Donald Trump, the Ultimate Affirmative Action Candidate

After I watched the first presidential debate last night, I asked myself how someone as unprepared to serve as president, as ill informed about the world and national policy, and as badly composed could be the nominee of one major political party.   Many citizens must have been asking the same question, and I will add, although I shouldn’t have to, that the question pretty much ignores the politics of it all.  The perplexity has to do with the candidate, not his policies (?) or his Party’s policies.

It then occurred to me that Trump may be the ultimate affirmative action candidate, and here I am using “affirmative action” in the parodied, distorted sense its many critics have used it.  In their minds or in their cynical rhetorical strategies, affirmative action means that unqualified candidates take jobs that White candidates deserve because of liberals and their quota systems.  In reality, affirmative action mostly means this: because racism and bigotry have been at the heart of American history from the get go, perhaps some proactive (affirmative, as opposed to passive) steps to enlarge candidate pools should be taken.  I teach at a university that is “an affirmative action employer.”  All that has ever meant here is that the university advertises jobs so as to attract women candidates and candidates of color.  It has never meant that any department or program must hire person X because of that person’s gender or ethnic background.  Never.

But using affirmative action in the reactionary, parodic way, one may easily conclude that Trump is that affirmative action candidate the White Right has always warned us about.  He is completely unqualified for the job, if we take experience, temperament, knowledge of history, knowledge of global politics, grasp of policy, grasp of economics, ability to handle complexity soberly, patience, etc., into account.  But a mass of “angry White voters” wants him because they must have a White reactionary, and even a White Supremacist, president.  Birtherism is nothing more than an iteration of showing that “uppity” Black man who’s boss.

Trump’s supporters suffer from the cognitive dissonance of there having been a Black president for 8 years.  Even White evangelicals are flocking, so to speak, to Trump’s candidacy. Don’t laugh!   I’m just spit-balling here, but I can’t see evidence of Trump’s representing a Christian view of the world.  He is, for one thing, the Mammon candidate.

Even the media are in on the game.  They tend to normalize the horror he represents. They discuss him as just another Republican nominee, except for his fame and eccentricity.  The appropriate responses–incredulity, perplexity, outrage, urgency, figurative evisceration–are infrequent, at best.

Somewhere between 35 and 40 million citizens will vote for Trump–maybe more. They will do so because they must have a White male president, a White avaricious male demagogue, racist, misogynist, and xenophobe.  Qualifications be damned.  The country be damned.

 

The Normalization of Evil

My partner in political-language crime just sent me a link to a 2015 NYT article about fact-checking politicians:

The title is “All Politicians Lie–Some Lie More Than Others.”  (Obviously, the headline isn’t news, or shouldn’t be, to adults.)  The author goes on to list the “scores” of prominent politicians, with Ben Carson in the lead (at the time) with 85% of statements-checked turning out to be lies, or at least statements that are probably known by Carson to be a lie.  Trump was at about 75% at the time, President Obama at about 25%.

Should we care about such scores?  Of course we should.  Fact-checking is one way to cut through walls of bullshit the pseudocracy erects, even as those cuts seem to heal immediately, like a magic wall in a fantasy novel.

At the same time, one might reasonably ask of a candidate (for President of the United States) like Trump: Who cares if he’s lying?  He is a mentally ill White Supremacist suffering from megalomania and cut off from customary attention to consequences, common decency, and reality.  Why bother fact-checking when him he’s plainly unacceptable and makes the other candidate acceptable.  It, the election, presents us with  a binary choice between evil vs. ordinarily slippery.

A brief detour: I was listening to radio-coverage of the PGA golf tournament today as I was doing some home-maintenance outside.  A reporter interviewed Chris Christie and said, “How about Trump?! He was quite a golf stick.”  Citizens, this is the normalization of evil.  It springs from many sources.  In this case, the White privileged, right-wing nature of American golf, the notion that sports-commentary should never be “political” (and so you talk about a potential dictator’s golf-swing), the normalization of presidents with White Supremacist agendas: Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Bush.  Essentially, most media and most citizens have watched with insufficient alarm as the GOP moved toward this evil mess, dragging the Democrats rightward along the way.  Misogyny also got normalized along the way.

After I clicked on the link, I saw that among today’s headlines in the NTY were such things as why Hillary Clinton should fear a strategy that appeals to optimism and why the Democrats are gambling on “liberalism.”  First, since when is Hillary Clinton a “liberal”?  This is how out of wack our politics are.  She prefers universal healthcare, which all other capitalist, industrial nations have, she likes infrastructure bills, she thinks women should control their own bodies, etc.  She gives speeches to Wall Street.  How is any of this “liberal”?  Second, who gives a shit whether she’s liberal or not?  Or what campaign strategies the’s using?  She’s evidently sane, has normal adult restraint, and keeps up on current events.  Close enough. I really don’t care about her track-record at this point.  The people who voted for Trump put it out of consideration for me, and I hope it did for you, too.  That Trump is this close to the White House shows, among other things, the extent to which American White Supremacy and whatever Trump suffers from (besides White Supremacist birther insanity) is potently evil.

As Mr. Khan said in the interview that followed his rational speech about Trump, “Now is the time.”  The time to cast aside normal activities like support of Party, playing the game (as Ryan and McConnell are), fact-checking, poll-watching, golfing, etc.  First, stop the evil GOP candidate.  Then go back to normal programming.  Okay?”  Oy.

Racism, Police Reform, Protecting Police: “The Big Both/And”

Thesis: Both police reform and protection of the police must occur simultaneously and with the same urgency.

Two (of the most recent) executions of Black men by police, followed by five (of the most recent) killings of police offers.  Baton Rouge, Minnesota, Dallas. The responses? Mostly either/or, especially from White folks.  That is, Black Lives Matter and other resistance-organizations have never even come close to advocating for or somehow approving of the killing of police.

For instance, a fellow posted a kind of advertisement on LinkedIn that asserted “Protect the Police,” all of the comments more or less said “just so,” and some comments said that if Black people want not to be killed by police, “they” should simply obey the law. A police detective from Tacoma communicated his heartbreak regarding Dallas and celebrated the bravery of police: entirely appropriate and understandable, and also it left much unsaid. But of course his purpose was to express grief and solidarity, not to cover all issues.

On Chris Hayes’s MSNBC show, Hayes, Jabari Asim (The New Yorker), and Eugene O’Donnell (former police officer, current faculty member at John Jay University) discussed President Obama’s speech in Dallas.  Hayes and Asim thought it was remarkable because it went beyond the usual safe political rhetoric. (Lawrence O’Donnell made the same point later, but emphasized that of all the 44 presidents, only President Obama could have made that rhetorical move–because of his background.)  That is, from their view, the President clearly and unambiguously acknowledged and supported the following points: racism affects policing, the police are asked to do way too much (especially in urban areas), the slaughter of police is as wrong as the slaughter of Black men and women and any men and women, police and other citizens need to empathize with the pain and outrage that protesters and others experience and express, and protesters need to acknowledge the pain and outrage experienced and expressed by the police.

Eugene O’Connell was having none of it.  While acknowledging that in that situation, the President was “damned if he did, damned if he didn’t,” he claimed that the President’s speech mainly offended the police nationwide. He went on to assert that the police are a para-military force that simply takes order from above, and if politicians and others want them to do or stop doing something, they just need to tell them. When Asim tried to mention something about police unions (and their resistance to reform), O’Donnell quickly shifted the terms of the argument and said that the whole discussion represented “elites” criticizing police and that “elites” simply don’t understand what police go through, especially in cities.  Oddly, he contradicted his early claim that the police will simply follow orders; not if the orders (the reform) is connected to the “elite,” it seems, and the elite seem to be anyone who is not police.

Hayes, I thought, responded appropriately to O’Donnell by simply saying that he (Hayes) had heard a different speech, and such widely different responses to the speech represented the problem the nation faces.

As many have stated, if you commit a crime, any crime, summary execution, obviously, shouldn’t be the cost–unless, obviously, you are trying to kill someone (police or not). That a majority of White folks (apparently) can’t wrap their mind around this is depressing, to say the least.  If you’re a Black person, a rational response to the police is to fear them.  If you’re a Black parent, you must have the talk with your children about racist policing and how to try to behave (provided you have the chance) when stopped by the police.  Bill DeBlasio referred to this “talk,” and later at an outdoor speech, almost all the police turned their backs on him in protest–simply for stating the obvious.  If you’re a Black parent, not having the talk would be absolutely irresponsible and potentially lethal.  And yet the police in New York blithely turned their backs.  Is that the grotesque over-reaction that lends itself to police report?  Maybe not.

As many have stated, the police form a human barrier between communities that the nation, especially the White nation, have simply abandoned with regard to education, jobs, infrastructure, mental health, addiction, physical health, and common respect.  Thus in many instances, their job is impossible.

You would think connecting the two dots–reform of policing, including racist policing and the wrong use of lethal force (dot one) and support of police by investing in communities and addressing urban (and rural) problems (dot two)–would be the obvious move for the nation, the states, and the communities to make.  Let’s put it even more simply: if the killings in Louisiana and Minnesota didn’t happen (and there is no good reason for them to have happened), the five officers in Dallas would probably still be alive.

But things are rarely that simple in the U.S.   If you call for police reform, then you must hate the police.  If you call for addressing the problems mentioned above, you’re told to shut up, it’s all the fault of people of color, I don’t live there so why should I care, let the police handle it, and so on.  Some police, especially their union reps, seem determined to oppose any reform. Politicians, especially but not exclusively from the GOP, seem determined to oppose addressing social problems and to acknowledging the experience of Americans of color (except for Ben Carson’s).

What would police reform look like? In part, it would look like the recommendations from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. (You may google it.) It would look like more training in de-escalation.  The State of Washington requires only 8 hours of such training for police.  The City of Everett, Washington, has decided to increase that to 48 hours. It has also started a program whereby social workers ride along with police officers to help address problems of mental illness, addiction, and homelessness.  It would look like taking seriously the 2006 FBI report about the serious problem of White Supremacists infiltrating police departments:  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/5/21/1384553/-2006-FBI-Report-on-White-Infiltration-of-Law-Enforcement-You-Will-Be-Assimilated.

It would look like asking police officers where they think politicians should invest money.  It would look like surveying citizens, especially citizens of color, about their experiences with police and publishing the results. It would look like banning assault rifles.  It would look like leadership bringing all major constituents together in communities to work out police reform and social reform.

The City of Tacoma has participated in events at which they listen to the community about its experiences with police and its recommendations.  They started to get officers out of their patrol cars and into the community more, and they’ve added training to address inherent bias and inherent cross-cultural misunderstanding/ignorance.  Of course, Tacoma was shocked into creating a citizens’ oversight committee when a former Police Chief murdered his wife and children and then committed suicide. It’s also true that at least a bare minimum of White citizens in Tacoma have put their shoulders to the wheel, helping to fund important groups that ameliorate poverty, homelessness, addiction, and racism, and opening their minds to what people have color have to say.  It’s a start, at least.

I’m trying to follow the President’s entreaty (in Dallas and elsewhere) not to give in to despair.  It’s hard. Imagine how hard it is for most Black folks, especially those whose friends and family have been choked, shot, or beaten to death when unarmed or already restrained and even when having committed no crime.  Imagine how hard it is for over-stressed police officers or the families of slain officers.

Police reform would help the police. Addressing social problems, head-on and with serious investment, would help everyone, including the police. Rational gun-control would help the police and the communities.

It’s 2016, and the nation won’t connect the dots. More of the burden of connecting the dots must fall to White citizens and to the GOP and those who support it,  and if you know history, if you know politics, if you know statistics, if you’ve seen Trump,  if you listened carefully to the President’s speech, if you’ve watched Fox News, etc., you know why.  This is not one of those fake “fair and balanced” issues, even though, obviously, Democratic politicians, business people, and citizens have much to answer for, too.  The GOP is a White Supremacist organization with Trump currently at the helm, and it’s not even a close call.

 

Is Donald Trump the Most Honest Candidate Ever to Run For President?

Ladies and Gentlemen, Everyone:  I too recoil at the very idea this question poses.

However, because Trump is so transparent about his racism, bigotry, misogyny, self-absorption, cynicism, disrespect for the press, disrespect for all citizens (perhaps most especially his followers), indifference to  knowledge about policy, absence of curiosity about issues, disdain for charity (as a concrete practice and a spiritual attitude), fondness for the grotesque, hatred of process, willingness to commit war crimes, desire to flout law and custom, and so on, his candidacy cumulatively amounts to an eff-you to everything and everyone.  So much so that only people like him and people suffering from some kind of mental disorder or other generator of extreme irrationality it seems, will vote for him.

Of course, it would be easier if he would simply state, “I don’t care about anything or anyone, including myself.”  True, he boasts about possibly being the only person to run for the presidency and make money off it.  I think he means make money immediately, as Bill Clinton (for instance) has certainly cashed in. But he seems so reckless that even cynical profiteering seems beyond his interest and capability.  In a way, he’s an imitation grifter; he can’t really even get that right anymore.

It’s also true that he could be elected president.  That tells us much about the United States, about White Americans especially, and about the derangement caused (through no fault of Mr. Obama’s) by the election, twice, of Barack Obama–combined, of course, with willful ignorance, White Supremacy, bizarre White fantasies, and Whites’ own self-loathing. Can a nation that elected Barack Obama president turn around and elect Trump? Probably not, and of course I hope not, but you just never know about White Americans, and let’s face it, that’s whom we’re talking about.  The number of Asian Americans, Latino/a Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, and citizens from other groups who will vote for Trump will hardly register in the data.  He is the candidate of disturbed and disturbing White America, or that section of White America that is so disturbed and disturbing.  That Fox News and other similar outlets assist Trump is all you need to know about them and their viewers, readers, listeners.  There’s simply no way to get around that.  By helping him, they, too, have dropped whatever scraps of pretense they held onto.

At any rate, Trump’s candidacy seems to say this: “I hate you all, I am the apotheosis of much that’s wrong with your country, and I dare you to vote for me anyway.  Did I mention I hate you?”

So, yes, even though Trump’s candidacy is all about dishonesty (he has probably set a record for lying–it’s not a close call), it is also about doing away with rhetoric that is in any way subtle, within bounds, and traditionally persuasive.  It’s as close to an “honest” punch in the face as it can get, and, not surprisingly, Trump  also “honestly” encourages violence at his rallies and in the streets. Can American handle this kind of “truth” about itself?  We’ll see.

Processing Trump

So how are allegedly rational citizens supposed to process Trump’s political language?  I mean aside from responding with disgust, alarm, and grave concern for the nation and just about everyone in it?

I do think it’s fair, especially after the last couple of weeks, to question his sanity because attributing his speech and behavior to cynicism, creating a persona, appealing to the base, etc., seems insufficient.  Within this news-cycle, he has suggested that President Obama is literally working with what Trumps calls “Islamists [ISIS],” revoked the Washington Post‘s credentials, wondered why the U.S. can’t block ISIS’s use of radios, and called again for a ban on immigration of people who are Muslim.

We may have reached the limits of analysis, so that everyone who is not part of the Trump cult should, although keeping eyes and ears tuned to the campaign, simply concentrate on making sure he is not elected.  That is, why analyze when there’s crucial work to be done?  Of course, we don’t necessarily have to choose between the two.

Would it profit us to approach Trump as the filthy, disturbing outcome of GOP speech, behavior, legislation, and foreign policy?  I don’t know.  He displays the xenophobia, fear-mongering, and willingness to wipe out due process that characterized Joseph McCarthy. He displays the vile racism of George Wallace, not to mention the slightly less subtle racist strategies and tactics of countless other Republicans–Reagan, Atwater, Rove, both Bushes, governors, senators, and representatives. He exudes the religious bigotry of Ted Cruz. He obviously has a disturbed view of women and a reactionary view of most issues affecting them–again, not all that different from other members of the GOP.  Power seems to have warped him badly, as it did Dick Cheney. Like Nixon, he’s obsessed with the press.

But we could also go in a different direction and assert that Trump is different from these GOP predecessors because he knows almost no limits to repellent political language, outrageous policy-suggestions, infantile insults to other politicians, and ghastly mockery of a disabled man. He also encourages violence at his rallies.

At the moment, I’m stuck somewhere between the two approaches.  Since Dixiecrat days, the GOP has been a party of racism and race-baiting, and its economic and foreign policies have been disastrous. That said, I do recall relatively decent GOP lawmakers who reached across the aisle to forge adequate if not excellent legislation, and at least Reagan and Bush I had some decorum. It would be easier to give the GOP a break if current GOP leaders would denounce him, and that might even be not just the proper thing to do, not just the best thing to do for the country, but also the smart political move.

What would Orwell do?  Probably he would attack Trump with his writing and view him as a fascist, and Orwell knew a thing or two about fascists. In the process, he might continue to parse Trump’s political language. But for whom should we parse the language?  I doubt if Orwell or anyone could, by analyzing Trump’s speech,  convince Trumpsters not to support the man.  I plan to spend a lot more time trying to make sure Trump doesn’t become president (writing that part of the sentence makes me a little sick: “Trump . . . president”) than thinking about the phenomenon or studying the language.

George Will and the “Logic” That Put the GOP in A Fix

“Fix” in this case means a broken state, one that begs to be fixed.

On FOX’s Sunday chat-show hosted by Chris Wallace, George Will opined that “fear” and “incredulity” prevented the GOP higher-ups from confronting and trying to stop Donald Trump’s climb to the nomination.  Whatever!

Will then climbed aboard the old Reaganesque hobby-nag, asserting that citizens who voted for Democratic candidates consisted chiefly of people who worked for “the government,” AFSCME union-members (federal, state, county, and municipal workers), teachers, and others who belonged to “a dependent class.”  Message: “gubment” (Reagan’s folksy pronunciation) is bad, the people who work in one of its capacities are lesser than those who don’t, one should recoil from them and gubment, and people who vote GOP are, one infers, “independent.”  Second message: But enough about the sociopath Trump: what about those bad citizens who don’t prefer him?

And now Will and other GOP geezers fear or deny the rise of a fatuous, hateful lard-ass who has been catapulted over the political wall, like the cow in Mony Python and the Holy Grail, by hateful, blind “anti-government” enthusiasm. Here is your Reaganism.  Here is your Reaganism on the Trump-drug.

Note that in the world of this logic, teachers, fire-fighters, food-inspectors, soldiers, spies, garbage-workers, the police, and so on are to be sniffed at imperiously as horseman Will passes by, insensible to the city-worker who will sweep up the horse-shit.  Whereas someone who works for the defense industry or FOX News is just flat-out better.  How? Well, they just are.

In Will’s dream-sequence, most of the better people are White, of course–hence his career-long dismissal of Blacks’ problems in the U.S. as their fault and hence Trump’s nihilistic comfort with KKK sentiments.

Shall we point out the obvious? The Constitution, created by all those sagacious  White founders, many of whom went on to join the dependent class, established a (wait for it) government. —So that by the time Reagan’s con to continue to seduce White folks, especially in the Dixiecrat South, mutates into Trumpery, it is, like a terrible virus, a form of reckless, accidental anarchy, anarchy not springing from some considered ideology or wise distrust of authority, but anarchy infatuated with authoritarianism. So that mere McConnell is loosed upon the Senate, refusing to allow the hateful government (of which he is a part, oops) to do, at least, what the Constitution says: review a SCOTUS nomination.

In his pretentious prose and pose, for the better part of four decades, George Will helped to create Donald Trump’s rise, even though the Rovian Tea Party is the more recent puff of meth that riled and roiled the racist, anti-knowledge mob.  Thank you, George. Thanks so much. I do fear the consequences of a  Trump presidency, as I appear to be somewhat sentient this morning.  I do not find Trump’s rise incredible (in the old sense of the word), however.  It looks more like inevitable.

 

Can a “Horse’s Ass” Surprise?

by O.

There is behavior we in the U.S. sometimes characterize colloquially as that of “a horse’s ass.”  Perhaps in England “wanker” might be the term–different denotation, similar connotation.

Of course, who has not behaved like “a horse’s ass” sometimes?  Very few.  We depend upon friends and family to let us know when we’ve strayed into that pasture, so to speak.

But when someone’s behavior is pretty much constantly boorish and unyielding, they become to us, permanently, a horse’s ass.  When they gallop toward us, we try to escape.

Sites of enormous market-places like New York often cultivate and reward the behavior of horse’s asses. Why wouldn’t they?

In some instances, a horse’s ass becomes popular–wildly popular, a celebrity. That’s when you may be forgiven for thinking you’ve over-estimated the general public–again.

In some highly improbably circumstances, a horse’s ass may run for president of the United States, with some success along the way, attracting legions of imbalanced, knowledge-eschewing followers.  Herds of horse’s asses.  Crass insults stir the herds. So do racism, thuggish behavior, and content-free bluster. That’s when you may be forgiven for worrying that a catastrophe may be taking shape. You don’t want to panic as you observe the spectacle, but you don’t want to ignore the spectacle either, given your knowledge, and perhaps experience, of demagogues who reached power.

Ah, but what if? What if a few weeks before the nomination were settled or the election took place, a certain horse’s ass announced that it’s all been a joke.  What if he said, if not in so many words, “I just wanted to show how easy it is to be a politician. I wanted to show you how gullible you are.  Hitler’s rise to power doesn’t seem so strange now, does it? You people need to grow up, study history, apply the logic your human brain is capable of, and check your stupid, harmful racism. Incidentally, and now I’m speaking to working people, veterans, and members of the military, what on Earth made you think that a billionaire horse’s ass would have any interest whatsoever in pursuing policies that would help you?  Why wouldn’t a cynical clown–the role I’ve been playing–want to widen the wealth-gap further, send you to war for less than nothing, and eviscerate regulations that help you?  You really are losers. You make me sick, and you make this country sick.”

A Supreme Horse’s Ass doing such a thing and saying such things? Beyond improbable. But, on the other hand, it would be the one moderately noble thing the horse’s ass would be remembered for, and so it might appeal to the horse’s ass, and it would certainly light up social media and serve as a lesson to many about much.

 

 

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