Point of View Columns

Three Days in the Life of America

August 5, 2020

 4,771,5199 –156,830 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

 The day begins with the news that a community activist by the name of Cori Bush soundly defeated 20-term incumbent William Clay in a Democratic primary in St. Louis which virtually assures her victory in November. That is actually good news for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, keeping in mind that Congressman Clay’s father held the seat for twelve years before his forty. Families, Black or white, should not “own” elected offices.

Second, Ms. Bush was only able to win despite Clay’s massive incumbency because she articulated a progressive change agenda that resonated with the people of St. Louis….and that is a good thing.

Third, it is clear from the 2018 election and what appears to be happening in the 2020 election is that people with more progressive agendas are getting elected because people with more progressive agendas are registering and voting. And that is what real change looks like.

Meanwhile, yesterday there was a massive explosion at a warehouse in in Beirut, Lebanon. Scores of citizens have died, thousands have been injured and the physical devastation to a significant part of this major city is quite visible.

Early reports indicate that a huge and incredibly dangerous amount of ammonium nitrate was being stored in the warehouse and the ensuing catastrophic event was a tragic accident of some sort. But leave it to Trump to announce at last night’s press conference that it was “an attack” literally without any evidence to support this misstatement.

The Pentagon went on the record stating in effect that they had no idea what the president was talking about. And further, that there was no evidence or indication that the tragedy in Beirut was the result of any kind of military action.

One has to wonder if Trump was trying to stir up even more trouble than he has already caused in the Middle East, or is he just a mindless simpleton who says whatever may wander through the alleys and byways of his mind. It would be a good guess that the second option is correct.

It would have been hard to predict in January of this year that mail-in voting would become a major presidential campaign issue. Of course, no one knew that a global pandemic would change life as we know it for all time. But it appears that the issue of mail-in voting doesn’t have much to do with the pandemic and everything to do with the Republican years long campaign of voter suppression.

Voter suppression is an American tradition that goes back at least 150 years. It was the suppression of Black male voting rights that resulted in the passage of the 15th Amendment. But sadly the end of Reconstruction also marked the end of Black voting rights until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

From 1965 until 2013 white supremacists disguised as conservative Republicans worked assiduously to gut the Voting Rights Act. For 48 years multiple lawsuits challenging the act made their way through the courts, usually leading nowhere until more rightwing racist judges started proliferating through the federal judiciary thanks to Reagan and the two Bushes (even the “compassionate conservative one).

Finally, those efforts bore fruit in the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision of 2013 which did indeed gut the hated Voting Rights Act. Since then there has been a proliferation of laws, edicts, plans, ordinances and just plain executive action to make it more difficult for Black people to vote – in the process catching poor people, the elderly and people of color in that malignant net.

One of the principle tools to empowering voters has been mail-in voting. But we should keep in mind that mail-in voting has been the only way to vote in Colorado, Utah, Washington State and Oregon for over 20 years – with no problems worth mentioning.

But now……. with Trump seeing the demise of his horrific presidency on the horizon, it casting mail-in voting as the tool of the devil – except in states with Republican governors like Florida.

Trump’s ploy is a pretty transparent two step. Step one is to encourage governors in states with Republican governors and legislatures to ratchet up their voter suppression efforts by focusing on mail-in voting. Step two is to delegitimize the November 3rd election results in advance to prepare for Trump’s likely epic loss.

And then there is this quote from the historian Edward Watts in his book Mortal Republic – How Rome Fell into Tyranny:

 “No republic is eternal……It lives only as long as its citizens want it. And, in both the 21st century A.D. and the first century B.C., when a republic fails to work as intended, its citizens are capable of choosing the stability of autocratic rule over the chaos of a broken republic.”

Now most people would say that was then is this now. And they would be right. But we should all remember George Santayana’s quote….” those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

And the day would not be complete without another outrage emanating from Trump. “What did he do this time?” seems to be the eternal question in America these days.

And not one to disappoint, Trump announced that he was contemplating giving his speech accepting the presidential nomination from the Republican Party from……. wait for it………. the White House. Clearly there is no one in Trump’s very limited universe who would tell him that using the White House as a prop during a political convention is simply not done.

To be clear, presidents have always given political messages while in the White House. There is obviously no need for any president to run across the street to Lafayette Park to say something that had political overtones.

But using the White House as a prop for a political convention has simply never been done in the Age of Television. Trump seems to think that every facet, aspect and element of the federal government is there for his personal use. It is not enough that the modern presidency has many of the trappings of royalty already. Trump clearly is of the mind that being president is literally the equivalent of being a modern day monarch.

It is clear that Trump wants to use his incumbency as a political tool. Fair enough…. incumbents of any and every office certainly will do that. But accepting the nomination of a national party from the Oval Office is over the top – even for Trump.

But there is a very real possibility that this ploy might backfire. Seeing Trump accept the nomination from the Oval Office will remind many Americans that this clown playing the role of a buffoon is still president, and galvanize many voters to cast their ballots for Joe Biden just so that we can be rid of him.

Trump better be careful what he asks for.

But of course, Trump doesn’t know the meaning of the word “careful”.

August 6, 2020

 4,824,230 –158,268 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

It has been written several times in this journal, but it bears repeating. The listing of the daily register of sick and dead Americans seems like a satanic scoreboard from some hellish game. We become anesthetized to these numbers, which is why it is important to remember that each and every number is a person – perhaps with a family, perhaps loved and certainly entitled to a presence on this planet.

We are all destined to depart this Earth at some point. But to be the victim of not only a deadly disease but also the unwitting victim of the malignant incompetence, mismanagement of the amoral Trump administration is more than unfair.

And it is unfair because, with a minimum level of concern and with a minimum level of administrative ability and with a minimum level of empathy, Trump could have saved this country from the worst part of the suffering which is being endured by all Americans today.

Although so much of what we see and hear from Trump is too awful to be the source of humor, there are exceptions. Two days ago, while reading a teleprompter script announcing some programs aimed at improving national parks, including Yosemite National Park, he pronounced the famed park name as “Yo Semite” and then repeated his mangling of the park name as “Yo Semite”. It is literally impossible to make this stuff up.

There was a moment when the Anti-Defamation League leadership wondered whether this was an anti-Semitic slur that required an immediate response or whether he was trying to give a garbled shout out to the national Jewish community. And presumably, once it was realized that it was Trump speaking, it was just another reason to laugh at this pitiful excuse for a president.

On a much more serious note, the weekly jobs report came out and another 1.2 million Americans filed for unemployment during the past week. That means that over 50 million Americans have lost their job in the past 20 weeks. Put another way, one third of the American work force has been laid off during the pandemic.

Trump’s Carnage is real – think of it this way, one out of three Americans who went to work on January 2, 2020, the first day after New Year’s Day, are now out of work. And yet the Republicans are balking at a new stimulus package – the old one ran out 7 days ago – and as you are reading this there are countless citizens of the wealthiest country in the history of the planet who are homeless and going hungry.

And it is not being an “alarmist” to think that the worst is yet to come.

And, while we were watching the Trump Clown Show, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency gave permission for a Canadian mining company to begin work on something called the Pebble Mine in Alaska. Turns out the Pebble Mine would be the largest gold and copper mine in the world. And the Pebble Mine sits on waterways that flow into the river which hosts the largest sockeye salmon migration in the world.

The concern of most people, not just tree huggers, is that the waste from the Pebble Mine will ultimate pollute the salmon run resulting in something close to the extinction of this breed of salmon along with other irreversible environmental damage. The Obama administration had blocked this project for years so given that in Trump World all things Obama are bad, his EPA reversed earlier restrictions on this project. And an epic environmental cataclysm may be on the way.

And now, to the rescue comes Donald Trump, Jr.???? Yes, it turns out that Don Jr. is a passionate fisherman, hunter and all around outdoorsman and has now publicly lobbied his father to once again block the Pebble Mine project. Can’t wait to see what comes out the next father-son summit.

And, because things aren’t bizarre enough, we now have the Great Kanye Konspiracy Circus. It seems that some geniuses in the Republican campaign apparatus think that it would be a great idea to put a talented Black man with profound mental health issues on the presidential ballot in order to drain Black votes away from Joe Biden and enhance Trump’s reelection efforts.

What are we to make of this madness? Should the Biden team try to put someone crazier than Trump on the ballot in red states to drain votes away from Trump? Of course finding someone crazier than Trump who is not already institutionalized may be too much of a task in and of itself.

Do the Trump minions really think so little of Black voters that they believe Kanye West would make an even minimal difference in Black voter turnout for Biden. Granted, the late Herman Cain is no longer available, but they could have come up with Diamond and Silk as a competing ticket, which would in a bizarre world make more sense than Kanye West.

Welcome to the House of Mirrors a.k.a. the Age of Trump.

 August 7, 2020

4,884,406 –160,111 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

 Watching Trump is like watching a horrific car accident on the highway. You want to look away, but you end up looking anyway. And so it was yesterday.

There was Trump on the runway at an Ohio airport claiming that not only would Joe Biden attack the 2nd Amendment and religion. He actually said that Biden “would attack God” as president. There is no instance in any know version of the Bible, Koran or Torah where a human even threatened to attack, much less tried to attack God.

Of course Satan did wage war against God. But he was a rogue angel not a human and he literally caught Hell for that. So perhaps Trump is suggesting that Biden is Satan or a member of a satanic cult? The point is that Trump is distancing himself further from logic and sanity daily – and because he is President of the United States and not the host of some gimmick of a reality show – we should be concerned and worried.

The last time there was a president this incapacitated was Woodrow Wilson in 1919. But he suffered from a stroke and was pretty much confined to a bedroom in the White House and could speak very little, if at all. Of course, Trump never stops speaking, but one wonders if members of the White House staff have considered confining him to quarters for health reasons?

Meanwhile, count on Joe Biden to continue to engage in self-inflicted wounding. Yesterday, in speaking about the diversity of the LatinX community – Cuban, Colombian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, etc. – he felt compelled to take a brief trip to Stupid World and offer the observation that there wasn’t that level of diversity in the national Black community.

Now this came as a surprise to Black Americans who trace their heritage from Cuba, Panama, Nigeria, Barbados, etc. And it would certainly come as a surprise to the Black LGBTQI community as well as Black people who are very aware of the differences between the West Side and South Side of Chicago, or the diverse experiences to be found in Black Brooklyn as opposed to Black Harlem.

But the real point is that Biden really didn’t have to go there. His campaign staff then had to engage in another clean up job which could be summarized as “Joe didn’t really mean what he said”, which translates into “Joe really didn’t know what the Hell he was talking about”, which translates into “We really wish that sometimes Joe would just shut up”.

It is doubtful that Biden’s gaffes will drive any Black people into supporting the Trump presidency or the Kanye West campaign.

But right now Biden’s best bet is to stick to his best argument – I AM NOT TRUMP.

 

That’s really all he needs to say.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Devil in The White Dress

Trump’s State of the Union speech received mixed reviews, to be kind. They ranged from “psychotically incoherent” (Van Jones) to “his worst speech ever” (Rick Santorum) to “the most inspiring State of the Union speech in history” (guess……………you are correct, Sean Hannity). The fact that for many the most memorable moment was Speaker Nancy Pelosi clap-shaming Trump kind of says it all. But there was more going on that night, and there are some women in Congress, all dressed in white, who have some explaining to do.

It was certainly noteworthy and historic and far too long in coming for the largest number of women in Congress be seated as members. Many of these women dressed in white to commemorate the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919. This amendment was ratified and became a part of the Constitution in 1920. The 19th Amendment was seen as the signal and most important victory of the almost 100 year old women’s suffrage movement.

One has to wonder if all of those women dressed in white knew what they were celebrating. The history of the (white) women’s suffrage movement existed hand in hand with domestic terrorists like the Knights of the White Magnolia and the Ku Klux Klan and the rhetoric of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton rang with words like “sambo”, “baboons” and “black rapists” as they advocated for (only) white women to have the right to vote.

But even in the age of Trump facts matter. The 19th Amendment did not give women the right to vote – it prohibited states from preventing women from voting. The 19th Amendment did absolutely nothing to protect or assert the rights of black women when it came to voting. And the almost 100 year old women’s suffrage movement was a virtually whites-only organization that grudgingly permitted black women a seat on the back of the suffragette bus, alternatively ignoring and insulting them.

And it is because of this skewed whitewashing of women’s history that little white girls and white boys and little black girls and black boys do not know the names of Mary Church Terrell, Ida Wells, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Mary Ann Shadd Cary and Coralie Franklin Cook, but they do know the names of unreconstructed racists and bigots like Anthony and Stanton.

While there was a linkage between the abolitionist and suffrage movements prior to the Civil War, ironically due in no small part to advocacy by the African American hero Frederick Douglass. After the Civil War the cause of the rights of black people diverged from the agenda of advocates for women’s suffrage.

That is because the female leadership of the women’s suffrage movement were as racist as their American male counterparts. Leaders like Anthony and Stanton opposed the 15th Amendment because they felt that white women should have the right to vote before black men. The leaders of this movement barred black women from their marches and many of their public events and the historic Women’s March on Washington 1913, black women were forced to march – you guessed it – at the rear of the parade.

And when the 19th Amendment was ratified, the leaders of these (white) women’s movement did nothing to support their black sisters in their effort to vote. Black women were arrested, beaten, sexually assaulted and killed in their efforts to claim the benefits that the Women in White celebrated at the State of the Union.

Of course there should be no surprise that white women in the North and South stood by while their white brothers, sons, fathers and husbands rained all kinds of holy hell on black people in America.

The book Without Sanctuary is a photographic history of lynching in America. In almost every one of these horrific pictures there are crowds of white people in attendance, looking on with undisguised pleasure and even glee. And at least half of those in attendance were — you guessed it – white women.

The facts are that the 19th Amendment did little or nothing for black women, and the rights asserted by white women as a result of this amendment meant nothing for black women until the passage of the Voting Rights Act — 45 years later. One wonders why these female members of Congress, black, white, Latina and Asian would think it important to celebrate this historic moment of white female supremacy – and not even notice the irony of wearing white for such a celebration.

The fact is that there are many times in this country’s history and in the present when women of all colors and backgrounds have come together to advocate justice for all. The fact is that the 19th Amendment is not one of them, and just like Robert E. Lee’s birthday and the Confederate flag, it does not deserve celebration or observation.

For more information and more facts please see Brent Staples NY Times article on this subject

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/02/opinion/sunday/women-voting-19th-amendment-white-supremacy.html

Standard
Point of View Columns

November 8, 2016 – The Second Battle of Gettysburg

The noted journalist and historian Carl Bernstein has observed that the 2016 presidential election is “the Gettysburg of the culture war” and he is absolutely right. And with Election Day just a few days away, some historical perspective will be helpful in truly understanding how important November 8, 2016 will be in American history

In July of 1863 the Union army had yet to win a major, much less decisive battle against the armed forces of the Confederate States of America. Led by the flawed but charismatic General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate Army had actually invaded Pennsylvania with the plan of encircling Washington, DC and forcing President Abraham Lincoln to agree to a negotiated settlement that would recognize the independence of the CSA.

The three day battle was epic in its loss of life, demonstrations of bravery and insane bravado as well as the gut-wrenching shifting of fortunes that ultimately left Lee and his Army a shadow of itself as it limped out of Pennsylvania, never to win another major battle as the CSA simply bled to death, the funeral ceremonies being held in Appomattox in 1865.

But it didn’t have to be that way – with a few twist and turns of fate and luck Lee could have won. And if Lee had won the CSA would almost certainly have become an independent country, immediately recognized by Great Britain which hungered for southern cotton. Racial slavery would have been institutionalized for at least another half century and the literal complexion of the North and South would in no way resemble the America we know today.

The Gettysburg analogy is appropriate for the next week’s election because for the past half century there has been a cultural civil war being waged in this country. Issues ranging from racial civil rights to gender equality to the right of women to control their bodies to environmental sanity to marriage equality have resulted in battles that have raged in cities, states and in Washington, D.C.

There might actually be common ground on issues such as taxation policies and the limits of social service support by government. But there are entrenched forces on both sides of basic issues such as racial and gender equality or the right of women to decide how they will live their lives and control their bodies. On these and other issues there really is no middle ground.

And what we now see with not only the candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is not only an incredible divergence of temperament, intelligence, qualifications and personalities, but also a yawning gap between the policies of the platforms of the parties that they represent. And while there might be some value in parsing Clinton’s e-mails or coming to grips with Trump’s incredible obscenity, the fact is that the platform of the Republican Party calls for the repeal of Roe v. Wade as well as the mindless denial of climate change.

The fact is that the Republican Party is the home of men and women who have spent a half century of their lives seeking to roll back the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and who literally celebrated when the Supreme Court gutted that historic and that foundational pillar of the civil rights movement in the Shelby v. Holder decision of 2013.

And the fact is that a President Hillary Clinton will appoint Supreme Court justices who will defend Roe v. Wade and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a President Donald Trump has promised to do just the opposite.

In 1863 the literal character of the nation was at stake and that battle of Gettysburg, which could have gone either way, determined that the United States of America, flawed and faulty as it has been, had the potential and the possibility of aspiring to and achieving the greatness articulated in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence authored by similarly flawed men.

In 2016, the literal character of the nation is again at stake. A victory by Donald Trump will guarantee the degradation of the rights, hopes and aspirations of millions of Americans in order to keep the promise to the shrinking majority of non-college educated and angry and disaffected white Americans to “Make America Great Again” –an America when blacks and women and gay Americans knew their place in the shadows….an America where the myth of liberty and justice for all satisfied the then dominant white male American majority.

It is not possible to exaggerate the apocalyptic results of a Trump presidency. Hillary Clinton will not be a perfect president, but then there has never been a perfect president.

The Gettysburg of the culture wars will be fought on November 8, 2016 – each and every one of us has the power to make a choice as to the outcome of this battle.

Standard
Point of View Columns

A Message to Millennials

As the first presidential debate of 2016 approaches it is now a considered fact that the millennial of America are going to be a key determinant of who is the next President of the United States. To put it another way, millennials have a major say as to whether the previously incomprehensible thought that Donald J. Trump could be president could, in fact, become a reality.

What was previously thought to be a no-brainer is now a toss-up. That a serial foe of racial equality, gender respect and basic decency is the nominee of a national political party is a commentary on the Republican Party, the tone and content of socio-political discourse in this country as well as a damning commentary on each and every one of us.

Somehow, in the give and take of what passes for politics, too many of us have failed to teach the relevance of the past to the present and the future. As a result, too many of our millennial brothers and sisters have grown up insulated from the history of the struggle for civil rights, human rights and gender equity. And so, it is time for a Message to Millennials:

Dear Millennials:

For those of you who were born since 1985, I offer you a sincere apology on behalf of those of us who, in a sincere desire for you to embrace an unfettered future, neglected to provide you with the historical details that have brought you to the threshold of that future. By sanitizing and condensing that history, we have unintentionally diminished the true nature and viciousness and ferocity of the forces that have always opposed civil rights and human rights and gender rights that you rightfully should have been able to take for granted.

So, as the 2016 presidential election approaches you should know some very real facts that have nothing to do with the grossness, obscenity and classless nature of Donald Trump. That you might consider it acceptable under any circumstances that such a man could be the successor to President Barack Obama tells me that you have little faith and respect in the governmental process that has brought you to the threshold of that unlimited future and the belief that you should rightfully take it for granted, but cannot and should not.

So please think about this:

• The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is not a constitutional amendment, it is a law. Laws can be repealed and redefined and must always be enforced in order to be meaningful. The right wing of the right wing of the Republican Party, including the Teapublican wing that has been led by Mike Pence, is committed to diminishing the scope and impact of that historic legislation in the name of states’ rights, religious freedom and private property rights.

• The next President of the United States will appoint at least two Supreme Court justices over the next four years. If Donald Trump is president, those two justices will join the Roberts – Alito – Thomas cabal to establish a right wing majority for at least the next decade and you can kiss the rights afforded by the Civil Rights Act goodbye. – That would include the right to go to any restaurant or hotel regardless of race or sexual orientation…..and, by the way, there goes marriage equality.

• Donald Trump chose Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate and he is on the record as looking forward to “the day that Roe v. Wade is on the trash heap of history”. So all millennials, especially female millennials, should speak with your mothers and aunts and grandmothers and learn what life was like was like in this country when a woman’s right to choose was the subject of criminal prosecution and imprisonment.

• Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, there have been conservative activists who have dedicated their lives to eviscerating this law which simply protects the rights of black Americans to vote. These banal bigots achieved a huge victory in 2013 when the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision gutted that Voting Rights Act. A Trump presidency will guarantee the end of voting rights equality as a unquestioned goal and we will literally see the slithering serpents of  the ghosts of Jim Crow (I hope that you have heard of Jim Crow) come slithering out of their previously sealed tombs.

I am not trying to scare you, but if the truth is fearsome to you, so be it. Please understand that the franchise that you own was won with the blood and lives of people who you will never know, people of whom you have never heard. Please understand that your vote is worth something more than making a statement.

Please know that the difference between Clinton and Trump is not like the difference between McCain and Obama or even Romney and Obama. This is more like Humphrey and Nixon in 1968.

And I can tell you that, as an 18 year old who thought that there was little difference between Nixon and Humphrey, I was terribly and horribly wrong. Nixon begat Ford who begat Reagan who begat Bush and Bush again, and now Trump is standing at the door like an unwanted suitor with a bouquet of wilted flowers, his tie askew and liquor on his breath.

It is now 2016 and I am asking you to please not make the mistake that was made in 1968. You can’t afford it. This nation cannot afford it.

With much love and respect.

Standard
Point of View Columns

A History Lesson for Supporters of Bernie Sanders

As the Democratic presidential campaign moves from a New York State of Mind towards the inevitable Finale in Philly, it is quite possible that Hillary Clinton might be experiencing a sense of déjà vu – every time she runs for President a little known but charismatic senator comes out of nowhere to challenge her for the nomination. Except this time it looks like she is going to come out as the winner and supporters of Bernie Sanders are not happy – and that is why it is time for a history lesson.

Many supporters of the Vermont senator are passionate in their belief that he is a leader who will bring about “real change” in “the system”. Indeed, Bernie Sanders himself is calling for a “revolution”. And it is pretty clear that if revolution is the goal a moderate progressive like Hillary Clinton is going to seem like weak tea after swigging Red Bull Bernie ideology.

The dismay in supporting a losing candidate is understandable and commendable in a very real sense. It is good when people believe in positive change in this country. What is not commendable, what is both pernicious and dangerous, is when some Sanders followers say that the differences between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders are so profound that they would rather vote for Donald Trump so that the revolution that they seek will occur sooner- out of the rubble that a Trump presidency would create.

Susan Sarandon, a prominent Sandersphile, has actually articulated the Trump alternative to Sanders supporters and Susan Sarandon should know better. As a millionaire many times over, she will not suffer one bit if Trump or Rafael Cruz or John Kasich become President and follow the Teapublican playbook and begin to dismantle the governmental apparatus and infrastructure. Additionally, since she was 22 years old in 1968, Susan Sarandon is old enough to know better.

In 1968 there was a tremendous amount of passion flowing through the Democratic Party. The Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection in large part because of the raging opposition to the war in Vietnam, much of that opposition led by Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy. Senator Robert F. Kennedy also entered the fray and brought with him the passion of a Restoration, in this case restoring the Kennedy Camelot that had been blasted to pieces in Dallas just five years earlier.

Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President was also a Democratic candidate and he was viewed by the raging McCarthy supporters and the passionate Kennedy supporters as a status quo agent of the “establishment” and absolutely unacceptable. And then this boiling political cauldron became superheated.

First, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in April of 1968. The national black community, a major cohort in the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was outraged and tried to burn many of America’s cities to the ground. Then Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in June of 1968. And with his death dreams of the Restoration of Camelot evaporated and Kennedy’s followers were despondent.

Then came the Democratic Convention in Chicago with the police sanctioned violence and storms of political protest generated when supporters of Kennedy and McCarthy clashed with the police. The ensuing catastrophe of carnage was broadcast worldwide and “Chicago” became the synonym for Democratic disaster and dysfunction.

And out of the ashes of that convention Humphrey emerged as the party’s wounded nominee. And many supporters of McCarthy and Kennedy saw him as representing the “establishment” and either opposed his candidacy outright or were lukewarm in their allegiance. The prevailing thought that there was very little difference between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey and that election of the outright conservative Nixon might hasten the revolution that was sorely needed in this country.

The outcome was that Richard Nixon was elected president. The outcome was that Richard Nixon turned out to be far worse than the most wretched predictions of the McCarthy/Kennedy followers. The outcome was that Richard Nixon brought about the wave of conservative ideology which continues to sweep across this country.

Because the supporters of Kennedy and McCarthy stayed on the sidelines Richard Nixon begat Ronald Reagan who begat George H.W. Bush who begat (literally) George W. Bush. In the process we have seen the mass incarceration of the national black community, the onset of massive income inequality, the engagement of this country in regime change misadventures at the cost of trillions of dollars and incalculable loss of life. In the process we have seen Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and William Rehnquist sit on the Supreme Court and roll back the reproductive rights of women along the with the marginalization of affirmative action and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.

So before the Sanders Supporters decide to opt out if/when they lose in Philadelphia, let’s hope they learn from history and that they remember that as bad as Richard Nixon was – Donald Trump, Rafael Cruz and John Kasich – embedded with the most conservative Congress in history – will be so much worse.

Standard
Point of View Columns

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.

 

Standard
Point of View Columns

The Turtle on the Fence Post

Country sayings are interesting and, in many instances true. For example, if you see a turtle on a fence post, you can be pretty sure that it did not get there on its own. Similarly, when we see voting restrictions being imposed all over the country, we can be sure that it is neither a matter of coincidence nor serendipity.

Almost immediately upon the election of President Obama in 2009, Teapublicans began a monomaniacal jihad with the sole goal of preventing him from being reelected. This group of supposed patriots hit upon the idea of restricting voting rights and the ethnic cleansing of voter rolls as a way of diminishing the support for Barack Obama in the 2012 election. Historians will view this as strategy that is soaked in brutal irony – the patriotic right wing that claims to revere the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence has sought to deny the right to vote to certain Americans.

It took some time for the Teapublicans to get their act together, but after the Roberts-Alito-Thomas-Scalia Supreme Court cabal eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013, the path to constitutional villainy became an open highway. Indeed over fifteen states and numerous towns, counties and municipalities have instituted laws, rules and regulations which have as their goal the restriction of voting rights.

Claims that these laws, rules and regulations are intended to prevent voter fraud are simply lies. There are no statistical reports which indicate anything but a miniscule number of voter fraud cases over the past two decades. The fact that the voting rights restrictions have nothing to do with concerns about voter fraud brings us back to the story of the turtle on the fence post.

The effect of the voting rights restrictions has been to reduce the opportunity of blacks, Latinos, the elderly, the very young and the very poor from exercising their franchise as citizens of this country. The individuals in these demographic sectors are not known to be traditional supporters of Teapublican candidates or the Teapublican agenda.

Is this result simply a coincidence? Are voting limitations on the constituencies that elected and reelected Barack Obama just an unintended consequence of the Teapublican initiatives, however fortunate it might be for the right wing of the right wing? Just think about that turtle on the fence post.

The reality is that many of the current riders in the Teapublican Presidential Clown Bus have supported these voter suppression strategies – Chris Christie in New Jersey, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in Florida, Rick Perry and Ted Cruz in Texas are up to their eyeballs in denying constitutional rights to American citizens who don’t figure to support them. They will deny this, of course, but remember that turtle on the fence post.

The Teapublican voter suppression strategy began after Barack Obama was elected. This strategy has never had anything to do with voter fraud. This strategy has always been about reducing the turnout of voters likely to support Barack Obama and Democrats in general. And any Teapublican who is thinking about running for President of the United States will want to stack the deck in their favor by diminishing the turnout of the Obama/Democratic base.

So, as the denials will spew from the likes of Christie/Walker/Bush/Rubio/Perry/Cruz………….just remember that turtle on the fence post.

Standard
Point of View Columns

The United States of Gun

Given the proximity of the Washington Naval Yard gun massacre, as well as its incremental horror, one could have hoped that Congress would have taken time out from cutting food stamps allocations and trying to eliminate Obamacare to pay attention. One would have hoped in vain. To the collective shame of this country, the Washington Naval Yard joins Aurora and Tucson and Sandy Hook and Fort Hood as another synonym for atrocity while the Congress does absolutely nothing.

The Teapublicans and the right wing of the right wing are adamant in their defense of what they contend is their constitutional right to own an unlimited number of guns including those that serve as hand held weapons of mass destruction.

Even the most common sense proposed limitations, such as background checks for mental illness and criminal records are met with outrage and implacable opposition. The fact that gun massacres with multiple deaths upon multiple casualties have become a part of the American way of life is met with a call for more guns in the hands of more Americans.

What is peculiar about this adamant and absolute Teapublican defense of the right to bear arms is that it does not extend to the right to vote. The same right wing avatars that are incapable in compromising on any limits, controls or oversight regarding the right to possess firearms have no problem with the multiple barriers to voting that are being erected across this country. In fact, the same Teapublican legislatures that trample even modest gun control proposals into dusty fragments are the same legislatures that are passing voter suppression laws the likes of which have not been seen since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In North Carolina for example, new voter suppression laws have been passed with the express purpose of making it more difficult for minorities, the elderly and the young to vote. The fact that members of these demographics are not part of the Teapublican base of support is not coincidental.

And so, we are now witness to the irony that it is easier for a black man in North Carolina to own a gun that it is for him to vote. Somehow in the fevered brains of the predominantly white Teapublicans in North Carolina and elsewhere fear black people who vote more than they fear black people who own guns.

The naked illogic of this situation should be obvious as the exercise of the right to vote is far more important to the preservation of democracy and democratic institutions than individual gun ownership. Unless you believe that there are federal black helicopters about to lift off and come and take you away, voting presents a far more effective and rational way to establish and promote policies.

Say what you will about the Teapublicans, but they have managed to turn selective hypocrisy into an art form. Somehow the right to bear arms is an absolute right that should not be subject to any limitation whatsoever.

However, even though the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to choose an abortion, the Teapublicans in many states have taken so many steps to limit that right to choose that the right is virtually meaningless for women who desire such medical services.

While the right to own guns, rifles, shotguns and assault weapons is inviolate on the Planet Teapublican – the right to vote of minorities, the elderly and anyone who is not a reliable supporter of the Teapublican Commandments can be modified and limited to make their right to vote virtually meaningless.

Indeed, to an observer from another country, it would seem that the only right that is absolute in the Teapublican Constitution is the right to own a gun. And it may be only a matter of time before this country is properly renamed “The United States of Gun”.

Standard