing that is touching people’s lives where there’s the most uncertainty that they’re most worried about are those people who finally were able to get health care, uh, with subsidies under Obamacare, worried that that’s gonna go away. And that’s really important to rural communities ‘cause there’s not a lot of large employers.
Qustion: [inaudible] One of the first questions that you got was about the concept of Medicare for all. You made your position on that clear, but there is a, at least, very vocal wing of your party that really wants to press that idea going into twenty-eighteen. Do you think, do you think that wing is being unrealistic? Do you, do you, what’s your message to that, that wing of the Democratic Party that, uh, that is really pushing?
Senator McCaskill: Well, I, I respect their advocacy of that issue. I respect that, um, when they advocate for that issue they point out that a lot of countries have done this. They point out that there are problems [in] our health care system that don’t lend itself to a competitive free market. I think those are important issues for people to have on their minds. But, I can’t get there until we figure out how to pay for it. And it is, um, just incredibly expensive. If you look at our debt and how it’s gonna grow, it would exponentially increase, to the point that we wouldn’t have any money. If the interest rate goes up we would literally have no money in the federal budget to do things like Veteran’s Affairs and things like public education and things like infrastructure. It would completely, the interest on the debt would completely gobble up all the discretionary funding. So, that’s why we can’t go there until we can do so responsibly.
Question: If Obamacare is supposed to be, as I’m hearing, dying under its own weight, that’s one way it’s being characterized, is another way , would you say to characterize it by saying it’s getting knifed in the back?
Senator McCaskill: Definitely. Definitely being sabotaged. There’s no question. The insurance companies have made it very clear that one of the reasons the premiums are going up is the uncertainty surrounding whether or not President Trump is going to pay the cost sharing subsidy payments, they’re not subsidy payments, let me say that again, whether President Trump’s going to pay the cost sharing payments that are due to the insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act. Him sabotaging it is creating uncertainty. And those insurance companies are factoring that uncertainty into their premium levels. So they’ve, the CDO study just came out this week that said premium increases of twenty percent because of the uncertainty as to whether or not those payments are gonna be made. That’s why the Republicans actually put those payments in their bill. They know we need to stabilize those payments. I think we’re gonna have some success getting a bipartisan majority to at least stabilize those payments in the short run so that we can get through the next round of exchange offerings, uh, with Missourians still having a choice that they can afford.
Question: Now I’ve heard that a few times. Is there a sense of urgency on the bill [crosstalk] they’ll actually do something?
Senator McCaskill: There is. There is. There is. And [Senator] Lamar Alexander has indicated that he will have hearings when we get back on stabilizing the markets. There’s a number of ideas besides just making those payments that we could potentially fold in. But I know, uh, personally, I have talked to and gotten reassurance from at least ten to twelve Republicans that agree that this is something we need to do, we need to do right away.
Question: Given the President’s fraught relationship with his own party how much, uh, drama are you expecting with the upcoming debt ceiling vote.
Senator McCaskill: I don’t know. It’s going to be weird. Um, you know he’s got a Director of OMB that always was a believer that we should default on our debt. Um, and then he’s got a Secretary of the Treasury that’s saying that would be a disaster, we cannot default of the debt, we must raise the debt ceiling, it’s not about raising our credit limit, it’s about paying the bills we already have due, and we need a clean debt ceiling right away. So, those are two members of his cabinet with a hundred eighty degree different views on the debt ceiling. So I don’t know how they’re going to communicate that clearly to Congress and what kind of cooperation, uh, the Speaker and the House is gonna get from the Freedom Caucus. And what cooperation [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell is gonna get from the most conservative members of his caucus. But they’re gonna need all those votes to get this done.
Question: And I know you’re gonna talk more about, uh, issues of national security tomorrow with Senator Roberts….but the [Steve] Bannon interview that came out last night with the American Prospect, have you had a chance to read it, some of the things he’s, he’s saying in there about the administration and also, basically, not really having any options with North Korea?
Senator McCaskill: Yeah, it was, I didn’t get a chance to read the whole thing. I just read a summary of it that came across, um, my email. And I read the summary. But there are a lot of things about that interview that are very disturbing. One, that Steve Bannon would have the authority to fire people in the State Department. Um, I, I, mean, how much do they want to undermine [Secretary of State] Rex Tillerson? Rex Tillerson is the symbol of our country around the world. He is our diplomat. He is the one who carries the weight of the United States in to countries across the globe. The notion that Steve Bannon from the White House can brag, um, to not a friendly journalistic outlet, I mean this was not like Breitbart. This was like to brag to them that he’s firing people in the State Department. I can’t imagine how Rex Tillerson must feel. Uh, he is constantly undermined by this White House It’s really not good for our national security. It makes us less safe.
Question: What do you hope to accomplish with the eco-terrorism conference in Kansas City?
Senator McCaskill: Well, I think the eco-terrorism conference is pretty important because, um, it’s well, first of all, I’m proud of it because it’s a place that, um, I’ve worked with my, you know, sometimes it’s hard to work with people from Kansas if you were raised in Columbia, Missouri. [voice: “Yes.”] So I worked with somebody from Kansas first, and second, we got it done. And, um, I think we’ve not paid enough attention to how terrorism could strike our food supply. And could devastate an important part of our economy in terms of introduction of toxins, in, in terms of, um, agricultural targets. And we’re, we are, we’ve got this important, um, emphasis through our state and Kansas on animal science and plant science going all the way from St. Louis uh, to the, to the new [inaudible] that’s gonna be built in Manhattan [Kansas]. And, uh, so I think it’s great that we were able to codify the responsibility of the Homeland Security Department. And I’m, I’m looking forward to hearing them say what it is they’re doing every day to get after this and what, how prepared are we.
Question: I mean, we got nine hundred million acres of farm land, we’ve got, uh, livestock, it is so easy to infect with hoof and mouth disease. It, it’s looking at it from the outside it seems like an impossible task to try and stop that if a terrorist was really set on doing that.
Senator McCaskill: Well, that’s why we’ve got to make sure we’ve got systems in place to identify it if it’s happened, to isolate it if it’s happened. Uh, that’s why this facility that’s being built in Manhattan is so important, ‘cause it’s gonna be our, our chance to research what toxins are out there what kind of antidotes there could be to those toxins, what kind of precautions and measures should be taken.
Question: Now you acted to help Homeland get the funding that they need to do that, but there are two organizations, one focused on plants, one focused on animals, that actually monitors this stuff and their funds have been cut back. And they’re concerned about it.
Senator McCaskill: They should be. And we’re gonna talk about that tomorrow.
Question: And then, uh, I, I realize that you are not here in any political capacity but, do you have any thoughts on the Attorney General’s ongoing controversy about his residency and where he voted? Have you followed that at all, or are you not even paying any attention to that?
Senator McCaskill: Well, it would be hard not to follow it. The law is pretty clear. There’s never been an Attorney General in the history of our state that hasn’t lived in Jefferson City because the law says shall. He’s, listen, I’m a Mizzou educated lawyer, but I can keep up. [laughter] And I know what the word shall means in the law. Now I know he went to Yale, I think, or Harvard, one of those, one of those fancy ones. Um, I think they taught him the same thing, shall is shall. So if it’s shall then you must live in Jefferson City. And you are not legally entitled to vote somewhere other than where you live. Oh there’s a problem here. Either [crosstalk]…
Question: So there is voter fraud in Missouri, is that what you’re saying?
Senator McCaskill: Well, I, there may be. But, that’s not for me to decide. But the issue is, either he’s violating the law by not living in Jefferson City, or he’s violating the law by voting someplace he doesn’t live. One of the two.
Yesterday at the Missouri Ethics Commission for one of the committees opposed to organized labor and promoting “right to get paid less”:
C171080 08/16/2017 Liberty Alliance Construction Legal Rights Foundation 440 First Street NW Suite 200 Washington DC 20001 8/15/2017 $50,000.00
The Construction Legal Rights Foundation [EIN: 52-1687857] is a 501(c)(6) entity under the tax code.
Their purpose, as filed in their 2015 Form 990:
1 Briefly describe the organization’s mission or most significant activities:
TO PROTECT THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF ALL EMPLOYERS, USERS, AND EMPLOYEES TO WORK AND PARTICIPATE EQUALLY IN THE FREE ENTERPRISE SYSTEM WITHOUT FEAR OF VIOLENCE, INTIMIDATION OR DISCRIMINATION AS GUARANTEED TO SUCH EMPLOYERS, USERS, AND EMPLOYEES UNDER THE CONSTITUTION AND LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES.
THE FOUNDATION FUNDS AND SUPPORTS LEGAL ACTIONS THAT AFFECT CONTRACTORS AND/OR THE SYSTEM. CLRF SUPPORTS LEGAL EFFORTS AIMED AT PRESERVING AND ADVANCING MERIT SHOP CONSTRUCTION PRINCIPLES. IN 2015, THE FOUNDATION PROVIDED FUNDS TO 22 LEGAL CASES.
IN ADDITION TO LEGAL CASES, THE FOUNDATION FUNDS ABC NATIONAL, CHAPTER AND MEMBER EFFORTS TO ENSURE FAIR AND OPEN COMPETITION FOR TAXPAYER FUNDED CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS. IN 2015, THE FOUNDATION PROVIDED FUNDS TO 7 ISSUE ADVOCACY CAMPAIGNS.
THE FOUNDATION ALSO PROVIDES “RAPID RESPONSE” FUNDING FOR EMERGENCY THREATS TO MERIT SHOP CONSTRUCTION IN THE FORM OF ANTI-COMPETITIVE PROCUREMENT POLICIES OR REQUIREMENTS OF GOVERNMENTAL OR PRIVATE ENTITIES. IN 2015, THE FOUNDATION PROVIDED RAPID RESPONSE FUNDS TO 1 ISSUE ADVOCACY CAMPAIGN.
Alrighty then. Nothing about promoting the right of working people to get paid less.
Campaign Finance: okay, now they’re getting serious… (August 1, 2017)
Campaign Finance: following the money (August 8, 2017)
Campaign Finance: Is anyone surprised? (August 9, 2017)
Campaign Finance: self interest (August 15, 2017)
From Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D) today, via Twitter:
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver @repcleaver
There is no moral equivalency between neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and peaceful counter-protesters, Period.
11:40 AM – 16 Aug 2017
In the wake of Donald Trump’s dimwitted apologia on Tuesday for the triumphalist white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, public condemnation has been swift. Few Americans are able to stomach blaming a rightwing “alt-truth”construct, the “alt-left,” for violence that left one peaceable anti-racist demonstrator dead, 20 wounded including a protester who was severely beaten in a parking garage. As Steve Benen observes, Trump’s unhinged press conference amounted to a “moment of national shame,” adding that “it’s also the basis for a challenge to Donald Trump’s partisan allies: what exactly does the Republican Party intend to do with its president in the face of such a scandal?”
But wait – Donald Trump has an idea about how Republicans should answer that question:
The White House is asking Republican members of Congress to follow the President’s lead as he blames “both sides” for the violence that broke out in Charlottesville, Va. during a white supremacist rally over the weekend, according to a memo obtained by The Atlantic.
Just hours after President Donald Trumps gave a provocative press conference — claiming that both the “alt-left” and the “alt-right” are to blame for the deadly violence that broke out in Charlottesville when a self-proclaimed white supremacists allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter protestors — the White House gave Republicans guidance on how to discuss Charlottesville.
I don’t know about you, but today I’m calling GOP Senator Roy Blunt’s office and that of my Republican Representative, Ann Wagner (2nd Dist.), to find out if they’re planning on going along with the President’s directive. Trump’s memo gives rise to several pertinent Charlottesville-related questions that these folks need to answer:
- Do they think there is actually an alt-left that corresponds to the group of Nazis and white nationalists who are now often collectively referred to as “alt-right.” If so, why?
- Do they believe that “both (or many) sides”were equally to blame for the atrocities of last Saturday?
- Do they believe that figures known only for their association with the Confederacy, an armed rebellion against the government of the United States for the purpose of continuing black chattel slavery. can be equated with historical figures, such as the Founding Fathers, who may have owned slaves, but who never took up arms against their government to defend it, and whose honored status has nothing to do with oppressive beliefs?
- Do they believe that white people who are aggrieved about “political correctness,” which is to say the recognition that they are no longer call the shots and abuse women and minorities at will have a legitimate complaint?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” I intend to let my GOP congresspersons know that I support their right to disgusting beliefs, but that I’ll be doing all that I can do to see that they lose their government job come next election.
If the answer to these questions is “no,” I intend to ask my GOP congresspersons, assuming that they have remained silent or have responded, as has Senator Roy Blunt (at least to my knowledge at this point) in the blandest way possible, where they’ve stored their spine.
Oh … and I’ll also l let them know that unless they can do better than mouthing safe platitudes when it comes to standing up to abomination, I’ll support anyone coming after their jobs who promises to do what’s necessary when it comes to shipwrecks like the Trump presidency.
I suggest you do the same.
There s a common canard that German Jews submitted passively to Nazi atrocities and had they only resisted, there would have been no Holocaust. This belief is demonstrably false. There were many examples of Jewish resistance, but it came too late and was always overwhelmed by the superior force of well-established, state-sanctioned Nazi terrorism, in its turn abetted by the indifference of much of the German Gentile population. I bring this up now to explain both the hope and the fear that the events in Charlottesville inspire in me.
With the election of our – let’s not mince words – racist, would-be authoritarian president, it became clear that the same ugly, tribal drumbeat from which we never totally escape, and which animated the Nazis, is growing louder in our own country. It may be simply a measure of my paranoia, but it seems to me that it is possible to see in the fervor, the absurd military posturing, the shields and helmets, of the white supremacists who crawled out from under their rocks in Charlottesville, the seeds of a resurgent Brownshirt militia, ready to do its Master’s bidding.
Which begs the question: do I believe that Trump would or, given his incompetence, could, make use of violent militias to institute a fascist state? I can only answer that I don’t know.
I know that conservatives want to discourage the comparisons between Trump and fascists of the past, and that some liberals agree that the meme it is too facile. I’m obviously not convinced by the effort of the former to ridicule such comparisons, especially since they’re usually the first to try to nazify just about any left-of-center dicta – which, as you might expect results in some logical knee-slappers. Nor, though, am I totally convinced by the latter who worry about trivializing the European fascist rampages of the 20th century through overwrought comparisons. Authoritarianism and militant fascism are potentially recurrent evils that may pose a real threat at times of social stress.
I also know that Trump is surrounded by people, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Sebastien Gorka, for instance, who talk a game that’s straight out of the fascist playbook. I know that, either under their tutelage or based only on his gut-level predilections, Trump is hitting all the high points of the same playbook: Undermine trust in mainstream media, government institutions and norms – check. Create and elevate political propaganda outlets – check. Promote discredited authoritarian police-state crime strategies – check. Fear-mongering focused on dark-skinned “others” – check. Endorse murderous authoritarian regimes and their methods – check.
And in response to the invitation offered by Trump’s rhetoric during and after the election campaign, the white nationalist hordes are beginning to flex their muscles. Voila, Charlottesville.Only this time, so far, their pseudo-romantic, blood-and-soil posturing is being met with widespread resistance and public condemnation relatively early on.
I know that I’m supposed to condemn violence and I do except in self-defense. I heartily condemn the vicious cowardice that led a disturbed racist to run down and kill a helpless protestor; by the same measure I don’t sympathize with anyone who initiates violence. But nevertheless, even knowing that it might incite a violent response, it did my heart good to see the fervor of protest encountered by the highly weaponized White Nationalist fools decked out with helmets and shields. It did my heart good to see folks who refused to be intimidated by a display meant to intimidate. We can’t let Brownshirt wannabes direct the narrative. They’ll get publicity – and possible recruits – no matter what anti-racists do, protest or stay home, but a strong, vocal opposition needs to be part of that media story as well.
The “alt-right” has a first-amendment right to expressive speech, no matter how ugly – but they do not have a right to speak unchallenged. We challenge ideas with ideas – but we also need to meet supremacist pep-rallies with a strong presence or those rallies will do what they’re supposed to do: encourage quieter fellow-travelers to come on over. The principle of self-defense demands that we not stay quiet and pretend they don’t pose a real threat.
20th century history teaches us that progressives, liberals and all who are revolted by the ideology represented by Donald Trump’s alt-right allies and supporters, need to have voices as strong as the resurgent racists. After 1933, opposition to the Nazis in Germany was limited and easily suppressed; early opposition to Mussolini and his Blackshirts during their gradual takeover of the Italian government was also too weak to be meaningful. Few were willing to own up to what was happening. And we know what happened.
So, yes, I’m delighted to see that the baby Brownshirts are being met with forceful opposition, and despite the despicable murder of Heather Heyer, I hope counter protests will continue to oppose the spread of the racist disease that afflicts us and that has been exacerbated by some of our current leaders, just as I applaud the many rallies decrying supremacist violence that have taken place since the death, Saturday, of Heyer.
This type of action is necessary, but it is not enough. Elected officials must also speak out forcefully. There is no room for ambiguity anymore. We need them to not only condemn white nationalist militancy, but to condemn the president’s evident desire to offer cover for racists. At the very least we need to know unequivocally where – and with whom – they stand
But what have we got from our dear leaders at the point that I am writing these words, nearly three days after the alt-right rampage that resulted in the death of a counter-protestor at the hands of an avowed white nationalist and Trump supporter? Some congressmen, both Republicans and Democrats, have spoken up forcefully against the hatemongers – although few Republicans seem are willing to name the President’s consistent enabling of hate as such. Others, mostly Republicans, remain silent.
In Missouri, so far, our two senators, one a Democrat, the other a Republican, have made bland statements voicing disapproval of “hate” and “bigotry”, with no explicit mention of militant white nationalism or right-wing militias – and certainly not a word directly disparaging the President who has, with a wink and a nod, belatedly, grudgingly and unconvincingly disavowed bigotry. Pious condemnation of “violence” also characterized the response of Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-4) – although, credit where credit’s due, Hartzler, in distinction to her Missouri GOP confreres in the House, actually issued a press release right away on Charlottesville, arguably the most significant domestic event of the weekend.
I may have missed it, but I haven’t heard anything at all from the rest of the GOP Missouri delegation to the House. I Googled each of their names in conjunction with “Charlottesville,” and scanned their Websites for press releases and found nada, zip, zilch as of 4:00 pm today (8/15). Yesterday I got an email newsletter from Rep. Ann Wagner (R-2), my representative in Washington, and there was no mention of Charlottesville to be found. Maybe next time?
The same cannot be said about the two House Democrats from Missouri, Emanuel Cleaver and Lacy Clay, Jr. Cleaver declared that although he’ll continue to pray for Trump, Charlottesville has forced him to give up on any expectations he may have had that Trump would rise to the presidency, and to face the fact that he just doesn’t “like Donald Trump.” Well Hallelujah! And while my cursory search for a statement on Charlottesville from Lacy Clay yielded no results, he’s already on the record – many times. Clay even called for Trump to refrain from hiring Steve Bannon because of his racist proclivities, tweeting “@realDonaldTrump coddling of racist supporters puts #BlackLives and #Latinos as risk, endangers us all.”
Amen. Telling it like it is. They’ve all got to do it. Over and over again. Louder and louder. It’s a matter of defending the defenseless. It’s a time for extreme language, not moderation. The guantlet has been thrown. They’ve got to pick it up or walk away. And if they walk away, you know what will happen.
UPDATE: Washington Post prints comments from elected officials after the President once again blamed “both sides” today. A little more backbone perhaps?
*Slightly revised and cross-posted to Daily Kos, 8/15/2017, 8:49.