I was surprised by the decision of the Missouri Farm Bureau to endorse our lackadaisical Attorney General Josh Hawley in his run for the U.S. Senate. You might be surprised by my attitude since the Farm Bureau has for some time been reliably Republican, a position practically dictated by the perceived competition between out-state (GOP) and urban (Democratic) interests. But it’s true.
Remember when our Attorney General and GOP senatorial contender Hawley first tried out a little lame trash talk trash about Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill? He called the down-to-earth Missouri Democrat, one of the few Missouri pols to hold town halls – even during the height of the raucous Tea Party anti-Obamacare frenzy – a phony who was out of touch with Missouri voters. Rich B.S. indeed, as we have shown in an earlier post, coming from an elite Washington lawyer who, according to emails to colleagues, only returned to Missouri in 2011 to enter politics.
But more important to the question at hand, are farmers likely to get anything out of Hawley that’s good for them? Consider the question of Trump’s mindlessly escalating trade war which has triggered massive agricultural tariffs: Not good for Missouri Farmers, especially in the long run since Trump doesn’t seem to know how to find a way out now that he’s escalated the hostilities.
McCaskill has the backbone to call Trump out on an an impulsive and sloppy approach to the issue. Hawley, on the other hand, resolutely sticks to vague GOP talking-around-the-issue-points. Despite the looming potential for disaster for many Missouri farmers – if not this year, next – Hawley will just “trust” that the attention-addled reality TV-star and failed construction mogul Trump knows what he’s doing when it comes to economic theory and all will work out before there are too many bankruptcies in that out-state Missouri that loves to hear GOPers tell it like (they think) it is.
Nor do these highly flexible folks, such as our prim little Josh Hawley seem to want to stand up for the principles that they espoused so fervently during the Obama years: you know, that stuff about bailouts – bailouts that, incidentally saved our auto industry and which were repaid. But hey, a $12 billion in one-year farm bailouts to be handed out right after a budget-busting, deficit-building tax cut for the wealthy – no big deal to folks like Hawley – who doesn’t seem to care about much more than fighting the far-right religious wars and pushing conservative evangelical orthodoxy down the throats of the rest of us. How’s that for phony?
So why has the Farm Bureau decided to go with Republican comfort food? even though it could end up killing them? Don’t despair. I think I may understand just what the real appeal of GOP – and Josh Hawley – right or wrong, weak or strong, might be.
In an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch today on why so many Trump supporters voted against the anti-union Proposition A, a union man – after praising the ways his union gave him a good life – and apparently unaware of Trump’s bad history with unions – justified his support for Trump and, presumably, anti-union Trump supporters like Hawley, by appealing to the demographic fears that the “good old days” of white privilege will disappear if too many of those brown folks make it over the southern border:
“I like what Trump is doing for the country, though I don’t agree on all of his policies,” [ Scott] Long said. “If you want to be a citizen, you shouldn’t just walk across the Southern California border. … I like how Trump wants to close the border down.”
And, even more explicitly:
Dennis Brinkler, a union electrician who voted against the legislation, also cited immigration as a reason he’s supporting Trump and state Attorney General Josh Hawley, an anti-union Republican who is challenging Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, in November.
If you doubt that there’s an underlying racist theme there, the same article cited some union leaders who attributed union support for Republicans like Trump and Hawley explicitly to “protests of police shootings of unarmed black men” and fear of black protest against a repressive status quo:
“Some of the guys I represent in their 50s, it’s hard for them to grasp shutting down a highway because of an incident that may have happened with the police, and often that’s people on our side of the party,” White said, referring to protests in Ferguson after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer four years ago. “That’s hard for a lot of the old white guys to grasp.”
There you have it. Trump’s calling card: playing on white resentment and the old folks’ racial fears.
And you can bet that the oh-so-educated and refined Hawley is going along with it, helping to demagogue the thinly disguised racism of Trump’s immigration policies. As the St. Louis American put it after Hawley defended Trump’s cruel and ill-considered immigration policies, particularly the forcible separation of children from parents seeking asylum in the U.S., an undeniable human rights violation carried out so incompetently that many of the children cannot be reunited with the parents:
[…] Hawley backed and defended Trump’s political play of using the forcible separation of children from their families to force Democrats to support the construction of his absurd border wall and pursuit of more punitive immigration policies. Hawley should return to whatever rock he crawled out from under and leave it to actual human beings with blood in their veins to enact public policy. Hawley is a representation of a new generation of Republicans willing to accede the party and its values to the disaster of the Trump administration.
I expect Hawley’s – probably more timid – dog whistles will increase over the next couple of months as Big Daddy Trump gets even more explicit about his overt racism. Sadly, it looks like lots of Missourians are inclined to be responsive
* 1st word in title changed from “whose” to “who’s” (8/18, 4:35). Thanks to comment noting the original error.
You may have seen the flag above as you are out and about. If you live in West St. Louis County, you may have seen it waving proudly on a row of light posts fronting the BMW of West County showroom on Manchester Blvd., alternating with the traditional American flag. A few folks in St. Louis County display them in front of their houses. Most of these displays, at least those that I’ve seen, also have signs declaring their support of the police which are far more common.
The flag is known as a “Thin Blue Line” flag or, as it has been controversially labeled more recently, utilizing the phrase most often employed in opposition to “Black Lives Matter,” a Blue Lives Matter flag. The thin blue line stands for the idea, according to Wikipedia, “that law enforcement is a Thin Blue Line that stands between chaos and order or between criminals and the potential victims of crime, and it is primarily used to show solidarity with police.”
Where’s the controversy, you ask? We all support the police. If government is to be effective it must have a well-funded enforcement arm. It’s that well funded part that should ensure that it’s also well-directed and in possession of sufficient funds to hire the very best candidates and guarantee that they serve all the people in an accountable and transparent fashion.
But for some, the fact that a policeman did it, whatever it is – and as long as it’s not done to them – means it’s okay. That attitude certainly means that we can hire our police lots cheaper, and since plenty of fools think keeping taxes hyper-low is the name of the game, no matter how it may endanger civic well-being, one can see the appeal. There is also the tendency to, in the words of conservative Federalist contributor Rachael Lu, “virtue-cloak” a profession that we respect, insisting, against any emergent evidence to the contrary, that all members of the profession are what “we know they should be.”
In this regard, I am reminded of many of the policemen I’ve encountered in my life – some of them family members and their friends. Most have been conscientious, kind people who just want to do a difficult job well. But I have to admit that some – including some of those family members – lacked the mental frame of reference necessary to facilitate that desire. This is America: there’s always the question of overt or unconscious bias. There’s also the fact that there are lots of sad losers who are attracted to occupations that let them throw their weight around. It’s gratifying to little men to play at being the big man. Serious educational requirements, solid, ongoing training and rigorous psychological screening could easily address such problems.
But you get what you pay for. Support good policing standards with cold cash and you might get better policing.
The situation is also complicated by the fact that for many citizens the chaos and criminal behavior from which police have to hold that thin blue line has a black face. And they want their armed representatives to employ whatever force necessary to keep that black face where it belongs – out of their line of vision. These are, by and large, the people who have tried to distract us from Black Lives Matter concerns by elevating the police to, in the words of Lu, “quasi-sacerdotal” status.
Evidence? Remember when you saw your first Blue Lives Matter sign or flag? I don’t know about you, but I never saw any of these devices until just about the time black folks took to the streets to demand accountability from a police force they experience as out-of control instruments of white repression. When black people began to use cell phones to document police behavior, the Blue Lives Matter train seems to have well and truly pushed out of the station, tooting it’s big old dog whistle loud and clear.
Blue lives do matter. But the fact that they are ever at risk is simply a given of the job policemen have chosen to perform – and another argument for better pay and benefits along with the outsize power over people lives that we now grant them. But hey, black lives still matter just as much as they did before elderly white folks in my neighborhood started to tie blue ribbons around the trees in their yards. And the fact that black lives are at risk, not because of their freely-chosen but risky jobs, but because they are demanding that the police serve them too rather than catering to the the prejudices of a shrinking segment of the population ought to help put those Blue Lives emblems in the proper perspective.
What really scares me about all this furor over whose lives matter? We’ve got a president sending out authoritarian feelers while encouraging police brutality, an Attorney General who makes no bones that he shares the belief that the worst criminals on the other side of the thin blue line are African-Americans, while supposedly solid, salt-of-the-earth Middle Americans find that the American flag, the one that stands for all citizens, regardless of religion or race, just won’t do the job any more. Instead they hoist flags arguably meant to encourage a special, protected police status in the face of blue line rampage. And don’t let them fool you. They understand what they’re saying when those flags go up.
By the way – maybe someone ought to give the proprietors of BMW of West County an earful. It’s their right to display whatever flag they choose, but it’s our free-speech right to let them know if we’re offended.
It’s been a couple of weeks since President Racist Moron sent us spiraling down toward a government shutdown by expressing his goal of importing prosperous, wealthy white Norwegians – who have little reason to come to the U.S. – instead of brown folks from S**thole countries – who actually need the haven that the United States has traditionally offered the oppressed, poverty stricken folks who flocked to these shores and helped build a strong, wealthy country where the middle class grew and prospered as never before. During this time, I’ve been monitoring the newspapers and congressional press releases to find out how our representatives in Congress have responded to Trump’s racist babblings – and I’ve found out just about nothing to let me know how our GOP profiles in political cowardice stand on the issue. However, today, Salon has posted an article that tells us what each member of Congress has had to say about this destructive and ugly piece of “telling it like it is,” as some of the more
racist “deplorable” Trump supporters would have it:
- Blunt, Roy (R–Sen.): Condemn
- *McCaskill, Claire (D–Sen.): Condemn
- Clay Jr., William “Lacy” (D–HR): Condemn
- Cleaver, Emanuel (D–HR): Condemn
- Graves, Sam (R–HR): No response
- Hartzler, Vicky (R–HR): No response
- Long, Billy (R–HR): No response
- Luetkemeyer, Blaine (R–HR): No response
- Smith, Jason (R–HR): No response
- Wagner, Ann (R–HR): No response
Although GOP Senator Roy Blunt, as befits a junior member of the Senate Leadership, did make a statement, you might be struck, as I was, that it focused on the pragmatic aspects of Trumps words – addressing his competence in securing GOP goals, rather than his bankrupt moral world view:
Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, suggested the president’s inability to refrain from incendiary statements was detracting from his agenda.
“It’s an unacceptable view of the world, and it’s an unacceptable thing to say,” Mr. Blunt told KMBZ, a radio station in the Kansas City area. “You would expect the president to lead in determining how you filter your thoughts, rather than to continue to say things that take a lot away from what’s actually getting done.”
Compare the measured words of Blunt – who carefully avoided any overt reference to Trump’s racism, to the unequivocal tweet Democratic Claire McCaskill issued,:
It is unacceptable, repugnant, and morally bankrupt for a President of this great nation to call the countries of Africa “shitholes”.
Gotta hand it to Rep. Ann Wagner (R-2). She’s making a serious effort at cultivating the two-faced look (and, no, I’m not talking about her Afghan-hound hairstyle). Today is Martin Luther King Day. On this day many Americans honor one of the leaders who helped crush the American apartheid that prevailed for almost a hundred years after the end of slavery – and who gave his life for it. King, one of the most profound of American thinkers and orators, would now be 89 years old had the remaining years of his life not been stolen from him at the age of 39 by racist America.
Wagner is making it clear that she wants in on the MLK party – which is to say, she doesn’t want to be tarred with the brush of GOP racism. Her official Website refers us to Facebook and Twitter posts encouraging us to read some of MLK’s “writings” available on the King Center Website, a seemingly reverent nod in the right direction. Enough to let us know that she’ll put in an appearance at the party without staying long enough to overmuch alarm the basest part of the GOP base.
But if Wagner wants in on this party, she’s failed to pay the price of admission. On those same Twitter and Facebook accounts there’s not a word about the most recent obscene, racist ramblings of the president she has enthusiastically supported. In fact, she has described the experience of working with him as “amazing,” and has emphasized her close relationship and identification with him:
Wagner was quick to speak to the commonalities between her and the President, and she also complimented him on what she sees as the president’s best attributes in office. “I’ve seen the strength and the leadership that he brings to the table and a negotiation skill that really puts him in the center of things.” Wagner said. “He wants to be an agent for change, he is a disrupter… We’ve really gotten along well, he and his entire team”
Nevertheless, Wagner has tried to keep her feet out of Trump’s overtly racist mud – and, in so doing, has put herself into a bad spot. As she herself proclaimed after Trump’s infamous Charlottesville equivocation, “leaders must call out Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and fascists by name.”
So, Annie, we’re waiting for you to call out this particular white supremacist – and arguably, fascist – by name.” And we know you know his name. Unless, that is you and he have more “commonalities” than you want us to know about. Which is is?
Protests are roiling the streets of St. Louis. Again. A second act to the psychodrama that began to play out after Ferguson.
The story in a nutshell for those of you who have been asleep: After a car chase, a white cop named Jason Stockley, shot a black man he believed to have been involved in a drug transaction. This event took place in 2011. Evidence suggested the possibility that a member of our black underclass – individuals whose deaths rarely rate much attention – was shot in unprovoked, cold blood. Stockley was not held accountable until 2016 when he was finally charged with murder; he opted for a bench trial and was acquitted yesterday (9/15). While “all hell” did not break loose, protestors did make their response known with varying degrees of forcefulness during the rest of Friday – and will probably continue to stir of the pot of white St. Louis complacency in the weeks ahead.
Our elected officials have responded pretty well on the whole. Governor Eric Greitens, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill and Republican Senator Roy Blunt have all issued sympathetic statements (see here, here and here) that implicitly acknowledge that there is a reason for the distress so many are feeling after the verdict. They properly urge the protests, the legal legitimacy of which they do not dispute, to remain peaceful. Greitens stops there. Blunt and McCaskill, though, add a little fairy dust to the mix.
Blunt declares that ” if this verdict is met with violence and destruction, it will do nothing but reignite the fear and anger that law enforcement and community leaders have worked tirelessly to address since Ferguson.” McCaskill strikes the same chord, asserting that “The events in Ferguson shook our region to its core and forced us to face some tough realities. But since then, our law enforcement and the families and businesses they serve have begun talking and hearing each other. We can’t let today’s decision send us back to our respective corners.”
Both of these leaders express confidence that Ferguson represented a turning point, and that St. Louisians are in the process of addressing the endemic racism that seems to permeate so many aspects of the local culture. Protestors must be careful, they say in so many words, not to upset this kumbaya applecart.
So why, then, are hundreds of anguished folks parading in the St. Louis streets? Could it have something to do with the fact that they’ve been waiting to see just how much things have really changed and right now, given the same ol’, same ol’ that the Stockley verdict seems to represent, they’re not too impressed?
I’m not second-guessing the verdict. I understand the issue of “reasonable doubt.” Furthermore, I know that I only know what I read in the papers, hence my judgement is less trustworthy than that of the judge who has poured over all the evidence – even a judge who perhaps inadvertently seasoned his decision with a dollop of smug bias against those often unattractive folks who inhabit the underclass, declaring that questionable claims that the victim was armed are viable because, “an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly.”
But the verdict is still more than a little pungent. And I wonder if that stench doesn’t have lots to do with the fact that all that palaver our leaders think has taken place between law enforcement, business and local officials, all the people who they think matter, hasn’t had much to do with the facts on the ground for black folks in St. Louis.
Remember the Ferguson Commission Report? Remember all the recommendations? Can anyone tell me if two years later the region any closer to implementing even the 47 “signature priority” items? I sincerely don’t know.
An article published in the Huffington Post finds the much-vaunted changes in the corrupt municipal court system, a significant vector of local abuse that was singled out in the Report, to be “minor,” often little more than “whitewashing.” A local citizen is quoted as saying that people are “still wanting to see a conversation” – even though Senators McCaskill and Blunt assure us that that conversation has been ongoing.
The HuffPo article refers to the story of Fred Watson, a young man who was improperly arrested, lost his high paying job as a cybersecurity officer, and the middle class lifestyle he once had due to the expense of fighting the bogus claims leveled against him by Ferguson officialdom. Last week, five years after his arrest, two years after the Ferguson Report, and after a load of bad publicity for Ferguson, all charges against him were finally dropped. The implication is clear that this is still the way justice works for everyday black people in the St. Louis area – and few of them have the resources that Watson expended defending himself.
The evidence that the conversation that our Senators believe we are having is more one-sided than they think is everywhere in the St. Louis region. All one has to do is look around.
Ever since Ferguson and “black lives matter,” for example, numerous trees and postboxes up and down my street in a lily-white second ring suburb have been decorated with big blue bows and occasional signs letting us know that “blue lives matter” and “we support our police.” And off course “blue lives” do matter. But it’s still clear that my neighbors are intent on more than police boosterism; they are staking out their positions in a symbolic war, pointing out the opposition they believe exists between “blue lives” and “black lives.”
I never saw those ribbons until African-Americans had the temerity to proclaim that their black lives needed to be handled as carefully by those folks in blue as those of the white suburbanites now piously wrapping their trees and mailboxes in blue. What do you think it means about a place when the inhabitants are willing to tie a big blue bow around police brutality?
We all “support” our police – we just don’t believe that they have carte blanche when it comes to black people – pun intended. Many of us, including plenty of those folks out protesting I’m willing to bet, think that with the special authority that police enjoy comes the requirement that they be held accountable for its exercise. When that’s not the case, don’t you think maybe there might be some among us who are inspired to take to the streets?
With this in mind – along with the pronouncements of a President who urges police to “rough up” suspects, and a Justice Department that is withdrawing from Obama era efforts to reform police-community relationships – maybe it’s easier to understand why some folks think that the “conversation” won’t ever take place if they don’t become well and truly the loudest voice in the room – or in the streets.
David Brooks, conservative pundit at the New York Times, captures the essential point when it comes to the nastiest issue swirling around Donald Trump, the use and practice of “white identity politics” by politicians on the right:
White identity politics as it plays out in the political arena is completely noxious. Trump … established his political identity through birtherism, he won the Republican nomination on the Muslim ban, he campaigned on the Mexican wall, he governed by being neutral on Charlottesville and pardoning the racialist Joe Arpaio. Each individual Republican is now compelled to embrace this garbage or not. The choice is unavoidable, and white resentment is bound to define Republicanism more and more in the months ahead.
Hold that in your mind, particularly the part about “completely noxious” – coming from a principled conservative yet – along with the part about “each individual Republican is now compelled to embrace this garbage or not.” And then read the unambiguous welcome GOP Senator Roy Blunt has extended to Donald Trump on the occasion of his visit to Missouri:
“I’m glad that President Trump will be in my hometown of Springfield to highlight the economic benefits that tax reductions and other pro-growth policies will have for Missouri families, farmers, and small businesses,” Blunt said. “The president and the Senate have taken important steps to roll back burdensome regulations and create a stronger foundation for economic growth. I look forward to continuing that effort by pursuing changes in our tax code that will increase U.S. competitiveness, boost wages, and expand opportunity for Americans.”
Trump Blunt wasn’t alone. Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill issued a statement “welcoming” Trump to Missouri and signaled that she is also more than willing to chill with a Putin-loving demagogue, whose true metier is spewing racist “garbage” intended to rile up an angry white base, as long as Missouri “moderates” will applaud her good manners – no matter how badly he disses her in the process.
Here’s what she had to say during her recent tour of the state when asked about an effort to censure Trump’s Charlottesville circus-of-the-damned performance:
“Listen, I’m disappointed and discouraged and worried about some of the things that president has said and the tone he’s taken on some issues. But my job out there is not to fight the president. My job is to fight for you,” McCaskill told the crowd about 100 gathered at the American Legion post. “My job is to work as hard as I can representing Missouri families and doing the things that I think will make a difference in your lives. I’m going to stay focused on that.”
Who’da thunk it. McCaskill and Blunt, siblings in political pragmatism. Or should that be cynicism. These responses amply illustrate the point David Brooks was trying to make about he dilemma facing Republicans – except in Missouri it seems to pose a problem for Democrats as well. It has to do with facing up to the fact that “fighting” the president is just exactly what is called for in order to fight for the full range of ones constituents, not just the white, old and angry segment.
What we got from Blunt is what we expected. Slick twaddle over a layer of corruption. So big whoop.
But what we got from McCaskill? A failed balancing act … so thumbs down. But only because we care.
I understand the need to keep the eye on the prize. The little one that comes after the next election, not the big one that has to do with the long-term survival of American democracy. I get the part about focusing political energies on the possible – and non-controversial – good one can actually do. But even from that point of view, would it have really hurt McCaskill too much to just have kept her mouth shut. Did she have to make with the cheery official welcome extended to a de trop sleaze-bag intent on destroying American political and civil norms?
*2nd and 3rd from last paragraph slightly edited; text added (5:51 pm. 8/29).
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.
Saturday night a man killed 50 people and injured 53 more in a shooting spree in a gay club in Orlando Florida. The shooter claimed allegiance to ISIS, but also, according to his father, he was “angered a couple months ago when he saw two men kissing in Miami” and “that it may be related to the shooting.” It was, as President Obama remarked, “an act of terror and an act of hate.”
It didn’t take Republicans long to hit the social media trail with Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) quickly tweeting that, as it says in the bible, man “reaps what he sows.” A staff member quickly tried to back off the callous triumphalism, claiming that Patrick wasn’t referring to the shooting of LGBT people in Orlando, and had posted the message before he knew about the massacre.
But why else did Patrick tweet this message bright and early on that particular Sunday morning? Since his spokesperson asserts that he didn’t know abut the shooting, it couldn’t have referred to the havoc we sow when we make military assault weapons easily available to all and sundry, including suspected terrorists – a privilege specifically guaranteed to those on terrorism watch lists at the insistence of Republican in congress.
Perhaps he was tweeting about the the selection of the crass and racist Donald Trump as the Republican Party presidential nominee. GOP pols who have spent the last 30-40 years broadcasting racist dog-whistles cannot be surprised at the potentially destructiveTrumpian harvest they are now reaping. In a piece aptly titled, The party of Lincoln is dying, conservative WaPo columnist Michael Gerson noted that, “since Trump now owns them [i.e., Republicans], they now own his prejudice […] .
And, make no mistake, the list of Republicans stumbling and staggering into the Trump camp grows daily. All four Missouri GOP gubernatorial candidates are all in for Trump – with more or less enthusiasm. Republican Senator Roy Blunt may have declared his intention to do no more than support the party nominee in the early days of the GOP Trump surge, but he’s finally shuffled into position for Trump. It doesn’t matter if any of them are racists in private when, by supporting Trump, they freely choose to present a racist face in public.
As for Trump, his response to the Orlando shooting tells us all we need to know about today’s GOP. Upon learning about the shooting, the narcissistic Islamophobe tweeted:
Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!
Using a mass murder as an occasion to gloat! But hey, it’s all about Trump, isn’t it? He followed up this morning with another tweet calling once again for a ban on admitting Muslims to the U.S. (not a word about homophobes or limiting access to assault weapons):
What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough
Just goes to show, lie down with dogs and get up with fleas – or, how about putting it like this, GOP – you’ll soon reap the bitter harvest you’ve sown.