It’s tempting to believe that, because Trump hasn’t repealed Obamacare, locked up Hillary Clinton, or built a border wall along the Mexican border, his agenda is stalled. That fantasy got a boost this week with the departure of Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. And while Bannon’s firing was a necessary move, Paul Krugman warns we shouldn’t break out the champagne just yet.
Yes, the Trump administration’s efforts to kick 20 million people of their health insurance while lining the pockets of the 1 percent have been thwarted for now. Krugman can’t even get too worked up about the prsopect of tax reform. “Straight-out tax cuts”, he writes, “which benefit corporations and the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, might still go through, but even that looks doubtful.”
But now is not the time to get complacent. “Don’t just watch Congress,” Krugman writes, “keep your eyes on what federal agencies are doing.” Whether Trump passes a single act of legislation or not, the Department of Labor can still do immeasurable harm to workers and their unions.
The most blatant example, according to Krugman, is “the decline in the fortunes of truck drivers, whose pay used to make them members of the middle class.” That’s over now, as “their real wages have fallen about a third since the 1970s, with most of the decline taking place during the Reagan years.” That collapse wasn’t because of tax policy. It was a slow and steady erosion of the the power of the National Labor Relations Board, “that encouraged private employers to fight unionization, and in part to deregulation that undercut the position of unionized firms.”
The same can be said for the deregulation of financial companies, whose CEOs were responsible for the housing bubble, the mortgage crisis, and ultimately the 2008 recession. It wasn’t legislation that enabled them to act so recklessly but a loosening of rules across all of the agencies that cover our financial systems. When it comes to Congress, Krugman explains, “Right now it looks as if [Trump] may have much less impact on taxing and spending than most people expected. But other policies, often made administratively by federal agencies rather than via legislation, can matter a lot.”
Krugman ends his column on an especially grim note: “As long as he’s in office, he retains a lot of power to betray the working people who supported him. And in case you haven’t noticed, betraying those who trust him is a Trump specialty.”
It is often the case that the outcome of events reveals the essential issues underlying political developments. This is true of the conflicts that erupted within the ruling class over the Nazi rampage in Charlottesville, which culminated in the dismissal Friday of Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon.
The corporate-controlled media has sought to portray the sequence of events entirely in racial terms, with Bannon and other advocates of “white nationalism” now purged, leaving political control of the White House and the Trump administration in steadier and more “moderate” political hands: a group of generals and ex-generals, headed by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, together with Wall Street financiers such as Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The New York Times has led the way, with an editorial Sunday declaring that “Americans accustomed constitutionally and politically to civilian leadership now find themselves relying on three current and former generals—John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff; H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser; and Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense—to stop Mr. Trump from going completely off the rails. Experienced and educated, well-versed in the terrible costs of global confrontation and driven by an impulse toward public service that Mr. Trump doesn’t possess, these three, it is hoped, can counter his worst instincts.”
In the same edition of the Times, a news analysis celebrates what its headline calls “The Moral Voice of Corporate America.” In this account, “a chorus of business leaders rose up this past week to condemn hate groups and espouse tolerance and inclusion.”
Among those named as part of this “chorus” of “moral” leaders are such corporate criminals as Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, one of those responsible for the 2008 financial collapse; Mary Barra of General Motors, who oversaw the cover-up of an ignition-switch defect that killed hundreds of people; and WalMart CEO Doug McMillon, whose company is a synonym for low-wage exploitation.
The ruling elite saw Trump’s incautious remarks defending the neo-Nazis who rioted in Charlottesville as a serious threat to the interests of American imperialism abroad as well as the maintenance of social and political stability at home. Powerful corporate interests feared the implications for Trump’s agenda of corporate tax cuts, the removal of business regulations, a profit windfall in the guise of infrastructure reform and the gutting of Medicaid and other social programs.
Trump’s self-exposure of his efforts to build an extra-parliamentary fascistic base increased the nervousness in financial circles over the danger of a collapse of the speculative bubble that has been built up since the 2008 Wall Street crash.
The response, laid out most clearly by the Times, has been to increase the grip of the military and corporate America over the government to an extent unprecedented in US history. It is 56 years since President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his 1961 farewell address, warned of the dangers to democracy posed by the rise of the “military-industrial complex.” He could have no conception of the size, power and degree of dominance exercised by the vast military/intelligence/corporate complex of today.
The first result of this consolidation was the announcement that Trump will deliver a nationwide address tonight, unveiling plans for an expansion of the war in Afghanistan.
What the ruling elite fears above all is the growth of working-class opposition to the Trump administration and the entire political system. Thus, excised from the official narrative promoted by the media is any reference to the reality of social life in America—a country in which 20 individuals control as much wealth as the poorest half of the population—as well as the reactionary agenda of the Trump administration itself. Nor is there any discussion of war and the crimes carried out by “responsible” leaders such as Mattis, who won his appellation “Mad Dog” for his role in destroying the Iraqi city of Fallujah.
This is replaced with a series of diversionary issues, centered on a grossly distorted presentation of the United States as a country seething with racial intolerance and an exaggerated picture of the strength and influence of neo-Nazi and racist forces. Hence one has the apparently contradictory but in fact compatible phenomena, ubiquitous in the Democratic Party-aligned media, of the promotion of identity politics alongside respectful and even admiring portrayals of the white supremacist thugs who demonstrated in Charlottesville.
Typical was a newsletter released Sunday by the New Yorker under the headline, “White Supremacy in America.” In an introduction, David Remnick, author of the hagiographic biography of Obama, The Bridge, proclaims, “Make no mistake: neo-Nazis and white supremacists are now at the forefront of American politics.”
Among the featured articles is one by author Toni Morrison titled “Making America White Again,” which insists that “Unlike any nation in Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force.” In line with the Democratic Party and its various appendages among the pseudo-left organizations of the privileged middle class, Morrison explains the election of Trump as the product of the racism of “white America”:
On Election Day, how eagerly so many white voters—both the poorly educated and the well educated—embraced the shame and fear sowed by Donald Trump. The candidate whose company has been sued by the Justice Department for not renting apartments to black people. The candidate who questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the United States, and who seemed to condone the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally. The candidate who kept black workers off the floors of his casinos. The candidate who is beloved by David Duke and endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.
This effort to portray all whites, and particularly white men, as secret supporters of the KKK is a political fraud. Racism does exist. However, the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville are a tiny minority who are regarded with deep revulsion by the vast majority of working people. A nationwide mobilization could dredge up only a few hundred proponents of this barbaric ideology. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of all races have marched to denounce both Trump and the fascists he defends.
Trump is president today, not because of a mass vote for racism, but because he more successfully appealed to social discontent than the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, the personification of the alliance between Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus, who did not attempt to conceal her complacent contempt for the plight of tens of millions of working people struggling to survive.
The racialist narrative is being used to demonize large sections of the population, buttress the identity politics of privileged layers of the middle class, provide political cover for a massive transfer of wealth to the rich, rally support for a virtual palace coup by the generals and corporate billionaires, and, above all, divert and suppress an independent movement of the working class.
The overriding threat to democratic rights comes not from a handful of fascist thugs, but from the very alliance of Wall Street and the Pentagon that is being touted as the antidote to the racists in the streets.
As for the Times and the various affiliates of the Democratic Party, they see the real threat coming not from neo-Nazis, but from a socialist movement of the working class.
The promotion of racialist politics and the tightening of military-corporate control over the government go hand-in-hand with the suppression of oppositional views, above all the World Socialist Web Site. Thus the decision taken by Google, in close coordination with the state, to censor and blacklistthe WSWS through the manipulation of search results. This is the prelude to more aggressive actions to target socialist opposition to the policies of the corporate and financial elite.
The white supremacist forces arrayed in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend — the largest gathering of its sort in at least a generation — represented a new incarnation of the white supremacy movement. Old-guard groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations and the Nazi skinheads, which had long stood at the center of racist politics in America, were largely absent.
Instead, the ranks of the young men who drove to Charlottesville with clubs, shields, pepper spray and guns included many college-educated people who have left the political mainstream in favor of extremist ideologies over the past few years. A large number have adopted a very clean cut, frat-boyish look designed to appeal to the average white guy in a way that KKK robes or skinhead regalia never could. Interviews show that at least some of these leaders have spent time in the U.S. armed forces.
Many belong to new organizations like Vanguard America, Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Workers Party and True Cascadia, which have seen their numbers expand dramatically in the past year. Most of these groups view themselves as part of a broader “alt-right” movement that represents the extreme edge of right-wing politics in the U.S.
These organizations exhibited unprecedented organization and tactical savvy. Hundreds of racist activists converged on a park on Friday night, striding through the darkness in groups of five to 20 people. A handful of leaders with headsets and handheld radios gave orders as a pickup truck full of torches pulled up nearby. Within minutes, their numbers had swelled well into the hundreds. They quickly and efficiently formed a lengthy procession and begun marching, torches alight, through the campus of the University of Virginia.
Despite intense interest from the media, police and local anti-racists, the white supremacists kept the location of their intimidating nighttime march secret until the last moment.
The next day, the far-right forces — likely numbering between 1,000 and 1,500 — marched to Emancipation Park. Once again, they arrived in small blocs under military-style command. The racist groups were at least as organized and disciplined as the police, who appeared to have no clear plan for what to do when the violence escalated. The racist groups stood their ground at the park and were not dislodged for many hours.
For many of them, this will be seen as victory. “Every rally we’re going to be more organized, we’re going to have more people, and it’s going to be harder and harder for them to shut us down,” said a spokesman for Vanguard America, a fascist group, who gave his name as “Thomas.” “White people are pretty good at getting organized.”
And though police arrested James Fields Jr., a 20-year-old Ohio man, for allegedly driving a Dodge Charger into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and wounding many others, the white supremacists generally avoided arrests.
They also outmaneuvered their anti-racist opponents. On Saturday, a multifaith group met at the historic First Baptist Church for a sunrise prayer ceremony featuring academic Cornel West and pastor Traci Blackmon. The anti-racists, many of them clergy members, walked quietly to Emancipation Park, where they were vastly outnumbered by the white supremacists.
Later, a band of more aggressive counter-protesters showed up at the park, chanting “Appalachia coming at ya. Nazi punks we’re gonna smash ya!” These militant “antifa,” or antifascists, were also repelled by the white supremacists.
Given the scale of the protests, the far-right groups suffered few injuries. That was particularly notable given the fact that multiple people near the protests were armed. Throughout the weekend, right-wing and left-wing militias equipped with assault rifles, pistols and body armor patrolled the streets of Charlottesville. (Virginia is an “open carry” state, so gun owners are legally allowed to tote around firearms.)
State police and National Guardsmen watched passively for hours as self-proclaimed Nazis engaged in street battles with counter-protesters.
Many of the armed men viewed their role as maintaining a modicum of order. A “Three Percenter” militia out of New York state posted itself near Emancipation Park with the intention of keeping anti-racists from disrupting the rally. The group says it disapproves of racism but is dedicated to defending the free speech rights of all.
Blocks away, Redneck Revolt, a leftist militia from North Carolina, watched over the perimeter of a park where anti-racists had gathered, committed to preventing violent attacks by the white supremacist groups.
The presence of heavily armed citizens may have played a role in the decision of authorities to largely stay out of the violent skirmishes between the white supremacists and their opponents.
Those who actually marched included many new to the right-wing cause. The victory of Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election has energized a whole wave of young people who were previously apathetic or apolitical, rally organizer Eli Mosley told ProPublica. The president has served as “megaphone” for far-right ideas, he said.
Mosley and his comrades are seeking to draw in as many of these newly politicized young people as possible. “We’re winning,” he said. “We’re targeting the youth and making a movement that appeals to the youth.”
Some of those who’ve gravitated to the extreme right milieu are former liberals — like Mosley’s fellow rally organizer Jason Kessler — and supporters of Bernie Sanders. Many are ex-Libertarians.
“I was a libertarian,” said Mosley, as white supremacists chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!” in the background. “I looked around and noticed that most Libertarians were white men. I decided that the left was winning with identity politics, so I wanted to play identity politics too. I’m fascinated by leftist tactics, I read Saul Alinsky, Martin Luther King … This is our ’60s movement.”
A.C. Thompson is a staff reporter with ProPublica.
Even before the demonstration in Virginia began last weekend, the police there knew they weren’t going to be able to handle what was coming.
Charlottesville police officers, including Sgt. Jake Via of the investigations bureau, had been contacting organizers and scanning social media to figure out how many demonstrators were headed their way and whether they would be armed.
“The number each group was saying was just building and building,” Via said. “We saw it coming. … Looking at this, I said, ‘This is going to be bad.’”
The protesters’ numbers were too large and the downtown park too small. City officials tried to get the demonstration moved to another, more spacious location, but lost in court after the rally’s organizer, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleged his freedom of speech was being infringed.
The protests, of course, ended tragically. Local law enforcement was widely blamed for losing control of the event and standing back even as people were attacked.
Via maintains that nothing the police did could have stopped the violence between the two sides. “No hours and hours and hours or even months of planning is going to stop the radicals from both sides wanting to go at it,” he said.
With more demonstrations planned in cities across the country, ProPublica interviewed law enforcement experts in the United States and Europe to ask what more can be done to prevent bloodshed at protests where people are spoiling for a fight. The consensus was that additional steps can be taken.
But many of the tactics come at a price. Some could be viewed as impinging on civil liberties and the constitutionally enshrined rights to free assembly and protest. Others require funding and coordination that is difficult to achieve within the fragmented framework of American policing. A few are as simple as strategically placed blockades that keep the two sides separate. Here are some of the top approaches and how they might — or might not — be deployed in the U.S.
Drones, Anti-Mask Laws and Open-Carry Restrictions
Local police forces will increasingly institutionalize the use of drones at mass demonstrations. That’s the prediction of Brian Levin, a criminal justice professor at California State University, San Bernardino. Cameras in the air with real-time feeds transmitted to officers on the ground would allow police to cover more terrain and in some cases, identify potential conflicts before they erupt.
“Demonstrations spread, and these violent confrontations can take place in disparate areas,” said Levin. “It’s like when a hammer hits mercury.”
Drones can also be safer than helicopters. In Charlottesville, a helicopter monitoring the demonstration went down, killing two state troopers aboard.
But police drone use has been met with opposition from civil liberties groups. Drones donated to the Los Angeles Police Department have gone unused for years amid privacy concerns. Activists have argued that access to the devices, which make surveillance cheaper and more efficient, will lead police to more routinely surveil private citizens.
Earlier this month, LA’s police commission gathered to discuss relaunching the program only to be met by chanting activists who shut down the conversation twice. Similar stories have played out in Seattle and elsewhere.
Another tool cities and states (including Virginia) have used is anti-mask laws, which bar groups of people from disguising themselves in public. Violent demonstrators will sometimes arrive in ski masks or scarves wrapped around their faces. New York City has a ban, with exceptions including for Halloween. So does Alabama, a rule it instituted in 1949 to unmask the Ku Klux Klan. A similar restriction in California, though, was struck down after Iranian Americans hoping to safely (and non-violently) protest the post-revolutionary regime back home sued on First Amendment grounds.
State police and National Guardsmen watched passively for hours as self-proclaimed Nazis engaged in street battles with counter-protesters. Read the story.
Another challenge in Charlottesville was the number of demonstrators who came with guns, and were allowed to do so lawfully, because of Virginia’s open-carry laws.
Even in states with such statutes, the authorities have some options. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley’s law school, said the Supreme Court has upheld the right to have guns at home, but not necessarily in public. “Think of curfews. The government has the ability to take steps to protect public safety,” Chemerinsky said. “The more evidence there is that it’s a threat to public safety, the more sympathetic the courts would be.”
The evidence could consist of past rallies that broke out into violence, or intelligence that an armed group is planning to employ force in the future.
Still, attempts to temporarily restrict gun rights have floundered in the past. Before the most recent Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the head of Cleveland’s largest police union and others called for the state’s open-carry laws to be tightened during the convention. Gov. John Kasich refused, saying “Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights.”
A more radical approach comes from Philip Zelikow, a history professor at the University of Virginia and former executive director of the 9/11 Commission. In 1981, he worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights nonprofit, to ask a federal judge to shut down a group called the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which was showing up armed and in Army-style clothing on the Texas Gulf Coast to harass Vietnamese fishermen.
With the support of the Texas attorney general, Zelikow and his team invoked a 19th-century law that forbids “military companies” not authorized by the governor. They argued that the Klan qualified because it was not government-regulated but had “command structure, training and discipline so as to function as a combat or combat support unit.” The lawyers prevailed, and the Klan was forced to leave its weapons at home.
A similar argument also succeeded soon after in North Carolina, and Zelikow said groups like those in Charlottesville that are mixing weaponry and political activism could be subject to similar legal challenges. “These problems haven’t come up much in recent decades,” Zelikow said. “The issue subsided and memory fades but here we are again.”
Most states have restrictions on private military-like groups. Zelikow was contacted by lawyers from Oklahoma this week, asking if their state had such a law on the books. “It took me about five minutes to find,” he said. Zelikow is now trying to form a team of lawyers to bring a case in Virginia.
Thousands of people, divided into two opposing sides, squaring off in public. Some come armed, looking to damage property and wreak havoc. Many filter in from out of town, complicating efforts by police to negotiate peace in advance.
It’s a scenario European authorities know well, though with a different kind of group: soccer hooligans.
Maria Haberfeld, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and a former supervisor in the Israel National Police, said cops in the Netherlands use a “situation-oriented” model to keep violent rival soccer fans under control.
That framework trains officers in perceptual skills, helping them develop the emotional intelligence to read members of crowds and make sound judgments about which situations are truly dangerous. Officers are put through simulations in which they can achieve positive, nonfatal outcomes. Trainings are handled in groups, not individually, so that in the field, officers are less likely to misinterpret any of their colleagues’ motions or actions.
“European police forces are light years ahead of us in terms of training.” Haberfeld said. “It’s not something you can train police officers to do in half an hour. It’s a serious commitment.”
Reaching that level of training may not be feasible in the U.S., where local municipalities set their own academy protocols. (And demonstrations are less frequent than soccer matches.) The training in the U.S. typically lasts just a few months, compared to the couple of years that European police cadets get.
In Germany, police forces commonly have specialized units assigned to each side of a potentially violent protest. Officers meet with the groups’ leaders in advance and discuss plans for the protest in detail, including symbols that are forbidden for display by the government.
Protest leaders can be denied permits to demonstrate because of criminal records, forcing them to turn leadership of the event over to another member of the group. They’re also asked to assign deputies from within their organization who can help the group’s leader keep things under control. Those assistants also have their records vetted by the police before being approved.
Once at the event, the specialized police units show up in distinctive yellow vests, and without riot gear, so they can mix in with the demonstrators less threateningly. When officers see someone with a banned weapon, they sometimes will only film the demonstrator and make an arrest later.
“It is important for us, is not to have a negative solidarity spillover effect. … If we disarm a person or act against a small group of potentially violent protestors, other people around solidarize with them against the police,” said Elke Heilig, head of the anti-conflict team in Pforzheim, Germany. “This leads towards escalation.”
Keeping Peaceful Protesters Away
Social media gives hate groups a new megaphone for getting the word out about their rallies, opening up communication with many previously fragmented niche groups and helping lead to larger gatherings, experts said. A big crowd is inherently harder to police, but what makes the scenario even more vexing for law enforcement is that they’re now dealing with not just one or two groups, but many, along with unaffiliated individuals.
“People are coming in from disparate places and disparate groups who don’t answer to any single authority. A Klan leader can tell his folks to stand down,” said Levin, a former NYPD officer. “Social media has been a magnet not only for haters but for unstable haters.”
Some municipalities are responding by using social media tools to dissuade some activists from showing up. City officials in Berkeley, California, have experimented with discouraging peaceful protesters from attending demonstrations they expect to be violent.
In March, fights broke out between supporters and opponents of the president at a demonstration near the Berkeley campus. Some of the unruly counter-protesters were believed to be affiliated with black bloc, an anarchist group whose members are known to wear black and mask their faces. Mayhem ensued. In one case, a man wearing a “Trump is My President” shirt had his face bloodied.
“There are people who come intent on committing violence and they look for ways to subvert whatever you set up,” said city spokesman Matthai Chakko. “There are people who use peaceful protesters as shields. They blend into crowds after they commit their acts.”
In April, before another planned demonstration, the city launched a messaging campaign suggesting peaceful protesters keep their distance. “Consider whether the approach others advertise is the style and venue for you,” one alert read, warning of violent protesters. “Reaching out to organizations or individuals in need is an alternative to conflict. When people at an event act in a way that compromises your values and goals, separate yourself.”
The number of peaceful protesters dropped significantly, Chakko said, and the city is taking a similar approach with an unpermitted, white nationalist demonstration expected later this month. The alert the city sent out Wednesday was direct: “The best response for those seeking to safeguard our community is to stay away.”
Barriers and Chain-Link Fences
Miriam Krinsky, a former federal prosecutor who has worked on police reform efforts in Los Angeles, said the most fundamental strategy for dueling demonstrations is keeping the two sides separate, with physical obstacles and police in between. “Create a human barrier so the flash points are reduced as quickly as possible,” she said.
Law enforcement will sometimes quarantine protesting hate groups inside concentric chain link fences, creating a large empty space between opposing groups. Those entering the inner ring are sent through metal detectors.
A group that included many people who were college-educated or ex-military displayed effective planning. “White people are pretty good at getting organized,” said one. Read the story.
At an anti-Sharia protest in San Bernardino, California earlier this year, the two groups were kept on opposite sides of the street, with horse-mounted cops there to prevent protesters from crossing over.
The lack of space to separate the factions was a widely noted problem in Charlottesville. The massive demonstration was allowed to take place inside a small downtown park, making it more difficult for police to insert themselves and separate the two sides. “The two groups are both trying to occupy the same area and this doesn’t give police a lot of maneuverability,” said John Kleinig, professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Demonstrators ended up spilling out beyond the park, and one counter-protester was killed when an Ohio man allegedly plowed his car into a crowd a few blocks away from the park.
Demonstrations can in some ways be easier to control in concentrated urban areas, where police use tall buildings with little or no space in between them as barriers. And smaller city police forces generally have less training in large crowd control.
“I’m former NYPD,” Levin said. “We had grid patterns and streets we could block off, put a wedge in when we had an unruly crowds. … You have people hemmed in by structures and street grid patterns. In smaller places, people can spread out in all different directions.”
Since the weekend, amid criticism of their handling of the demonstration, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas acknowledged that crowd’s spread led to problems.
“We had to actually send out forces to multiple locations to deal with a number of disturbances,” he said. “It was certainly a challenge. We were spread thin once the groups dispersed.”
Special correspondent Pia Dangelmayer in Germany contributed to this story.
Donald Trump; Xavier Becerra (Credit: AP/Alex Brandon/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
After Donald Trump’s shocking meltdown on Tuesday afternoon, it’s even clearer that progressives need effective strategies to blunt the effect of having a conspiracy-theory-driven, racist authoritarian in the Oval Office, backed by a congressional majority that is still too afraid to offer meaningful checks on his worst behavior. The good news is that some of the nation’s biggest cities and states remain controlled by Democrats. Activists and politicians in those states are looking for meaningful ways to throw wrenches in the Trump agenda.
At the top of that list is California, which not only has the largest population of any state but is controlled by progressive Democrats (relatively speaking) who seem ready and eager to fight Trump, especially on the issues of climate change and immigration. (New York is the next biggest state controlled by Democrats, but intra-party warfare has crippled the ability of progressives to get much done.)
California fired a significant shot across the bow at Trump on Monday, when state Attorney General Xavier Becerra declared that the state would sue the Trump administration over threats to withdraw law enforcement grants if the local and state police refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to deport immigrants. The lawsuit will be joined with an earlier one filed by the city of San Francisco.
“It’s a low blow to our men and women who wear the badge, for the federal government to threaten their crime-fighting resources in order to force them to do the work of the federal government when it comes to immigration enforcement,” Becerra said during a press conference announcing the suit. California received $28 million in law enforcement grants from the federal government this year, money it could lose if the police prioritize actual crime-fighting over federal demands that they focus their resources on deporting people.
Pasquarella noted that most deportations currently occur because of an encounter with local law enforcement. By resisting pressure to step up efforts to persecute undocumented immigrants, she said, California can make it safe for people to “access basic services that are vital to our state and communities without fear of deportation, like schools and hospitals and libraries and health clinics.”
Some Democrats in the state are trying to take this idea even further, backing SB 54, titled the California Values Act. According to The Los Angeles Times, the bill would prohibit “state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes.”
While SB 54 is still being worked over in the legislature, California has already made progress in resisting the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal Obama-era actions to fight climate change. In July, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill extending a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions until 2030. The bill passed by a two-thirds majority in both the State Assembly and Senate.
Many environmentalist groups have come out against the bill, arguing that it doesn’t go far enough. Still, compared to the federal government’s evident retreat, it’s progress in the right direction. California has the largest state economy in the country, and demonstrating that climate action does not have to undermine economic growth could go a long way towards convincing other states to take similar action. This, in turn, could help the country meet the goals set by the Paris Accords, defying Trump’s efforts to pull the United States out of the historic climate change agreement.
In 2013, responding to research showing that abortions provided by nurse practitioners and midwives are safe, Brown signed a law giving those groups authority to offer abortion services. Brown has also signed off on three provisions to make it easier for women to get birth control: Letting pharmacists dispense it without a doctor’s prescription, requiring that health care plans cover contraception without a co-pay, and allowing women to get a full year’s worth of birth-control pills at a time.
There’s a deep philosophical irony here, because for decades now conservatives have claimed they wanted to reduce the power of the federal government and hand more decision-making authority to the states. That was always a disingenuous pose, of course. This conservative “principle” was largely invented to justify state resistance to Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation legalizing abortion, desegregating schools and protecting voting rights.
Still, it’s nice to see states like California calling the Republican bluff and showing that their supposed devotion to “small government” dries up the second states and cities move to protect human rights, instead of to attack them. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has always held himself out to be a small-government conservative, for instance. But his reaction to state and local officials who claim the power to set law enforcement priorities for themselves has been to accuse those officials of being law-breakers. This hypocrisy is already obvious, and it may soon be exposed in court.
Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte
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.
Donald Trump’s remarks on Tuesday defending violent Nazi and white supremacist demonstrators have torn the already threadbare mask from the face of American capitalism. The president of the United States stood before the media to give his support to the “very fine people” involved in the rally in Charlottesville this past weekend, while attacking supposedly “violent” left-wing protesters.
The response of the president to the violence in Charlottesville cannot but have the most far-reaching consequences internationally and within the United States. World War II, which established US hegemony over the world capitalist system, was presented as a war against fascism. Every war over the past quarter-century, justified with the rhetoric of “democracy” and “human rights,” was supposedly waged to overthrow one or another head of state described as the modern incarnation of Hitler. Now, the supposed leader of the “free world” has revealed his fascist sympathies.
Within the United States, Trump’s comments will fuel growing social and political anger. Millions of people already view the state and its institutions with hostility and contempt. While Trump and pro-Nazi advisers such as Stephen Bannon seek to exploit political confusion and alienation to develop an extra-parliamentary far-right movement, there is not yet a mass constituency for fascism. The mobilization of neo-Nazis from across the country to Charlottesville drew only a few hundred people, compared to the hundreds of thousands who turned out to protest Trump’s inauguration.
Nevertheless, the events in Charlottesville and the response of the White House must be taken by the working class both in the United States and internationally as a sharp warning. In the absence of a mass independent movement of the working class against both parties and the entire political establishment, there is a real danger of a growth of fascism in America.
The exposure of the authoritarian outlook not only of Trump, but of the financial oligarchy he personifies, is at the center of the political crisis within the ruling class. A growing list of CEOs announced their resignation from Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum and his Manufacturing Council, prompting the president to disband both panels yesterday afternoon. Leading congressmen, Democratic and Republican, have condemned the president and his remarks. Former presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as four members of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued statements opposing racism.
Former CIA Director John Brennan, who helped implement torture programs and NSA spying, called Trump’s comments a “national disgrace” that will put “our national security and our collective futures at grave risk.”
The actions and statements of these representatives of the ruling class constitute an exercise in hypocrisy and cover-up. As if the fascistic proclivities of Trump were not clearly established! According to many reports, Trump vented his pro-fascist views to his top aides on many occasions. This means they were known throughout Washington and in the media, which sought to conceal them from the public.
An article by Mark Landler posted on the New York Times website on Wednesday (“Trump Refuses to Set a Moral Standard, Abandoning a Tradition”) lays out the real concerns motivating the ruling class. Landler complains that Trump has “abdicated what presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan have regarded as a cardinal duty of their job: to set a moral course for the nation.”
As examples of the “moral standard” set by previous presidents, Landler cites Reagan’s farewell address in 1989, George W. Bush’s address to Congress following the attacks of September 11, 2001, and Barack Obama’s appeal “to the best in Americans through a heartbreaking succession of police shootings and racially motivated killings.” Other presidents had “moral shortcomings,” Landler concludes, “but until now no president has rejected the very concept of moral leadership.”
According to this conception, all the problems of American society and politics stem from the individual failings of Trump. As the New York Times put it succinctly and crudely in its editorial on Wednesday: “The root of the problem is not the personnel; it is the man at the top.”
But Trump, for all his disgusting personal traits, is the outcome of a long political evolution. The past half-century has seen a staggering process of political decay and degeneration, overseen by the “moral guardians” cited by the Times.
Nixon was brought down by the Watergate scandal, amid revelations of the criminal activities of American imperialism all over the world. Carter launched the US proxy war in Afghanistan that led to the creation of Al Qaeda. Reagan initiated a social counterrevolution while presiding over an illegal and secret war of subversion in Nicaragua run from the basement of the White House. George H. W. Bush invaded Panama and carried out the first invasion of Iraq. Clinton repeatedly bombed Iraq and imposed brutal sanctions that killed thousands of Iraqis. He followed this up with the air war against Serbia. George W. Bush, who came to power through the theft of an election, initiated wars that killed more than a million people and sanctioned torture as an instrument of policy. Obama, the candidate of “hope” and “change,” institutionalized drone assassinations and domestic spying, while handing out hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street.
The Times and the political and media establishment prefer that the criminal policies of the ruling elite be clothed in democratic phrases about human rights and brotherly love.
The election of Trump was a turning point. He is attempting to incite and legitimize the development of a fascist movement that appeals to the growing desperation and alienation of broad sections of the population. But his defense of Nazi violence reflects not simply the backward and reactionary outlook of one individual. With Trump, all the crimes of the financial aristocracy that runs the United States have erupted onto the surface of political life for all the world to see.
The media presents the statements of CEOs and military and intelligence officials such as Brennan as if they are the political antidote to the virus of Trump. In fact, the ever-greater political influence of the military and intelligence agencies—to which the Democrats have directed their entire appeal since the election of Trump—is another form of the breakup of American democracy. It is one more symptom of the same disease.
The fight against Trump must be developed from below—through a movement of the working class—not through the methods of palace coup.
The working class must intervene with its own socialist and revolutionary program. It cannot allow the fight against the Trump administration to be subordinated to any faction of the ruling class. Opposition to authoritarianism and fascism must be connected to opposition to war, social inequality, unemployment, poverty and the attack on health care and public education. The vast wealth of the financial oligarchy must be seized and the giant banks and corporations that exercise a dictatorship over social and economic life turned into public utilities.
The diseased government of oligarchs and generals, the cockpit of conspiracies to wage war and impose dictatorship, must be replaced by a genuinely democratic workers’ government.