Behind Trump’s attack on the NFL football players

26 September 2017

Donald Trump’s vulgar and threatening comments about NFL football players have shocked millions of people. However, a focus on the president’s personality traits cannot explain why he provoked a public conflict with these athletes over their involvement in protests against police violence and racism. The reasons must be found in the deepening political crisis of the Trump administration and of American capitalism as a whole. And it is an understanding of this crisis that must guide the actions of working people and youth.

Under conditions of mounting war threats against North Korea; the devastation of Puerto Rico, a US territory, by Hurricane Maria; and the near-collapse of the latest attempt by the Republican-controlled Congress to repeal Obamacare, the US president devoted 12 tweets in 30 hours to the observance of the national anthem at sporting events. No other event warranted such attention.

What took place last weekend arose from a deliberate decision by the president of the United States to weigh in against a long-running campaign of protest against police brutality and violence, especially against African-American youth. Trump sought to provoke as much outrage as possible, particularly among the black athletes, who comprise 75 percent of NFL teams, and in that way arouse his ultra-right and fascistic social base.

Trump does not care that his positions are massively unpopular, or that the players have widespread support. He is not seeking to assemble an electoral or parliamentary majority, but to whip up a lynch-mob atmosphere within a minority of the population, which can be directed towards the violent suppression of any public opposition to the policies of his government, and particularly against opposition to the actions of the police and military.

Trump’s last tweet on Monday morning was perhaps the most brazenly racist, as he hailed the performance of NASCAR race drivers, nearly all white, contrasting the absence of protests at Sunday’s race in New Hampshire to the actions of football players, who protested in large numbers at 15 game sites.

Football players of all races have been justifiably angered by Trump’s demand that NFL owners fire any “son of a bitch” who exercises his right of free speech. But the vulgar language is more than just insulting. It has ominous overtones. Trump is inviting and justifying in advance the use of violence against those who protest police killings, and by extension, anyone who protests against the policies of his administration.

The president used similar language while he was a candidate to encourage violence against those who sought to take a public stand against his ultra-right campaign. In several well-publicized incidents, his supporters took his suggestion and punched, beat or otherwise set upon anti-Trump protesters. In some cases, guns were drawn.

Trump is following a sinister example. Forty-seven years ago, President Richard Nixon used similar language to denounce protesters against the War in Vietnam, declaring that students opposing his decision to expand the war by sending US troops into Cambodia were “bums.” Three days after this remark, on May 4, 1970, National Guard troops opened fire on peaceful protesters at Kent State University in Ohio, killing four students.

It is not just a matter of distant historical precedent. One of Trump’s longstanding political cronies and advisers, Roger Stone, got his start in capitalist politics as a “dirty tricks” operative for Nixon. Trump’s first political mentor, attorney Roy Cohn, played a central role, alongside Nixon and Senator Joseph McCarthy, in the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s. Trump’s speechwriters have modeled many of his appeals on Nixon’s claims to represent a “silent majority,” while his political operation has reprised Nixon’s “southern strategy,” aiming to capitalize on the backward and reactionary traditions of the southern “Bible Belt.”

Liberal media critics have bemoaned Trump’s denunciation of the football players, as well as his war of words with top NBA basketball players Stephen Curry and LeBron James, calling his rhetoric “divisive.” But it is intentionally so. Trump is making a deliberate appeal to racial and other forms of bigotry, including misogyny and anti-gay bias, as well as prejudice against immigrants and refugees. He issued his stream of tweets against the athletes on the eve of his administration announcing a new travel ban, adding North Korea and Venezuela to the list of predominantly Muslim countries targeted in the initial executive order.

More fundamentally, Trump and those aides who have publicly defended his attacks on the athletes are demanding absolute public conformity in relation to the US military and police. As Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday, “This is about respect for the military, the first responders.” This is particularly imperative in relation to nationally televised sporting events like NFL games, which have long been venues for celebrations of militarism, with flyovers by fighter jets and ceremonies featuring color guards and gigantic flags.

Like Nixon during the Vietnam era, Trump is seeking to mobilize right-wing forces on the basis of chauvinism to suppress widespread popular opposition to war. At that time, Nixon’s efforts culminated in the Watergate scandal and his own forced resignation to avoid impeachment. Trump faces a different and even more unfavorable political landscape, with American society more deeply divided than ever, not along lines of race or gender, but along class lines: never has the gulf been greater between the super-rich and the vast majority of working people, of all races and ethnic origins.

Trump engages in more open appeals to racism than Nixon because his goal is not the winning of the next presidential election, but the building of an extra-parliamentary movement of the extreme right, based on the police and sections of the military, to establish authoritarian forms of rule.

There is no doubt that the reaction of the players, in uniting broadly to defend their democratic rights, and the widespread popular support for them, reflect the deep-seated allegiance to democratic principles among working people in the United States. Trump has encountered far more hostility than he expected, and on Monday the White House was clearly engaged in a political maneuver to defuse opposition and disguise its real aims.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders opened her press conference with a statement noting that September 25 is the 60th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas, one of the seminal events of the civil rights struggles. She sought to fend off a barrage of hostile questions about Trump’s attack on the NFL players, claiming ludicrously that the president “was not against anyone.”

This is only political posturing, however. The real goals of the Trump administration remain as before: continued military buildup; provoking war crises, which threaten to break out into full-scale war, not only with North Korea but with China, Iran and Russia; attacking the democratic rights of the working class; and carrying through the destruction of domestic social programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

The response of the NFL players is a politically healthy sign. It has shocked both the Trump administration and its liberal “critics,” who share a common class allegiance to the interests of Wall Street.

But the defeat of this government requires more than instinctive and politically inchoate resistance. It requires the building of a political movement of the working class to break the grip of the corporate and financial oligarchy and champion its own social interests—for jobs, decent living standards, social benefits, democratic rights, peace—through a socialist program. Only the development of such a class program can counter the appeals of ultra-right and fascist demagogues to nationalism, racism and other forms of bigotry, and unify the entire working class—black, white, native born and immigrant—in a common struggle for social equality.

Patrick Martin

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/09/26/pers-s26.html

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Paul Krugman: America Has Begun Its Slide Into Fascism

NEWS & POLITICS
The New York Times columnist sounds off on Trump’s Arpaio pardon.

Photo Credit: YouTube/Bloomberg

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio proudly referred to his tent city prison as a “concentration camp.”  For decades, the former sheriff freely carried out his abuse and racial profiling, ignoring any requests to stop, Arpaio was finally convicted for contempt of court earlier this summer, but the conviction lasted barely three weeks before Donald Trump pardoned him, paving the way for what Paul Krugman calls “fascism, American style.”

“There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law,” he writes in his Monday column. “What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed.”

It’s not hard to understand why Trump would be eager to pardon Arpaio. The president fawns over dictators like Duterte and Putin, and accuses immigrants of being rapists. Of course he’d love the idea of a strongman flourishing in an American county. In addition, Krugman points out, “the pardon is a signal to those who might be tempted to make deals with the special investigator as the Russia probe closes in on the White House: Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”

His base also revels in spectacular feats of racism, and with his approval rating plummeting, Trump needs them more than ever.

What’s less immediately clear is how we got here in the first place. Why was Arpaio allowed to openly engage in abuse and racial profiling? Why did we allow a failed businessman-turned-reality television star to become president? For Krugman, the blame lies with their collaborators. What made Trump’s rise possible, he explains, is “the acquiescence of people, both voters and politicians, who aren’t white supremacists, who sort-of kind-of believe in the rule of law, but are willing to go along with racists and lawbreakers if it seems to serve their interests.”

Most of is have read the reports about poorly educated white voters and the fawning profiles of Trump supporters and their “economic anxiety.” What we hear less about are the “millions of votes from well-educated Republicans who — despite the media’s orgy of false equivalence or worse (emails!) — had no excuse for not realizing what kind of man he was. For whatever reason, be it political tribalism or the desire for lower taxes, they voted for him anyway.”

Their representatives in Congress have done little more than issue verbal slaps on the wrist. The likes of Paul Ryan express “dismay” and “concern” every time Trump issues a new immigration ban, praises the KKK or acts on one draconian policy or another. Krugman isn’t optimistic that Arpaio’s pardon will lead to action to back up the flimsy concern. If anything, he writes, “We may well be in the early stages of a constitutional crisis. Does anyone consider it unthinkable that Trump will fire Robert Mueller, and try to shut down investigations into his personal and political links to Russia? Does anyone have confidence that Republicans in Congress will do anything more than express mild disagreement with his actions if he does?”

Probably not. Krugman leaves us with this chilling thought: “There’s also a word for people who, out of cowardice or self-interest, go along with such abuses: collaborators. How many such collaborators will there be? I’m afraid we’ll soon find out.”

Read the entire column.

 

Were Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns a breeding ground for angry young white men who became the “alt-right”?

Now the Libertarians have known sin: Reckoning with the rise of the “alt-right”

Now the Libertarians have known sin: Reckoning with the rise of the "alt-right"
Credit: AP/Kevork Djansezian/Getty/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Salon)

Last December as the smoke was clearing from the electoral explosion and many of us were still shell-shocked and wandering around blindly searching for emotional shelter, Salon’s Matthew Sheffield wrote a series of articles about the rise of the “alt-right.” The movement had been discussed during the campaign, of course. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton even gave a big speech about it. Trump’s campaign strategist and chief consigliere, Steve Bannon — the once and future executive editor of Breitbart News — had even bragged that his operation was the “platform” of the “alt-right” just a few months earlier. But after the election there was more interest than ever in this emerging political movement.

It’s an interesting story about a group of non-interventionist right-wingers, who came together in the middle of the last decade in search of solidarity in their antipathy toward the Bush administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a motley group of conservatives, white nationalists and Libertarians that broke apart almost as soon as they came together. The more clever among them saw the potential for this new “brand” and began to market themselves as the “alt-right,” and it eventually morphed into what it is today. The series is a good read and explains that the “alt-right” really was a discrete new movement within the far right wing and not simply a clever renaming of racist and Nazi groups.

This week, conservative writer Matt Lewis of The Daily Beast, a Trump critic, wrote a piece about the Libertarian influence on the “alt-right” and suggested that Libertarians work harder to distance themselves from this now-infamous movement. He points out that former Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns were a nexus of what became “alt-right” activism. Sheffield had written about that too:

Pretty much all of the top personalities at the Right Stuff, a neo-Nazi troll mecca, started off as conventional libertarians and Paul supporters, according to the site’s creator, an anonymous man who goes by the name “Mike Enoch.”

“We were all libertarians back in the day. I mean, everybody knows this,” he said on an “alt-right” podcast last month. [Note: This podcast seems to have been deleted.]

It wasn’t just obscure neo-Nazi trolls. Virtually all the prominent figures in or around the “alt-right” movement, excepting sympathizers and fellow travelers like Bannon and Donald Trump himself, were Paul supporters: Richard SpencerPaul GottfriedJared TaylorMilo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones. (The latter two deny being part of the “alt-right,” but have unquestionably contributed to its rise in prominence.) Paul’s online support formed the basis for what would become the online “alt-right,” the beating heart of the new movement.

In fact, Ron Paul — then a Texas congressman and the father of Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — was the original “alt-right” candidate, long before Donald Trump came along. Paul was also, by far, the most popular Libertarian in America.

Those of us observing the Paul phenomenon and Libertarianism from the left always found it curious in this regard. Paul’s racism was simply undeniable. It was documented for decades. He hid behind the “states’ rights” argument, as pro-Confederate racists have always done, but it was never very convincing. If you are a principled Libertarian who believes in small government and inalienable individual rights, what difference does it make whether a federal or state government is the instrument of oppression?

Most of us thought a lot of Paul’s appeal, especially to young white males, came down to a loathing for the uptight religious conservatism of the GOP, along with Paul’s endorsement of drug legalization. That made some sense. Why would all these young dudes care about the capital gains tax?

And let’s face facts, it wasn’t just Libertarians who could be dazzled by Paul’s iconoclasm. There were plenty of progressives drawn to his isolationist stance as well. But as it turns out, among that group of “Atlas Shrugged” fans and stoners were a whole lot of white supremacists, all of whom abandoned Ron Paul’s son Rand in 2016 when Donald Trump came along and spoke directly to their hearts and minds.

Is there something about Libertarianism that attracts white supremacists? It seems unlikely, except to the extent that it was a handy way to argue against federal civil rights laws, something that both Paul père and fils endorsed during their careers, legitimizing that point of view as a Libertarian principle. (In fairness, Rand Paul has tried to pursue more progressive racial policies in recent years — which may also have helped drive away his dad’s supporters.) Other than that, though, it seems to me that Libertarianism has simply been a way station for young and angry white males as they awaited their “God Emperor,” as they call Trump on the wildly popular “alt-right site,” r/The_Donald.

Still, Libertarians do have something to answer for. While principled Libertarians like Cathy Young certainly condemned the racism in their ranks at the time, but others who supported Ron Paul failed to properly condemn the rank bigotry undergirding the Paul philosophy.

Lewis’s Daily Beast piece certainly provoked some reaction among Libertarians. Nick Gillespie at Reason objected to the characterization of Libertarianism as a “pipeline” to the “alt-right,” writing that “the alt-right — and Trumpism, too, to the extent that it has any coherence — is an explicit rejection of foundational libertarian beliefs in ‘free trade and free migration’ along with experiments in living that make a mess of rigid categories that appeal to racists, sexists, protectionists, and other reactionaries.” So he rejects calls to purge Libertarianism of “alt-righters,” since he believes they were never really Libertarians in the first place.

Gillespie does, however, agree that Libertarian true believers should call out such people “wherever we find them espousing their anti-modern, tribalistic, anti-individualistic, and anti-freedom agenda.” (It would have been easy to include “racist” in that list but, being generous, perhaps he meant it to fall under the term “tribalistic.”)

Meanwhile, over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Jonathan Adler addresses some Libertarians’ “misplaced affinity for the Confederacy,” a phenomenon I must admit I didn’t know existed. Evidently, there really are Libertarians who take the side of the secessionists, supposedly on the basis of tariffs and Abraham Lincoln’s allegedly “monstrous record on civil liberties.” Adler patiently explains why this is all nonsense and wrote, “Libertarianism may not be responsible for the alt-right, but it’s fair to ask whether enough libertarians have done enough to fight it within their own ranks.”

Good for these prominent Libertarians for being willing to confront the currents of racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia that at the very least have contaminated their movement. We await the same honest self-appraisal from the conservative movement and Republican leaders as a whole.

Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

7 things to know about the mindset of the neo-Nazis

The era of the loud and proud white racist is upon us.

7 things to know about the mindset of the neo-Nazis

(Credit: Getty/Chet Strange/Salon)

AlterNet

The neo-Nazis with whom Donald Trump openly sympathizes fit a psychological profile for the most part, according to two psychologists who just released a survey on the subject. Patrick Forscher and Nour Kteily, researchers from the University of Arkansas and Northwestern University respectively, compiled their findings into a working paper titled “A Psychological Profile of the Alt-Right.” To arrive at their conclusions, they polled 447 neo-Nazis who self-identify as members of the “alt-right,” and compared their answers with 382 non-group affiliated survey subjects.

Writing at Vox, Brian Resnick highlights Forscher and Kteily’s most salient conclusions. The two researchers found that much of what seems obvious about the neo-Nazis of the alt-right — their racist outlook, their dehumanization of others — holds true when members are questioned about their beliefs. Especially because the respondents were so forthcoming, as Resnick notes. The era of the loud and proud white racist is upon us, from Charlottesville to the White House.

Forscher and Kteily also found a slight schism among the self-identified alt-right respondents, with some skewing more extremist than others. They labeled the less extreme alt-right members “populists,” while more extreme members were clustered into a subgroup they called “supremacists.” They note that the difference might be a matter of indoctrination level. “It is possible, for example, that the clusters represent two stages in a developmental trajectory of alt-right identification, with people starting in the populist cluster and then moving into the supremacist cluster as they acquire more alt-right friends — a possibility consistent with our finding that those in the supremacist cluster were relatively ideologically embedded among fellow alt-righters. Becoming more embedded within alt-right social networks may further motivate people to express prejudice, both for value-based and normative reasons, causing more dehumanization and aggression.”

Forscher and Kteily hope that examining the thinking of alt-righties may contribute to changing their beliefs. “If we can change the motivation to express prejudice,” they suggested to Resnick, “maybe that gives us a way to prevent aggression.”

Here are seven things to know about the mindset of the alt-right.

1. They’re not lone wolves.

Every time some white guy gets into major trouble, especially if it involves violence against others, someone brings up how quiet he was, what an unassuming loner he seemed to be. We’ve seen this a bunch of times before, from Dylann Roof to Adam Lanza, and now in the case of James Alex Field Jr., who viciously killed Heather Heyer with his car on Saturday. The New York Times cited sources who alternately described Field as a “very quiet little boy” who “had some trouble in school making friends” and “kept to himself a lot.” No one describes him as “no angel” — that kind of talk is reserved for unarmed black kids who are killed by cops — but it should be implied by the crime.

In any case, this inherently sympathetic idea doesn’t hold up here. The researchers write that “compared to the non-alt-right sample, the alt-right reported relatively similar levels of closeness . . . to their friends.” Sure, that doesn’t discount the idea that maybe some of these guys are archetypal loners who found community in the alt-right. But that never seems to engender much sympathy for gang members when they commit crimes, so not sure there’s much difference here.

2. It’s not the economy, stupid.

Producing articles about the economic anxiety that plagues Trump’s base has become a virtual cottage industry at certain media outlets. (I see you, New York Times.) That’s a good way of ginning up sympathy for Trump’s most fervent supporters — including the alt-right — but a bad way of getting to the truth of what truly motivates them. The short answer to that question is, racism and bigotry.

Forscher and Kteily had alt-right respondents “assess each of their personal economic” situations and “rate whether they expected their personal and the national economic situations to get worse or improve.” Not only did respondents not report any uniquely high worries about the economy, researchers write that “the alt-right expected more improvement in the state of the economy relative to the non-alt-right sample.”

3. They think other groups are less human.

Unsurprisingly, alt-right adherents saw other racial and religious groups as less human and evolved than white people, who were rated, of course, as the most fully human of all.

Using a scale of 1 to 100, respondents rated white people’s humanity at 91.8, Jews at 73.09, Mexicans at 67.75, black people at 64.72, Arabs at 58.77, and Muslims at 55.4. The respondents scored men’s humanness at 88.47 and women’s at 83.12, while feminists’ humanity ranked far below at 57.22. Weirdly, at the very bottom of the list was Hillary Clinton, whose humanity they placed at 54.83.

Dehumanization is at the heart of every campaign of genocide and system of oppression. Dehumanization yields a justice system that criminalizes, over-polices and over-incarcerates entire groups, which is horrifying enough. When you continue the trend of describing people as not fully human, it becomes a lot easier to put them in gas chambers and internment camps; render them as chattel property; or kill off the native people of countries you’ve colonized.

4. They’re pretty open about their anti-black racism.

Vox notes that alt-righties co-signed statements including “I avoid interactions with black people,” “My beliefs motivate me to express negative feelings about black people,” and, “I minimize my contact with black people.” The outlet goes on to note:

Forscher explains it like this. When he runs these questions on samples of college students, he usually sees average scores around 2 (out of 9, meaning people largely don’t agree with these questions). “In the alt-right samples, I’m seeing numbers around 3 or 4, relatively close to the midpoint. In all the samples I’ve worked with, I haven’t seen means at that level.” In other words, members of the alt-right are unabashed in declaring their prejudices.

Why would you worry about expressing your prejudices when they’re shared with people like the president? No wonder they’ve taken off the sheets and masks.

5. They score highly in ‘dark triad’ traits.

The alt-right grew out of trollism, a culture that festered and grew in the bowels of 4chan and Reddit. Studies of trolls have found they score highly in “dark triad” personality traits, a trio that includes narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Turns out that the apple doesn’t far fall from the rotting tree. Alt-right adherents have higher than normal levels of these traits. Forscher and Kteily emphasize that these personality traits are “associated with callous, manipulative behavior.”

6. They are unashamedly aggressive.

Researchers looked into “the self-reported frequency of online and offline name-calling, physical threats, harassment, and making statements because others find them offensive” as well as doxxing “and sharing memes intended to offend others.” Alt-right respondents were much more likely to report engaging in those behaviors than non-members of the alt-right. Those who researchers identified as supremacists were most likely to admit having perpetrated those acts.

7. They believe in collective action for whites, and no one else.

An actual majority of white Americans believes anti-black racism is over, and a significant number believe whites experience more racism than blacks. So it’s not that surprising that members of the overwhelmingly white alt-right think like most of their white American counterparts. Guess that makes that thinking not so “fringe,” huh? These are the beliefs, by and large, of many white Americans.

Where alt-righties scored higher than other people is in their support for “collective action on behalf of white people.” In large part, they agreed with the statement, “I think there are good reasons to have organizations that look out for the interests of whites.” There’s a circularity here that seems self-evident: if you see yourself as a victim of some imaginary multicultural takeover and think groups that are focused on white power — like the alt-right or the Trump coalition — are doing the right thing, you’re likely to join those groups. The more indoctrinated you are as a member of those groups, the more likely you are to believe in their necessity, however much observable reality and peer-reviewed studies prove that thinking wrong.

For the record, despite the alt-right’s insistence that everyone should be proud and fight for their own rights, alt-right members were less keen on the idea in practice. They were particularly likely to register opposition to Black Lives Matter, and to agree with the statement, “I think [BLM] has been very harmful to our country.” (BLM has been bad for the U.S., by this logic, but the Klan hasn’t. Absolutely stunning how these people will twist rational thought to fit an agenda.) It’s worth noting that both the alt-right populists and white supremacists gave high levels of support to these ideas.

http://www.salon.com/2017/08/17/7-things-to-know-about-the-mindset-of-the-neo-nazis_partner/

Donald Trump hasn’t just tolerated this upsurge of fascist violence — he enabled and encouraged it.

A white nationalist demonstrator walks into Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

 

It’s a dark moment for America — and our president personally made this possible

Now is an era of sadness and despair in America. Not only have right-wing extremists and Nazis, mostly composed of deeply entitled and privileged young white men, marched openly in our streets, pushing well beyond free speech by committing acts of deadly violence and terror against counter-protesters, but it’s become abundantly clear that our chief executive — the president of the United States — is both an enabler and a sympathizer of their lost cause.

There have been many occasions throughout the past two years when Donald Trump has made me embarrassed to call myself an American. There is his disgraceful and unpresidential behavior, often made obvious multiple times daily. There is the disturbing reality that he’s been politically successful both despite and because of his erratic bullying, which is not reflective of a strong leader but rather a fledgling authoritarian, ignorant bigot and amoral toddler.

On Saturday, however, Trump revealed himself to be far worse, given his barely unspoken, between-the-lines support for white supremacist goon squads and, yes, Nazi terrorists inside our national borders, marching in our streets.

It was bad enough that Trump has surrounded himself with “alt-right” white supremacists like Sebastian Gorka, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. It was bad enough that Trump constructed his entire political message around a racist dog-whistle, appealing explicitly to the “forgotten men and women” of America. (There was little mystery about what color they were.) It was bad enough that throughout his campaign and presidency so far, Trump has pandered to aggrieved white people angry about Black Lives Matter and the first black president, while he simultaneously demonized nonwhites, be they immigrants or citizens. And then, in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Saturday, he vindicated all our suspicions with the most atrocious presidential remarks delivered in generations.

While victims of the graphic, horrifying terror attack in Charlottesville were still covered in freshly drawn blood, including and especially the late Heather Heyer, the president meekly denounced the “hatred, bigotry and violence” of the day. By itself, that would have been passable. The president instead decided to add his own apparently improvised qualifier: “on many sides, on many sides.”

In other words, the white supremacist who rammed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters, killing Heyer and injuring 19 others, is on the same level as the counter-protesters who didn’t kill or severely injure anyone that day. This according to your president, the ironically dubbed “leader of the free world.” The president’s “many sides” line also appeared to link the deadly Charlottesville terrorist attack with Black Lives Matter protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and other activists who, again, haven’t engaged in any acts of terror whatsoever nor are linked in any way to the Holocaust and other atrocities of World War II.

Making matters worse, the president refused to condemn the Nazis and white supremacists who assembled in the name of defending, in this case violently, the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville and — perhaps more importantly for them — expressing their perceived grievances in an age of broadening equality and civil rights. Again, it’s worth repeating: The president refused to condemn Nazis — actual, self-identified neo-Nazis with their snappy World War II German cosplayer regalia, their matching Nazi helmets, their khaki slacks and their combat boots.

We know exactly why Trump refused to say what so many other prominent Republicans and Democrats said in response. We know that Trump performs exclusively to his base. No one else matters beyond those represented best by his googly-eyed rally-attending disciples. These are people who largely do not identify as racists or Nazis, but who seem perfectly comfortable sticking it to perceived outsiders as well as the liberal benefactors of those “others.” We know that Trump has no problem with relentlessly blasting his enemies, yet neo-Nazis and white supremacists are somehow off limits.

Indeed, the only people Trump consistently refuses to condemn are Nazis, such as the Unite the Right goons in Charlottesville, and authoritarians such as President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, and, of course, Vladimir Putin. Trump was perfectly comfortable comparing the American intelligence community with “Nazi Germany” a few months back, but he defiantly refused to condemn the actual Nazis marching in his backyard, 90 minutes south of the White House.

Trump was more than happy to attack his own attorney general and his own party’s Senate leader. He condemned war hero John McCain. He repeatedly condemned the judges of the Ninth Circuit. Hell, Trump condemned both “Saturday Night Live” and Nordstrom. But he’s afraid to condemn despots like Putin or the Nazis who attacked American citizens in Charlottesville. Why? I think we know the answer.

By now you’ve probably seen the shocking video of the organizer of the Unite the Right gathering, Jason Kessler, being chased away by antifa protesters and others still hurting from Saturday’s tragedies. Knowing that our president, in addition to being a pawn of the Kremlin and a profound embarrassment to the nation, also happens to be an apparent sympathizer with Nazis and white supremacists, it’s past time that we make some hard choices as citizens.

Do we collectively demand the swift resignation or impeachment of the president for his trespasses, or do we continue to endure this tyrant through the next election, even though Trump’s accomplices in Moscow might well seek to skew the election in his favor again? Do we continue to tolerate Trump and his team of racist advisers and the actions of the pathetic young men they’re animating? If after only 207 days, neo-Nazis are so empowered by a sympathetic president to commit murders as they did on Saturday, what will America look like 207 days from now? What will America look like after Trump appoints more top officials while “deconstructing the administrative state” and dealing in unnecessary nuclear brinksmanship? Let us choose not to find out.

We’ve endured incompetent presidents before. We’ve endured criminals in the Oval Office before. But we’ve never had both a Nazi appeaser and an apparent Russian puppet in the White House before. Now we’re beginning to see the real and fatal consequences of allowing a terrifyingly incompetent villain to ascend to this station, and matters can absolutely get worse. There’s no silver lining here, just a raw and mandatory urgency for Donald Trump to be legally ejected from his intolerable stewardship of the American presidency.

 

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon.com. He’s also the host of “The Bob Cesca Show” podcast, and a weekly guest on both the “Stephanie Miller Show” and “Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang.” Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Trump makes an appeal to the fascistic right

4 August 2017

As the political warfare in Washington escalated, President Trump went to Huntington, West Virginia Thursday night for a campaign-style rally bringing together the fascistic themes that the White House has been developing over the past several weeks.

Posturing as the defender of coal miners and other working people against immigrants, environmentalists and unnamed “special interests,” Trump welcomed the Democratic governor of West Virginia, billionaire coal boss Jim Justice, who announced his switch to the Republican Party at the rally.

Trump invited other Democrats to support his right-wing policies and drop their campaign, backed by the military-intelligence apparatus, over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections. “The reason why Democrats only talk about the totally made up Russia story is because they have no message, no agenda and no vision,” he said.

This characterization of the Democratic Party is accurate as far as it goes. The maniacal focus of the Democrats on the Russia investigation leaves a political vacuum in which there is no opposition within the official political system to Trump’s right-wing rampage against democratic rights and the social gains of working people.

Trump seeks to exploit this rhetorically with demagogic boasting about the (nonexistent) revival of the coal industry and the (fictitious) growth of manufacturing jobs. The real content of his economic program is revealed in the “achievement” to which he gave first place in his litany of supposed successes: “the all-time-high stock market,” which enriches billionaires like Trump and Justice, but comes at the expense of the jobs and living standards of workers.

Trump combines bogus claims to stand up for working people with vicious law-and-order and anti-immigrant demagogy, featuring the usual list of villains: “radical Islamic terrorists,” “drug smugglers,” “human traffickers” and “vicious, violent gangs.” Of those actually responsible for the terrible conditions of life in areas like West Virginia—the giant corporations and banks overseeing mass layoffs, wage-cutting and the opioid plague that has ensued—Trump said not a word.

The visit to Huntington is the latest in a series of public appearances through which the White House has carried out a step-by-step campaign to mobilize support from the police, the military, Christian fundamentalists, white racists and outright fascists.

While there has been an authoritarian thrust to the Trump administration going back to his inaugural address, what has unfolded over the past two weeks is a calculated political maneuver, beginning with Trump’s July 22 speech to a naval audience at the christening of the new aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford.

Trump spoke last week before an audience of uniformed police on Long Island and urged them to be “rough” in treating people they arrested, particularly those involved in Latino immigrant gangs.

There have been open appeals to racism and anti-gay bigotry: Trump tweeted his decision that transgendered individuals will not be “permitted to serve in any capacity in the US military.” The Justice Department has taken the position that anti-gay discrimination by employers does not violate civil rights laws, and there are reports that it is preparing to charge that universities with affirmative action programs are engaged in “anti-white” discrimination.

On Monday, the new White House chief of staff, retired Marine General John F. Kelly, was sworn into office, replacing Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and putting a military man in the top White House job for the first time in nearly half a century.

And on Wednesday, Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller appeared at the White House press briefing to announce Trump’s support for legislation that would cut the number of legal immigrants by 50 percent while enacting an openly racist standard favoring speakers of English and those desired by corporate employers, rather than family members.

Increasingly, the administration’s political appeals are separated from any legislative or electoral agenda. The focus is on the persona of Trump himself and the building of a political movement around him.

Miller’s re-emergence Wednesday, after being sidelined for several months due to the initial debacle of Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban, brought the most openly authoritarian of Trump’s top aides before the public and the press once more. He engaged in a widely publicized clash with Jim Acosta of CNN, in the course of which Miller inadvertently revealed the direct connection between the Trump White House and the fascist right.

In an exchange involving the famous poem by Emma Lazarus, embossed on the Statue of Liberty (which includes the line, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”), Miller declared that the poem “was added later, is not actually a part of the original Statue of Liberty.” As both the Washington Post and the Jewish Daily Forward have pointed out, Miller’s remark was not original to him, but reproduces positions circulating in the fascist and neo-Nazi right, voiced at different times this year by Rush Limbaugh of talk radio, Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and white supremacist Richard Spencer.

Trump and his closest aides are seeking to exploit the widespread hostility to the Democratic Party as the party of the liberal economic elite, including large sections of Wall Street, with an entirely bogus posture as the advocate of the “forgotten man”, as Trump put it during the election campaign and again on Thursday night. But Trump lacks even the semblance of an economic program to address the spread of mass impoverishment and social misery.

The Democrats are saying nothing about Trump’s fascistic appeals. Instead, they are doubling down on their anti-Russia campaign. There were reports Thursday that independent counsel Robert Mueller has convened a special grand jury in his investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections and Trump campaign collusion with Moscow.

Leaks from within the White House and the intelligence agencies continue at an unprecedented level; most recently, the Washington Post published transcripts of Trump phone conversations with leaders of Mexico and Australia, giving an embarrassing glimpse of the president’s bullying and double-dealing approach to his foreign counterparts.

These attacks are motivated by differences within the ruling elite over foreign policy. While Trump has sought to accommodate his critics, most recently by signing a stringent new sanctions bill directed against Russia, he is also seeking to mobilize his ultra-right base and push back against his ruling class opponents.

The Democratic Party will do nothing to oppose Trump’s effort to mobilize ultra-right and fascistic elements to attack the working class and destroy democratic rights. Their criticism of Trump is entirely within the framework set by the national-security establishment: he is soft on Russia, erratic overall, and preoccupied with his family’s personal financial interests rather than the interests of Wall Street and American imperialism as a whole.

At the same time, the Democrats are leaving open the possibility of working with Trump, particularly on a “tax reform” that will lead to a new windfall for the corporate and financial elite.

The struggle against the ultra-right and in defense of democratic rights is a struggle to unite all sections of the working class—black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and immigrant—on the basis of common class interests, to defend jobs and living standards and oppose the growing danger of imperialist war. This is possible only through the independent mobilization of working people against the two big business parties, the Democrats and Republicans, to fight for a socialist and internationalist program.

Patrick Martin

Donald Trump, a classic case of affirmative action for the wealthy, wants to take it away from the disadvantaged

President often claims he’s “like, a smart person” — but he didn’t get into Wharton on his academic merits

Of all the issues facing higher education today — skyrocketing student debt, for-profit colleges ripping off its students and government subsidies, declining college enrollment – President Trump has chosen to make it harder for black and Latino students to get into college.

The Trump administration is preparing to sue universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.

Apparently Trump objects to affirmative action for African-Americans and Latinos, but not to affirmative action for the super-rich and the well-connected. That’s how Trump got into the University of Pennsylvania in 1966.

Over the years, Trump has frequently referred to his Ivy League credentials as evidence of his intelligence. In a 2004 interview with CNN, Trump said, “I went to the Wharton School of Finance. I got very good marks. I was a good student. It’s the best business school in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”

In 2011, Trump told ABC News, “Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy. I was a really good student at the best school in the country,” referring once again to Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania’s business school, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1968.

“I went to the Wharton School of Finance,” he said during a campaign speech in Phoenix in July 2015. “I’m, like, a really smart person.”

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in August 2015, Trump described Whartonas “probably the hardest [school] there is to get into.” He added, “Some of the great business minds in the world have gone to Wharton.” He also observed: “Look, if I were a liberal Democrat, people would say I’m the super genius of all time. The super genius of all time.”

During a CNN-sponsored Republican town hall in Columbia, South Carolina in February 2016, Trump reminded the audience that he had gone to Wharton and then repeated his boast: “Look, I went to the best school, I was a good student and all of this stuff. I mean, I’m a smart person.”

Last December, in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Trump repeated those same words to explain why he didn’t need daily updates from intelligence professionals about national security threats, a tradition that goes back to President Harry Truman. “I’m, like, a smart person,” he told Wallace.

He did it again on Jan. 21 of this year, the day after his inauguration, during a visit to CIA headquarters. Trump’s scripted remarks turned into a rambling rant that included attacks on the media and his insistence that as many as 1.5 million people attended his inauguration. In the middle of his tirade, Trump felt the need to tell the nation’s top spies that he is a bright guy. “Trust me,” Trump said, “I’m, like, a smart person.”

Trump has repeated that claim many times. Each time, it isn’t clear if he’s trying to convince his interviewer or himself. Indeed, anyone who feels compelled to boast about his academic pedigree and how smart he is clearly suffers from profound insecurity about his intelligence and accomplishments. In Trump’s case, he has good reason to have doubts.

Trump surely knows he didn’t get into Wharton on his own merits. He transferred into its undergraduate program after spending two years at Fordham University in New York, where he had no significant achievements.

“No one I know of has said ‘I remember Donald Trump,’” Paul F. Gerken, a 1968 Fordham graduate and president of the Fordham College Alumni Association, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Whatever he did at Fordham, he didn’t leave footprints.”

In her 2001 biography, “The Trumps,” Gwenda Blair reported that Trump’s grades at Fordham were not good enough to qualify him to transfer to Wharton. According to Blair, Trump got into Wharton as a special favor from a “friendly” admissions officer who was a high school classmate of Trump’s older brother, Freddy. The college’s admissions staff was surely aware that Trump’s father was a wealthy real estate developer and a potential donor.

Other than his father’s money and his family’s connections, Trump had no qualifications that would have otherwise gotten him into Wharton. (Most people who mention Wharton refer to its prestigious MBA program, but Trump was an economics major in the undergraduate program.)

In high school at the New York Military Academy, Trump was not an outstanding student. He didn’t organize his fellow students to tutor underprivileged kids or raise money for cancer research. In his senior year, he was removed from his post as captain and transferred to a job on the school staff, with no command responsibilities. According to his fellow students, Trump wasn’t able to control the cadets under his command.

Moreover, for years Trump exaggerated his academic accomplishments at Wharton. On at least two occasions in the 1970s, the New York Times reported that Trump “graduated first in his class” at Wharton in 1968. That’s not true. The dean’s list for his graduation year, published in the Daily Pennsylvanian, the campus newspaper, doesn’t include Trump’s name. He has refused to release his grade transcripts from his college days.

The fabrication that Trump was first in his class has been repeated in many other articles and books about Trump, but he has never bothered to correct it.

Upon graduating from college, Trump didn’t have to apply for jobs or go through interviews with potential employers who would judge him on his merits. Instead, his father Fred Trump handed young Donald the keys to his real estate empire.

Despite this, Trump often tries to portray himself as a self-made entrepreneur. “It has not been easy for me,” Trump said at a town hall meeting on Oct. 26, 2015, acknowledging, “My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.”

But an investigation by The Washington Post last year demolished Trump’s claim that he made it on his own. Not only did Trump’s father provide Donald with a huge inheritance and set up big-bucks trust accounts to provide his son with a steady income, Fred was also a silent partner in Trump’s first real estate projects. According to the Post:

Trump’s father — whose name had been besmirched in New York real estate circles after investigations into windfall profits and other abuses in his real estate projects — was an essential silent partner in Trump’s initiative. In effect, the son was the front man, relying on his father’s connections and wealth, while his father stood silently in the background to avoid drawing attention to himself.

Born into privilege, Trump got into Wharton through family connections and then inherited a fortune. Now his administration is preparing to thwart efforts by colleges and universities to recruit students of color who had to overcome obstacles that Trump can’t even imagine. The Justice Department memo uncovered by The New York Times described its plan as challenging “intentional race-based discrimination,” referring to programs designed to bring more minority students to college campuses.

Affirmative action programs were designed to help qualified students who lack the sorts of connections that Trump used to get into Wharton. The purpose is to level the playing field by helping students who have had to cope with considerable economic and social disadvantages, including racism.

No selective university or college simply uses grades and test scores in deciding which students to accept. Colleges accept students whose high-school grades and SAT scores meet a basic threshold, and then give extra points to students with various characteristics, based on such factors as athletic or artistic ability; urban, suburban or rural background; demonstrated commitment to public service; attendance at public, private or religious high schools; and ethnic and racial backgrounds. All of this is done to create a diverse student body.

The Justice Department memo noted that the anti-affirmative action project will be run out of the Civil Rights Division’s front office, comprised of Trump administration political appointees, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is staffed by career civil servants who normally deal with issues involving schools and universities. This suggests that the entire scheme is designed as a political gesture to Trump’s base of conservative white supporters who view affirmative action as a form of reverse discrimination.

Candice Jackson, acting head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (who would certainly play a key role in the administration’s attack on affirmative action), once complained that she was discriminated against for being white while she was a student at Stanford.

But an even more egregious form of discrimination is the kind of class privilege that allowed a second-rate student like Trump to get into Wharton, depriving a more deserving but less well-connected student a spot in that elite institution. Now, as president, he wants to deprive tens of thousands of truly worthy students the opportunity to overcome disadvantages and become our nation’s future leaders.

Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is “The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame” (Nation Books).