Point of View Columns

Three Days in the Life of America

August 1, 2020

In Memoriam

Carmen E. Ford

January 10, 1926 – April 17, 2020

Memorial Service held at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Harlem, exactly 3 months and 2 weeks after her death due to the COVID-19 pandemic

 August 2, 2020

4,620,502 –152,449 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans4 at the beginning of the day)

Sunday begins and continues with Trump stirring the pot of controversy with manic skill and energy. For the past 48 hours he has been floating the ideas that the coming election will be “rigged” because of mail-in voting (despite zero evidence to support this bogus claim) and that he may not be prepared to accept the election results (or leave office on January 20, 2020 as required by the Constitution).

This bit of malignant musing is literally new to American politics, although it would certainly sound familiar in Hitler’s Germany or Mussolini’s Italy. In 240 years of governance and over forty presidential transitions this issue has never been a matter of concern.

‘The closest analogy would be the 1876 election where Rutherford B. Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden – and then made a backdoor deal with Southern Democrats in returning for leaving Black people in the South to the tender mercies of the Ku Klux Klan by withdrawing federal reconstruction troops in return for the requisite votes in the Electoral College. The other example would be in 2000 when Al Gore conceded the bitterly contested election to George W. Bush “for the good of the nation”.

It goes without saying that Trump would never do anything “for the good of the nation” if it wasn’t good for Trump. And it remains to be seen that if the popular vote in November results in the poll-predicted repudiation of Trump if there would even be an opportunity to conjure up some back door Electoral College deal (the Hayes-Tilden vote was very close). So for Trump, there remains only the blended option of denial and resistance to political reality.

Many commentators, including this writer, have for several years urged Americans to be aware of an epic and historical constitutional crisis in November of 2020 in the event that Trump lost the presidential election. Many commentators rejected this possibility out of hand then – but not now.

Trump is actually telling us that he is prepared to play the role of Samson and bring the temple down on himself – and us. And that is why not only Democrats, but any Americans who are concerned about this looming tragedy to begin building an institutional and legal series of defenses and strategies because they will be needed.

This is not a matter of crying “wolf”.

The wolf has announced his intentions to all who will listen.

August 3, 2020

4,667,957 –154,860 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

It remains a mystery how the reopening of schools, colleges and universities in September is a subject of debate. There are very few people who seriously believe that students have a better educational experience in distance learning environments. There are even fewer parents, educators and medical professionals who believe that keeping schools closed in the fall would be a good thing.

Clearly there is no debate. The only question is, or should be, one of safety. Safety for the students, of course, and also safety for the faculty, administrative staff and support staff at any school, college or university.

By now it should be clear to all – except perhaps that doctor who believes in demon seed – that COVID-19 is an exceptionally lethal virus that is spectacularly contagious. We are not talking about measles or the flu, we are seeing a monstrous pandemic that feeds off ignorance and stupidity.

Trump and assorted Republican governors can “order” that schools be open, but they can’t order COVID-19 to be less lethal. So parents and students and teachers and administrators will make the final decision about the opening of schools.

All this talk about young people being less likely to be seriously ill even if they contract the virus is all well and good when Trump and his minions are speaking about someone else’s child. But who will speak to someone who loses their child because of a premature and politically motivated opening of schools and colleges and universities? And please note that the school that Barron Trump is attending will not open until October.

Meanwhile the preventive and curative properties of hydroxychloroquine with respect to COVID-19 have been debunked and disproved at every turn. So it is a mystery as to why Trump and his running dogs continue to tout this drug as being effective during this disaster of a pandemic.

Could it be that somewhere in the bowels of the Trump Organization there is an investment vehicle that has an interest in a company that manufactures hydroxychloroquine? As vile and corrupt as that might be, Trump’s huckstering would make more sense than him just being increasingly unhinged and on barely speaking terms with truth and reality.

Trump also reiterated his opposition to any aid to states and cities in the long delayed, and now overdue, stimulus package. His argument is that such aid would be a “bailout” of incompetent Democratic governors and mayors can’t stand the light of the moon, much less the light of day.

By most indicia regarding the quality of life of its citizens, so-called Blue states have better statistics with regards to health, education and economic vitality. Indeed, the Blue states contribute more in tax revenue to the federal treasury than they receive in federal assistance. It being just the opposite with Red states.

But Trump has never let facts get in the way of his lies, and he seems to believe that if he and McConnell say “bailout” enough times it will be taken as truth. But if there is no aid to states and cities in this upcoming stimulus package, police and teachers and health care workers and sanitation workers will be laid off in Red and Blue states and the American carnage that Trump unwitting predicted on January 20, 2017 will become an inferno that will consume this entire nation.

It appears that with Trump, it can always get worse.

And then there are the Democrats. And it would seem that there are still high placed operatives within the party that are determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We saw all of tendencies to self-immolate during the primary campaign, which came to a merciful end by the end of March thereby avoiding the completion of an unspoken suicide pact.

But now, as Joe Biden completes his vetting and selection process for his running mate, there seems to be a very vocal chattering class that is attacking the credibility, viability and electability of several of the Black female prospects.

This is so bad in so many ways. Beginning with the fact that there is a very real possibility that two of the major targets of this chattering class, Representative Karen Bass and Senator Kamala Harris, could very well be the VP nominee. So there is no real point in providing ammunition for Team Trump for the fall.

There is also the very real possibility that neither of them will be the eventual VP nominee in which case there are going to be some very angry supporters of these two women who will be expected to fall in line and get with the program. And in any event, sanctioning the disparagement of Black women who are ambitious and aspiring is an old message and has always been the wrong message. And is certainly the wrong message now.

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The Birth of Trumpageddon

Historians will undoubtedly look at the 2016 presidential campaign as being unique. The looming and tantalizing presence of Trumpageddon will virtually overshadow everything, much the same way as Donald Trump himself sucks up the media oxygen every day of this very bizarre year. But the most astute historians will go back a half century earlier to discover the roots of Trumpageddon, roots that have nothing to do with Donald J. Trump and have everything to do with the intentional reinvention of the Republican Party in 1964.

Prior to 1964 the national Republican party was indisputably more progressive when it came to civil rights for black Americans. After all, the Democratic Party was deeply rooted in the South, roots that went back as far as the end of Reconstruction and the federal occupation of the formerly treasonous Confederacy in 1876.

After all, the Republican Party came into being with the abolition of slavery being a principal plank in its national political platform in 1860. Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation was a Republican. And when the seething South was liberated from federal occupation in 1876, due in large part to the tricknology of Rutherford B. Hayes who swapped the freedom, civil rights and physical safety of Southern black people in exchange for the presidency, southerners embraced the Democratic Party as their own.

The Democratic Party in the South was the party of Jim Crow and lynching. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president, invited the first black American to dine at the White House. Woodrow Wilson, a Democratic president, hosted the premier of “Birth of a Nation” in the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democratic president, never supported anti-lynching legislation for fear of alienating his Southern party members. And it was Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican president, who sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

Prior to his untimely death, Democratic President John F. Kennedy was nowhere near a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Act that was passed posthumously. And in 1960, Richard Nixon, his Republican opponent in that presidential election, had virtually the same amount of support in the national black community as did Kennedy.

As late as 1964, the Democratic Party was the home of  blood-soaked and hate drenched racist villains such as Thurmond and Stennis and Faubus and Wallace and Bilbo. And in 1964 every state that had been a part of the Confederate States of America was firmly on the Democratic side of the national political register.

And then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed with the urging of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And as if by magic, during the following decade, the Republican Party was ascendant in the South, vacuuming up all the disenchanted white Southerners, supposedly in the name of conservatism and state’s rights, but in reality the transition was fueled by the deep and abiding resentment that black Americans were afforded some measure of citizenship and recognition of their humanity by the Damned Democrats.

Should there any be any doubt regarding the linkage of race and the Republican ascendancy, it should be remembered that Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of Republican conservatism, launched his national presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, less than twenty years after three civil rights workers were lynched within miles of the podium on which he stood. And when Reagan proclaimed that “government was the enemy”, he was referring to that same federal government that was often the only source of protection for black Americans seeking asylum and vindication in their own country. That dog whistle blew loud enough for white ears in the South and throughout the nation.

It should, therefore, be no surprise that the modern Republican Party, reborn in radical response to the advancement of racial civil rights progress would be the home of the impending Trumpageddon. It certainly should be no surprise that the political party that turned a blind eye to the clearly racist and racial efforts to delegitimize the first African American presidency would serve as the incubator for those would seek to delegitimize the entire apparatus of the federal government.

Republican leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell who refused to extinguish the dark magical thinking that claimed that Barack Obama is a Muslim, or “hates America” or is not even a citizen, cannot be surprised that a master manipulator like Donald Trump could harness this malevolent harvest and turn it into a movement. And now, for good historical reason, Trumpageddon is upon us.

The Republicans are reaping what they have sown, and that harvest is being served to America.

 

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Point of View Columns

The 2000 Pound Gorilla

Last week the George W. Bush Presidential Library was dedicated on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Every living former president and President Obama were in attendance and the ceremonies had the expected pomp and circumstance. It was a momentous day for former President Bush and every speech was gracious and respectful of the moment. But one could not help but wonder at how long the 2000 pound gorilla on the podium could remain silent.

There is something to be said for honoring the position – president, governor, chairperson, commissioner – because it is important in maintaining institutional stability and respect. And it is for that reason that no one could honestly expect the 2000 pound gorilla to be invited to speak. Actually, there were a troop of 2000 pound gorillas on the podium at SMU shielded from public view out of respect for the office that President George W. Bush once held.

But after last notes of “Hail to the Chief” fade away it is important to find out what these gorillas might have said:

Gorilla Number One: The reality of the Bush presidency is that it began with the theft of a presidential election. The only recorded electoral theft that was more brazen might have been the faux election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876. In 1876 the accomplice to the theft was the Electoral College. In 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States ratified this electoral skullduggery with one of the deciding votes being cast by a Supreme Court justice appointed by George W. Bush’s father.

This banana republic imitation was harmful and nearly disastrous to the popular perception of democracy in the United States. But the 2000 electoral escapade was the very public beginning of the Republican strategy of advocating voter suppression and the outright theft of elections.

Gorilla Number Two: This gorilla would be accompanied by the ghosts of anywhere between 100,000 and one million dead Iraqis and 4,486 dead members of the American military along with the shadows of 32,226 wounded Americans, many of whom have no real hope of living a normal life. George W. Bush pursued a war of choice in Iraq, what motivated his choice – oil industry interests?, avenging threats to his father, neocon madness? – no one may ever know.

What we do know is that before the first bomb was dropped on Baghdad the United States government had no reliable proof that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Further, the Bush Administration knew that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to the United States. And the Bush Administration knew for sure that Saddam Hussein was not connected in any way to the 9-11 attack on the United States.

Yet, using the gossamer veil of lies and misinformation, President Bush led this country into a war with horrific results – virtually destroying a country that already had enough challenges under the regime of Saddam Hussein, causing the needless deaths of so many Americans and Iraqis, destabilizing the entire Middle East region – that future generations will have to confront for years to come.

Gorilla Number Three: This gorilla would be representing the clear damage to the economic infrastructure of this country that was directly caused by the policies of George W. Bush. Pursuing unnecessary tax cuts while fighting not one, but two unfunded wars is only the tip of the iceberg.

The Bush Administration actively engaged in a policy of creating a deregulated financial marketplace by suppressing oversight so that there was virtually no distinction between Wall Street and a second rate casino. And when the wheel stopped spinning millions of Americans lost their homes, their jobs and their hopes. The collateral damage caused by Bush Administration can be seen in shuttered factories, Americans with graduate degrees competing for part-time jobs at any wage and the continued redistribution of wealth in favor of the most wealthy.

The American way calsl for every former president to have his/her own library. By that standard George W. Bush is entitled to his presidential library.

But just once I would like for that troop of 2000 pound gorillas to have their say.

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