AlterNet.org: Rick Perlstein http://www.alternet.org/authors/rick-perlstein en Tim LaHaye Is Gone, But His Gospel of Apocalyptic Christianity Will Plague America for Years to Come http://www.alternet.org/belief/tim-lahaye-gone-his-gospel-apocalyptic-christianity-will-plague-america-years-come <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1061385'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1061385" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">What Tim LaHaye really left behind.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_102786296-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Tim LaHaye died last week. He was 90. He was best known for co-writing the “Left Behind” series of novels about the battle of Armageddon, which fundamentalists believe will follow the Rapture of Christian believers from earth. The books have sold over 63 million copies—the <a href="http://www.leftbehind.com/01_products/browse.asp?section=Kids">version of the series for kids</a> has sold 11 million copies alone—and the obituaries led with that. He helped found the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell and sat on its board, and in 1981 began the Council for National Policy, a secretive directorate for religious-right organizations that has been called “the most powerful conservative organization in America you’ve never heard of.” He was so fanatically devoted to what Christians call “the Great Commission”—Matthew 28:19–20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”—that when he once <a href="http://www.npr.org/2016/07/29/487863225/tim-lahaye-obit-2002">ran into the Dalai Lama</a> in Israel he shook hands with him and asked, “Sir, has anyone ever explained to you who Jesus Christ really is?”</p><p>An aide to the incarnation of the Bodhisattva rebuffed LaHaye, leaving His Holiness the Dalai Lama walking the long path to the unbelievers’ Lake of Fire.</p><p>But LaHaye’s greatest contribution to the power of fundamentalist Christianity in America was more subtle, and, on the surface, sounds like a hilarious joke.</p><p>At the time ministers like LaHaye began politicizing <em>en masse </em>against the fruits of the moral lassitude of the 1960s—gay rights, abortion, secular humanism in education, feminism, and all the rest—Protestant fundamentalism was suffering from a gaping deficiency as a social movement, betokening its parochial roots: its insularity, its joylessness, and a befuddled inability to compete with the blandishments of liberal, modern therapeutic culture.</p><p>Their flocks looked longingly upon the worldliness forbidden them. Earlier generations of preachers would have simply <em>forbade </em>with greater intensity. Figures like the LaHayes (husband and wife), James Dobson, and Pat Robertson created a Christianity that would embrace what the modern world offered, up to a point. They were so successful that by the time of Ronald Reagan’s second successful presidential run, fundamentalist Christianity comprised an entire parallel universe within which one could live fully, eschewing the outside world as utterly wicked even as the Christian world came more and more to resemble it.</p><p>Depressed? Anxious? Bored? Bible reading not cutting through the fog? Turn to Dr. James Dobson, a psychotherapist with impeccable secular credentials whose Christian-inflected self-help books like <em>Dare to Discipline </em>(1970) and <em>What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women </em>(1972), and “Focus on the Family” seminars and videos had become so popular by 1977 that he quit his therapy practice and incorporated a nonprofit organization that produced a weekly 30-minute radio phone-in show. Or if Dobson doesn’t do the trick, call in to the Christian Broadcasting Network’s crisis counseling service, with a staff of 6,000 friendly ears, fielding 1.25 million calls in the first half of 1976 alone. (“Most calls concern potential suicides, alcoholics, unwed mothers, drug abuses, and marital problems,” the <em>Los Angeles Times </em>explained. “Literature is sent to callers and complex cases are offered professional help.”)</p><p>Looking for worldly purpose? Try politics. Need a night out? There were “Christian” movies, like Russell Doughten’s four-part <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Thief_in_the_Night_(film)"><em>A Thief in the Night</em></a> series.</p><p>Or, why not stay in and have some fun?</p><p>In 1976, LaHaye and his wife Beverly, who as the founder of Concerned Women of America nearly equaled her husband in influence, published a book called <em>The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love. </em>It was, yes, a Christian sex manual, one which indubitably added to the sum total of joy in the world because it insisted that erotic ecstasy was not something forbidden for Christian couples but required of them. “Modern research has made it abundantly clear that all married women are capable of orgasmic ecstasy. No Christian woman should settle for less.” “Sexually illiterate” men, and “selfish lovers” were excoriated.</p><p>With Masters and Johnson, the LaHayes agreed that the vaginal orgasm was a myth, which meant careful study of clitoral response was a must for Christian sexual literacy. And it was in the Bible—where, in the most curious exegesis in the history of Christendom, the LaHayes discovered the proper Scriptural method for manual-vaginal stimulation: “The wife lying on her back with her knees bent and feet pulled up to her hips and her husband lying on her right side.” Just like the Song of Solomon advised, Chapter 2, Verse 6: “Let his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me.”</p><p>Nor was the hubby’s stimulation neglected: the book <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/news/from-the-crap-archives-the-beauty-of-sexual-love-6663504">included a chart</a> where women could record daily progress on their Kegel exercises.</p><p>Funny, yes. Serious, too. Books like <em>The Act of Marriage</em>—and Tim’s earlier, tamer, 1968 publication, <em>How to Be Happy Though Married</em>—were part of a movement without which the darkness the Christian right has visited on our land would not have been possible. They helped make of fundamentalism an entire, enveloping world. All the better for them to get to work enveloping our world, too.</p><p> </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1061385'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1061385" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sun, 07 Aug 2016 07:44:00 -0700 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1061385 at http://www.alternet.org Belief Belief tim lahaye christianity dalai lama republican party jerry falwell What Democrats Need to Know About Violence at Trump Rallies http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/what-know-about-trump-rallies <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1058930'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1058930" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Does rioting make Trump stronger?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/5440393641_2892f718d7_b-600x400.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>This spring, Donald Trump added a new phrase to the stock of improvised riffs he throws out at his rallies: “I love my protesters.” And if my Twitter mentions are any indication, there are a lot of people who think they know why: disruptions inside or outside Trump’s events just might help elect him president.</p><p>Wrote one, a conservative: <a href="https://twitter.com/KellyRek/status/739522868908691457" target="_blank">#Dems need to read @rickperlstein’s #Nixonland</a> (#Liberalism gone amok led to riots, causing #conservative backlash.)” Liberals agree. “Rioting only makes Trump stronger,” wrote <em>Esquire’s </em>Charlie Pierce, linking to a clip of police responding to window-smashing and poster-burning at a Trump event in Albuquerque.</p><p>The syllogism is simple: first in 1966 with Ronald Reagan, then in 1968 and 1972 with Richard Nixon, Republicans ascended to higher office by pinning on the Democrats responsibility for riots and disruptive protests carried out on the left, successfully framing themselves (as I detailed in my 2008 book <em>Nixonland</em>) as the preservers of order and decorum in a society that seemed to be falling into chaos.</p><p>“Things are going to hell.”</p><p>“We need an ass-kicker in the White House.”</p><p>And presto, a generation of Republican presidents. Just read Rick Perlstein!</p><p>Well, I love my readers, conservative and liberal both. But the people using my historical work to make this particular argument need to read it less selectively and more attentively.</p><p>The first presidential candidate I wrote about who successfully exploited the anxieties of American voters about violence was Lyndon B. Johnson. When Theodore H. White wrote <em>The Making of the President 1964, </em>he included a long account of what happened in Birmingham in 1963. “Bombingham” was the nation’s epicenter of anti-black violence, where African-Americans led by Martin Luther King marched for integration and were set upon by police fire hoses and dogs while the whole world watched on TV.</p><p>His book began with the trauma of Kennedy’s assassination and continued with violent chaos throughout, because 1964 was a violent year. Some of it came from the right: the Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in the fall of 1963 and the Klan murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964; ruffianism at such political meetings as the Young Republicans Convention of 1963; all sorts of mayhem associated with the John Birch Society and its ideological cognates, like the time a Dallas matron clomped U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson on the head with a protest sign.</p><p>And some of it came from the left—at least if you accept the political semiotics of the time that held black militancy responsible for the first summer of urban race riots of the 1960s, which began in Harlem directly following the Republican National Convention in 1964.</p><p>As for the most profound incident of political violence in the U.S. since the Civil War, the Kennedy assassination, the perpetrator was a Communist, but until that fact was established, the almost universal presumption was that right-wingers—Klansmen, H.L. Hunt, Birchers, whatever—must have been responsible; because at that time it was right-wingers whom most Americans held responsible for all signs of political chaos. Barry Goldwater was held to be a symbol of those strange, scary forces (even those riots by black people).</p><p>The Johnson campaign worked brilliantly and indefatigably to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10bBNdqI7uE">exacerbate that public perception</a>. LBJ prevailed, in an electoral landslide. <em>#Conservatism gone amok led to riots</em>, the electorate reasoned. Rioting only made LBJ stronger.</p><p>Then, of course, 1966: Ronald Reagan, excoriating “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCr3nL78qWs">the mess at Berkeley</a>” and its “orgies so vile I can’t even describe them to you,” drafting off the white backlash following the Watts riots and winning the California governorship. Then 1968, when Nixon borrowed Reagan’s script: “As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flame. We hear sirens in the night,” Nixon cried melodramatically in his speech accepting the nomination. “We see Americans hating each other; fighting each other, killing each other at home. And as we see and hear these things, millions of Americans cry out in anguish. Did we come all this way for this? Did American boys die in Normandy, and Korea, and in Valley Forge for this?” He pledged a “new attorney general” who understood that “the first right of every American is to be free from domestic violence.”</p><p>He won, of course. Then, in 1972, he staged himself once more as the man who could finally end the climate of violence in the nation—as if he hadn’t already been president for the past four years. And achieved the greatest landslide in U.S. history.</p><p>But there was another election in between. Nixon put enormous stock in the 1970 off-year congressional elections. (Another Watergate discovery was that <a href="http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a1970nixonslushfund">Nixon organized a secret illegal slush fund</a> for his favored candidates.) Nixon, and especially his attack dog Vice President Spiro Agnew, in the wake of a series of burnings of campus buildings across the country, hit the road to make the case that the country was on the verge of a violent left-wing putsch and that voting Republican was the only way to stave it off.</p><p>The Republicans broadcasted an election-eve speech from a Phoenix airplane hangar, a Trump-like affair in which the president sought to close the sale by speaking about a recent rally of his in San Jose, California (the same city, coincidentally, where two weeks ago Trump fans were pummeled by anti-Trump protesters). In San Jose, the presidential motorcade had been showered with protesters’ rocks. “For too long, we have appeased aggression here at home, and, as with all appeasement, the result has been more aggression and more violence!” Nixon, sounding much like Trump, said in Phoenix. “The time has come to draw the line. The time has come for the great silent majority of Americans of all ages, of every political persuasion, to stand up and be counted against appeasement of the rock throwers and the obscenity shouters in America.”</p><p>In fact, Nixon’s advance men had carefully arranged for the motorcade in San Jose to pass by those angry protesters, all but staging the incident.<em> #Liberalism gone amok led to riots, causing #conservative backlash: </em>Nixon was betting on it.</p><p>But the Democrats broadcast their own election-night speech. In it, Senator Edmund Muskie sat calmly in an armchair in his Maine home and explained—softly—that the election came down to a decision between “the politics of fear and the politics of trust. One says: you are encircled by monstrous dangers. Give us power over your freedom so we may protect you. The other says: the world is a baffling and hazardous place, but it can be shaped to the will of men. In voting for the Democratic Party tomorrow, you cast your vote for trust, not just in leaders or policies, but trusting your fellow citizens, in the ancient tradition of this home for freedom and, most of all, for trust in yourself.”</p><p>The next day, America went to the polls, and overwhelmingly expanded the majority of the Democratic Party in both houses of Congress.</p><p>That’s the score: four elections, two where violence drove the electorate toward the Republicans, and two where violence drove the electorate toward the Democrats. And here is the heart of the pattern. Listen to what Richard Nixon said in that 1968 acceptance speech, <em>after </em>he invited Americans to listen to the sirens in the night, the angry voices, Americans hating each other, fighting each other, killing each other. Later in the speech, he invited them to listen to “another voice. It is the quiet voice in the tumult and the shouting.” That was the voice he promised to embody. He promised calm.</p><p>What made his promise credible were the images, three weeks later, at the Democratic convention: the worst violence at any convention in U.S. history. And the way that same chaos seemed to follow the Democratic nominee wherever he went—<a href="https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1817&amp;dat=19681101&amp;id=RgMdAAAAIBAJ&amp;sjid=NZsEAAAAIBAJ&amp;pg=6051,111705&amp;hl=en">like the incident</a> on October 31 when a rally for nominee Hubert Humphrey was interrupted by a naked woman who dashed down the aisle carrying the head of a pig on a charger. After she was apprehended, her male companion, also naked, seized the pig’s head, leapt to the stage, and presented it to the speaker, economist John Kenneth Galbraith.</p><p>Chaos seemed to follow the Democrats wherever they went. So Nixon, promising quiet, prevailed.</p><p>Then, two years later, when chaos seemed to follow <em>the Republicans </em>wherever they went—it was a Democrat, Edmund Muskie, who offered the credible appeal, quoted above, for quiet.</p><p>History, really, is not so neat as all this. Still and all, the evidence is suggestive. It’s <em>not </em>that the chaos of political rallies that devolve into mêlées invariably favors the authoritarian party of law and order. Instead, it is the party to whom chaos appears to <em>attach itself </em>that the public tends to reject—especially if the leaders of the opposing party do an effective job of framing themselves as the quiet, calm, and centering alternative.</p><p>That is the lesson for Hillary Clinton. What is the lesson for us? It’s most decidedly <em>not </em>to encourage chaos at Donald Trump rallies. This very act of encouragement, after all, clouds the story: it would make it credible to frame the Democrats as <em>authors </em>of chaos.</p><p>Trump is a fascist. Trumpism leads to riots. Already, the backlash in ensuing: in the <a href="http://www.redstate.com/leon_h_wolf/2016/06/15/new-abcwapo-poll-everyone-hates-donald-trump/">first round of polling</a> since both parties provisionally settled on their candidates, 70 percent of Americans said they viewed Trump unfavorably, 56 percent “strongly” unfavorably. Among independents he lags 38 points behind Hillary Clinton in favorability, 20 points behind among whites; and even among Republicans his favorability rating has plunged from 42 percent in April to 34 percent now. <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/pres_general/">Asked to choose</a> between the three candidates on the ballot, Clinton, Trump, and Libertarian Gary Johnson, polling has Trump 12 points behind. <em>He </em>is the pig on the platter. Let him stew in his own blood. The public recognizes the chaos of which he is author, and they are turning away in disgust.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1058930'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1058930" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sun, 26 Jun 2016 07:11:00 -0700 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1058930 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 donald trump 2016 elections facism Busted: Trump Is Taking Ideas Directly From America's Most Famous Right-Wing Crackpot, Alex Jones http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/trump-stealing-alex-jones <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1057629'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1057629" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">On InfoWar’s contributions to Trumplandia.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/25218962886_734d099f46_z_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Donald Trump keeps on upping the ante. Consider what he said at a rally last week in Fresno, on the subject of California’s apocalyptic drought.</p><p>Make that “drought,” for according to Donald J. Trump, there isn’t one. Never mind that the years between late 2001 and 2014 have been the driest in California history since record-keeping began; nor the 12 million trees that have died from “drought” in Southern California; nor predictions that the 2015 El Nino would bring relief, though the <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2016/05/lackluster_el_ni_o_has_set_california_up_for_terrible_forest_fires_this.html">amount of rainfall actually decreased</a>.</p><p>In Fresno, Donald <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMBodz2VV6w">approached the podium</a>. He led off with a customary boast. (“What a crowd . . . I saw on television this morning, five o’clock in the morning, people were lining up. This is crazy, crazy!”) He referred to some real estate transaction he was working “probably 10 or 12 years ago” in their fair city: “They had a problem. You remember the problem, right? They had a problem, I think it was Running Horse, and I was going to take it over and do a beautiful job.” Then, in mid-thought, he pivoted incoherently into the subject on everyone’s minds in that parched agricultural region: “Fortunately, I didn’t do it, because there isn’t any water, because they send all the water out to the ocean, right?”</p><p>“I made a fortune by not doing it,” he said. The crowd cheered. Only in Trumplandia do the citizens cheer when they’re <em>not </em>afforded the benefactions of their orange-haired overlord. (I <a href="http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/city-beat/article32457009.html">looked it up</a>. His proposal to take over the foundering Running Horse golf course development apparently fell apart because the city refused his demand to dispossess homeowners over a nine-square-mile area through eminent domain.)</p><p>He commented that it was too bad he didn’t go through with the deal. Because: “I would have changed the water. . . . You have a water problem that is <em>so </em>insane, that is so ridiculous. Where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea.” Loud cheers.</p><p>He continued. “It’s not the drought. They have plenty of water. No, they shove it out to sea. Now, why? Because they’re trying to protect a certain kind of three-inch fish.”</p><p>“If I win, believe me, we’re going to start opening up the water so that you can have your farmers survive.” Then he moved on.</p><p>It made the news: "<a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2016/05/28/donald-trump-tells-californians-there-no-drought/85082174/">Donald Trump Tells Californians There Is No Drought</a>."</p><p>Then, however, reporters moved on to the next story, with no time to Google from whence Trump derived this crackpot notion about water taken from farmers and “shoved out to the sea.” The answer, apparently: InfoWars, the website of lunatic conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Who believes, for instance, that the school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, was staged by the government, using actors, in order to force gun control down the American people’s throats.</p><p>The theory that California’s water shortage is all the fault of the Environmental Protection Agency is, like most conspiracy theories, grounded in an actual fact. The EPA has, in fact, caused 800,000 acre-feet of water annually to be flushed into San Francisco Bay to maintain its marine ecosystem. The program, however, dates to the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1992/12/11/us/california-moves-to-revitalize-san-francisco-bay.html">early 1990s</a>, and California’s water system, all told, manages over <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_in_California"><em>40 million </em>acre-feet a year</a>. The practice that Trump describes so darkly involves 2 percent of that—and an economically vital 2 percent at that. California fisheries produce jobs in the <a href="http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20090105_nmfseconomics.html">hundreds of thousands</a>. But not in Fresno.</p><p>The notion that rules governing 800,000 acre-feet of water are the cause of the much larger problem, and that business about the “three-inch fish,” dates—word for word—to an <a href="http://www.infowars.com/environmentalists-caused-california-drought-to-protect-this-fish/">April, 2015, InfoWars article</a> entitled “Environmentalists Caused California Drought to Protect This Fish.”</p><p>Since last year, Rachel Maddow has been on the case of Donald Trump’s deep ties to Alex Jones. On the morning of December 2, she <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/donald-trump-as-the-gop-standard-bearer/2015/12/14/800658da-a285-11e5-ad3f-991ce3374e23_story.html">wrote in a syndicated column</a>, Jones hosted Trump for an <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJqLAleEnKw">extended live interview</a>. “After about 30 minutes of mutual compliments, and Jones telling Trump that ‘about 90 percent’ of his listeners support him, the presidential candidate wrapped things up by telling Jones: ‘Your reputation is amazing.’”</p><p>Maddow continued, “That same day, after that interview, 14 people were killed and 21 others were injured in the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. Within hours of that news breaking, Jones and his website—predictably—were hosting discussions of how San Bernardino, like Newtown, like the Boston Marathon bombing, and of course like 9/11, was a hoax. Either it didn’t happen, or if it did it was perpetrated by the government.”</p><p>In mid-March, Jones took up the cudgels for Trump in a rant that began: “Everyone’s having their water poisoned, everyone’s having deadly vaccines pushed on them, everyone is having weaponized television aimed at them. . . . It is a metric, scientific, mathematic algorithm of tyranny, that is extremely sophisticated, that can even predict the future.”</p><p>“A few thousand people are in on the whole deal. And through compartmentalization, they’re rolling it out.”</p><p>Jones explained that shooting “all two million police in the country” in the back of the head wouldn’t help, because “there would just be anarchy and all sorts of problems and they would just bring in foreign troops.”</p><p>“The globalists are building a world, in their own words, where normal human life is over. . . . It’s the devil. And the churches are not going to tell you. It’s an alien force, not of this world, attacking humanity, like the Bible and every other ancient text says.”</p><p>He screamed at the top of his lungs: <em>“IT’S NOT HUMAN INTELLIGENCE WE’RE FACING! . . . WE’RE UNDER ATTACK! EVERYONE’S UNDER ATTACK!”</em></p><p>And even shooting two million cops could not beat them back.</p><p>He proposed, however, something that could. “The elite hate Trump, let me tell you. And if he is a psy-op, let me tell you, he’s the most sophisticated one I ever saw. And even if he is, <em>he’s a revelation of the awakening . . . </em>Humanity’s gotta get off-world, we’ve got to get access to the life-extension technologies . . . I want the advanced life extension! <em>I want to go to space! I want to see inter-dimensional travel! I WANT WHAT GOD PROMISED US! AND I’M NOT GOING TO SIT HERE AND LET SATAN STEAL IT!</em></p><p>Donald Trump appreciates this man’s amazing reputation, has appeared on his program, and is leveraging InfoWar’s insights to feed his symbiosis with his mob. The bigfoot political press missed that story, and will likely continue to miss it, because their entire business model and worldview is predicated upon the idea of two <em>equivalent</em> sides fighting for national power.</p><p>That’s not what our nation’s founders promised us. And I’m not going to sit here and let the orange-haired monster steal it.</p><p> </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1057629'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1057629" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Thu, 02 Jun 2016 09:49:00 -0700 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1057629 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 Media The Right Wing donald trump alex jones right wing crackpots Infowars election 2016 Trump's GOP Coup: How the Orange-Haired Monster Has Rewritten the History of American Conservatism http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/trumps-gop-coup-how-orange-haired-monster-has-rewritten-history-american-conservatism <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1054869'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1054869" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The events that shaped Donald Trump&#039;s politics, and how he gained power. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/18959835941_33c37f011a_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>I’ve been studying the history of American conservatism full-time since 1997—almost 20 years now. I’ve read almost every major book on the subject. I thought I knew what I was talking about. Then along comes Donald Trump to scramble the whole goddamned script.</p><p>Now, historians must begin to consider alternate genealogies of the American right: lineages for the orange-haired monster that no one saw coming. Our received narrative of the movement encompassed by Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley and Strom Thurmond and Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan just doesn’t cut it any longer.  I’ve done my best to begin the work—thinking through, for instance, <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/donald-trump-and-the-f-word/">Trumpism’s connection to fascism</a>, a political tradition not heretofore considered all that relevant in the American context. Other bodies, however, are buried closer to home.</p><p>No history of modern conservatism I’m aware of finds much significance in the <a href="http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/american-nazi-organization-rally-madison-square-garden-1939/">22,000 Nazi sympathizers who rallied for Hitler at Madison Square Garden</a> in February 1939, presided over by a giant banner of General George Washington that stretched almost all the way to the second deck, capped off by a menacing eagle insignia. Nor the now-infamous Ku Klux Klan march through the streets of Queens in 1927, when <em>The</em> <em>New York Times </em>reported “1,000 Klansmen and 100 policemen staged a free-for-all,” in which according to one contemporary news report all the individuals arrested were wearing Klan attire, and that one of those arrestees was <a href="http://www.vice.com/read/all-the-evidence-we-could-find-about-fred-trumps-alleged-involvement-with-the-kkk">Donald Trump’s own father</a>.</p><p>In the specter of the son’s likely ascension as Republican nominee, however, such events gather significance. Consider the subsequent history of Fred Trump’s career as a developer of middle-class housing in the outer boroughs of New York City. We now know Fred Trump was notorious enough a racist to draw the attention of Woody Guthrie, who wrote a song about him in the 1950s: “I suppose/ Old Man Trump knows/ Just how much/ Racial Hate/ he stirred up/ In the bloodpot of human hearts/ When he drawed/ That color line/ Here at his/ Eighteen hundred family project.”</p><p>Twenty years later—by which time he had brought his son in as his apprentice—the hate Old Man Trump stirred in the bloodpot of human hearts became a matter of legal record, when the United States Justice Department sued Trump <em>père </em><em>et</em> <em>fils </em>for violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968 in operating 39 buildings they owned. Testifying in his own defense, young Donald (who would soon be seen around town in a chauffeured limousine with a license plate reading “DJT”), testified that he was “unfamiliar” with the landmark law. As the evidence in the federal case against the Trump organization became close to incontrovertible, he <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/news/how-a-young-donald-trump-forced-his-way-from-avenue-z-to-manhattan-7380462">told the press</a> the suit was a conspiracy to force them “to rent to welfare recipients,” a form of “reverse discrimination.” This proud and open refusal to rent to welfare recipients—whom he said contribute to “the detriment of tenants who have, for many years, lived in these buildings, raised families in them, and who plan to live there”—was Donald Trump’s <em>defense </em>against racism.</p><p>It is in this saga that we locate the formation of Donald Trump’s mature political vision of the world, in <em>continuity </em>with America’s racist and nativist heyday of the 1920s, and within the <em>context </em>of a cultural world much more familiar to us: New York in the 1970s, that raging cauldron of skyrocketing violent crime, subway trains slathered with graffiti, and a fiscal crisis so dire that even police were laid off in mass—then the <a href="https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2002&amp;dat=19750702&amp;id=QxsvAAAAIBAJ&amp;sjid=U9sFAAAAIBAJ&amp;pg=1109,270917&amp;hl=en">laid off cops blocked the Brooklyn Bridge, deflating car tires, and yanking keys from car ignitions</a>.</p><p>Think of Trump coming of age in the New York of the 1977 blackout, the search for the Son of Sam, and Howard Cosell barking out “Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning” during game two of the World Series at Yankee stadium as a helicopter hovered over a five-alarm fire at an abandoned elementary school (40 percent of buildings in the Bronx were destroyed by the end of the 1970s, mostly via arson—often torched by landlords seeking insurance windfalls).</p><p>Think of Trump learning about the ins and outs of public life in <em>this</em> New York, a city of a frightened white outer-borough middle-class poised between fight or flight, in which real estate was everywhere and always a battleground, when the politics of race and crime bore all the intensity of civil war.</p><p>In <em>The Invisible Bridge </em>I wrote about what it was like in this New York in 1974, the summer when the federal lawsuit against the Trumps was approaching its climax, the summer when a controversial new movie began packing theaters across the five boroughs.</p><blockquote><p>Death Wish<em> starred a then-obscure Charles Bronson as a New York City architect who used to be liberal, until his daughter was raped and his wife murdered. His son-in-law pronounces defeat: “There’s nothing we can do to stop it. Nothing but cut and run.” The architect, by contrast, learns to shoot a gun—in an Old West ghost town—so he can start mowing down muggers at point-blank range. He soon cuts the city’s murder rate in half, and wins a spot on the cover of </em>Time<em>.</em></p><p><em>Liberal reviewers registered their disgust: </em>The Times’s<em> Vincent Canby called it “a bird-brained movie to cheer the hearts of the far-right wing,” then, 10 days later, branded Bronson a “circus bear.” </em>Time<em> called it “meretricious,” “brazen,” and “hysterical.” Roger Ebert of the </em>Chicago Sun-Times<em> labeled it “fascist.” But in the real-life New York City, where the murder rate had doubled in 10 years, and where a psychiatrist published a </em>Times<em> op-ed bragging about the violence he had prevented by leveling a pistol that he kept “never far from my reach while I attend to patients in my mid-Manhattan office,” each onscreen vigilante act won ovations from grateful fans—sometimes standing ovations.</em></p></blockquote><p>Two years later came an even darker, and considerably more critical, portrait of New York City’s escalating culture of vigilantism. In <em>Taxi Driver, </em>a deranged Vietnam veteran speaks what must have been the unspoken inner monologue of any number of real-life New Yorkers who felt trapped in an urban sewer: “Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.” Pistol in hand, he rehearses his revenge in the mirror: “Listen, you fuckers, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it any more. A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit. Here is a man who stood up.”</p><p>When, around that time, <em>Wall Street Journal </em>columnist Irving Kristol coined the phrase “a neoconservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality”—a bowdlerization of the older adage “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged”—he probably didn’t have Charles Bronson in mind, let alone taxi driver Travis Bickle. Nonetheless the politics is all of a piece. Charles Bronson conservatism, Travis Bickle conservatism, the conservatism of avenging angels protecting white innocence in a  “liberal” metropolis gone mad: this is New York City’s unique contribution to the history of conservatism in America, an ideological tradition heretofore unrecognized in the historical literature. But without it, we cannot understand the rise of Donald Trump.</p><p>Trump’s political debut, after all, came in response to a mugging. Following the infamous attack on a female jogger in Central Park, Trump purchased full pages in four New York newspapers demanding, “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!” All the hallmarks of his present crusade against “political correctness” were in evidence, such as the harkening to that bygone day when men were men, cops were cops, and punks were punks. He concluded: “I miss the feeling of security New York’s finest once gave the citizens of this City.” As I previously reported, these same police straight-jacketed by liberal timorousness had already coerced the rape suspects into confessions later proven to be false.</p><p>That’s N.Y.C.’s avenging-angel conservatism in a nutshell. And now that Trump is gliding toward an expected <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/ny/new_york_republican_presidential_primary-4222.html">landslide</a> in the New York primary on Tuesday, April 19, we must begin the work of excavating its history.</p><p>We might start with William F. Buckley—though other scholars can surely date it back further. The <em>National Review </em>editor’s quixotic campaign for New York mayor in 1965 is best remembered for a self-effacing quip. (“What will you do if you win?” he was asked. “Demand a recount.”) Buckley himself is now celebrated as the genteel warrior of the conservatism of a more civilized age: <em>The New York Times,</em> upon his death in 2008, averred of that 1965 race, “He injected a rare degree of lofty oratory into city politics.”</p><p>The stage was set, in 1966, for the next New York City law-and-order melodrama. Lindsay, now mayor, fulfilled a campaign pledge by establishing a Civilian Complaint Review Board to protect citizens from abusive cops, the better to restore trust in a police force whose utter rot was the subject that year of a bestselling book about a cop named Frank Serpico, whose reward for refusing to break the law was an attempt by fellow cops on his life.</p><p>What he also injected was an <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=jqGOCgAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PA221&amp;lpg=PA221&amp;dq=%22explore+the+feasibility+of+relocating+chronic+welfare+cases+outside+the+City+limits%22&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=UvVWkvxqOZ&amp;sig=rTYJXp0P2XLgThbaGACp-1mT7EY&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiD4fuUl4zMAhWos4MKHcmJCnkQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&amp;q=%22explore%20the%20feasibility%20of%20relocating%20chronic%20welfare%20cases%20outside%20the%20City%20limits%22&amp;f=false">unprecedented reactionary thuggishness</a>. Like his idea to “undertake to quarantine all addicts, even as smallpox carriers would be quarantined during a plague.” Or “relocating chronic welfare cases outside the city limits”—in what his critics described as concentration camps for the poor. The campaign might have begun as a lark. He received hardly more than 10 percent of the vote. But in a harbinger of things to come, he <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/02/magazine/the-buckley-effect.html">finished second in some Catholic neighborhoods in Queens</a>. Cops wore “Buckley For Mayor” buttons. When the election’s winner, the very liberal John Lindsay, campaigned in those same neighborhoods, young white men waved “Support your Local Police” placards in his face.</p><p>The president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association responded to Mayor Lindsay’s new board: “I am sick and tired of giving in to minority groups and their gripes and their shouting.” After a Brooklyn riot in which cops had been ordered not to use their nightsticks, the PBA got 96,888 signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot to dissolve the review board (they only needed 25,000). Their TV commercials brayed, Trump-like, Bronson-like, “The addict, the criminal, the hoodlum: only the policeman stands between you and him.” Buckley—who had <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=jqGOCgAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PA145&amp;dq=%22political+irons+as+civilian+review+boards%22&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiUmZDlnIzMAhWKuoMKHWawA74Q6AEIIDAA#v=onepage&amp;q=%22political%20irons%20as%20civilian%20review%20boards%22&amp;f=false">orated on the campaign trail</a>, “We need a much larger police force, enjoined to lust after the apprehension of criminals,” unencumbered by “any such political irons as civilian review boards”—might only have received 10 percent of the vote. But 12 months later, the anti-CCRB referendum won 63 percent of the popular vote. Even Jews, who were supposed to be liberal, opposed it 55 percent to 40 percent.</p><p>Two years later, George Wallace brought his independent presidential bid to Madison Square Garden. “We need some <em>meanness</em>,” Wallace brayed. And he got it: police had to <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/wallace/peopleevents/pande07.html">rescue black protesters</a> from a mob that surrounded them and chanted, “Kill ‘em!” <em>The New Republic </em>observed, “Never again will you read about Berlin in the ’30s without remembering this wild confrontation of two irrational forces.”</p><p>The confrontation is the key: one of the things that makes New York’s conservatism of avenging angels so feral is its proximity to <em>so many damned left-wingers. </em>Left-wingers like Mayor Lindsay—who only won reelection in 1969 because the white ethnic backlash vote was split between two candidates, one of whom, Mario Procaccino, helped popularize the phrase “limousine liberal” in describing Lindsay.</p><p>In 1971, Lindsay elected to build publicly subsidized housing in the Queens neighborhood of Forest Hills, partly upon the presumption that its largely Jewish population, only two and half decades on from the Holocaust, would be relatively free from racism of the Fred Trump sort. Apparently hizzoner wasn’t paying attention to the growing following behind Rabbi Meir Kahane, the domestic terrorist who was another of New York City’s <em>sui generis </em>contributions to the history of the American right.</p><p><em>Village Voice</em> columnist Jack Newfield reported from one of the mayor’s damage-control sessions at the Forest Hills Jewish Community Center, where Jews called “Lindsay redneck names under the shadow of the Torah.” <em>The Voice’</em>s Paul Cowan heard a picketer boast, “If Lindsay ever gets to be president, I’ll kill him. I’ll do just what Oswald did to John Kennedy.” His companion replied, “You won’t get the chance. Lindsay is going to get shot right here in New York.”</p><p>Donald Trump, 25 years old, was just then beginning his apprenticeship in his father’s real estate organization.</p><p>He made the acquaintance of Roy Cohn, who represented the family against the federal racial bias lawsuit, devising the defense that Fred Trump had no intention of excluding black tenants, just welfare recipients. Trump became a student of the legendarily reptilian thug who came to prominence as Joseph McCarthy’s lawyer. Long-time Trump-watcher Michael D’Antonio <a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/09/26/mentored_in_the_art_of_manipulation_donald_trump_learned_from_the_master_roy_cohn/">has explained</a>: “Both were members of Le Club, a private hot spot where the rich and famous and social climbers could meet without suffering the presence of ordinary people.” Writes D’Antonio, “Cohn modeled a style for Trump that was one part friendly gossip and one part menace. ... Trump kept a photo of the glowering Cohn so he could show it to those who might be chilled by the idea that this man was his lawyer.”</p><p>It was Cohn, indeed, who introduced Trump to the nearly-as-reptilian Roger Stone, the professional dirty trickster and sexual adventurer with the <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/06/02/the-dirty-trickster">giant tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back</a>—and who, even though Trump has called him a “stone-cold loser,” has managed to hang on to a position of influence in the Trump presidential campaign. He certainly maintains an influence on Donald Trump’s view of the world. “When somebody screws you,” Stone told a reporter, “Screw ’em back—but a lot harder.” Figures like Cohn and Stone represent another branch in the New York conservative tradition: flashy, hedonistic right-wing operatives who gargle with razor blades and wear their shiny silver three-piece suits like armor.</p><p>Next comes an avenging angel named Ed Koch.</p><p>A former liberal, Koch won his underdog mayoral victory in 1977 in a madcap electoral free-for-all whose tenor was set on the night of July 13, when a series of lightning strikes shut down transmissions lines, the city shuddered to black, and so much crime ensued that buses filled with men in chains shuttled from jailhouse to jailhouse in search of available cells.</p><p>Neoconservative Midge Decter wrote in <em>Commentary </em>that it was like “having been given a sudden glimpse into the foundations of one’s house and seen, with horror, that it was utterly infested and rotting away.” The supposedly liberal readership of <em>The New York Times </em>wrote letters to the editor like this one: “The Puerto Ricans can go back to Puerto Rico. They belong there anyway, and if the blacks do not shape up they can go to the South.”</p><p>Ed Koch was virtually unknown outside his Greenwich Village neighborhood, but with a pledge to restore the death penalty, his campaign took off like a rocket. Never mind that the New York mayor had no power over capital punishment. The people had spoken: a mere 25 percent opposed bringing back what <em>New York Daily News </em>called “little hot squat.”</p><p>Meanwhile Koch berated the “poverty pimps” and “povertitians” holding a broke city hostage, demanded the abolition of the Board of Education (a “lard barrel of waste”), denounced alleged welfare fraud, decried “the nuts on the left who dump on middle class values.” He promised, too, to unwind New York’s experiments with free college, generous welfare, and subsidized housing, which its cheerleaders on the left called “socialism in one city.”</p><p>One of those cheerleaders was the one-time front-runner in the race, the very liberal Congresswoman Bella Abzug. After the blackout riots, her campaign went into a tailspin; she didn’t even make it into the runoff.</p><p>An underdog did instead: the young Mario Cuomo. He said, “the death penalty cannot provide jobs for the poor. The electric chair cannot balance the budget. The electric chair cannot educate our children. The electric chair cannot give us a sound economy or save us from bankruptcy or even save my seventy-seven-year-old mother.” And besides, he would add, America was better than that. Or was it?  One time when he tried to make that same point, an old lady in Brooklyn spat in his face. Another time, someone stood up and cried, “Kill them!”</p><p>Koch won, of course, and then served as New York’s mayor for the next dozen years. Although to outer-borough reactionaries like state Senator Chris Mega of Brooklyn, he was just another liberal sellout on gun control. At a December 1984 press conference, Mega demanded to know: “When will Mayor Koch provide the same level of protection to the citizens who ride the subways and pay their taxes that he enjoys surrounded by a phalanx of New York’s finest, guns at the ready?”</p><p>That particular press conference was called by the National Rifle Association in support of Bernhard Goetz, an electronics salesman from Kew Gardens, Queens, who shot five young men on a graffiti-encrusted subway car who, depending on whom you believed, were either preparing to mug him or aggressively panhandling for $5. Like the character played by Charles Bronson, Goetz made the cover of <em>Time</em> magazine. Celebratory bumper stickers bloomed: “Ride With Bernie—He Goetz Them.” <a href="https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&amp;dat=19951231&amp;id=ykVWAAAAIBAJ&amp;sjid=c-sDAAAAIBAJ&amp;pg=6572,7943050&amp;hl=en">In a later interview</a> he reflected, Travis Bickle-like, “The guys I shot represented the failure of society. ... Forget about their ever making a positive contribution to society. It’s only a question of how much a price they’re going to cost. The solution is their mothers should have had an abortion.”</p><p>One of Goetz’s biggest backers was Bob Grant, who beginning on WMCA in 1970, and then on WOR (until he was fired in 1979 for saying the only reason a black woman got her job was that “she passed the gynecological and pigmentation test”), virtually invented right-wing talk radio—and when you think about it, it hardly could have been invented anywhere else but New York. Grant won the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/03/nyregion/bob-grant-a-pioneer-of-right-wing-talk-radio-dies-at-84.html?_r=0">first live radio interview with Goetz, in 1986</a>, lamenting that he had not “finished the job by killing them all.”</p><p>Three years later, after the assault in Central Park, Donald Trump offered his memorable argument to bring back little hot squat. “What has happened is the complete breakdown of life as we know it. ... How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS.”</p><p>In 2011, Bob Grant, impressed with Donald Trump’s campaign to force President Obama to produce his birth certificate, <a href="http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/2701982/posts">announced he had found his presidential candidate for 2012</a>. Grant died in 2014, but two years later, his brand of vigilante conservatism has gone fully national. The wall Fred Trump sought to build in Queens in the early 1970s has been relocated 2,000 miles south. On Tuesday, Donald Trump won a landslide in his home state. And somewhere, Bob Grant smiled.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1054869'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1054869" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 09:32:00 -0700 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1054869 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 The Right Wing donald trump new york politics new york primary election 2016 Republican primary Why Not Kasich! Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and My Week on the Trail with the GOP http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/why-not-kasich-ted-cruz-marco-rubio-and-my-week-trail-gop <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1052004'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1052004" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There&#039;s something in the air in New Hampshire. It just ain’t civility, competence and experience.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/kasich.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>They’re assholes, really, New Hampshire primary voters. At Gilchrist Metal Fabricating’s grimy factory in Hudson the day before the primary, during what the Granite State for some reason calls a “town hall meeting,” Chris Christie tells an illustrative story. One of these indigenous Granite State prima donnas buttonholed him, he says, to answer questions on his position on every issue from A to Z. After something like a half hour, convinced he’s found a satisfied customer, Christie finally moved in to close the sale:</p><p>“So are you going to vote for me?”</p><p>“No.”</p><p>“No? Why not?”</p><p>“Because you didn’t ask for my vote.”</p><p>“But I’m asking for your vote now!”</p><p>“Too late.”</p><p>The tale may well be apocryphal, I reflect. And then another, even better one unfolds right before my eyes. New Jersey’s Jabba-the-Hutt-sized governor sinks down to one knee on the factory’s oil-stained floor. “I hope I got your vote! I got my pants all dirty and everything!” The woman before whom he kneels assures him that he has.</p><p>In response to similar one-on-one supplications that same morning from the overstuffed executive from Jersey, so do several others. Each time, the former undecided voter earns an appreciative ovation from the many Christie fans in the crowd. Milks an ovation from the crowd, I’d say. A New Hampshire voter will do just about anything for attention. Even lie—which I’m pretty well convinced most of these newly minted Christie supporters must have been doing. For Christie has repeated this ritual over a hundred times already, at town hall after town hall, on each of his over 70 days in New Hampshire, sometimes several times a day, sometimes lasting as long as two hours. He claims his wife has spent more days here than any of the other candidates themselves. And, if what I saw at Gilchrist Metals is any indication, he lassoed scads of self-proclaimed Christie converts at each event.</p><p>Most of whom must have voted for someone else, considering that Christie got only 7.4 percent of the vote, and promptly dropped out. In the last poll before election day, 20 percent of the New Hampshire voters were not just undecided on a candidate—they hadn’t picked which party’s primary they intended to vote in. These were the people to whom we were supposed to be devoting our reverent attention in the first week of February 2016.</p><p>The first New Hampshire presidential primary was in 1916. It was supposed to be in May. Then, officials decided to schedule it in March to coincide with the annual late winter town meetings. This year the unhappy accident celebrates its 100th anniversary. It’s become a spectacle—an invading army of journalists, elbowing past an invading army of campaigns, all for access to an electorate elbowing their way into the invaders’ angle of vision in order to deliver a fetishized show of the very sort of authenticity their collective presence renders obviously impossible.</p><p>At a John Kasich vote-returns watch party I attended, triple-tiered rostrums covered a quarter of the floor space and groaned under the weight of 31 news camera tripods—one for every four or five Kasich supporters in the room. New Hampshire, how do the media and political establishment love thee? Let us count the ways. From December to the primary the Republican electorate in this state of 1.3 million people was polled 39 separate times. The site of the subsequent primary, South Carolina, population 4.8 million, had been polled only four times, though that state is a much sturdier indicator of the direction of the GOP by any conceivable measure. The bias is structural: the GOP gives New Hampshire 23 delegates. South Carolina, with almost four times the population, gets 50.</p>Hamish, New Hampshire <p>My first stop from the airport on Saturday evening is the campaign headquarters of Ohio Governor John Kasich. It turns out to be an unprepossessing white clapboard house on a frontage road off the freeway: authenticity! A billboard towers above it, quoting Jeb Bush: “Donald Trump is unhinged.” It’s paid for by Bush’s hyper-capitalized Right to Rise super PAC, but its presence is fortuitous because that is Kasich’s message, too, though he would never put anything so rudely. Kasich is the Republican field’s 1950s sitcom dad, confident, competent, and above all, polite. In November, his campaign put up a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCQhBYEMRQI&amp;feature=youtu.be">web ad</a> paraphrasing Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous warning about Hitler: “First they came for the socialists, and I said nothing, because I am not socialist…” Although, naturally, Kasich was too polite to say it himself: the message, which was aimed at Donald Trump, was voiced by Vietnam War POW Colonel Tom Moe.</p><p>Of Trump’s signature campaign pledge that he will summarily kick all undocumented immigrants out of the country, Kasich responded, “It is completely ridiculous to think we are going to go into neighborhoods, grab people out of their homes, and ship people back to Mexico. That’s not where the party is. The party is not for deportment of 11.5 million people.”</p><p>But, of course, this is exactly where the Republican Party is, and Trump’s call was immediately echoed by almost all the other candidates. I’m fascinated by the question of how you run for president as the candidate of bipartisan civility, experience, and competence in the Republican Party of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. This is why I came to Kasich’s house first.</p><p>The parking lot is full, spilling out to the gas station next door where reposes a classic silver Airstream trailer with a big Kasich placard on the side; the pickup truck pulling it sports a gay-rights bumper sticker and Illinois license plates. On the front porch, bundled campaign volunteers are spilling in and out, bearing clipboards and yard signs. I make my way inside, and am made to feel utterly welcome. The best word I can think of to describe the feeling is Yiddish: hamish, which means, basically, homey and familiar. I make the acquaintance of Keith, an excitable recently retired air traffic controller in a too-thin leather jacket who drove all the way from Newt Gingrich’s former congressional district in Georgia.</p><p>“Kasich territory!” I volunteer. “Yeah. Oh, yeah. Big time,” he laughs in return.</p><p>Why would this man drive 18 hours, following the worst New England snowstorm in years all the way up the Eastern Seaboard, to devote the first weeks of his golden years to Plain Jane candidate John Kasich?</p><p>Because, he says earnestly, “back in the nineties, the last time the budget was balanced, Governor Kasich was the Budget Committee chairman. I remember him being onstage, talking about the balanced budget”—and willingly sharing the credit with President Clinton. “Back home, I have relatives who live in South Carolina. They think these problems can’t be fixed. But he’s a math guy. He knows these budgets. He did it in Ohio, too.”</p><p>I ask how things are going out there at the front doors. “Got a lot of good vibes today,” he insists. “They really like him. And those who are indecisive are really thinking about him hard. When all is said and done, the late deciders are going to break for Kasich.”</p><p>And not just in flinty New England, he insists. “My friends, my relatives in South Carolina, I tell them, ‘I’m driving up to New Hampshire to help Governor Kasich,’ and they say, ‘He’s the guy down on the end!’” The end of the debate stage, that is, the guy the moderators never call on because he doesn’t start the cat fights that boost ratings. “But you know what? He’s the only one that sounds like an adult.” I meet the young New Hampshire campaign director, who reminds me that “Kasich” rhymes with “Basic.”</p><p>Is Basic Kasich the Republican sleeper? Are Kasich’s Kindly Krusaders the Republican Deaniacs of 2016? Is this the big story everyone else is missing? Well, consider this. Later, back home in Chicago, I track down the phone number for Tom Volini, the owner of the Airstream. I reach him as he traverses some highway or byway in South Carolina, where he answers my question—why Kasich?—with about as un-right-wing an answer as you can imagine: “Well, it’s still an inquiry for me. You don’t learn things instantly.”</p><p>Yet he loves John Kasich enough that—for only the second time in his life—he’s working on a national campaign. He supported John F. Kennedy in 1960 (and his sister-in-law for alderman in Chicago in 1979 as a crusader against the Daley machine). Volini is retired from an accomplished career as CEO of several large industrial concerns. He started voting for Republicans after the soaring interest rates of the Carter years killed his real estate development business. Then he was impressed with how well Ronald Reagan worked with Tip O’Neill. “And they didn’t agree about anything except bourbon,” he said. “But they worked, as they should have worked, for the American cause. And I think that’s an appropriate analogy for what is possible, and what is necessary here.”</p><p>That’s what he saw in John Kasich when he met him last fall at Chicago’s legendary Billy Goat Tavern; he was impressed by “the simple, common humanity of the man,” and by his plans for his presidential campaign. “It’s face to face. It’s not grabbing headlines. It’s not display. It’s not energized by someone for whom politics is show business.”</p><p>Having by now done his homework, he recites a Kasich liturgy. How, following his heroism balancing the federal budget alongside Bill Clinton, he left Congress and had settled into a perfectly satisfying career in investment banking, traveling the country helping businesses grow, until duty called. Then, like the Roman warrior Cincinnatus, “who because of his experience, and because of his humanity, was called to Rome, to leave his farm—O.K.?—which he was given as compensation for his military service, and lead his country. And I think that is the situation here. He wasn’t looking for a job! He wasn’t looking for a career! He was not looking for the cameras!” He just came to the Statehouse in Columbus and “inherited an $8 billion—with a B—deficit. There is now a $2 billion with a B surplus!”</p><p>Volini agreed to become a Kasich delegate to the Illinois Republican convention. “And when I saw his message wasn’t getting the kind of recognition I thought it deserved, I decided to hitch up my vintage Airstream and drive up to New Hampshire and freeze my ass!”</p><p>Why the Airstream?</p><p>“One, it’s a free-rolling billboard,” just the thing his new friend requires, because “he’s reasonably—no, not reasonably,terribly—modest. Second, what does the Airstream represent?” American ingenuity, American quality, American jobs: “Airstreams have been built in Ohio since the 1930s.”</p><p>A dreamy sort of ex-CEO, Tom Volini then tells me this:</p><p>“The third theme it represents is that the Airstream is an American icon in another sense: it is a sense that we’re all searching for our souls. And we used to search for them on the highway. Now I guess we search for them on television and the Internet. But it represents a journey. And John is on a journey. And it’s a journey in which there is a great divide in the direction it could go.”</p><p>I’m reflecting on how his emotional intensity is a strange fit for the bland object of its attentions, and wondering if the man to whom I’m speaking isn’t just a little bit off. Until he unfurls a story of what this adventure has become. A story so astonishing that by the time he is finished, I tell him that if John Kasich manages to become president, I want the rights to the screenplay.</p><p>Volini met a homeless Air Force veteran named John, who made his way to New Hampshire from Minneapolis, where he had learned about the Kasich campaign from the discarded newspapers he read at a Starbucks. One of the smartest people Volini has ever met, John first became attracted to Kasich some years ago “because he opposed the B-1 bomber project in spite of the influence of the defense contractors, in order to have that money for benefits for veterans and men and women in the service. He didn’t want to take that money away. He didn’t want to waste it.”</p><p>Volini also met a former FBI agent who worked on the 9/11 investigation.</p><p>They joined forces, ribboning the state in the Airstream, blaring John Philip Sousa marches on their approach to every town “at a volume which would probably make people deaf.”</p><p>“It was so cool! “Volini said. “Because the veteran could talk to the veteran groups, go into the VFW halls, talking to the people at the bars, to the people smoking their way into the grave.”</p><p>“And then Bob”—that’s the name of the ex-FBI agent—“was so wonderful with the ethnic groups and the senior citizen groups.”</p><p>“And then we would pick up the thing and go to the next groups! We traveled thousands of miles.”</p><p>The story, Volini insists, is the purest possible expression of the essence of John Kasich’s universe. The homeless vet “was a man in the shadows! And he was brought out of the shadows by this guy we’re talking about with his talent to draw upon the talents of people in the shadows.”</p><p>Maybe these devoted supporters are the secret weapon. Back in the clapboard house, when I mention I’ve heard Kasich has pulled even with Cruz at third place in the polls, Keith claims the campaign’s internal polls have him comfortably alone at second. That part of the conversation is notable, in that such lowly volunteers would ordinarily not have access to such privileged information; and in a more tightly wound presidential campaign, the volunteers would not be blurting it out to reporters within minutes of meeting them.</p><p>Buttoned down and hyper-spun</p><p>My next stop reveals just such a tightly wound campaign. In a forbidding gray office tower in Manchester, I pass a threshold marked by a “New Hampshire Is Marco Rubio Country” sign—right beneath the sign marking the state headquarters for the Ricoh office supply corporation. I make my way past the leaning tower of pizza (for hungry volunteers), past room after room after room, each with a sign on the door indicating its dedicated function, and past two intricate, expertly designed charts printed in the campaign’s colors and explaining the divisions of the New Hampshire Republican electorate. I walk past walls bedecked with “marcorubio A NEW AMERICAN CENTURY” placards. Finally, I arrive at the office of the campaign’s fashionably bearded young press secretary—who, after introductions, promptly leads me back exactly the way I came to sign me in at the front desk and roundly chew out the poor sap who’d temporarily abandoned his post at the moment I’d arrived and neglected to do so himself. Not Hamish; not at all.</p><p>Hyper-branded, hyper-spun. That’s Rubioland. I meet my first volunteer, from Massachusetts, and ask what brought him over the border to support Marco Rubio. What he hears in the question is a cue to wax strategic about delegate blocs. “This is a very important state . . . he’s doing very well in the polls, especially after Iowa . . . much better than we thought.” I interject, No, what is it you like about Rubio? But it’s as if I toggled a separate switch in the computer code. “He wants to rebuild our military . . . we have to work with our allies . . . he wants to cut taxes and invest in the economy . . . he also has good values as a conservative . . . he’s electable against Hillary Clinton. . . .”</p><p>He’s only 16 years old.</p><p>The next fellow I speak to is supremely thoughtful, and not robotic at all. He’s a courtly University of Chicago–trained adjunct law and political philosophy professor specializing in the thought of Plato and Aristotle. Why is he volunteering for Rubio? Because, he explains, “I think it’s very important that the voice of reasonable, civil people be heard. I would like to be considered one of those people, and I believe that Marco Rubio is one of the candidates in this election who represents, shall we say, the better side of America.”</p><p>And who might those candidates be who do not represent the better side of America?</p><p>“I think from my comments you could tell very clearly.”</p><p>The guy with the orange hair?</p><p>“Well, not just the man you mention.” But also “the other leading candidate, with natural-colored hair, [with] his personal behavior toward the other leaders of America, and the members of the Senate.”</p><p>This brings me to what has become my central question here in New Hampshire: Why not Kasich?</p><p>“I think that in terms of his policy, I’m largely with him. I’m very impressed with his service both in Congress and as a governor,” the professor responds. Then he turns to what many conservatives consider the deal breaker. Governor Kasich accepted free federal money provided through the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid coverage in Ohio: “Obamacare is one of the disasters of his presidency. And I think that Kasich’s full-armed embrace of it was not wise.”</p><p>I ask why it should be a problem that Kasich was able to cover hundreds of thousands of people who were too poor for insurance, too rich for Medicaid, too young for Medicare, and would have otherwise had to receive their medical care via the emergency room—as in Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott created a $5 billion deficit in the hospital system providing medical care for the same class of people, but through emergency units.</p><p>The law professor’s not buying it. “This is an unwarranted and perhaps unconstitutional expansion of the federal power,” he says. “I refuse to be complicit in this.”</p><p>Complicit. Like it is Vichy France or something.</p><p>I haven’t mentioned that the professor is accompanied by his profoundly disabled adult son, in a wheelchair. Cerebral palsy, I would guess. And that his adjunct teaching position is ending soon and he doesn’t know what his next job will be. Conservatives call this “principle.” Kasich, by their lights, has not nearly enough.</p><p>I moved on to a debate-watching party organized by the Kasich campaign and met some folks I’d read about in history books: solid, civic-minded, Main Street moderate Republicans. There at my table, in the flesh, munching Swedish meatballs and crudités. I hear a middle-aged man describing the food incubator he’d helped open in his Ohio town where people learn how to package and market their pasta sauce or pickle line, for which they’ve received $4 million in state funding. Turns out he’s the mayor of the town: Somerset, population 1,481. Next to him is a shopping mall developer who tells me he spends 75 percent of his time on local philanthropy. He’s talking about the grant-making process for the local museum where he serves on the board, and the problem of making such cultural funding equitable in the Appalachian regions of the state.</p><p>The two fiftysomethings chat amiably with J.B., a 19-year-old student at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. A 24-year-old Ohio state representative sits down and introduces himself—Niraj Antani, and no one blinks at the “strange” name. The bills he’s filed include one to create a system to notify private database companies that they are to remove court records when they are sealed or expunged, another to help train auto technicians, and a third to abolish the death penalty. He complains that Ohio community colleges receive 22 percent of the state’s higher education funding but educate 41 percent of the students.</p><p>Niraj waves over a young friend, Sara Jantau, who works in the state department of education on a pilot program for “competency-based education,” for working adults, where progress is measured in specific skills learned, not time in the classroom. This parallels a 2013 initiative from President Obama’s Department of Education. I ask her if there is room in the Republican Party for idealistic young people dedicated to innovative public policy. “I’d like to think so,” she says wistfully. I ask J.B. how a candidate running on competency, compassion, and experience makes it in today’s Republican Party.</p><p>“That’s the right question,” he says. He has no answers.</p><p>I’m definitely beginning to sympathize with Kasich and his competent, kind supporters. Could I live with this guy aspresident? Best to conduct some due diligence. I contact a no-nonsense Democratic political consultant from Cincinnati, Cliff Schecter of Majority Ohio. “John Kasich is as right wing as any other of the major contenders for the GOP nomination, no matter how many times he smiles and offers New-Agey platitudes,” he tells me.</p><p>Schecter points to Kasich’s laws that allow guns in bars and that legalize silencers; the $57 million he threw into a no-accountability charter school system; and his replacement of the state’s development department with an “independent non-profit corporation”—an opaque slush fund so stuffed with donors and cronies that even an appalled Republican state auditor ordered an investigation. Then there is abortion. Kasich has signed 17 restrictions, leaving nine clinics standing in a state of 11.5 million. Then, on Feb. 21, the celebrated crusader for equal access to healthcare signed a bill axing $1.3 million in grants to Planned Parenthood that funded programs addressing HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and infant mortality.</p> <p>“In light of his record in this state, if he is able to convince liberals, moderates, and even mainstream conservatives that he is a reasonable guy,” Schecter said, “then he is the ventriloquist and we are all the dummies.”</p><p>Back in New Hampshire, the debate is interrupted by a commercial. “John Kasich. Not even a moderate. An Obama Republican.” Kasich’s face morphs into Obama’s. It’s paid for by the American Future Fund, a dark-money PAC that does not disclose its donors.</p><p><strong>Dead Man Walking</strong></p><p>It’s always useful to be reminded that there are no moderates in the Republican Party, even if, as with parched sojourners in the deserts, it’s tempting to believe in mirages. The morning after the debate, I attend a rally. Waiting for it to begin, I overhear one angry old white man tell another, “We’re gonna take people from Syria and give them a home, ajob? Take care of our own first!” He splutters: “It drives me nuts.” The other, shaking his head: “I don’t agree with anything Obama says. That’s why I’m here.”</p><p>But this is not a Donald Trump rally. It’s an event organized for the consensus moderate in the race: doomed candidate Jeb Bush. With whom both of these men, dressed like CPAs on casual Friday, are smitten. “He left Florida with a 70 percent approval rating,” one says. “That’s a Democratic state. He won over Democrats and Independents.” The other complains how in these primaries the candidates “have to go so far right to win.” This is what passes for moderate Republicanism in 2016.</p><p>The loudspeakers blare the country band Alabama: “Worked hard all week, got a little jingle on a Tennessee Saturday night / Couldn’t feel better, I’m together with my Dixieland delight.” And “Hard Workin’ Man” by Brooks and Dunn. (Not to be confused with Dun and Bradstreet.) One’s thoughts turn to little brother W’s first, failed, West Texas Congressional race in 1978, when, after which getting hammered for his tenures at Andover, Harvard, and Yale, he vowed he would never get out-yokeled again. And their father’s decision while running for president in 1988 to name pork rinds with Tabasco sauce as his favorite food.</p><p>Medal of Honor winner and Vietnam POW Leo Thorsness takes the stage, about as uninspiring as a Medal of Honor winner could conceivably be, expressing gratitude that such a “neat family” came to his aid in his (losing) Senate race against George McGovern in 1974. Then Lindsey Graham, another loser, botches several jokes and says Jeb’s qualification for the White House is his “front row seat to history.” Pointing at Thorsness, Graham insults John McCain worse than Donald Trump had: “He was in prison for six years! You’re not a loser, Leo. The biggest torture Leo had out there was that he was in the same cell as John McCain for three years!”</p><p>Then Jeb. I’ve never seen a dead man walking before, and naturally it presents a certain fascination. He praises Graham for his killer comedy set: “I don’t know where he gets his material, but you’ve got a career after politics, that’s for sure!”</p><p>He acknowledges his family, and can’t even get his own son George P. to stand up without wheedling.</p><p>He starts in, “Here’s an interesting story.” (It isn’t.)</p><p>I think of my bigfoot friends in the political press, and their sad-sack arrogant incompetence. David Frum in the Atlantic,February 4, 2015: <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/02/is-jeb-bush-a-republican-obama/385168/">“Is Jeb Bush a Republican Obama?”</a> Then <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/02/jeb_bush_may_actually_have_a_shot_at_the_republican_nomination.html">this</a> on February 7, 2016, by Franklin Foer in Slate: “The Return of Jeb Bush: Why the goofy, patrician candidate is finally hitting his stride.” How could anyone who has ever spent time in a room with this man—whose every utterance sounds like an apology—anoint him for anything higher than dog catcher?</p><p>Jeb launches into a tale about a man who complained to the Department of Veterans Affairs about some bureaucratic snafu and ended up receiving his own death certificate in the mail. Good material, actually; the kind of story Reagan would hit out of the park. In Jeb’s telling, though, he almost has to implore: “please laugh.” I head for the door. The Donald beckons.</p><p>Helping make America great again</p><p>The scene at Plymouth State College is from a different planet. Cops directing traffic. Hustlers hawking souvenirs. (“Go ahead, make my day! Trump 2016” T-shirts—with the candidate of torture and summary execution holding a 44 Magnum, Dirty Harry–style.) Instead of Casual Friday CPAs driving Audis, there are pickup trucks bearing women in bedazzled sweatshirts and men in plaid flannel and American-flag baseball caps. A band of journalists with foreign accents sticking microphones in people’s faces. An elderly representative of Numbers USA, a group dedicated to reducing immigration to pre-1965 levels. “This is the best organizing opportunity we’ll ever have,” says the Numbers USA advocate. A brave gentleman displays a set of historic maps of Israel intended to illustrate the meaning of the word “Nakba,” or “catastrophe” in Arabic, referring to the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland in 1948. “Nakba? I’ll nakba you on your ass,” an unfriendly passerby warns.</p><p>It is a scene charged with frenetic energy, and I haven’t even endured the full-on Secret Service metal-detector treatment in order to enter the hall.</p><p>When I do, a half hour before the scheduled start time, the pre-rally has already begun. The speaker—in plaid flannel—is New Hampshire State Representative Al Baldasaro. He’s best remembered, if at all, for his 15 minutes of fame in 2011 when he said it was “great” that the audience booed a gay Marine who asked a question at a Republican debate in New Hampshire. “When the shit hits the fan,” he said, “you want your brother covering your back, not looking at your back.”</p><p>He asks how many veterans are in the audience and gets the expected cheers. He then asks, “How many wives?” And I have to say, personally, as a historian whose secret wish has always been to sit at the controls of a real-life time machine, his shoutout to the little ladies was like a dream come true: “You are the people who supported us when we were overseas.”</p><p>A stentorian, vaguely New-Jersey-thuggish voice booms over the loudspeakers.</p><p>We all know that as president of the United States, Mr. Trump will continue his lifelong defense of the right to free speech in America. As a matter of fact, he supports the First Amendment as much as the Second Amendment. However, some people have taken advantage of Mr. Trump’s hospitality by seeking to disrupt his rallies by using them as an opportunity to promote their own political messages. While they certainly have the right to free speech, this is a private event paid for by Mr. Trump. We have provided a safe protest area outside the venue for all protesters.”</p><p>(It’s true. I saw it. Six college women and their minister, with a sign that reads: “PLYMOUTH STATE DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE.”)</p><p>“If someone starts demonstrating in the area around you, please do not touch or harm the protester.”</p><p>(This draws appreciative laughter.)</p><p>“This is a peaceful rally. In order to notify the law enforcement officers to the location of the protesters, please hold a rally sign over your head and starting chanting ‘Trump! Trump! Trump!’ Ask the people around you to do likewise until the officer removes the protester. Thank you for helping make America great again.”</p><p>Then, in an irony frequently noted, comes what apparently is Trump’s favorite song, Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Then, yes, the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.”</p><p>A woman with her two young sons takes a place near me in the bleachers. She wears yoga pants, a stylish casual top, and diamond earrings. She carries a bag from Lululemon, the high-end yoga accoutrements store. One of her sons wears an Abercrombie &amp; Fitch sweatshirt. I  ask if she’s here to educate her sons and expose them to the democratic process. She replies, as if I am some extraordinary clairvoyant, “How did you know?”</p><p>She sticks out like a sore thumb, and she doesn’t even know it. We’re so good in America at pretending we do not have social classes.</p><p>I look over the shoulder of a man in plaid flannel reading the local newspaper from Winnisquam, New Hampshire. Winnisquam is an unincorporated town surrounded by Belmont, which has a per capita income of $19,986; Sanbornton, $22,879; and Tilton, $19,587. The paper is open to the obituary page. One of the deceased is 28, another is 30, and the third is a ripe old 67. I immediately think: heroin.</p><p>Rural New Hampshire is suffering an opioid epidemic. Every candidate mentions it, just like they all mention the Zika virus, and the satellite launch in North Korea. In right-wing politics, fears are fungible, and the more there are the better it is for business. Trump takes the stage, and begins with one of his favorite shticks, exploiting working-class fears of our neighbor to the south: “We send them jobs, they send us drugs and crimes.” He talks about the plant Ford plans to build in Mexico and someone shouts, “We need jobs!”</p><p>His answer to drugs, crime, and lost jobs, of course, is the same: his wall. Maybe, he jokes, he’ll call it the “Trump Wall.”</p><p>He reiterates his promise to dream up tortures “much worse than waterboarding.” Near me, a middle-aged blond woman, with glittering glasses and a small child in tow, beams.</p><p>He rants about how he was booed at the last debate and says it was no surprise, because all the tickets went to his rivals, who gave them away to their fat-cat donors, who hate him because, for instance, he wants to take away their windfall profits by negotiating better deals for pharmaceuticals. He claims his campaign got only 20 tickets. “Twenty tickets, and I brought all the action?”</p><p>His trade negotiators are going to be “vicious, violent people,” not the “nice ones we have now.”</p><p>A protester is ejected. News reports say he yelled out, “Racist!” but I could have sworn he cried, “Boring!” For by now Trump is in full stream-of-consciousness mode:</p><p>We’re going to rebuild the military, we’re going to build it up, we’re going to negotiate prices, we’re going to use the right companies, and we’re going to get the right stuff, we’re going to have the greatest stuff ever created, it’s not going to be political, the money that they’re spending on things they don’t even want, you know, they’re sending it over to allies that don’t wanna fight . . . I always talk about 2,300 Humvees, armor-plated, the best in the world, you know, I love the wounded warriors, if they had these, they wouldn’t be walking around, or not walking around, they wouldn’t be in the condition they’re in, they’re the most amazing people of all, wouldn’t you say, Al?</p><p>I mean, I see these people, and their legs are gone, or their arms are gone, or worse, and they have a better attitude than we have, they’re unbelievable people, but we send over 2,300, the best armor-plated Humvees in the world, and we give them to our allies, our friends, we don’t even know who our allies are . . . So we give them Humvees, shots are fired in the air, they run out of the Humvees, they’re gone, and the enemy takes over 2,300 Humvees. What the hell are we doing? Okay? What the hell are we doing?</p><p>So, if you remember, I said, I was the first person to say, take the oil, for four years I’ve been saying, take the oil. They’re not taking it though! They’re bombing it, but they’re bombing it extremely gently. Because they’re afraid that it’s going to cause an environmental hazard in the air, can you believe this, no, can you believe it? Do you think General George Patton ever said, ‘We can’t bomb the oil because it may have an impact on the carbon footprint?’ You think General Patton—he would have slapped the hell out of that environmental—you know, that environmentalist would have walked up to him, you know, ‘General, you cannot bomb, because residue will go into the atmosphere, and it will effect the carbon footprint.’</p><p>You know what George Patton would have done? He would have slapped the hell out of that guy.</p><p>(He mimes the slap.)</p><p>That would have been the end of that environmentalist.</p><p>Laughter all around, and then our hero turns serious: “You know, I’ve received so many environmental awards? You know, I’m not going to knock it, we need clean air, we need clean water, beautiful, beautiful clean water, we need clean air—”</p><p>He then starts—Jesus, you know the rest, why bother? I leave, because I have had enough, and I know that you have, too. Besides I heard Ted Cruz was speaking at a Mexican restaurant. The thought of Ted Cruz speaking to Mexicans is more enticement than I could resist.</p><p>God’s candidate, avec enchiladas</p><p>I arrive at the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keene,_New_Hampshire#Demographics">small city of Keene</a>: 95.3 percent white, 0.6 African America, 0.2 Native America, 2.0 percent Asian, 0.004 Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 0.5 percent some other race, 1.4 percent from two or more race, and 1.6 percent Hispanic or Latino. I find a restaurant that resembles an outpost of the old mall chain <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chi-Chi%27s">Chi Chi’s</a>.</p><p>So no Mexicans. Ted Cruz is up front, telling an arctic-pale crowd what is so worrying about the North Korean satellite situation. “We talked about this last night in the debate. You put a satellite up into orbit. And its orbit takes it, in time, into the high orbit above the United States. In the satellite you have a nuclear device. If you detonate a nuclear device in the atmosphere, it sets off what is called an EMP—an electromagnetic pulse. In the right location, that could take down the electrical grid of the entire Eastern United States. All light and power gone, up and down the East Coast. That means food, water, transportation, communication, all of that. That result, which could kill millions or even tens of millions, is our most significant threat, and it takes one nuclear weapon in the atmosphere to do that.”</p><p> </p><p>Hmm. Our “most significant threat.” In fact the electromagnetic pulse theory of nuclear apocalypse is <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/15/no-you-dont-really-need-to-worry-about-an-emp-attack/">about as respectable</a> among scientific experts as the idea that the Communists sought to sap our purity of essence by fluoridating municipal water supplies.</p><p>It happens that on the way to Keene I had tuned the car radio to an AM talk-radio station, where I heard a strident voice warning that Marco Rubio doesn’t believe in the Fourth Amendment and Trump doesn’t believe in the First. It’s Glenn Beck, who is supporting Ted Cruz and would later be his master of ceremonies in South Carolina. There, he would urge voters to “Fall to your knees and pray to God to reveal what the hour is. . . . This is your last call, America! Stand with the man I believe was raised for this hour, Ted Cruz!” Beck is describing the junior senator from Texas as either, depending on your exegetical bent, a sign of the Second Coming or the Second Coming himself.</p><p>Among the other Cruz stalwarts is evangelist <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/who-is-cruz-s-pal-mike-bickle">Mike Bickle</a>, “who says God sent Hitler to hunt Jews,” and “that a new era of concentration camps awaits Jews before they find Jesus.” And that Our Savior—maybe it’ll be Ted?—will “kill the head of the United Nations at some point in the near future.” Also <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/ted-cruz-announces-a-terrifying-new-supporter/">Troy Newman</a>, president of Operation Rescue, who favors “executing convicted murders, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge the bloodguilt from the land and people.” And <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/features/2016-01-20/what-kind-of-man-spends-millions-to-elect-ted-cruz-">Robert Mercer</a>, a reclusive hedge fund billionaire who has shoveled $11 million to a Cruz super PAC. Mercer has also donated considerable sums to the congressional race of a research chemist named Arthur Robinson, who, when he’s not on the campaign trail is out collecting thousands of vials of human urine: “the key to extending the human life span” and wresting control of medicine from what he calls the “medical-industrial complex.”</p><p>But have no fear. The “Republican establishment” promises to rescue us in the nick of time from the influence of fringe figures such as these. The day before the New Hampshire balloting, I take that establishment’s measure. This would be the final campaign event of Senator Rubio, at a gym at Nashua Community College, where I learn how Rubioland is even more hyper-branded and hyper-spun than I’d imagined. The attractive young women who choreograph the lines to get in with the care of a George Balanchine are wearing logoed “marcorubio” shirts and windbreakers. The press passes, composed with the care given to ad layouts in glossy magazines, read “media covering marco” in official campaign font and colors. Inside, the path Marco is to traverse to a small raised stage with a stool and a single bottle of water awaiting him is cordoned off with ropes and stanchions like the ones you see at an airport.</p><p>I station myself in the bleachers just behind the two rows reserved for Rubio’s top donors, officials, and associates, to observe our Republican establishment in action, a considerable portion of whom, but for their zip-up sweaters or fleece, bear a satire-worthy resemblance to Thurston Howell III of “Gilligan’s Island.”</p><p>Which is not to say Rubio doesn’t have any of the plain folk in his corner. I spy a fellow with a baseball hat, beard, and paunch, in a Ronald Reagan T-shirt depicting the 40th president extending his middle finger. “It means that’s just how he is,” he tells me. “He didn’t take any shit from people.”</p><p>Then, lest I get the wrong idea about Rubio and the grassroots, Governor George Pataki plops down in front of me and a line of supplicating Thurston Howells approach.</p><p>It’s 6:45, 15 minutes past the scheduled show time. A choreographer explains that Rubio is delayed, and will be further detained, upon his arrival, by a Fox News interview in the corner of the gym. We’re issued marching orders: “The senator will come in, we’ll clap, then we’ll watch him do his interview.” At 7:10, he’s still doing his interview. I decide I already have my story, and take my leave.</p><p>Just how few plain folks support Rubio is evident the next evening, when the New Hampshire returns come in. Rubio comes in fifth with 10.6 percent, behind Bush, with 11 percent. Trump, of course, demolished the field with over a third of the vote. The sleeper turns out to be sweet, sensible Kasich, who at 15.8 percent runs away with second place, just like my Atlanta friend Keith said he would.</p><p>Kasichmentum? It certainly feels that way at his returns-watching party. He calls out all the volunteers who’ve come here from hundreds of miles around: “This guy flew in from London, England! To do this! I tell you, there’s something going on that I’m not sure anyone understands. There’s something in the air in this campaign. We don’t see this as just another campaign. We see this as an opportunity for all of us—and I mean all of us—to be part of something that’s bigger than our own lives. To change America. To re-shine America. To restore the spirit of America. And to leave no one behind. Am I right?”</p><p>When he says, “When I’m president of the United States,” it doesn’t sound boastful. It’s tinged with wonder. And when he cries imploringly, “Maybe, just maybe, in a time when change is clearly in the air, maybe just maybe we are turning the page on a dark part of America politics,” a liberal almost wants to believe. “Because tonight, the light overcame the darkness!”</p><p>Not hardly. Eleven days later, in South Carolina, Kasich clustered with Bush and Ben Carson, around 7 percent, and the story was Rubio and Cruz’s epic battle for second place, which Marco pulled out by a whisper—behind Trump’s commanding 32.5 percent, which he drew following a closing pitch, later debunked, that General John J. Pershing, in 1911, put down a Muslim insurrection in the United States colony of the Philippines by mowing down the miscreants with bullets soaked in pigs’ blood. “And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem.” Then, it was on to Nevada, where Trump nearly got a majority of the votes. Once more, Rubio and Cruz just about tied, in the low-20s. Cruz pinned his hopes for a breakout with an appeal to Nevada’s far-right supporters of armed standoffs with the government over public lands, earning the endorsement of Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a supporter of the Bundy family.</p><p>Kasich didn’t campaign in Nevada. Neither did the wall-to-wall coverage from New Hampshire deliver much Kasichmentum there: he got 2,709 votes, 3.6 percent of the total. There’s something in the air—just like Governor Smiley Face said in oh-so-indicative New Hampshire. It just ain’t civility, competence, and experience.</p><p><a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/why-not-kasich/">This story first appeared in the Washington Spectator</a></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1052004'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1052004" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sun, 06 Mar 2016 09:39:00 -0800 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1052004 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 kasich gop rubio How Ronald Reagan's Gun Fantasies Have Become America's Nightmare http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/how-ronald-reagans-gun-fantasies-have-become-americas-nightmare <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1050135'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1050135" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The modern-day “tactical” movement is out of its mind.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/wash-spec-cruz-reagan-1-439x450.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>This past June, pulp novelist Brad Meltzer revealed that, while he was touring Secret Service headquarters for research on a White House thriller, agents shared with him what Meltzer called a “secret.” President Ronald Reagan packed heat. “It’s true,” they said. “A .38. Reagan used to hide it in his briefcase and take it on Air Force One.”</p><p>Not a secret, actually. Edmund Morris said the same thing in <em>Dutch</em>. And Ronald Kessler’s <em>In the President’s Secret Service</em> reported that “Reagan confided to one agent that on his first presidential trip to the Soviet Union in May 1988, he had carried a gun in his briefcase.” Kessler also wrote that an agent protecting Reagan during his 1976 presidential run asked why he was wearing a pistol. Reagan replied, “Well, just in case you guys can’t do the job, I can help out.”</p><p>It wasn’t news then, but Meltzer’s retelling of the story got legs. Reagan loyalists and apologists came out of the woodwork, howling. David C. Fischer, a special assistant during Reagan’s first term, told <em>TIME</em> magazine, “I never saw a gun in his briefcase.” Kenneth Duberstein, Reagan’s last White House chief of staff and a consummate K Street insider, said he had “no reason to believe it’s true.” Lou Cannon, whose Reagan chronicles evolved over 50 years from astringent to sycophantic, averred, “It’s so off the wall that I don’t know what to say. I think it’s fantasy, at best.” Historian H.W. Brands, whose recent biography was distinguished by the curious methodological decision of taking Reagan’s own accounts of his past at face value, offered, “I’ll believe the evidence when I see it.”</p><p>Then, we saw that evidence. Reagan’s longtime body man Jim Kuhn reported seeing the gun in Reagan’s briefcase (but only once). Biographer Craig Shirley, on the other hand—a conservative movement activist who has established an identity defying Washington insiders who’d seek to clean up what history might judge as Reagan’s extremism—said he’d already confirmed it with the head of Reagan’s post-presidential Secret Service detail. Shirley also reports that Reagan had begun the practice after John Hinckley’s 1981 assassination attempt, that he “routinely” brought the gun aboard flights on Air Force One and Marine One, that he’d defied both Nancy and the Secret Service to do so (“Who’s going to say no to the President?”), and that, though Alzheimer’s-ridden, he continued the practice until the Secret Service finally took the gun from him in 1994.</p><p>The United States Secret Service is among the most highly trained and tactically sophisticated police agencies on the planet. Just to qualify for the job requires hitting a 10-inch target with a handgun four of five times in 10 seconds. A memoir by Dan Emmett, veteran of three “presidential protection details,” describes other aspects of the two-month initial training: a surprise simulation of a full-scale motorcade ambush, 20 seconds of chaos in which distinguishing civilians from attackers was rendered nearly impossible; firing so many practice rounds he could barely hold a rifle on his swollen shoulder; fighting lessons from an instructor who had so many broken bones “three digits still pointed at odd angles”; and “one hundred hours of control tactics, raid training, hand-to-hand combat, and reacting to attacks on protectees.” All this, incidentally, was just to qualify for a desk job.</p><p>It takes many more years of dues-paying to get on a protective detail, let alone a presidential protective detail, where the intricacies of tactical choreography are timed to the split second.</p><p>Assignment to a protective detail can lead to situations like Emmett encountered when President Clinton and Syria’s Hafez al-Assad met privately in a room and Emmett was instructed that if for any reason the Syrian bodyguards drew their Skorpion fully-automatic pistols with magazines holding between 10 and 20 rounds, “I would per my training shoot each of them twice with my Sig Sauer pistol until the threat was neutralized, I had expended all ammunition, or I was out of the game. I repositioned myself a bit in order to ensure that President Clinton and Assad would not be in my line of fire. . . . It would be catastrophic beyond imagination if a Secret Service bullet from my pistol struck either POTUS or Assad.”</p><p>Think about it. It was in a situation like this that a 78-year-old president thought he just might click open his briefcase, in order to “help out.”</p><p>Reality has never had much to do with the conservative cult that extols superior firepower as the answer to all of life’s little problems. For your conservative camouflage-wearing neighbor next door, the fantasy of bursting through a door, guns blazing, mowing down bad guys and saving the day is considered more realistic than the prospect of receiving a Social Security check 20 years from now.</p><p>Consider the word “tactical,” which is everywhere now on the Internet and means, in this context, “military-style.” I recently plugged in the phrase “tactical training” into Google Maps. I discovered that there were no less than seven places I could do it within 40 miles of my yuppie Chicago neighborhood. Think camouflage gear, an AR-15 with a sniper sight, and fat middle-aged men in a martial crouch.</p><p>Did I mention bursting through a door, guns blazing? At the Spartan Tactical Training Group, in the suburb of Lisle, you can take a “Two-Day Dynamic Room Entry Course.” The course will cover “strategies on how to deal with closed and opened doorways, moving through doorway openings, controlled room entry and room domination.”</p><p>Also “two person team room entry techniques while engaging single threats and multiple threats during shoot/no-shoot decision making drills. Students will also learn Close Quarter Battle (CQB) techniques and advanced combat gun-handling skills that are necessary to engage threats from contact distance out to 10 yards.”</p><p>The company promises: “Dominate your domicile—bring a rifle to a handgun fight.” In 2009, Lisle ranked 17th on <em>Money</em> magazine’s “Best Places for the Rich and Single” list, so that training must come in awful handy.</p><p>Northwest Suburban Tactical Training Center’s marketing slogans are “Risk Management Through Stressed Tactical Training” and (a nod to Dick Cheney’s “One Percent Doctrine?”) “Be Prepared for the 1% Day.” A “1% Day” is “when serious and random events may put us and/or our loved one’s [<em>sic</em>] in harms [<em>sic</em>] way . . . Our sole purpose is training for survival . . . the skills and knowledge our dedicated and well-versed instructors impart to our customers are designed to make sure they effectively and successfully survive a 1% day.” They advise, “When it comes to survival, winning is the only option. . . . After all, your life is in the balance.”</p><p>I’m not good at math, but are they really implying that situations in which one’s life hangs in the balance transpire approximately 3.65 days of every year? Yes, it seems they are.</p><p>Fear—constant, enveloping dread—is what the tactical training industry is selling. Northwest’s chief instructor, a Marine veteran and former operative in the military’s Joint Task Force Six, which supports law enforcement agencies in operations against terrorism, narco-trafficking, alien smuggling, and weapons of mass destruction in the continental United States, is certified in disciplines including “Sudden Assault Response Systems,” “Tactical Response to Lethal Threats,” and “Combat Physio-Kinetics.” He is also certified in something called the “Refuse to Be a Victim” program. A registered trademark of the National Rifle Association, RTBAV, a promotional video informs us, is “not a firearm or self-defense course.” No, it is a paranoia course. Aimed at everyday women, it began in 1993 at the behest of “NRA members, NRA board members, and even NRA staffers who became more concerned with the increase in violent attacks, especially on women, in America.” Although actually, there has not been an increase in violent attacks: according to FBI statistics, there were about six violent crimes per 1,000 Americans in 1981, five in 1993 when the program began, and about 3.8 in 2013, when the video was made.</p><p>Crime went down; fear went up. What else happened? Ronald Reagan was elected, for one thing, and taught everyone to be more afraid.</p><p>In the tactical mindset there are good guys and there are bad guys, and they are always perfectly easy to tell apart. Who are the good guys? The semiotics of tactical websites make it pretty plain. Eagles and American flags. Invocations of 9/11. The pictures featured on the Northwest Suburban Tactical Training Center website include a self-assured business- man. And women: a teacher, a mom, and an apparent college student. All the females are blond. The proverbial good guys with guns, said to be the only thing that can defeat a bad guy with a gun. The bad guy is represented on the NRA’s “Don’t Be a Victim” site as a black silhouette looming at the corner of the screen. I always want to ask these tactical instructors: how do you know you’re not training <em>him</em>?</p><p>I would have liked to ask Ronald Reagan, too—practically the author of the “good guy with a gun” doctrine. Shortly after World War II, he became convinced that a complex jurisdictional strike pitting a democratic and left-wing union against a mobbed-up company union was really a Communist conspiracy to take over Hollywood. Things got rough at the studio: “I was fitted with a shoulder holster and a loaded .32 Smith &amp; Wesson,” ready to ward off the Commies if they came at him. (I wonder if that’s what he was thinking of when he took his .38 with him to Russia in 1988.)</p><p>Nor was this his first gun. As he told the editors of <em>Sports Afield</em> in 1984, years earlier when he was a radio announcer in Iowa he had used a .45 automatic he kept on his mantel to rescue a damsel in distress outside his apartment. Back then, he was a Roosevelt-loving liberal; but the wingnut butterfly was making ready to burst forth from the chrysalis, fully formed.</p><p>I’ve written about how Reagan was instrumental, in the 1970s, in promoting the ideology of the newly emergent hard-right faction in the NRA. “Guns don’t make criminals,” he said on his radio show in 1975. “It’s criminals who make use of guns. They’re the ones who should be punished––not the law-abiding citizen who seeks to defend himself.” (In 1980, the hard-right faction having taken over, the NRA endorsed Reagan for president, the first time it had endorsed a candidate for the presidency.)</p><p>The fact that everyone’s a law-abiding citizen until they break a law, that good guys become bad guys and vice-versa with regularity, or that one person’s good guy might be somebody else’s bad guy (say, the abusive husband of one of those blond women featured on that Tactical Training Center website) seems never to occur to any of them. It’s as if they’ve only seen the species <em>homo sapiens</em> at the zoo, and are not quite sure how the beast actually behaves.</p><p>Wingnuts, naturally, ate up Meltzer’s revelation with a spoon. Because this is their fantasy, too. One tweeter: “Reagan carried a gun in his briefcase? Awesome. #GangstaGipper.” Spencer Irvine of Accuracy in Media pined, “We miss you, Ronnie.” <em>The Washington Free Beacon</em> ran: “Reagan Bigger Badass than Previously Known.” Conservatives <em>had</em> to believe this story: it said that Reagan was just like them––completely out of their minds on the subject.</p><p>And it’s not just the Reaganites and militia types who celebrate the gun craze.</p><p>An equity research report from BB&amp;T Capital Markets investment bank recently opined: “We believe trends are improving for the Firearms and Ammunition Industry following the drop in demand in 2014. We are initiating coverage on the following companies with a buy rating: Sturm, Ruger (RGR) and Vista Outdoor (VSTO).”</p><p>“The surge in demand was the largest in military style rifles (MSRs), sometimes referred to as black rifles. . . . It is our opinion that a major driver of commercial gun and ammunition sales is fear of regulations or the banning/restricting/registering of firearms. . . . before and following the 2012 presidential election, gun sales spoke [sic] nearly 40%. These recent spikes have been called ‘panic buying’ by the trade and by consumers. . . . We expect more debates on gun ownership restrictions during the presidential election cycle. Any proposals for bans or talks of changes to the regulatory environment can be expected to lead to market growth as consumers react through purchasing more firearms and ammunition.”</p><p>It’s quite something to see the rhetoric of paranoid websites translated into the cold jargon of the securities analyst. There are no serious “proposals for bans” in any legislature. And as for “changes to the regulatory environment,” President Obama’s a new executive order merely enhances the ability to make sure, a well, <em>bad guys don’t get guns</em>: that the same background checks required of buyers in gun stores extend to gun shows, too. (When NRA types say we don’t need new gun laws, we just have to enforce the ones already on the books, they’re lying.) A vote to extend criminal and mental illness background checks, which includes a specific ban on a national registry, failed for the second time in two years only days after the mass shootings in San Bernardino, with no prospects of passing any time soon. Indeed, as the sober-sided bankers at BB&amp;T elsewhere explain, one actual recent change in the regulatory environment has been “the liberalization of laws governing the carrying of loaded handguns on one’s person for personal protection.”</p><p>It’s all a fantasy. GangstaGipper’s fantasy. That’s what is driving our gun policies now. You don’t have to pine for the departed Ronnie, Spencer Irvine. His absurdities are all around.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1050135'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1050135" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 06:51:00 -0800 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1050135 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Ronadl Reagan If Obama Had Governed Like This in 2009, He'd Be the Transformational President We Hoped For http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/if-obama-had-governed-2009-hed-be-transformational-president-we-hoped <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1049277'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1049277" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Where has this Obama been this whole time? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/obama_state_of_the_union_fox.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>They say the president gave his seventh State of the Union address last Tuesday, but personally, I count eight. On February 24, 2009, Barack Obama’s 35th full day in office, he delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress to explain how America had gotten into its economic mess and how his just-passed $787 billion stimulus bill would help get it out. He spoke about foreign policy, too: about his plans to wrench America’s orientation toward the rest of the world away from the snarling martial barks of the Bush years, rebuild alliances, reestablish diplomacy as a first resort, and use “all elements of our national power”—for, he concluded, “living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger.” It started Obama’s first term off with a wave of nearly universal approval—even among Republicans.</p>I’ve <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-obama-needs-to-change-to-win-20120222">always seen</a> that speech as a key to understanding a certain sort of road not taken by this administration. It’s one that could have led Obama to considerably more success than he has enjoyed, and perhaps even fulfilled expectations that his would be a <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=lhrPS_s7EawC&amp;pg=PT427&amp;dq=%22part+iv+transactional+leadership%22&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjMlqnI3KnKAhXHQiYKHUEqBwIQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&amp;q=%22part%20iv%20transactional%20leadership%22&amp;f=false">“transformational” and not a “transactional” </a>presidency—a failure Obama himself seemed to acknowledge by explicitly, almost apologetically, comparing himself unfavorably to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. I agree with him. It’s not that he has not scored important, even historic successes as president: the Affordable Care Act, the Iranian nuclear deal. But a president is transformational when he meets head on, and transcends, the preeminent historical crisis of his times­­—the incapacity of the weak American state to deal with a Depression in Roosevelt’s case, the sectional crisis over slavery in Abraham Lincoln’s. Add Ronald Reagan, who Obama once cited as another model of a transformational president, whose accomplishment was turning “liberalism” into a dirty word. Obama’s historical task was to do the same for conservatism. It hasn’t happened; conservatism has instead thrived. That was not foreordained.<p>Remember the Republican response that evening in 2009? It featured Bobby Jindal’s infamous schoolboy singsong flaying of the new law as a sinkhole of waste—140 million<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-eBqthOvi0">“for something called volcano monitoring!”</a>  (A month afterward, a volcano sent up a 60,000-foot cloud of ash over parts of Alaska, including Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla.) The pundits, even Republican ones, declared it the end of an era. As<a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/ben-smith/2009/02/brooks-torches-jindal-stale-and-insane-016343"> David Brooks put it on CNN</a>:</p><p>“To come up at this moment in history with a stale, government-is-the-problem, we can’t trust the federal government—it’s just a disaster for the Republican Party.…in a moment when only the federal government is big enough to actually do stuff—to just ignore all that, and just say ‘government is a problem, corruption, earmarks, wasteful spending,’ it’s just a form of nihilism. It’s just not where the country is. It’s not where the future of the country is.”</p><p>The American people agreed. Obama’s full-throated defense of the role of government in stabilizing the U.S. economy, and the world, got a 92 percent overall approval rating.</p><p>What a historic opportunity!</p><p>In the previous six years following the Republican takeover of the Senate, America had embarked upon an almost unprecedented experiment: effective conservative control of all three branches of government. The result, of course, was smoking ruins. Out of those political ashes Obama’s commanding electoral victory arose.</p><p>The strategic situation was propitious, too. By the time Obama gave that speech, senior<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/26/democrats-gop-plot-obstruct-obama">GOP members of Congress had already met with conservative movement leaders and Republican strategists </a>and agreed to ignore the electoral mandate and commit the party to a course of absolute obstruction, the better to turn Obama into a one-term president.</p><p>The Obama White House either never learned about this or didn’t care. With aching sincerity, the president kept extending his hand in bipartisan fellowship, only to have an anvil dropped on it. The parable of Lucy and the football became our modern-day version of the myth of Sisyphus.</p><p>At any number of moments he could have staged what Bill Clinton called a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-takiff/dream-on-eric-cantor-the-_b_842870.html">“Gary Cooper moment</a>.” The next time they proffered extremism in the face of his invitation to compromise, Obama could do what Clinton did when congressional Republicans offered Medicare cuts as their budget “compromise” in 1995. Clinton told Rep. Dick Armey, as Paul Begala recalled, “If you want somebody to sign this budget you’re going to have to put another president behind that desk, because I will never do it.” Armey responded by shutting down the government. Clinton made that his appeal to the public. He said, effectively, I set the table for a moderate middle course. I did so patiently and evenhandedly. The Republicans responded by flipping over the table. See how childish they are?</p><p>Obama has always refused that Gary Cooper role. Not his style: there is no blue America, there is no red America. Consider <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/11/06/obamas-tax-cut-how-rush-limbaugh-misled-the-country.html">his reaction to the Tea Party victories of 2010</a>. After that election, political scientists crunched all kinds of numbers to figure out what happened. Here are the only numbers that mattered, I think: (1) by a two-to-one margin, voters surveyed on election day believed that under Obama their taxes had gone up; but (2) in actual fact the taxes of 95 percent had gone down. Given all the right-wingers who won congressional seats crying TEA—“Taxed Enough Already”—it was the perfect opportunity to call out Republican successes, not as a mandate, but a Big Lie.</p><p>He could have done <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/what-would-ronnie-do-66963">what Ronald Reagan did</a> following his own “shellacking” in 1982:  offer a full-throated pledge to stay the course. Instead, in his <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/11/03/press-conference-president">press conference the next day</a>, Obama practically waved the white flag of surrender. He said the vote “confirmed what I’ve heard from folks all across America”—that his presidency was on the wrong track. He was “eager to sit down with members of both parties and figure out how we can move forward together,” because “no person, no party, has a monopoly on wisdom.” He took “direct responsibility for the fact that we have not made as much progress as we need to make.” So it was time to find “common ground.”</p><p>He took a Republican lie and chiseled it for all time into the tablets of history.</p><p>Why did this keep happening? <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/01/30/the-obama-memos">In 2012</a> Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker got hold of a series of memos that revealed a White House defined by reactive lurches—a White House, I wrote back then, that “let themselves be guided by clichés made up by Republicans and parroted by pundits.” Rooted, always, in the confidence that he could find reasonable negotiating partners in the Republican leadership, who could discipline their caucuses into going along with reasonable deals.</p><p>But a more historically astute and strategically clear-eyed White House would have known this was fantasy. James Fallows explained the nature of compromise with a Congress controlled by the opposition. Fallows, who had worked as a speechwriter and adviser for Jimmy Carter, cited a memo that a Harvard-trained lawyer who had clerked for Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote to Harry Truman after the 1946 elections. Republicans had taken control of both Houses of Congress seven months after Truman had succeeded FDR, and James Rowe Jr. warned the President that cooperation with Congress “is a one way street.”</p><p>What Obama should understand was what Rowe explained to Truman, Fallows wrote:</p><p>“[W]hen an opposing party holds Congress, it will always view weakening the president as its paramount goal.… Its leaders will define ‘compromise’ as the president’s accepting all of their demands and abandoning his own.”</p><p>In stuttering steps, Obama seemed to begin to learn the lesson. In The New Republic<a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/100595/obama-escape-artist-excerpt">Noam Scheiber wrote</a> of a moment in 2011 when, after pursuing “painstaking negotiations with Republicans over a series of dead-end deficit deals, even as the economy teetered on the edge of a second recession,” after two and a half years of “hatching proposals with an eye toward winning over the opposition,” the president told aides to put together a second stimulus package instead, imploring them not to “self-edit” their proposals. He took $450 million of spending to the electorate. His poll numbers went steadily up for all the next year. He won reelection.</p><p>Then he forgot the lesson.</p><p>In 2012 with utter stalemate in budget negotiations—and a looming “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_budget_sequestration_in_2013#Legislative_history">fiscal cliff”</a>—Obama offered a deal including massive budget cuts across the government. He assumed the Republicans would never allow it to happen because it included defense cuts. The Republicans called his bluff.</p><p>Obama has always had defenders who insisted that moves like these somehow were those of a genius whose brilliance would be revealed in the fullness of time: “eleventh dimensional chess,” as some mocked the relentless apologia of people like Andrew Sullivan, who shortly before the fiscal-cliff standoff described a wizardly Obama playing a “show-don’t-tell, long-game form of domestic politics,” where “what matters to him is what he can get done, not what he can immediately take credit for.”</p><p>Really?</p><p>In this particular showdown, Republicans called the bluff and let the sequester go into effect, with terrible cuts to necessary social programs—and they’re still in effect. It also ended up making 85 percent of the Bush tax cuts permanent, and effectively took further tax increases—on anyone—off the table for future negotiations. They won the radical budget they wanted all along, <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-big-win.html">and worse</a>. Grover Norquist, for one, <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2013/10/misunderestimating-strategery.html">declared victory</a>: “Sequester is the big win. It defines the decade.”</p><p>That was late in 2013. What has happened since? He finally does seem to get it. Which brings us to last Tuesday’s speech. I loved it. I loved how he finally said the Republicans were practitioners of the Big Lie. On terrorism and ISIS: “Over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands…. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq—and we should have learned it by now.” And tragically, even saying so obvious a truth that ISIS does “not threaten our national existence” is a bold thing to do. <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/1/13/10762268/state-union-obama-terrorism-isis">On Vox.com, Max Fisher noted</a> the “hear-a-pin-drop reaction from members of Congress” after Obama ill-advisedly waited for applause: “on the main stage of American politics, acknowledging this well-known fact is considered not just impolitic but practically unspeakable.”</p><p>And yet Barack Obama spoke it, devil take the hindmost.</p><p>On the economy, he began with “a basic fact,” as far from the currently fashionable Republican apocalyptism as it could be: “the United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. . . . Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.” He continued with a compassionate observation that the economy all the same is still producing pain for ordinary Americans, which is radical in its way: a rising tide does not lift all boats.</p><p>He continued, it is true, with a feint toward one of the most irritating clichés of the Democratic establishment. As one of <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/obama-and-the-cult-of-college-why-rick-santorum-had-a-point-20120307">Lyndon Johnson’s aides said of his boss back in the 1960s</a>, Democrats love to claim that education “would cure everything from chilblains to ingrown toenails”—even fight wage stagnation and inequality, which it <a href="http://www.epi.org/blog/an-annotated-reading-of-obamas-flawed-framing-of-wage-and-income-problems-in-the-sotu/">in fact cannot do</a>. Corporate Democrats say it can—and, relatedly, blame the problem on “technological change”—because it lets them dodge the hard work of educating the public about power relations and contradictions within the capitalist economy. But the fact is that this part went by in a flash; that education is an important thing for a president to talk up because, hell, education is a good in itself; and—well, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and mumbling briefly that “real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job” turned out to be mere throat-clearing for some marvelous plain speaking: “Of course a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security.”  (His best laugh line: “After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber.”)</p><p>That “Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them.” That “for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today. That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about.” That “there should be a system of wage insurance.”</p><p>(Screw you, “gig economy.”)</p><p>And was it Barack Obama (or Elizabeth Warren?) defending the role government should play in “making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations?” And observing that “after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunities or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered.”</p><p>Gone, it would seem, is the day when Obama went on “The View” and responded to a question about JPMorgan Chase losing  $2 billion in ill-advised trades: “JPMorgan is one of the best-managed banks there is. Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we’ve got.” Now, he ventriloquizes the devastating conclusion to the movie The Big Short: “Food stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts.”</p><p>He sketched a picture of America under conservative rule as a barren hellscape: “Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure.” He added: “As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background. We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.”</p><p>He said the kind of thing you hear at left-wing meetings, but I never expected to hear it from him: “The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.”</p><p>And then there was that luminescent, humiliating jape: “Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science.” Now, with climate change, Republicans do deny and argue about the science because of “entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo.”</p><p>He got the lesson. He finally has. Ten months ago, his retiring senior adviser for strategy and communications Daniel Pfeiffer admitted as <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/03/dan-pfeiffer-exit-interview.html">much. “</a>We don’t have the ability to communicate with them­­—we can’t even break into the tight communication circles to convince them that climate change is real.” So, Obama changed. Used to be, “Whenever we contemplate[d] bold progressive action, whether that’s the president’s endorsement of marriage equality, or coming out strong on power-plant rules to reduce current pollution, on immigration, on net neutrality, you get a lot of hemming and hawing in advance about what this is going to mean: Is this going to alienate people? Is this going to hurt the president’s approval ratings? What will this mean in red states?” Now, they just do it. “There’s never been a time when we’ve taken progressive action and regretted it.”</p><p>The president concluded the economic section with a marvelous lesson in one of the most poorly acknowledged major shifts of post-World War II history: the transformation of corporate governance from a model balancing the interests of owners, communities, workers and consumers, to one in which only “shareholder value” matters. “This year,” he promised, “I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers ends up being good for their shareholders, their customers, and their communities, so that we can spread those practices across America.”</p><p>That would be big. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with. And if he’d had the vision to try it seven years ago, maybe it would have even been transformational.</p><p> </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1049277'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1049277" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 20 Jan 2016 15:37:00 -0800 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1049277 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics obama The Secret to Why Trump Scores Huge TV Ratings Wherever He Goes http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/secret-why-trump-scores-huge-tv-ratings-wherever-he-goes <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1046678'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046678" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Finding Donald Trump&#039;s appeal through &#039;The Apprentice.&#039; </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_283689917.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article first appeared in <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/the-secret-to-trumps-ratings/">The Washington Spectator</a>.</em></p><p>If you’re a reader of this publication, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of talk-radio star Colin Cowherd. Cowherd’s daily sports commentary is consumed by 2.5 million listeners during the mid-day hours, when he competes with Rush Limbaugh––in more than one sense. Another professional blowhard, Cowherd was dumped from ESPN Radio in July for observing, during a discussion of the lack of minority general managers in baseball, that the suggestion that the game was too complex for unlettered Negroes to grasp was inadequate. “The game is too complex? Really? A third of the sport is from the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic has not been known in my lifetime as having world-class academic abilities.”</p><p>Cowherd ended up winning a $6 million-a-year contract from Fox Sports (with a radio, TV, and web presence) after an “apology” for “out of context” comments publicized “by a blog company currently under a multi-million-dollar lawsuit.” He also referred to his victimization by a “climate” of political correctness run amok.</p><p>The reason I bring this up: Cowherd, predictably, is a Donald Trump fan. In October, Cowherd endorsed him. Thereupon, on November 2 on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd,” arrived the following meeting of the minds:</p><p>Trump: “I don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know. You know, I’m running against people, some of whom are smart––not all of them. . .”</p><p>Cowherd interrupted: “How many of these guys would you hire? I’m serious.”</p><p>“Not all of them. A percentage of them. Not all.”</p><p>“When you’re on that stand—I see you sometimes. I see you. You don’t roll your eyes but I can tell. How many of these guys would you hire for a top position, a <em>transactional</em> position, in your empire?”</p><p>“Well, let’s just say this: a percentage of them. Not all of them. OK? I’m not impressed with all of them. And some of them I am impressed with, frankly. You have some good talent up there, some smart people. . . . Look, you have some people, they’re governors, they’re senators, you have some very smart people up there. So you’ll see what happens.”</p><p>Cowherd got down to individual candidates. “Do you think Jeb Bush wants to be president, or is being pressured to be?”</p><p>Trump began to respond. “I think he’s under a tremendous amount of pressure”––then turned the discussion back to Trump: “Maureen Dowd wrote a piece yesterday that was sort of devastating. She was sort of saying he thought [the nomination] was his, and then I came down. . . . I talk about a <em>low energy</em> individual—”</p><p>“Yes!” interjected Cowherd.</p><p>“––and if you’re dealing with China, these people send in fierce, fierce people. And you know—we don’t need low energy. OK.”</p><p>He continued: “I don’t think, frankly, Rubio is going to make it.</p><p>I think he’s a lightweight. . . we need <em>very strong people</em>. Because our country is being taken away—like candy from a baby. It’s like candy from a baby. We need strong people. We need the Tom Brady of negotiators.” (A chyron appeared on the screen of the webcast. “Trump: We need the Tom Brady of dealers.”)</p><p>“By the way, Tom is someone I know, such a great guy. . . . We can’t continue to make horrible, horrible trade deals, stupid deals with Iran, where we’re giving them $150 billion. It could have been so easy to change: you double up on the sanctions for a little while, they would have come to the table in three days, they would have given you what you want. . . .”</p><p>Watching the live-stream, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of the uncanny. I’d observed this ritual enacted over and over during the previous fortnight. Trump deferred to by bowing and scraping supplicants as an omnicompetent judge of anyone and anything. The “smart” rubber stamp he plants on the forehead of people he’s granted his (always provisional) approval. The reduction of all human intercourse––social, commercial, political––to a running scorecard of who insulted whom, and how. The civilized world presented as a latticework of celebrities, all of whom Trump knows and every one “such a great guy.” (And, invariably, “smart.”) The self-evident fact that <em>everything</em> Trump is the <em>yuuuugest</em> thing in the universe. And, above all else, the alpha and omega of human accomplishment reduced to making something called “deals.” Even though, upon examination, the word “deal” for Donald Trump turns out to be a synonym for getting something for nothing, by sheer brazen force of personality, or as a favor from someone famous. These truths are familiar to me because I’ve been embarked upon a project: I’ve been watching, every day for two weeks, episodes of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.”</p><p>Donald Trump’s reality show was part of the saturation wave of product from producer Mark Burnett, following his runaway hit “Survivor.” This time the survivors were young would-be tycoons: 16 of them, winnowed down from what Trump claims (in what is surely one of his signature mendacious boasts) 215,000 applications. “The Apprentice” opened, on January 8, 2004, with Trump’s signature blather:</p><p>“New York. My city. Where the wheels of the global economy never stop turning. A concrete metropolis of unparalleled strength and purpose that drives the business world. Manhattan is a tough place. <em>This island</em> is the real jungle.” (Take that, Survivors.)</p><p>“If you’re not careful it can chew you up and spit you out.” (Pan over homeless man sleeping on a bench: must have not been much at negotiating deals.) “But if you work hard, you can really hit it big. And I mean <em>really</em> big!” (Look! There’s Donald Trump’s mansion!)</p><p>“My name is Donald Trump, and I’m the biggest real estate developer in New York. . . . But it wasn’t always so easy. Thirteen years ago I was seriously in trouble. I was billions of dollars in debt. But I fought back, and I won—big league. I’ve mastered the art of the deal, and I’ve turned the name ‘Trump’ into the highest quality brand. And as the master I want to pass my knowledge on to somebody else. I’m looking for––the apprentice.”</p><p><strong>What’s the deal?</strong></p><p>The conceit was that these 16—a dog’s breakfast of Harvard MBAs (an African American), a copy machine salesman, mid-level marketing execs, a good-old-boy with only a high school degree, the entrepreneur responsible for the “Cigar of the Month Club,” etc.––would be put through their paces under the supervision of two of Trump’s top executives, which would reveal from their midst the most promising executive talent in the bunch. The winner “becomes president of one of my companies at a yuge salary for one year.”</p><p>The process involved a series of absurdities. A typical task––typical in that it had nothing to do with the skills involved in running a corporation and typical in displaying Burnett’s unique ability to turn an entire television episode into one long commercial for the “brand” paying the highest price––involved a team of women and a team of men competing to funnel one night’s business into the Planet Hollywood on Times Square.</p><p>This reduced business skills to those of a carnival barker. And in a twist the producers may not have expected, the women’s team won the first four episodes by the simple expedience of showing a little leg. (For the next episode Trump was shown performing “what we call a corporate reshuffle,” mixing the gender of the teams.)</p><p>The “deals” demanded of them, meanwhile, were beyond insipid. In one episode, the winner was the team that procured a basket of goods around Manhattan, including a golf club (a Big Bertha driver); a leg wax for one of the team members; and a couple of pounds of squid, for the lowest price. In the Trumpian universe, all deals are equal: haggling over cephalopods in Chinatown, bringing the Iranian government to its knees, same diff.</p><p>It’s awful; to my taste, nearly unwatchable. I don’t dislike reality shows as such. (“Survivor” has an intensity and richness far beyond “The Apprentice,” for example.) I’ve covered three Republican conventions. Watching “The Apprentice” was by far the hardest reporting job I’ve ever endured. If you watched it, you’d probably agree. But political junkies aren’t the type of people who watched it. Let me tell you a story. Once, when I was in my early 20s, my parents dragged my entire family to a performance of Donny Osmond in <em>Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat</em>. It was awful––and again, if you watched it, you’d probably agree. When the curtain fell, every last person in the audience leaped to their feet in a standing ovation, except me and my three siblings. We sophisticates, we looked at each other, incredulous, glued to our seats. Feeling smug, of course; we had taste.</p><p>Bring it back to “The Apprentice”: the people whose job it is to understand politics are much more likely to be like me and my siblings than like the audience that found Donny Osmond in J<em>oseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat</em> a transcendent theatrical experience. I heard one progressive commentator say he was only vaguely aware that Trump had once starred in a hit reality TV show. We know polls. We know political rhetoric. We know tactics, strategy, history. But we don’t know jack about the vehicle that propelled this man’s face into upwards of 10 million homes a week for 12 straight years. Some of us might even be proud of that. <em>Yuuuuge</em> problem.</p><p>When it first aired in 2003-04, “The Apprentice” was the seventh-highest-rated show of the year. The ratings steadily declined for 10 years––only 4.7 million viewers in the 2010 season compared to 20.7 million the first year. Then came a corporate reshuffle: “The Celebrity Apprentice,” withaccomplished people groveling before Trump as if he were an orange-haired incarnation of the Godhead. The ratings got better, if not astronomical, between 40th and 60th place, but still and all with an average monthly viewership of 2.1 million––much higher than even “The O’Reilly Factor,” then the number-one cable news show.</p><p><strong>The truth hiding in plain sight</strong></p><p>Why is Trump still number one in the presidential ratings? I anatomized one set of explanations a few weeks back: the racism, the sadism, the demagoguery––all of that. Here’s a complementary reason hiding in plain sight: the hit TV show, where the most sophisticated techniques of Hollywood art were applied to imprinting an image on the minds of millions more citizens than ever paid attention to any politician, with the possible exception of the president. No wonder a thus-far shockingly successful campaign followed.</p><p>This is not unprecedented. In 1954, Ronald Reagan took up duties as host of “G.E. Theater.” He had by then been consigned to the lowest ranks of movie stars, so down on his luck that his agent was forced to book him in an awful Las Vegas musical review, which promptly tanked. On TV, however, he soared. Until its cancellation in 1961, “G.E. Theater” consistently beat the “Ed Sullivan Show” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” in the Sunday ratings, and was the third-highest-rated show in the nation in the 1956–57 season. Following that, Reagan signed on to a similar role in the syndicated series “Death Valley Days.” Both were “anthology” shows, in which a completely different cast of actors each week played in a completely different mini motion picture. The through line, however, was the host––as Reagan described it to an interviewer, the “continuing personality on which to hang the production and advertising of the show.”</p><p>Reagan played a role: the genial guide to a world where even the most extraordinary conundrums wrapped up within the half-hour in a tidy happy ending. He became the gee-whiz pitchman for General Electric, the happy, friendly corporate empire providing God’s chosen nation the beneficence of “progress––our most important product,” frequently from his family home, beginning when it was under construction. Advertised as a “total electric house,” domiciling “television’s first all-electric family.”</p><p>“Tonight, we’re going visiting at the Ronald Reagans again, in their new home, to see how their many wonderful electrical servants are helping them, just as they’ll help you live better electrically.”</p><p>Cue Nancy: “My electrical appliances do everything!”</p><p>Cue four-year-old Patti: “What’s elesses apolotz?”</p><p>“They’re all the things around the house that makes Mommy’s work easier. . . . That’s why every housewife wants them, the latest models with the latest improvements.”</p><p>In T<em>he President Electric: Ronald Reagan and the Politics of Performance</em>, media scholar Timothy Raphael has called those extended commercials for General Electric the first TV reality show. The character Reagan played was a real-life Ward Cleaver. So in 1966, Californians who wished for a governor to return them to those palmy 1950s days knew exactly to whom to turn.</p><p>In “The Apprentice,” what was the character played by Donald Trump? You know the answer to that.</p><p>As season one progressed, a problem emerged that the producers might not have anticipated: the contestants liked one another. Trump would do his damnedest to turn the boardroom confrontations that concluded each episode into a Hobbesian war of all against all. But the contestants, who lived together in a suite, kept on being <em>nice</em>. Trump always seemed at sea in such moments. It was the thing about the episodes that struck me the most.</p><p>In the “boardroom” segment of episode six of the first season, for example, Omarosa Manigault––the breakout star and reality TV’s preeminent “bitch,” who would appear in 75 episodes of the show––turns on fellow contestant Jessie Conners.</p><p>“I haven’t always thought she was very professional or had much finesse,” Omarosa says.</p><p>Trump asks Jessie what she thinks of Omarosa.</p><p>Jessie says, well, she likes her.</p><p>Wrong answer.</p><p>“I didn’t like what Omarosa did,” Trump says. “It was repulsive.”</p><p>But worse than Omarosa’s rudeness “is how Jessie took it.”</p><p>Jessie is about to be fired. She knows it.</p><p>Comes one of the show’s signature scenes: the groveling before the perfect and all-knowing terrestrial god.</p><p>“Who do you want to represent your company?” Jessie pleads––the woman he just described as repulsive, or the woman who treats everyone with decency.</p><p>Certainly not the latter, the Donald responds.</p><p>“I think it’s a sign of weakness. . . and I have to say: you’re fired.”</p><p>The political analyst is revisited by another uncanny feeling: that fog of the alienated intellectual sophisticate baffled by how many millions of his fellow Americans grasp reality so very differently than he does. This man who seems to us so transparently an empty fraud is the candidate the plurality of Republicans have taken to their bosom. They love him because he seems so all-knowingly strong. Even more important, they love him because he––like them––hates the weak.</p><p>Nothing fraudulent about that.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1046678'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046678" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 07 Dec 2015 13:04:00 -0800 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1046678 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2016 News & Politics donald trump election 2016 The Apprentice Why Media Pundits Are Privately Enthralled About Donald Trump's Candidacy http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-media-pundits-are-privately-enthralled-about-donald-trumps-candidacy <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1046676'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046676" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">For pundits, Trump is the gift that keeps on giving. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_307005056.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article first appeared in <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/with-trump-everything-requires-revision/">The Washington Spectator</a>.</em></p><p>One of the reasons I’ve been writing so much about the Donald Trump phenomenon has little to do with Trump himself. Rather, it concerns a subject of deeper fascination to me: the <em>moeurs</em> of America’s pundit class. That in any given era, the content of their opinioneering says more about them as a class than any particular subject of their maunderings. In these Disunited States, those who rise to rarified heights in the profession of opinion-mongering almost always do so by dint of their success in stretching our messy reality to fit a certain single socially approved conclusion: that America is in fact <em>united</em>. That extremes always revert to the mean, and that radicalism of any stripe always eventually fails, or falls away. They pronounced that Barry Goldwater, because he was on the verge of running for president, was going to quit being conservative, a “fascinating biological process, like watching a polliwog turn into a frog (<em>The New Republic</em>’s TRB, in 1963). “This is probably the end of Reagan’s political career,” they said in 1976 after he lost the Republican nomination to moderate Jerry Ford (the <em>New Yorker</em>’s Elizabeth Drew). And in 2002, they prophesized that the conservative movement was on its deathbed because it was “mired in ideological warfare at a time when the nation demands ideological peace” (Nina Easton of <em>Fortune</em>).</p><p>For the past several months, that’s all we’ve being hearing about Trump. Here are two recent jerks of the knee. Here’s why they are wrong.</p><p>In <em><a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/12/the-front-runner-fallacy/413173/">The Atlantic</a></em>, the historian David Greenberg surveys the rubble-strewn record of polling a year out from the election, which predicted the rise of President Ted Kennedy in 1976 and 1980, President Jesse Jackson in 1988, President Jerry Brown in 1992, President Howard Dean in 2004—not to mention that great statesman President Herman Cain, whose numbers “were at times stronger than Trump’s.” History, Greenberg asserts, makes it clear that we shouldn’t care about the fact that Trump’s been ahead for over four straight months. After all, “a year before the general election, most voters aren’t paying attention yet.”</p><p>Nate Silver <a href="http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/dear-media-stop-freaking-out-about-donald-trumps-polls/">chimes </a>in with a similar message: “It can be easy to forget it if you cover politics for a living, but most people aren’t paying all that much attention to the campaign right now.”</p><p>“They’re not paying all that much attention”?</p><p>They’re not paying attention. The first Republican debate got 24 million viewers, <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2015/08/07/media/gop-debate-fox-news-ratings/">more than any game in the NBA finals or World Series</a>—three times more than any previous primary debate. The second got <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/424203/nfl-level-ratings-republican-debate-david-french">as many viewers as an NFL game</a>.</p><p>As I’ve been crying in thunder <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/donald-trump-and-the-f-word/">over and over in these pixelated pages</a> these last few months: “with Trump, everything requires revision.” Whether it’s the way the <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/the-new-holy-grail-of-republican-primaries/">changed rules and norms about money in politics</a> obliterate the way candidate fields used to get “winnowed.” Or the way the<a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/bernie-sanders-populist-movement/">politics of personal debt</a> rejiggers supposedly settled ideological identifications, the once-in-a-generation novelty of a <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/the-secret-to-trumps-ratings/">top-rated TV star running for president</a> (TL;DR: the last to do so, Reagan, turned out to be pretty successful), the novelty, too, of <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/donald-trump-and-the-f-word/">a front-runner who doesn’t filter his demagoguery</a>.</p><p>But still the band plays on. As <em>Washington Monthly</em>’s Martin Longman usefully<a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2015_11/who_will_pick_up_the_pieces058769.php"> points out</a>, “To suggest that Trump will inevitably falter when people start paying attention, you have to have a theory of the case.” Though really, you don’t. Consensus punditry: Feels so right it can never be wrong!</p><p>Now, it’s true that in the last few days, the mainstream narrative has changed, from insisting the extremist <em>will</em> go away, but that it’s past time he be <em>made</em> to go away. As Josh Marshall, who tracks these things much closer than I do, <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/it-s-alive-it-s-alive">noted for the record on November 27</a>, the cool kids have suddenly turned on a dime: “Read the editorial and news pages today and you’ll find a mix of hand-wringing and demands about an uncouth and outrageous outsider who is threatening to wrest the Republican Party from its rightful owners”—now that they’ve <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/opinion/donald-trumps-police-state.html?action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=opinion-c-col-right-region&amp;region=opinion-c-col-right-region&amp;WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region&amp;_r=0">finally figured out</a> that Trump’s an authoritarian. (The rest of us were premature antifascists.)</p><p>Though, of course, that’s still the same story, just a different chapter. It’s part of the historic pattern. In 1964, the mainstream media pushed Pennsylvania’s governor, William Warren Scranton, as the vampire-hunter against Goldwater; in 1980, many fell for Illinois congressman John Anderson’s independent bid to slay Reagan. Now the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/plan-a-for-gop-donors-wait-for-trump-to-fall-there-is-no-plan-b/2015/11/25/91436a00-92dd-11e5-8aa0-5d0946560a97_story.html"><em>Washington Post</em> plumps</a> “the meager Republican super PAC efforts aimed at him,” including a 47-second web video that clipped together some of his most provocative comments along with a small airplane with a banner proclaiming, “Ohioans Can’t Trust Trump.” Then, they veritably implored, “Most of the party’s financiers and top strategists are sitting on the sidelines.” (That was the front page. Here’s an apposite recent <em>Post</em> <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/donald-trumps-politics-of-denigration/2015/11/27/ff23ffb6-951d-11e5-a2d6-f57908580b1f_story.html">editorial</a>: “it is time for Republican Party leaders to make clear that they do not approve of Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration. If they do not, their party will be seen as complicit in his hatefulness, and deservedly so.” The fillip is the telling part: acknowledging the obvious, that one of America’s two major political parties is <em>already</em> hateful, falls afoul of consensus decorum.)</p><p>It’s comforting to think that the system is working so well. The punditry system, I mean. Trumps, Goldwaters, Gingriches, Wallaces—they come and go. (Knock on wood when you read that sentence.) Pundits, however, are forever. They’ll keep breeding, a biological process: like pollywogs turning into frogs.</p>  <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1046676'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046676" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 02 Dec 2015 12:48:00 -0800 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1046676 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2016 News & Politics donald trump election 2016 Why Bernie Sanders Is Starting to Attract Conservative Voters http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/why-bernie-sanders-starting-attract-conservative-voters <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1044304'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1044304" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">On the ground in parts of America where pundits thought Sanders couldn&#039;t compete.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-08-28_at_10.30.22_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article first appeared at <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/bernie-sanders-populist-movement/">The Washington Spectator</a>.</em></p><p>Nate Silver has the Bernie Sanders campaign figured out. Ignore what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire, the “data-driven” prognostication wizard wrote back in July, when Sanders was polling a healthy 30 percent to Clinton’s 46 percent in both contests. That’s only, Silver says, because “Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa and Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire are liberal and white, and that’s the core of Sanders’ support.”<br /> <br />Silver has a chart. It shows that when you multiply the number of liberals and whites among state electorates, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Iowa rank first, second, and third. Texas is near the bottom—a place where Bernie Sanders should feel about as welcome as a La Raza convention at the Alamo, right?<br /> <br />I have a new friend who begs to differ.<br /> <br />It’s July 20, and my airplane seatmate asks what brought me to Texas. He is a construction company sales executive from Houston. He’s watching Fox News on his cell phone. He tells me he considers himself a conservative. I tell him I’m a political reporter covering the Bernie Sanders campaign. He perks up: “I like what I’ve heard from him. Kind of middle of the road.”<br /> <br />Eleven days later, I’m at a Bernie Sanders house party in the depressed steel town of Griffith, Indiana, in a state that places in the bottom quartile on Silver’s chart. I approach a young man in his twenties wearing a thrift store T-shirt. I ask him what brings him here tonight.<br /> <br />“I’m just helping out my friends because they asked me to help out,” he tells me. He adds that he’s a conservative: “But I approve of some of the stuff that Bernie stands for. Like appealing to more than just the one percent and just trying to give everybody a leg up who’s needing it these days.” Data-driven analysis is only as good as the categories by which you sift the information. If you’ve already decided that “liberals” are the people who prefer locally sourced arugula to eating at McDonald’s, or are the people who don’t watch Fox News, it is a reasonable conclusion that there aren’t enough “liberals” out there to elect Bernie Sanders. Yet political categories shift. One of the things the best politicians do is work to shift them.<br /> <br />Sanders has been extraordinarily clear about the kind of shift he’d like to effect: Republicans “divide people on gay marriage. They divide people on abortion. They divide people on immigration. And what my job is, and it’s not just in blue states. . . [is] to bring working people together around an economic agenda that works. People are sick and tired of establishment politics; they are sick and tired of a politics in which candidates continue to represent the rich and the powerful.”<br /> <br />The theory that economic populism unites voters is hardly new. Lyndon Johnson, in New Orleans and about to lose the South to Barry Goldwater in 1964, expressed it in one of the most remarkable campaign speeches in history. A Southern Democratic politician was on his deathbed, Johnson said. “He was talking about the economy and what a great future we could have in the South, if we could just meet our economic problems. . . ‘I would like to go back down there and make them one more Democratic speech. I just feel like I have one in me. The poor old state, they haven’t heard a Democratic speech in 30 years. All they ever hear at election time is nigger! nigger! nigger!’”<br /> <br />The theory suggests that when upwards of 60 percent of voters consistently agree that rich people should have their taxes raised, a candidate who promises to do so might be identified as what he actually is: middle of the road. That if Democrats give Democratic speeches on economic issues, voters suckered into Republicanism by refrains like Jihad! Jihad! Jihad! just might try something else. And that new voters might be attracted into politics if they could just hear a candidate cut to the radical quick of the actual problems that are ruining their lives. My new Republican friends didn’t know they were not “supposed” to like a “liberal” like Bernie Sanders. Then they heard what he was saying, and liked what they heard. How many are there like them? That’s what I’ve been trying to begin to find out.<br /> <br /><strong>A populist moment in Dallas</strong> Dallas is Dallas. At Love Field, a middle-aged woman sports a “Mrs.” T-shirt—1970s-style antifeminist trolling. I pass the Dallas Country Club, which made news last year for admitting its first black member after he spent 13 years on a waiting list. The Holocaust Museum features a “Ground Zero 360: Never Forget” exhibit on 9/11. (Jihad! Jihad! Jihad!)<br /> <br />Hillary Clinton had recently been to Texas. She did a fundraiser here in a gated community where guests were told the address only after delivering their $2,700 checks. For nationally prominent Democrats, one of the donors complained, “All Texas is to anyone is a stop to pick up money.”<br /> <br />Not all nationally prominent Democrats. When I talk with a bunch of old hippies after an afternoon Sanders rally at a downtown convention center in Dallas, their minds are blown. Long-haired Zen Biasco is a professional “creativity teacher”; Morris Fried first picketed against apartheid in 1965. The only non-Jew in the group, and the only native Southerner, explains Texas politics: “The states that came up throughout the plantation economy did not really believe” in democracy. “It was the elites running things, and basically the GOP here in the South, especially in Texas, has inherited that basis of understanding. In Texas we are not necessarily a red state. We are a non-voting state.”<br /> <br />These are the people you’d see at any lefty rally anywhere. But this lefty rally was unlike any they’ve seen in their adopted hometown. “I’m shocked at such a draw on a Sunday afternoon!” one offers. “I’m shocked at all the young people in this crowd!”<br /> <br />Before Sanders began speaking, I had spoken to two of those young people, a married couple, who represent a liberal holy grail: kids who had grown up conservative—Mormons!—and reasoned their way to the left. “Thanks to people like Bernie,” as one put it. They try to spread the gospel to professional circles saturated with Republicans and to their families back home.<br /> <br />The husband unspools a splendid version of the Sanders argument:<br /> <br />“I don’t think the values of those communities are really represented in their politics, family values, the ideology they profess to have. . . doesn’t match up with the words or things [the politicians they align themselves with] actually represent. I don’t think people realize that if they actually were for family values, and were for the working family, that Republican policies are not going to move you closer.”<br /> <br /><strong>Sanders on the stump</strong> The speech begins. I’ve rarely heard one more electric. Bernie gets to the part about how America could increase its competitiveness and move toward full employment by spending a trillion dollars rebuilding bridges and roads, and a fashionably dressed young woman next to me with a swallow tattoo on her wrist cries out like a cheerleader.<br /> <br />“INNNNNNNFRASTRUCTURE!!!!”<br /> <br />The senator follows with a disquisition about the Sherman Act.<br /> <br />“ANTI-TRUSSSSTTT!” she shouts.<br /> <br />When he gets to reinstating the Glass-Steagell act, she lets out a “WHOOOOOOOO!”<br /> <br />At the 21-minute mark comes something extraordinary. After a reverberating ovation for a call for pay equity for women, a promise to fight for 12 weeks of paid family leave, and an excoriation of the fact that “the American people work more hours than any other major country on Earth.” Then the senator announces his marquee platform plank.<br /> <br />“To make every public college and university tuition-free.”<br /> <br />The crowd’s response is so ecstatic it overdrives my tape recorder. It continues into a chant: “BERNIE! BERNIE! BERNIE! BERNIE!”<br /> <br />And when the show ends, a crowd in a nearly post-coital mood of sated exhilaration doesn’t want to leave, doesn’t leave, until Bernie returns to the podium for something I’ve never witnessed at a political event, an encore, and announces that the crowd numbered 6,000.<br /> <br />I followed the campaign that evening to the University of Houston, where he got the same thunderous reception before 5,200 college students. Both events got prominent play in the local media, where hundreds of thousands of Texans heard heretical ideas that they might not have read in their newspapers before: like raising taxes on the rich isn’t crazy, even if 62 percent of Americans agree.<br /> <br />Some things polls have a hard time recording. They may miss kids like these, who only carry cell phones, as pollsters rely mostly on landlines. Or the intensity of support, how many people are willing to knock on doors for a candidate. And, last but very much not least, novel issues and how constituencies respond to them.<br /> <br />In 1965, for instance, when he began running for governor, Ronald Reagan made the focal point of his speeches the student uprising at Berkeley. His consultants told him to knock it off because it wasn’t showing up in their polls as a public concern. Reagan ignored them, reading the response of crowds that didn’t yet think that students tearing up their college campuses was a “political issue” to bring up when pollsters called.<br /> <br />Similarly, in the late 1970s, when the Equal Rights Amendment began failing in state after state though polls showed it had majority support, a sociologist named Ruth Murray Brown polled anti-ERA women activists in North Carolina and found that more than half of them had never participated in politics before. The pundits didn’t know how to count what they didn’t know was out there.<br /> <br /><strong>Rust belt populism</strong> That’s what I thought of when I met Gypsy and David Milenic, whose front lawn had hosted that house party on July 30. I had read an interview with Sanders in which he said the campaign was hosting these parties around the country, which he would address via a live video feed. I chose one as far afield as possible from the places where “liberals” are supposed to congregate. Ten miles past a creationist museum billboard on I-90, there was no arugula, but there were crackers, pretzels, and store-bought gingersnaps. Griffith, Indiana, population 16,619, has a per capita income of $21,866.<br /> <br />“My history of political volunteering is that this is the first political volunteering I have done,” Gypsy tells me, taking a break from directing traffic and packing her two small children off to grandma’s. “But, to be honest, Bernie is the first person who’s gotten me out of my chair and out doing things.”<br /> <br />From her front porch, she casts her nervous eye over a lawn that keeps filling, and filling, and filling. (In the interview Sanders said the campaign was planning for 30,000 participants across the nation; the final number turned out to be 100,000.)<br /> <br />“This home was paid for by union dues,” Gypsy says. “That matters. Keeping it in the family: that matters. Being able to have a small town like this that was a mix of blue-collar and white-collar matters.”<br /> <br />At 6:30 a political meeting unfolds unlike any I have ever seen. Bernie is to speak on a live feed at 8:00. David, an accountant, welcomes us, and invites people to stand up and introduce themselves.<br /> <br />A young man who has been busily setting up the AV system volunteers to go first.<br /> <br />“Both my parents together made barely over the poverty line, and I can tell you that life sucks,” he begins.<br /> <br />“I have no financial support from my family. I get very little from the government. I am on my own, trying to make it, trying to thrive, just like everybody behind me. And it’s hard. And I am currently about 50 grand in debt between student loans, car loans. . . and I am trying so damned hard. And working so damned hard.”<br /> <br />The crowd responds with an ovation.<br /> <br />“I see all my friends, and all of my friends who suffer the same way I do, and they can’t make ends meet. They work three jobs. . . and they still struggle! And it just burns me. Because it wasn’t like this! Now, you go to college for four years and you’re in debt 20, 30 years. Sometimes for life. . .”<br /> <br />He trails off. Applause encourages him on. “I want to see change. And I believe Bernie Sanders is the one to do it.”<br /> <br />And on it went. For an hour and a half, testimony after testimony after testimony. The issue of student debt dominated. So did the consensus that together they could do something about it.<br /> <br />In Griffith, I met a remarkable black retiree named Martha Harris. Her grandparents were slaves, and she remembers going into hiding at the age of three when her father was run off by the Klan for being “uppity.” She had been following the story of Sanders’s public encounters with Black Life Matters activists at the Netroots Nation gathering in Phoenix. She just wondered why people were still going on about it. “I saw him flub. And like any white man, his staff put him out there without his underwear on. So he ran home and he got his long johns on. And I’m okay with that. He’s learning.”<br /> <br />Harris was one of the Sanders supporters who, following that evening in Griffith, set up a storefront Sanders office in Hammond, Indiana. She had recently been a guest on a radio show in Gary, where the African-American population is 85 percent and one third of the houses are abandoned. She was scheduled for a half hour. The response was so enthusiastic the interview went on for an hour and a half.<br /> <br />Among the political class, the discussion of the supposed reverberations that followed Sanders’s encounter with Black Lives Matter activists in Phoenix was incessant. That kind of conflict is something the political media knows how to talk about. So they talk about it. What happened on the radio in Gary, not so much.<br /> <br /><strong>Responsive politics</strong></p><p>The question is, what else is happening that they aren’t talking about?<br /> <br />Maybe this. In 2005, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes published some remarkable journalism on his experience canvassing for John Kerry in Wisconsin, where voters didn’t seem to have any idea that their economic distress was something for which voting could make a difference.<br /> <br />“When I would tell them that Kerry had a plan to lower health-care premiums, they would respond in disbelief—not in disbelief that he had a plan, but that the cost of health care was a political issue,” Hayes reported. “It was as if you were telling them that Kerry was promising to extend summer into December.”<br /> <br />Hayes wondered what a more responsive Democratic politics would look like.<br /> <br />“One thing that nearly all Americans share is debt.” His idea? “Building a movement around credit reform—through the formation of local ‘debt clubs’ that would be part of a national campaign, for example—would be one way for progressives to reach out to non-believers.”<br /> <br />Now “debt clubs” are being formed. They’re being formed around the Sanders campaign. I wouldn’t argue that this will add up to a presidential nomination. But I’ve seen enough in places like Dallas, Houston, and on David and Gypsy Milenic’s front lawn in Griffith to know that something is happening here, something that reminds us that our existing models for predicting winners and losers in politics need always be subject to revision.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1044304'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1044304" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 19 Oct 2015 06:43:00 -0700 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1044304 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 sanders election populism Should We Toss Around the Word 'Fascist' When It Comes to Donald Trump? http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/should-we-toss-around-word-fascist-when-it-comes-donald-trump <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1043391'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1043391" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">An unsettling symbiosis between man and mob.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_180341072.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Donald Trump is not a fascist––probably.</p><p>His ex-wife Ivana once claimed he kept a volume of Hitler’s collected speeches in a cabinet by his bed, and read from time to time the fuhrer’s vision of human life as a pitiless war of all against all. “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them,” he told Vanity Fair in 1990. But consider something the architect of Trump Tower, Der Scutt, once said on how to evaluate the truth value of Donald Trump claims: “divide by two, then divide by four, and you’re closer to the answer.”</p><p>Trump worships armed force, pronouncing at a rally in August in Derry, New Hampshire: “I believe in the military and military strength more strongly than anybody running by a factor of a billion.” (Applying Scutt’s formula, that means Trump believes in military strength 125,000,000 times more than Lindsey Graham, who opened his presidential campaign with a promise to go to war with Iran.)</p><p>When Trump speaks in the subjunctive mood, he can certainly sound like an aspiring dictator. Regarding a $2.5 billion plant Ford intends to build in Mexico, <a href="http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/elections/2015/06/16/trump-press-ford-cancel-mexican-plant/28816173/">he announced that</a> “every car, every truck, and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35 percent tax—O.K.?” The Constitution, of course, grants Congress, not a president, the power to tax. Maybe it’s just ignorance on his part. Or maybe, by “we” he’s referring to the Congressional coalition he’s building in his spare time between stadium rallies. But if Trump has ever made reference to any understanding of the three coequal branches that govern the United States, I haven’t noticed it.</p><p>He refers lustily to his passion to destroy the malcontents stabbing America in the back, longing for the days when they received summary executions: “So we get a traitor like Bergdahl, a dirty rotten traitor [pause for applause], who by the way when he deserted, six young beautiful people were killed trying to find him, right? . . . You know, in the old days: bing, bong.” (Trump pantomimed cocking a rifle.) “When we were strong, when we were strong.”</p><p>Too much to expect procedural niceties—innocent until proven guilty?—from the guy who in 1989 took out full-page ads in four New York newspapers, headlined: “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!” There followed a 600-word essay: “What has happened is the complete breakdown of life as we know it. . . . How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS.” It went on to relate a tale from some mystically perfect past, where he witnessed “two young bullies cursing and threatening a very frightened waitress. Two cops rushed in, lifted up the thugs and threw them out the door, warning them never to cause trouble again. I miss the feeling of security New York’s finest once gave the citizens of this City.”</p><p>The ad was Trump’s response to the arrest of five kids for the vicious rape and beating of a jogger in Central Park. The kids were coerced into confessions, later proven to be false, by the same police force Donald Trump insisted had been intimidated into politically correct timorousness. Last year, after the five families settled for $41 million in compensation for the years the accused youths spent in prison, Trump <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/donald-trump-central-park-settlement-disgrace-article-1.1838467">published an op-ed</a> calling the settlement “ridiculous.”</p><p>“These men do not exactly have the pasts of angels,” he claimed. At the time of the event, one of “these men” was 14 years old.</p><p> </p>A demagoguery so pure<p>Trump has now provided more “specifics” about his immigration plan: a forced population transfer greater than any attempted in history, greater than the French and Spanish expulsions of the Jews in 1308 and 1492; greater than the Nabka of approximately 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from British-mandate Palestine; greater than the 1.5 million Stalin consigned to Siberia and the Central Asian republics; greater than Pol Pot’s exile of 2.5 million city-dwellers to the Cambodian countryside, or the scattering of Turkey’s Assyrian Christians, which the scholar Mordechai Zaken says numbers in the millions and required 180 years to complete.  Trump has promised to move 12 million Mexicans in under two years––“so fast your head will spin.”</p><p>Only then will he start building the wall.</p><p>But all Republican politicians say stuff like this, right? They all want a wall, they all want to bury criminals under the jail, they all crave war, even if they’re not quite so explicit about it.</p><p>Not quite, actually. Previous Republican leaders were sufficiently frightened by the daemonic anger that energized their constituencies that they avoided surrendering to it completely, even for political advantage. Think of Barry Goldwater, who was so frightened of the racists supporting him that he told Lyndon Johnson he’d drop out of the race if they started making race riots a campaign issue. And Ronald Reagan refusing to back a 1978 ballot initiative to fire gay schoolteachers in California, at a time vigilantes were hunting down gays in the street. Think of George W. Bush guiding Congress toward a comprehensive immigration bill (akin to that proposed by President Obama) until the onslaught of vitriol that talk-radio hosts directed at Republican members of Congress forced him to quit. Think of George W. Bush’s repeated references to Islam as a “religion of peace.”</p><p>Trumpism is different. Donald Trump is the first Republican presidential front-runner to venture a demagogy so pure.</p><p>But isn’t he just giving Republican voters what they want? Isn’t this attention-starved shell of a man, a salesman ideationally hollow at the core, only following the smart money? A friend of mine argues that Trump would be perfectly willing to shift his “core” issue from immigration if the political winds change. Too shallow to venture dictatorship: he doesn’t have anything to dictate. Which actually is the opposite of encouraging.</p><p>In the Derry event referenced above, Trump went into a familiar riff: “China is killing us! They’ve taken so much of our wealth. They’ve taken our jobs. They’ve taken our businesses, they’ve taken our manufacturing.”</p><p>Then an audience member cried out: “Our land!”</p><p>Trump paused, pondered, gave it back as a question: “Our land?”</p><p>Then, why not? He decided to roll with the thought: “The way they’re going, they’ll have that pretty soon.”</p><p>I think I know the conspiracy theory that perfervid Granite Stater was referring to. I heard it in Orange County about a decade ago. Chinese nationals were buying up residential real estate to make a killing at the expense of the Americans who actually lived there. Trump clearly hadn’t heard it, but soon he will, and maybe he’ll fold that count into his rap. Watch for it.</p><p> </p>Man and mob<p>My main interest, though, is that moment of symbiosis between man and mob. They feed off each other. The way his people eat up Trump’s unalloyed joy in bullying: the way a purse of his lips and a glance offstage summoned the security guard who ejected Univision’s Jorge Ramos from a press conference, like a casino pit boss with a whale who gets too handsy with the cocktail waitresses. Trump’s not-quite-veiled threat to Megyn Kelly: “I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be. But I wouldn’t do that.” The body language he uses to intimidate a hapless and plaintive Jeb Bush during the second Republican debate.</p><p>If he’s just giving the people what they want, consider the people.</p><p>Consider what they want.</p><p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/02/opinion/what-donald-trump-understands-about-republicans.html?_r=0">Last fall, the Public Religion Research Institute found</a> that a majority of whites believe “discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.” A brand new Washington Post/ABC poll finds 57 percent of Republicans support the most massive ethnic cleansing in the annals of humanity (or, what The Washington Post blandly calls “Trump’s tough positions on immigration”).</p><p>Pollsters at YouGov.com found that 29 percent of Americans (and 43 percent of Republicans) “would hypothetically support the military stepping in to take control from a civilian government which is beginning to violate the Constitution.” Which is quite a thing, considering that according to a <a href="http://cnsnews.com/news/article/gallup-72-all-americans-and-56-democrats-say-obamacare-mandate-unconstitutional">2012 Gallup poll</a> 94 percent of Republicans consider Obamacare’s insurance-purchase mandates unconstitutional; not to mention the small technicality that the military taking control of the government for “violating the Constitution” is, in fact, violating the Constitution.</p><p>Then there is this. <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/08/31/the-fearful-and-the-frustrated">Evan Osnos of The New Yorker</a> happened to be reporting on “white nationalists”—the polite term for neo-Nazis—when the Trump phenomenon began. The fortuitous coincidence ended up unfolding as a natural experiment. Osnos was able to watch in real time as his subjects embraced Trump as one of their own. Usually, such extremists judge Republicans as tweedle-dee to the Democrats’ tweedle-dum. That’s not how they saw Trump. The Daily Stormer neo-Nazi web site endorsed him, advising its readers to “vote for the first time in our lives for the one man who actually represents our interests.” The leader of a white-supremacist think tank told The New Yorker: “I don’t think Trump is a white nationalist,” although he did reflect “an unconscious vision that white people have––that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country . . . he is the one person who can tap into it.”</p><p>Jared Taylor, editor of American Renaissance, a like-minded publication, observed: “I’m sure he would repudiate any association with people like me, but his support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit.”</p><p>But was Taylor correct? Asked if he would repudiate the endorsement of erstwhile Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, Trump’s response was less than resounding: “Sure, I would if that would make you feel better.”</p><p> </p>The “f-word”<p>The “f-word” has nearly vanished from everyday political discussion in America, and for good reason. It’s become the kind of epithet that stops thought instead of enhancing it. But serious people used to talk about the relevance of the German experience to American politics. In 1964, Philip Rahv, a founding editor of the marquee intellectual journal Partisan Review, wrote that the movement that nominated Barry Goldwater for president represented “a recrudescence on American soil of precisely those super-nationalistic and right-wing trends that were finally defeated in Europe at the cost of a great war, untold misery, and many millions dead.”</p><p>But within a couple of years, when student protesters were closing down universities through violence and the threat of violence, people like Ronald Reagan said that was exactly what fascists did, so he deployed National Guardsmen to keep campuses open––which student protesters called fascist in turn.</p><p>By the end of the 1960s both sides were throwing the f-word at one another with abandon. But in current American politics, the word has survived via the abject stupidity of many thousands of right-wing readers of one of the worst books ever published, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism (2008), which made much of the fact that both Hitler and a heck of a lot of liberals were vegetarians.</p><p>The usage also survives among a considerably smaller number of only slightly less perfervid liberals. These folks borrow from the scholarship of outstanding historians like Roger Griffin, author of The Nature of Fascism, and Robert Paxton, author of The Anatomy of Fascism, and bastardize it into “checklists,” the most widely circulated from an obscure political scientist about whom I could find nothing else––Lawrence Britt––who would have us believe that when a politician checks off enough boxes like “rampant sexism” and “obsession with national security,” America will suddenly find itself locked into a totalitarian nightmare from which there is no escape except all-out war.</p><p>But this confuses a historically specific description with a usefully predictive model. It treats political development as a biological process, fascism as something nations “descend” into––the natural entropy of failed national institutions.</p><p>It’s a devolution to an older style of political thinking that felt perfectly logical in the 1950s and early 1960s, among writers for whom civilization’s descent into blood-soaked barbarism was recent memory. The writing that followed it was either explicitly or implicitly rooted in a Marxist style of thinking, which is to say a Hegelian style of thinking: if history was “supposed” to develop in a certain direction (toward socialism; toward liberal democracy), how, then, to account for the hard-right turn no one had predicted? The process of strong men taking advantage of weak men, with the strongman, his victims, and their willing executioners produced by the neuroses attending the breakdown of traditional ways of life, seemed to be encoded within modernity itself.</p><p>And some of this story still rings so very true. Fascist leaders promise national rebirth, the merging of a mystically perfect past and a transcendent future from a present fatally compromised by wickedness. (Niftily, the scholarly term for that, as if nodding to John McCain’s 2008 running mate, is “palingenetic ultranationalism.”)</p><p>But lots of political movements do that. And history is not a biological process; there’s no reason to believe that the alienation we see all around us need devolve into violent nationalism with its end state. Germany, Italy, Spain, Argentina, and Chile, to cite the major cases, in the peculiar moments when their strong men arose, suffered weaknesses in their institutions that are just about unimaginable in the United States. For instance, it is hard to imagine a President Trump turning America into a one-party state. (Isn’t it?)</p><p> </p>Movie matinee monsters<p>Which provides us with a delicate analytical problem, because, all the same, the postwar thinkers making sense of that experience bequeathed useful tools of analysis, now mostly lost to us because of the discussion-busting nature of the f-word.</p><p>So, in fact, did popular culture.</p><p>Ordinary people can become monsters. Everyone who experienced World War II knew that. How does it happen? Any attentive cinema-goer or TV-watcher of the 1950s would have a decent grasp of an answer. In Ace in the Hole, from 1951, a little-remembered Billy Wilder masterpiece, the effort to rescue a man trapped in a cave collapse in New Mexico turns into a lurid carnival as folks flock from miles around, with rides, concerts, and gambling. The party ends when the rescue fails, the man dies, and the revelers slink away in shame at how thin the veneer of civilization truly was. Likewise, in “The Shelter,” a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone, a convivial suburban neighborhood hears a radio announcement that reveals an impending nuclear attack, everyone flocks to the town’s only fallout shelter, which can only accommodate three people, and the seething hostility, resentment, and racism none of them even understood themselves capable of surges to the surface––until the announcement is revealed as a false alarm, and the threads of trust that had bound a community together are revealed as irreversibly vulnerable.</p><p>There are many more examples. In an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, the director Wes Craven explains what horror films are really about: “fear, which is certainly one of the most primal, primal emotions.” About “the necessity for taking action or else not surviving . . . . They always sort of perceive where there’s sort of that subcutanenous, subconscious fear that’s in the culture at the time . . . post-World War II where you had culture coming out of shock of what they had just seen . . . these sort of horrendous events being perpetrated by the Nazis, and in a sense by everybody that went to war against each other.” Craven cited Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, “because that is a pure case of not a monster in the sense of Godzilla or something, but it’s a human monster.”</p><p>How did politicians become monsters? That question received its own postwar cinematic treatment. In A Face in the Crowd, TV creates a Frankenstein’s monster out of an unknown guitar picker turned into a national sensation via empty promises and an aw-shucks manner. Then a group of shadowy millionaires draft him as a front for their dictatorial political ambitions, the hayseed ubermensch becoming fatally drunk on his power in the process. Elia Kazan wrote in the preface to the screenplay: “we took cognizance of the new synthetic folksiness that saturated certain programs, and the excursion into political waters by these ‘I-don’t-know-anything-but-I-know-what-I-think guys.” (You know those guys. The ones you see on Fox News.)</p><p>All the King’s Men, the 1949 Academy Award winner based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren, was the classic exposition. It told the story of country boy Willie Stark (based on Huey Long), who begins his political career crusading against injustice, until the seductions of absolute power and the frustrations of democracy find him surrendering to an abject lust for domination. Warren had witnessed Mussolini’s rise to power in the 1930s, and spoke of how the alienated nature of life in Rome’s slums made their denizens easy pickings for “inspired idiots” like Il Duce.</p><p>All the King’s Men was philosophically sophisticated, while A Face in the Crowd was pretty simple-minded. But both converge on an insight utterly lost to our intellectual moment. It’s an insight that speaks to the riddle in a thousand op-eds on the Trump phenomenon: what makes him so popular? Our mid-century American kin would never bother asking the question: it was too obvious. All that was required was a charismatic figure willing to say anything to animate the masses’ darkest prejudices, promising easy answers to intractable problems, offering frenetic action where conventionally constrained politics, sclerotic bureaucracies, and the messiness of democratic proceduralism promised only gridlock.</p><p>“At least the boss does something,” says one of the king’s men as he excuses the sins of the dictator he works for. Mussolini, famously, “made the trains run on time.” All it required was a demagoguery that was fully unleashed––the willing scapegoating of the enemy within as the only reason the masses’ desires are frustrated. Say, by promising to expel 12 million undocumented immigrants “so fast your head will spin.”</p><p> </p>Herrenvolk democracy<p>Describe Donald Trump to a mid-century social scientist and he would respond: of course he is in first place. And I’m fairly certain George W. Bush would fully understand that he could have further expanded his own massive grant of post-9/11 power were he only to scapegoat all Muslims. It is to his great credit that he did not. He seemed to have understood something the current crop of Republican candidates chasing after Trump do not—something about Pandora’s Boxes, toothpaste that cannot be put back into tubes, the demiurge. Bush was, unlike Donald Trump, unwilling to say anything.</p><p>George Bush, however, was constrained by a set of commitments in a way that Donald Trump is not: commitments to transnational corporate capitalism and its ideological handmaiden, neoliberalism. But Paul Krugman has recently noted an apparent irony. Donald Trump, the most frightening of the Republican candidates, is also the most sane in terms of economic policy, the most willing to challenge neoliberal orthodoxy. Among the measures he has nodded toward, in his vague, stream-of-consciousness, non-committal way: raising the taxes of the super-rich and single-payer healthcare. Krugman notes: “Mr. Trump, who is self-financing, didn’t need to genuflect to the big money, and it turns out that the base doesn’t mind his heresies. This is a real revelation, which may have a lasting impact on our politics.”</p><p>David Weigel of The Washington Post has written about how Trump has built deep support among blue-collar voters in places like Michigan by talking about trade deficits and the loss of American manufacturing jobs. He is the only Republican candidate to speak about the damage transnational capitalism inflicts on blue-collar Americans. A writer for Vox.com trumpets this as a welcome rift in the red-blue gridlock, suggesting it means the electorate is “more multidimensional than our partisan narratives tell us.” It is interpreted, that is to say, as almost a salutary thing: the Republican frontrunner, if you squint hard enough, is even a little bit liberal.</p><p>Our notional midcentury social scientist, or better historically informed pundits, wouldn’t be so sanguine. They would recognize the phenomenon that sociologist Pierre van den Berghe in 1967 labeled herrenvolk democracy: a political ideology in which members of the dominant ethnic group enjoy privileged provision from the state, as a function of the economic and civic disenfranchisement of the scapegoated group, to better cement dictatorship. This was why elites feared Huey Long’s promise of a guaranteed income––“Every Man A King.” This was how George Wallace governed Alabama. This was apartheid South Africa.</p><p>And this, more than anything else, is what horrifies the Republican establishment about Donald Trump. As Jonathan Chait has observed:</p><p>The official (i.e. non-Trump) Republican Party has experienced its activist base during the Obama years as an incessant and implacable series of demands for ideological purity. Republicans have dutifully complied with every policy demand. They have refused to increase taxes, even at the cost of programs they support. . . . It has never been enough. . . . Next to the tiny ideological bumps Republicans have obsessively smoothed from their record, Trump’s profile of deviations is incomprehensibly vast. . . . It must be galling for the party regulars to prostrate themselves helplessly before the base, purging any hint of independent thought, only to watch a formerly pro-choice, libertine if not liberal, Democratic donor waltz into the lead.</p><p>Chait chalks that up to the Donald’s success in matching the rageful affect of the Republican base. And of course that’s some of it. But the other part of it is that the economic neoliberalism with which the Republicans serve their donor base, and which most motivates conservative leaders, has always been an electoral albatross. What became known in the 1970s as the “social issues” helped distract Republican voters from their party’s economic agenda. Back then, according to Gallup, the public favored wage and price controls as the answer to inflation by a margin of 46 to 39 percent. Eighty-five percent liked the idea of a public jobs program on the model of the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps, with only 10 percent opposed. Even Ronald Reagan got elected and reelected not because of his embrace of neoliberalism but despite it.</p><p>The statistics are compiled in the perennially useful 1986 study Right Turn: The Decline of the Democrats and the Future of American Politics by Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers. One poll they cite from Opinion Research Corporation asked voters in 1980 whether “too much” was being spent on the environment, health, education, welfare, and urban aid programs. Only 21 percent thought so, the same percentage as in 1976, 1977, and 1978. Those who responded that the amount spent was either “too little” or “about right” was never lower in those years than 72 percent. The number favoring keeping “taxes and services about where they are” was the same in 1975 and 1980––45 percent.</p><p>The pattern continued well into Reagan’s presidency. In 1984, when Reagan’s approval rating was 68 percent, only 35 percent favored cuts in social programs to reduce the deficit, which of course was their president’s strenuously stated preference. Sixty-five percent believed such cuts were imminent. Yet that November, well over 60 percent of them voted for Reagan instead of the Democrat Walter Mondale.</p><p>But as has been demonstrated time and time again by empirical social science, one reason white Americans frequently vote against candidates promising to support spending for the public good is the fear that their tax dollars will be spent on minorities at the expense of themselves. The herrenvolk democracy limned by Trump––in which downwardly mobile whites hear themselves promised economic protection that won’t be shared with the scapegoated Others––is a powerful tool for understanding why his popularity with Republican voters grows and grows.</p><p>But wait: Donald Trump is just a con man? Probably. And most definitely, his audience is a pool of very juicy marks. Let’s see how much comfort you can draw from that.</p><p> </p>Direct mail hustlers<p>A few years ago, I wrote about what happens when you join the mailing list of conservative publications. You are instantly bombarded with come-ons for the “23-Cent Heart Miracle” that “Washington, the medical industry, and the drug companies REFUSE to tell you about.” You are promised “the insider’s code (which I’ll tell you) and you could make an extra $6,000 every single month.” You’ll be offered “INSTANT INTERNET INCOME . . . to put an end to your financial worries” and “give your family the abundant lifestyle they so richly deserve.”</p><p>My piece, which appeared in The Baffler and was entitled “<a href="http://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-long-con">The Long Con</a>,” argued that such hustles were not incidental to conservatism but central to the Republican moment itself. They are part of the “strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers” who collaborated in “coral[ling] fleeceable multitudes all in one place,” inculcating “a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.”</p><p>If you doubt that Donald Trump notches perfectly with this tradition, I recommend the documentary Trump, What’s the Deal? It was completed in 1990 but never released because of threats from its litigious subject­ but now, it’s available online. It’s the source of the quote, regarding Trump and the truth: “divide by two, then divide by four, and you’re closer to the answer.” In the film, you see Donald promising the most luxurious appointments available in his Trump Tower.</p><p>“We decided to go absolutely first class all the way,” Trump said, which was why Sofia Loren and the Prince of Wales were buying in (both lies). An interior decorator explains that the apartments, unlike the pink marble lobby, are anything but first class: “I’ve never seen more sloppily installed and more cheaply built kitchen cabinets.” (The installers were illegal Polish immigrants, whom Donald Trump did not pay.)</p><p>You see more of the hustle in Trump’s own book The Art of the Deal, where Trump claims he bought his Palm Springs mansion for $8 million cash, when he only came up with $2,000 cash. You see Trump building literal castles in the sky out of these lies––and, of course, since there is no con without a mark, you see people buying the lies, which is what lets the game work in the first place.</p><p>It’s not that his supporters don’t know he’s a con man; they revel in it. It’s what makes Donald a “winner.” Lying is an initiation into the conservative elite.  In these respects, as in so many others, conservatism resembles the “multi-level marketing,” or pyramid schemes, that so many Republicans buy into. Closing the sale is mainly a question of riding out the lie: showing you have the skill and the stones to just brazen it out, and the savvy to ratchet up the stakes higher and higher.</p><p>Which isn’t fascism. It’s more like professional wrestling––with which, as we know, Trump has a long and storied history.</p><p>Or maybe it’s both.</p><p> </p>A wrestler’s life<p>You know who else organized his life like a professional wrestler?</p><p>No, really: comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler would give the American hustler far, far, too much credit.</p><p>I will, however, compare the uselessness of the political press that bought into der fuhrer to our own. I recently read about Hitler At Home, a forthcoming University of Buffalo book by architectural historian Despina Statigakos. The author describes how Hitler’s advisors used his home life, and architecture, to manipulate the public, crafting spaces that, like movie sets, evoked the right emotions. “Then,” according the University of Buffalo News Center, “they invited reporters in for tours where they experienced Hitler in a setting that felt exclusive and emanated warmth. . . .”</p><p>“News outlets from home magazines to The New York Times portrayed the Nazi leader as a ‘country gentleman’ and cultured statesman with a mountain chalet––unaware that the image was propaganda created by an inner circle of experts for political ends.”</p><p>Whatever the ultimate meaning of Trumpism, I hardly think our political press will prove any better at safeguarding our liberties. Again and again, the editorial line has been that his latest supposed gaffe will finish him, when they’ve only preceded greater heights of popularity. The most recent variation on that theme came only days ago in The New Yorker, where John Cassidy wrote, “In the political world . . . there has been growing acceptance that Trump can get away with saying things that other candidates can’t . . . Until now, that is.”</p><p>Which is, of course, exactly what they said about Trump’s remarks about Mexican immigrants being rapists, and about John McCain being a loser for getting shot down, etc. It hardly matters that this time the “show-stopper” was calling Carly Fiorina ugly. What matters is our willful refusal to grasp that his appeal doesn’t fit the received categories of journalistic analysis, which journalists refuse to revise.</p><p>Political journalism is married to a discourse of consensus, that radicalism is always absorbed into the mainstream. So CNN headlined an article about its new poll finding that 43 percent of Republicans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim: “Misperceptions persist about Obama’s faith, but aren’t so widespread.” We were reassured, however, that “Most Republicans think Obama was born in the country.” As off-base as this is, it maintains a touching faith that politics can be governed by a simplistic version of Enlightenment rationality, in which false claims, once debunked, will somehow go away.</p><p>We want to think about Trump using our familiar categories, according to familiar norms, judging him by familiar rules. But what Donald Trump is all about is incinerating the existing rules––which are revealed as all too easy to incinerate. He breaks the system just by his manner of being. It’s humbling, because the system he breaks is the only one we know how to understand.</p><p>But with Trump, everything requires revision––for me as much as anyone else.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1043391'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1043391" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 08:43:00 -0700 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1043391 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 trump gop culture election election2016 republicans How Jimmy Carter Revealed the GOP's Dark Id Four Decades Ago http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/how-jimmy-carter-revealed-gops-dark-id-four-decades-ago <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1041965'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1041965" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The 39th president knew the forces unfettered campaign spending would unleash before anyone else. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/carter.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>James Earl Carter is nearing the end. In an extraordinary press conference last week, the 39th president discussed his impending death from metastasizing liver cancer, with a grace, humor, and wisdom the rest of us can only hope to emulate when our own time comes.</p><p>Soon will come the eulogies: then, the assessments. Forgive me if I jump the gun with a gust of affection. I’ve been grappling with his 1976 candidacy and presidency for most of my workdays for at least a year now for my next book on Ronald Reagan’s rise to the presidency. I want to lose some thoughts while they are fresh in my mind</p><p>Jimmy Carter had been an engineer. He had also been a Baptist missionary. Both identities, in their different ways, converged on the same habit of thought: that there was a Correct Way to do things—only one. The engineer believed that a solitary individual, working assiduously with the right tools and information, with enough ingenuity and perseverance and a clear and clever mind—all of which Jimmy Carter possessed—could arrive at the right solution to any problem. And for the devout Baptist, no less than for the engineer, a conviction, once arrived at, was something tocommunicate, not to compromise.</p><p>You could see how the balance informed his rhetoric in that press conference last week, the preacher calling us to contemplate last things, the engineer calmly and carefully guiding us through the technicalities of his cancer treatment: Carter the post-president at his most glorious. But for a president in office in the 1970s, confronted with impossible complexities, moral conundrums and the beginning of the polarized partisan politics that make governing almost impossible today, it was an unusual base of mental operations.</p><p>Frequently, Carter’s approach to those complexities produced political disasters; “The Passionless Presidency,” James Fallows’s classic 1979 essay on his time as one of Carter’s White House speechwriters, will forever remain the best account of that. But Carter’s approach to governing also could lead to a glorious kind of democratic prophetic witness. Coincidentally, I was writing about one of those moments, from the spring and summer of 1977, last week when the news of Carter’s diagnosis broke. This moment reveals Carter at his very best. It also reveals American conservatives at their venal worst—and provides one more precedent to help us understand and contend with their ongoing deformation of our democracy now.</p><p>It was March 22. President Carter, concerned that America ranked 21st in voter participation among the world’s democracies, transmitted a package of proposed electoral reforms to Congress. He had studied the problem. Now he was ready to administer a solution.</p><p>Everyone loved to talk about voter apathy, but the real problem, Carter said, was that “millions of Americans are prevented or discouraged from voting in every election by antiquated and overly restricted voter registration laws”—a fact proven, he pointed out, by record rates of participation in 1976 in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, where voters were allowed to register on election day. So he proposed that election-day registration be adopted universally, tempering concerns that such measures might increase opportunities for fraud by also proposing five years in prison and a $10,000 fine as penalties for electoral fraud.</p><p>He asked Congress to allot up to $25 million in aid to states to help them comply, and for the current system of federal matching funds for presidential candidates to be expanded to congressional elections. He suggested reforming a loophole in the matching-fund law that disadvantaged candidates competing with rich opponents who funded their campaigns themselves, and revising the Hatch Act to allow federal employees “not in sensitive positions,” and when not on the job, the same rights of political participation as everyone else.</p><p>Finally, and most radically, he recommended that Congress adopt a constitutional amendment to do away with the Electoral College—under which, three times in our history (four times if you count George W. Bush 23 years later), a candidate who received fewer votes than his opponent went on to become president—in favor of popular election of presidents. It was one of the broadest political reform packages ever proposed.</p><p>It was immediately embraced. Legislators from both parties stood together at a news briefing to endorse all or part of it. Two Republican senators and two Republican representatives stepped forward to cosponsor the universal registration bill; William Brock, chairman of the Republican National Committee, called it “a Republican concept.” Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker announced his support, and suggested going even further: making election day a national holiday and keeping polls open 24 hours. House Minority Leader John Rhodes, a conservative disciple of Barry Goldwater, predicted it would pass “in substantially the same form with a lot of Republican support, including my own.”</p><p>A more perfect democracy. Who could find this controversial?</p><p>You guessed it: movement conservatives, who took their lessons about Democrats and “electoral reform” from Republican allegations that had Kennedy beating Nixon via votes received from the cemeteries of Chicago.</p><p>Ronald Reagan had been on this case for years. “Look at the potential for cheating,” he thundered in 1975, when Democrats proposed allowing citizens to register by postcard. “He can be John Doe in Berkeley, and J.F. Doe in the next county, all by saying he intends to live in both places … Yes, it takes a little work to be a voter; it takes some planning to get to the polls or send an absentee ballot … That’s a small price to pay for freedom.” He took up the cudgel again shortly after Carter’s inauguration, after California adopted easier voter registration. Why not a national postcard registration program? “The answer to that is the one the American general gave to the German demand for surrender at the battle of Bastogne in World War II: Nuts.…. Government by the people won’t work if the people won’t work at it.”</p><p>He continued. “Why don’t we try reverse psychology and make it harder to vote?”</p><p>Then came Carter’s electoral reform package. There had always been a political subtext to such arguments. Now, the subtext came to the fore: “Election ‘Reform’ Package: Euthanasia for the GOP,” blared a banner atop an issue of Human Events. The current system, the conservative newspaper argued, had never disenfranchised a single person—at least “no citizen who cares enough to make the minimal effort.” So why was Carter proposing to change it? Not because he was a reformer, but because he wanted to steal elections. Carter, after all, had won Wisconsin by a tiny margin, defying electoral predictions. So why wouldn’t he want to expand the scam to all 50 states?</p><p>There also had always been a racial subtext to such arguments. Now, that subtext, too, came to the fore.</p><p>Human Events cited a Berkeley political scientist who said national turnout would go up 10 percent. They observed that it was “widely agreed that the bulk of these extra votes will go to Carter’s Democratic Party”—“with blacks and other traditionally Democratic voter groups accounting for most of the increase.” The Heritage Foundation put out a paper arguing that instant registration would allow the “eight million illegal aliens in the U.S.” to vote. In his newspaper column, Reagan said the increase in voting would come from “the bloc comprised of those who get a whole lot more from the federal government in various kinds of income distribution than they contribute to it.” And if those people prove too dumb to vote themselves a raise, “don’t be surprised if an army of election workers—much of it supplied by labor organizations which have managed to exempt themselves from election law restrictions—sweep through metropolitan areas scooping up otherwise apathetic voters and rushing them to the polls to keep the benefit dispensers in power.”</p><p>And Electoral College reform? All but ventriloquizing the argument John C. Calhoun made in the 1840s, Reagan responded: “The very basis for our freedom is that we are a federation of sovereign states. Our Constitution recognizes that certain rights belong to the states and cannot be infringed upon by the national government.”</p><p>What followed represented a hinge in the history of the Republican Party akin to one in 1966, which I wrote about in my 2008 book Nixonland. After the Republicans were decimated in 1964 and the pundits predicted they must purge the conservatives to survive, the party instead embraced a key tenet of Barry Goldwater—opposing civil rights—and ended up making an extraordinary comeback, then capturing the presidency in 1968.</p><p>In 1977, after Jimmy Carter’s victory saw pundits singing from the old 1964 hymnal—“Just why the Republican Party with its enrollment of 18 percent should be engaged in trying to saw off its left arm is beyond fathoming,” said one—via the issue of electoral reform, Republicans made a similar choice, tacking hard right for cynically political reasons, justice be damned.</p><p>On April 16, in Los Angeles, Chairman Brock assured Reagan that he now opposed the election reform package. An issue of the RNC magazine First Monday ran an article on “Fraud and Carter’s Voter Registration Scheme”; then subsequently, under Brock’s own byline, another headlined the “Democratic Power Grab.” John Rhodes, after what The Washington Post called “unremitting opposition for his original stand,” directed his House Republican Policy Committee to adopt a statement of formal opposition. When the first item on Carter’s reform agenda, extending public financing to congressional elections, came up for consideration, New Right organizer Richard Viguerie drummed up one of his patented direct-mail scare campaigns, and the measure was filibustered to death. The other items expired soon after: a more perfect democracy, sacrificed on the altar of right-wing political expedience.</p><p>This spring, when only those closest to him knew of his illness, Jimmy Carter made news on Thom Hartmann’s radio program when he returned to the question of democracy reform. In 1977, he had pledged “to work toward an electoral process which is open to the participation of all our citizens, which meets high ethical standards, and operates in an efficient and responsive manner.” In 2015, he was still at it.</p><p>He declared our electoral system a violation of “the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president.”</p><p>The president who put the solar panels on the White House roof was once again rendered a prophet without honor.</p><p>When Jimmy Carter is right he is really, really right. When the right is wrong, they stay wrong as the day is long.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1041965'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1041965" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sat, 05 Sep 2015 11:36:00 -0700 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1041965 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics jimm carter The New Holy Grail of Republican Primaries http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/new-holy-grail-republican-primaries <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1040037'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1040037" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">How Citizens United is turning the Republican Party upside down.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/holy-grail-of-gop-primaries-434x450.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Never have so many done so much to reveal so little than in the collected journalism about presidential nomination contests. The personality-driven trivia. The hokey generalizations. The bogs of conventional wisdom. The day-by-day scorekeeping that ends up worse than uninformative; it is anti-informative. (Just ask Presidents <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/why-american-workers-arent-buying-mitt-romney/">George Romney</a>, Edmund Muskie, Scoop Jackson, John Connally, <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/if-we-build-it-they-will-come-is-the-keystone-xl-unstoppable/">Richard Gephardt</a>, and <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/a-new-book-smearing-senator-clinton-sells-well/">Hillary Rodham Clinton</a>.) The utter failure to inform the public of the actual, on-the-ground dynamics of the nuts-and-bolts process by which the parties chose their standard-bearers, and the larger dynamics that drive party trends from decade to decade.</p><p>And, last but not least, the shameful lack of any useful contribution to a richer public understanding of what any of this means for the future of the republic at large. Consider, to take an example close to hand, the saga of the $80,000 boat.</p><p>On June 9, <em>The New York Times</em> ran a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/10/us/politics/marco-rubio-finances-debt-loans-credit.html">useful</a>, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/10/us/politics/marco-rubio-finances-debt-loans-credit.html">detailed</a> consideration of the finances of <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/behind-every-republican-a-billionaire/">Marco Rubio</a>. Publicly, the <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/behind-every-republican-a-billionaire/">Florida</a> senator describes his everyman’s struggle to “finally pay off his law school loans.” Privately, according to state records unearthed by the paper’s <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/libby-gets-his-comeuppancebut-the-press-still-needs-a-federal-shield-law/">Steve Eder</a> and Michael Barbaro, he spent “$80,000 for a luxury speedboat.”</p><p>The detail revealed a larger pattern: Rubio has been financially in the hole for nearly his entire adult life. The reason this mattered, noted the <em>Times</em>—whose work on Rubio has been a welcome exception to the rule of bad campaign reporting—was that it “has made him unusually reliant on a campaign donor, <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/behind-every-republican-a-billionaire/">Norman Braman</a>, a billionaire who has subsidized Mr. Rubio’s job as a college instructor, hired him as a lawyer, and continues to employ his wife.”</p><p>These details were <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/10/us/billionaire-lifts-marco-rubio-politically-and-personally.html">explained</a> in the <em>Times</em> a month earlier. The same two reporters described the 82-year-old Braman, an almost comically plutocratic figure who sells Rolls Royces and Bugattis for a living, and almost single-handedly recalled Miami’s mayor. Braman, who implored the <em>Times</em> reporters, “I don’t consider myself a fat cat. Don’t make me out to be a fat cat,” has been able to call the tune for the 44-year-old Rubio.</p><p>Then came <em>Politico</em>’s bubble-headed media reporter <a href="http://www.politico.com/reporters/DylanByers.html">Dylan Byers</a> with a <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/06/rubios-luxury-speedboat-is-a-fishing-boat-208515.html">scoop</a>: Rubio’s “luxury speedboat” was “in fact, an offshore fishing boat.” Speedboats, you see, are for rich swells; fishing boats, even ones costing almost $100,000, are for jes’ folks.</p><p>Immediately, this supposed error became the shiny bouncing ball the political media decided to chase.</p><p><em>Politico</em> covered Boatgate eight times over the next two weeks—Byers twice in two consecutive days. They didn’t mention Braman once. (They had mentioned him in May—in scorekeeping mode, as the “Miami auto dealer who’s expected to pour anywhere from $10 million to $25 million into [Rubio’s] bid.”) <em>The Washington Post</em> also featured little but nautically-inclined reporting on Rubio in that same period, seven pieces mentioning the boat including one fact-checking <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/santa-penguin-please/">Jon Stewart</a> and another headlined “Mr. Rubio, Like a Lot of Americans, Is Terrible With Money.” (Not, say, “Mr. Rubio, Like a Lot of Americans, Has a Surrogate Father Who Loans Him Rides on His Private Jet.”) The neocons at <em>The Weekly Standard</em> summed things up for the historical record: the <em>Times</em>’s “failed hit on Marco Rubio’s fishing boat” proved “<a href="http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/nyt-confirms-rubio-gop-frontrunner_968197.html">Rubio is [the] GOP frontrunner</a>.” End of story.</p><p>What else do you need to know about <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/rubio-fears-nativism-will-derail-immigration-reform-good-luck/">Marco Rubio</a> in the second week of June 2015?</p>Political Science Fail<p>Political scientists, in their earnest, empirical way, don’t offer much more illumination. The most influential effort is <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo5921600.html"><em>The Party Decides: Presidential Nominations Before and After Reform</em></a> (University of Chicago Press, 2008). Its coauthors John Zaller, Marty Cohen, Hans Noel, and David Karol have been frequently quoted on the subject. Unfortunately much of what they have to offer is banal.</p><p>“Candidates without party support have never won,” Zaller told <em>The New York Times</em>’ <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/roubinis-crystal-ball-prosecuting-the-bushies-if-not-bush/">Nate Cohn</a>—a water-is-wet sort of insight, and question-begging at that: what about <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/ignoring-obamas-record-rewards-party/">Barry Goldwater</a>, who had so much party “support” that hardly any Republican officeholders campaigned for him in 1964, or <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/a-republican-party-held-captive-by-its-radical-base/">George McGovern</a> in 1972, against whom major party figures and factions conspired in the general election?</p><p>What this all suggests is that the state-of-the-art statistical mojo conjured over 416 pages by four of the most respected scholars in the field amounts to very little when it comes to predicting who gets nominations and why.</p><p>Statisticians routinely warn of what they describe as the “small N” problem: unless there is enough data to work with, it’s all but impossible to make statistically valid conclusions.</p><p>There have been precisely 10 presidential election cycles in the modern period that began with the two parties reforming their nominating systems after 1968, to favor primaries and caucuses open to party rank and file instead of backroom brokering by party elites. That’s not enough data to come up with useful, statistically verifiable conclusions that can be expected to endure—such as the old saw about presidential nominations that “Democrats fall in love. Republicans fall in line.”<br />That is to say that Dems have ended up choosing sexy outliers who emerge as if from nowhere: George McGovern, <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/presidents-precedents-executive-authority-immigration/">Jimmy Carter</a>, <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/why-free-trade-treaties-destroy-jobs/">Bill Clinton</a>. Republicans, more authoritarian in mien, tab the second place finisher in the previous contested race, or venerable warhorses, or presidents’ sons.</p><p>Today, this pattern appears to be an artifact of a bygone age. As of this writing there are 15 declared candidates. Early polling had <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/down-with-the-flag-up-with-trump/">Donald Trump</a> in the lead, and not even a stable top tier, as revealed by polling, donations, endorsements, or any other metric you can think of.</p>Conned by Cohn<p>So all is chaos? <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/roubinis-crystal-ball-prosecuting-the-bushies-if-not-bush/">Nate Cohn</a>, venturing one of his trademark analyses that cut through an apparent morass of complexity to reveal the truth hidden within, says not: He <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/10/upshot/-2015-04-10-2016-elections-upshot-the-gop-presidential-field-looks-chaotic-its-nothtml.html">argued</a> in April that the Republicans were well on their way to sorting themselves out into a traditional two-way race, a front-runner (either Bush, Walker, or possibly Rubio) and a rotating cast of colorful second-place flavors of the month, like in 2012. (Pop quiz: who was <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/women-working-and-getting-groped-for-tips/">Herman Cain</a>?) Cohn sorted the Republicans into three buckets, adducing historical antecedents for each. He claimed his argument reveals “underlying fundamentals” that “determine from the very start which candidate will win the nomination.”</p><p>He slips upon banana peel after banana peel in the attempt. His first bucket is “Invisible Primary Leaders”—whom he claims almost always win. He cites the <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/why-american-workers-arent-buying-mitt-romney/">Mitt Romney</a>s, the GWB’s, the <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/prejudice-trial/">Al Gore</a>s, <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/the-elephant-in-the-polling-booth/">Walter Mondale</a>s—reasonable enough. But he also includes <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/scott-walkers-long-crusade/">Ronald Reagan</a>, which is nonsense. Running up to 1980, Reagan was the serious candidate least respected by “invisible primary” gatekeeping elites. Their darlings were Howard Baker, George Bush, and, most prominently, “Big John” Connally—who spent $11 million in 1980 to win a single delegate.</p><p>“No factor has proved more important to a candidate’s chances than the loyalty of party elites.” Not hardly. Cohn’s article only makes it seem so by excluding such elites of elite darlings as Scoop Jackson in 1976, Humphrey and Muskie in 1972, <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/why-american-workers-arent-buying-mitt-romney/">George Romney</a> in 1968—and I could go on. He goes on to torture the data in such a way that 89 percent of those he lists as “Invisible Primary Winners” went on to become nominees. In my own tally of same, however, the number is more like 45 percent.</p><p>I could explore his argument further, but a third of the way through his article, Cohn’s whole foundation has so badly broken down, it hardly matters.</p><p>So what indicators should a well-informed citizen be following? Not polls. At this point in 2012 <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/why-american-workers-arent-buying-mitt-romney/">Mitt Romney</a> was running behind<a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/what-just-happened-in-new-york-is-the-future/">Rudy Giuliani</a>, with <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/a-republican-party-held-captive-by-its-radical-base/">Sarah Palin</a> close behind. Not even, really, the winners of elections. Who won that year’s Iowa caucus? <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/ted-cruz-and-the-politics-of-faith-and-fear/">Rick Santorum</a>. He then carried 10 more states. It ended up not mattering. Republican nominations are not simple plebiscites; the process is much more occult than that.</p><p>Don’t pay overmuch attention to the braying loudmouths of the activist right either, as they flay Marco Rubio as a handmaiden of the Mexican hordes for daring to <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/marco-rubio-2016-immigration-116926.html">express compassion</a> for immigrants; Ohio Governor John Kasich for herding the poor onto the <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/05/01/403610372/ohio-republican-gov-kasich-on-expanding-medicaid-its-my-money">federal plantation</a> by accepting Obamacare’s Medicaid subsidies; Jeb Bush for welcoming <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/insiders-bushs-common-core-support-damaging-but-not-fatal-117309.html">brainwashing</a> federal bureaucrats into Florida elementary schools.</p><p>Remember they flayed <a href="https://www.guernicamag.com/daily/john-stoehr-making-a-fetish-of-john-mccain/">John McCain</a> even worse. Talk-radio host Michael Reagan first noted the “<a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/all-aboard-mccain-express#">huge gap</a> that separates McCain,” who “has contempt for conservatives who he thinks we can be duped into thinking he’s one of them,” from “my dad, Ronald Reagan.” Eight days later Michael Reagan reconsidered and said “you can bet my father would be itching to get out on the campaign trail working to elect him.”</p><p>Authoritarians follow signals from above. Which won’t keep the puppies of the press corps from dwelling on which candidate the angry <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/why-the-tea-party-should-support-a-raise-in-the-minimum-wage/">Tea Party</a> bleaters are calling “unacceptable” this week, even though that really doesn’t matter.</p><p>What about endorsements? For one thing, you’ll have to scour the news to find them. <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/mccain-advisers-disappeared-swamped-by-swaps-time-to-tax-securities-transactions/">Carly Fiorina</a> may have won the undying devotion of Gene G. Chandler, deputy speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. And have you heard <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/mike-huckabees-new-covenant/">Mike Huckabee</a> has nabbed not just the lieutenant governor of Arkansas, but her secretary of state and state treasurer? But news like that is not particularly useful if you’re a producer or editor hungry for titillated eyeballs. And perhaps that’s for the best. The name of today’s game is TV commercials, not endorsements, door-knocking armies, and “walking around money.” <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/behind-every-republican-a-billionaire/">TV is costly</a> and it takes don’t-call-me-fat-cats like <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/behind-every-republican-a-billionaire/">Norman Braman</a>, <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/behind-every-republican-a-billionaire/">Sheldon Adelson</a>, and the <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/behind-every-republican-a-billionaire/">Brothers Koch</a> to pay those kinds of bills.</p>The Plutocrats’ Right to Choose<p>The bottom line is that the penumbras and emanations of <em>Citizens United</em> are changing the campaign game in ways that throw all previous understandings of how Republicans nominate presidents into a cocked hat. To see how it’s working on the ground, come with me to Southern California, where last year David and Charles Koch convened one of their dog-and-pony shows, where the aspirants lined up to stand on their hind legs to beg before their would-be masters. <em>Politico</em> spoke to two people who were there, and offered the following account of the performance of Ohio’s Governor <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/ted-cruz-and-the-politics-of-faith-and-fear/">John Kasich</a>.</p><ul>“Randy Kendrick, a major contributor and the wife of Ken Kendrick, the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, rose to say she disagreed with Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage, and questioned why he’d said it was ‘what God wanted.’” Kasich’s “fiery” response: “I don’t know about you, lady. But when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have to answer what I’ve done for the poor.”</ul><p>Other years, before other audiences, such public piety might have sounded banal. This year, it’s enough to kill a candidacy:</p><ul>“About 20 audience members walked out of the room, and two governors also on the panel, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, told Kasich they disagreed with him. The Ohio governor has not been invited back to a Koch seminar.”</ul><p>Which is, of course, astonishing. But even more astonishing was the lesson the <em>Politico</em> drew from it—one, naturally, about personalities: “Kasich’s temper has made it harder to endear himself to the GOP’s wealth benefactors.” His temper. Not their temper. Not, say, “Kasich’s refusal to kowtow before the petulant whims of a couple of dozen greedy nonentities who despise the <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/genuflecting-on-the-campaign-trail/">Gospel of Jesus Christ</a> has foreclosed his access to the backroom cabals without which a Republican presidential candidacy is inconceivable.”</p><blockquote class="pullq"><p>All this noise doesn’t amount to a story by which citizens can understand what is going on. Not just concerning the candidates, but the behind-the-scenes string-pullers whose names should be almost as familiar to us as Mr. Bush, Mr. Rubio, and, God forbid, Dr. Carson.</p></blockquote><p>To see how consequential the handing over of this kind of power to nonentities like these is, consider the candidates’ liabilities with another constituency once considered relevant in presidential campaigns: voters. <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/jeb-bushs-ethical-blind-spot/">Chris Christie’</a>s home state approval rating, alongside his opening of a nearly billion-dollar hole in New Jersey’s budget, is <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/chris-christie-approval-rating-new-jersey-115687.html">35 percent</a>. While Christie has only flirted with federal law enforcement, <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/big-cheap-a-deadly-rick-perrys-medicaid-policy/">Rick Perry</a> has been indicted. Scott Walker’s approval rating among the people who know him best (besides <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/behind-every-republican-a-billionaire/">David Koch</a>) is <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBnSv3a6Nh4">41 percent</a>, and only <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBnSv3a6Nh4">40 percent</a> of Wisconsinites believe the state is heading in the right direction. <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/bobby-jindal-and-grover-norquist-wreck-louisiana/">Bobby Jindal</a>’s latest approval rating in the Pelican State is <a href="http://www.bestofneworleans.com/gambit/next-to-nothing/Content?oid=2598599">27 percent</a>. Senator <a href="http://www.nationalmemo.com/lindsey-graham-and-the-gay-conspiracy/?utm_source=Sailthru">Lindsey Graham</a> announced his presidency by all but <em><a href="http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/lindsey-graham-if-youre-sick-of-war-dont-vote-for-me/article/2565615">promising</a></em> he’d take the country to war; <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/jeb-bushs-ethical-blind-spot/">Jeb Bush</a> by telling Americans they need to work more. <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/ted-cruz-and-the-politics-of-faith-and-fear/">Rick Santorum</a> not so long ago made political history: he lost his Senate seat by 19 points, an unprecedented feat for a two-term incumbent.</p><p>That political facts this blunt are no longer disqualifying for presidential candidates is a sort of revolution. If the winnowing of front-runners from also-rans has traditionally been a financial process (when the money dries up, so do the campaigns) <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/behind-every-republican-a-billionaire/">Sheldon Adelson</a> of Las Vegas and Macau began tearing up that paradigm in 2012 by shoveling money to <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/scott-walkers-long-crusade/">Newt Gingrich</a>; <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0412/75418.html">$20 million total</a>, including <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/adelsons-give-gingrich-super-pac-another-5-million/2012/04/23/gIQAlqNmbT_blog.html">$5 million</a> dispensed on March 23, three days after Gingrich won 8 percent in Illinois’s primary to Mitt Romney’s 47 percent, keeping Gingrich officially in the race more than a week <em>after</em> the RNC <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republican_Party_presidential_primaries,_2012#April">declared</a> <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/why-american-workers-arent-buying-mitt-romney/">Romney</a> the presumptive nominee.</p><p>Now, four previously unheard of super-PACS supporting <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/ted-cruz-and-the-politics-of-faith-and-fear/">Ted Cruz</a>, who has no support among the GOP’s “establishment,” raised $31 million “with virtually no warning over the course of several days beginning Monday.” <em>The New York Times</em> reported this shortly after <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/09/us/super-pacs-network-quickly-raises-31-million-for-ted-cruz.html?ref=topics">reporting</a> that “[t]he leader of the Federal Election Commission, the agency charged with regulating the way political money is raised and spent, says she has largely given up hope of reigning in abuses in the 2016 presidential campaign, which could generate a record $10 billion in spending.”</p><p>The <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/behind-every-republican-a-billionaire/">Koch Brothers</a>, you can learn if you take a deep enough dive into the relatively obscure precincts of campaign coverage, are battling to take over a major functions of the <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/when-republicans-eat-their-own/">Republicans National Committee</a>.</p><p>And all this, admittedly, gets reported, in bits and pieces. But all this noise doesn’t amount to an ongoing story by which citizens can understand what is actually going on. Not just concerning who might be our next president, but what it all means for the republic. And not just concerning the candidates, but the behind-the-scenes string-pullers whose names, really, should be almost as familiar to us as Mr. Bush, Mr. Rubio, and, God forbid, Dr. Carson.</p><p>Instead, we get the same old hackneyed horse race—like, did you know that <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/ted-cruz-and-the-politics-of-faith-and-fear/">Rick Santorum</a> is in trouble? Only one voter showed up at his June 8 event in Hamlin, Iowa. <em>The Des Moines Register</em> <a href="http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2015/06/09/santorum-panora-hamlin-visit/28724779/">reported</a> that. <em>Politico</em> <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/rick-santorum-iowa-event-one-voter-turnout-118774.html#ixzz3cZRmLjfY">made sure</a> that <em>tout</em> Washington knew it. Though neither mentioned that Santorum is still doing just fine with the one voter the matters: Foster Friess, the Wyoming financier who gave his super-PAC $6.7 million in 2012, and promises <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-05-28/this-wyoming-fund-manager-is-betting-on-rick-santorum-again">something similar</a> this year. “He has the best chance of winning,” Friess said. “I can’t imagine why anybody would not vote for him.’’ Which, considering only <a href="http://www.politico.com/p/polls/person/latest/rick-santorum#.VZK3J5PF9RA">2 percent</a> of New Hampshirites and Iowans agree with him, is kind of crazy. And you’d think having people like that picking the people who govern us would all be rather newsworthy.</p><p>You’d be right.</p><p>Just don’t expect to read anything about it in <em>Politico</em>.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1040037'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1040037" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 09:24:00 -0700 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1040037 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2016 News & Politics republicans gop conservatives election 2016 Right-Wing Racist Whack-a-Mole: Confederate Flag Comes Down, Donald Trump Pops Up http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/right-wing-racist-whack-mole-confederate-flag-comes-down-donald-trump-pops <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1039419'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1039419" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There’s an enormous amount to learn in this juxtaposition about how conservatism works at its deepest levels.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_283689917.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><strong><a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/down-with-the-flag-up-with-trump/">This article first appeared at The Washington Spectator</a>.</strong></p><p>Suddenly, with a single flap of the Angel of History’s wings, America has experienced a shuddering change: the American swastika has finally become toxic—a liberation that last month seemed so impossible that we’d forgotten to bother to think about it.</p><p>One doesn’t waste energy worrying over the fact that <a href="http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-worldwide-network-of-us-military-bases/5564">America controls</a> over 700 military bases in 63 countries and maintains a military presence in 156; or that Israel has staged a civilian-slaughtering war approximately <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_Israel">every other year</a> since 2006; or that in America there is <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/constitutional-roadblock-efforts-fix-federal-elections/">no constitutionally guaranteed right to vote</a> or that <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/eye-pyramids-part-1-how-it-works/">unregulated pyramid schemes</a> fleece Middle Americans out of $10 to $20 billion a year or that a private organization runs our presidential debates, <a href="http://www.debates.org/index.php?page=national-debate-sponsors">sponsored</a> by the same corporations that <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/news/the-end-of-republican-rule-6406528">underwrite</a> Democratic conventions … on and on and on: permanent annoyances.</p><p>Like the <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/a-flag-highjacked-by-modern-segregationists/">Confederate flag</a>.</p><p><strong>People Can Change?</strong></p><p>While ignorant or insensate bitter-enders will continue to screech, there’s no going back: This thing is toxic even to Republican backbenchers. You could see that on Capitol Hill last week: late Wednesday night, Republicans sedulously repealed a Democratic amendment banning this flag of treason against the U.S. government from U.S. cemeteries. Dozens of Democrats then <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/confederate-flag-debate-hill">stood shoulder-to-shoulder</a> on the House floor to all but accuse their colleagues across the aisle of evil. (Imagine the impossibility of them doing the same on, say, gun control.) The Republicans, embarrassed, backtracked—and the amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) issued a statement <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/ken-calvert-gop-leadership-confederate-flag">disclaiming responsibility</a>, blaming his leadership instead. (Wedge issue!)</p><p>Or watch the awe-inspiring speech of the Republican <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/racist-ideology-and-dylann-roof/">South Carolina</a> state representative who <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/jenny-horne-speech-confederate-flag">burst into tears</a>, begging her party-mates to finally come to their senses: “I have heard enough about heritage. I have a heritage. I am a life-long South Carolinian. I am a descendant of Jefferson Davis, okay? But that does not matter!”</p><p>So, progress, right? <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/a-republican-party-held-captive-by-its-radical-base/">The Republican Party</a>, or at least more of it than we ever would have dreamed, abandoning yesteryear’s bigotry, proving that progress is possible: people can change.</p><p>Right?</p><p><strong>Baked into the Reactionary Cake</strong></p><p>Not so fast. Let’s not forget the juxtaposition: at almost precisely the same moment, <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/republican-birthers-on-cruz-control/">Donald Trump</a> announced his presidential campaign with the immortal words: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best … They’re sending people that have lots of problems. And they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” And, immediately, Trump shot to the top of the Republican charts—with a bullet: he’s now the most popular candidate among GOP likely voters, <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/polls-donald-trump-in-first-place-2015-7">four points ahead of Jeb Bush</a>.</p><p>There’s an enormous amount to learn in this juxtaposition about how conservatism works at its deepest levels. It drives liberals crazy when conservatives dress themselves in the clothes of the great social-justice movements of the past: when they avow that were he alive now Martin Luther King would be a Republican, when they compare their crusades to force pregnant women to give birth to Mahatma Gandhi’s March to the Sea. This is not a new development; indeed, it’s baked into the reactionary cake.</p><p>Conservatives understand that the direction of human history is not on their side—that, other things equal, civilization does tend toward more inclusion, more emancipation, more liberalism. That is the great source of their anger. And that, too, is the source of the compulsion to dress reaction in the raiment of liberation. Politically, it is the only way.</p><p><strong>Public Profession, Private Confession</strong></p><p>There is, however, another parallel right-wing drive, the “other” side of reaction’s Möbius strip—the same side, really. It emerges, for instance, in phrases like <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/conspiracy-theories-the-republicans-last-refuge/">Barry Goldwater</a>’s campaign slogan: “In Your Heart You Know He’s Right.” Or “<a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/nullification-how-states-are-making-it-a-felony-to-enforce-federal-gun-laws/">Silent Majority</a>”: <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/reckless-republican-impeachment-chatter-belittles-framers-intent/">Richard Nixon</a>’s phrase, deployed in a November 1969 speech two weeks after the largest antiwar demonstration in human history, the National Moratorium Day, when approximately 2 million Americans from all walks of life, in cities and small towns alike, took the day off from work or school to protest the Vietnam War. They express a core conservative contention: that there are certain things that a vast majority of Americans know to be true, even if propriety—or the liberal thought police, what Nixon called by implication the silencing minority—do not allow them to say.</p><p>(And the skill and determination deployed by conservatives in convincing each other that the vast majority of Americans—and all “real” Americans—believe what they do is bottomless. The Gallup poll? As <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/where-would-the-tea-party-be-without-feminism/">Phyllis Schlafly</a> explained in 1964, they ask “a lot of questions of a very few people” until they “come up with answers that [please] the New York kingmakers.”)</p><p>This particular understanding of the gap between public profession and private confession is one of the five or six things most fundamental to conservative thought. The spectacle of Republicans lowering a flag could not be more public. The act of a Republican anonymously telling a pollster what she really believes about the candidate with the guts to call Mexicans what they “really” are, which is barely-human vermin, is not so public. Significantly, one of two polls that finds Trump ahead by four points was staged by <a href="https://today.yougov.com/">YouGov</a>, which does its polling online, without requiring respondents to talk to another, possibly judgmental, human being—about as private as a political act could be.</p><p><strong>Trump: “The Silent Majority Is Back”</strong></p><p>Another eminently private political act, of course, is entering a voting booth. Which was what Barry Goldwater was trying to encourage when he invited people to have the courage to vote what they knew in their hearts. The work of conservative politics is, at bottom, the attempt to create the conditions to flush out the forbidden truths that Americans supposedly bear in their breasts—the “conscience of the conservative” to borrow another Goldwater idiom—from the realm of secrecy into the arena of policy.</p><p>Timing, though, is everything. The annals of conservative history are full of documents not meant for public consumption, theorizing over the stand-or-fall question of for how long time needs to be bided before the subterranean truth can practically be surfaced, and how the ground can best be prepared for the crucial moment: the <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/the-fine-lines-between-populist-liberatarianism-white-identity-politics-and-treason/">Cato Institute</a>’s 1983 “<a href="http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-journal/1983/11/cj3n2-11.pdf#page=11">Leninist strategy</a>” for privatizing Social Security; the<a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/using-academic-freedom-to-keep-god-in-the-science-classroom/">Discovery Institute</a>’s 1998 “<a href="http://ncse.com/creationism/general/wedge-document">Wedge Document</a>” for undoing the teaching of evolution. Timing, however, demands discipline.</p><p>And discipline is precisely what the demented Mr. Trump lacks most.</p><p>This helps explain why the Trump business finds Republicans in such political disarray. Soon after Trump’s immigration utterances, Senator <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/peter-lindstrom-the-straw-man-haunting-gun-control/">Jeff Flake</a> of Arizona (95 percent lifetime rating from the <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/corporate-dollars-v-union-dollars/">American Conservative Union</a>, 99 percent from the Koch Brothers’ <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/the-dark-politics-of-dark-money/">Americans for Prosperity</a>), called for the Maricopa County Republican Party to pull its sponsorship of last weekend’s Trump campaign rally: “I don’t think that [Trump’s] views are reflective of the party, particularly in Arizona, a border state.” He also called Donald Trump “coarse.” That was the old way to play it.</p><p>Arizona Governor <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/arizonas-alien-exclusion-act/">Jan Brewer</a>, on the other hand, was thrilled to read the political cues differently. She said, “I believe that Mr. Trump is telling it like it really, truly is.” Arizona’s Republican rank-and-filers, ecstatic to finally find someone to say what they know in their hearts to be true, plainly agreed: thousands of them turned out to the Phoenix Convention Center to hear Trump cry, “The silent majority is back, and we’re going to take our country back.”</p><p><strong>Like Bigotry Whack-a-Mole</strong></p><p>All these figures, the censorious Flake, the welcoming Brewer, and, of course, The Donald Himself, pose as daring truth tellers. The real truth-teller in this business, however, was Lindsey Graham. He’s harvested praise for being the only Republican contender willing to call Donald Trump out. But note how Graham hardly criticized the substance of what Trump wants to achieve. Graham, too, thinks we need to “secure the border” (he wants to triple the number of drones), in abject denial of the fact that the <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/win-vitkowsky-memo-to-republicans-the-border-is-secure/">border is more “secure”</a> by any objective measure than it’s been in a generation. He blamed 9/11 on undocumented immigration. Instead his moral objections took a back seat to utilitarian ones: “We have to reject this demagoguery. If we don’t, we will lose, and we will deserve to lose.” That gives the game away.</p><p>I’ve never seen anything that lays bare the core lineaments of conservatism so neatly: there is our tribe, which is good, true, and pure; and there are those other tribes, who are existential threats to you and me (Reagan’s favorite phrase), and must be suppressed in order for good to be preserved. “We” all know this, even if “they” don’t allow us to say this. If anything, the lowering of the Confederate flag in South Carolina opens space for this particular new longing to air this other silent truth more freely.</p><p>This is important: conservatism is like bigotry <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0n8N98mpes">whack-a-mole</a>. The quantity of hatred, best I can tell from 17 years of close study of 60 years of right-wing history, remains the same. Removing the flag of the Confederacy, raising the flag of immigrant hating: the former doesn’t spell some new Jerusalem of tolerance; the latter doesn’t mean that conservatism’s racism has finally been revealed for all to see. The push-me-pull-me of private sentiment and public profession will always remain in motion, and in tension.</p><p><strong>Wedges, for Liberals</strong></p><p>Liberals of a strategic bent should pay close attention for those moments in which the tension between them becomes most palpable. They reveal potential offensive wedges—opportunities to sow just the sort of confusion we see between Jeff Flake’s utterances and Jan Brewer’s. This is the way the operational trust among Republican politicians can be degraded, the better to make their unity come fall of 2016 that much harder.</p><p>Smart Democratic politicians now have a useful script. Ask: Are you for Donald Trump or against him? Politically, that opportunity is precious. You might, say, ask Senator <a href="http://washingtonspectator.org/going-nuclear/">Mark Kirk</a> of Illinois: Donald Trump’s name hangs conspicuously on his tower along a gorgeous vista on the Chicago River. As with the Confederate flag, would you support taking it down?</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1039419'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1039419" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 07:07:00 -0700 Rick Perlstein, The Washington Spectator 1039419 at http://www.alternet.org The Right Wing News & Politics The Right Wing donald trump right-wing confederate flag Gun Nuts Are Terrorizing America: The Watershed Moment Everyone Missed http://www.alternet.org/gun-nuts-are-terrorizing-america-watershed-moment-everyone-missed <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1007320'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1007320" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">From Cliven Bundy defeating the cops to &quot;open carry&quot; movement&#039;s menace, the left&#039;s timidity has spawned a nightmare.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-06-26_at_9.55.26_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Here is a truth so fundamental that it should be self-evident: When legitimately constituted state authority stands down in the face of armed threats, the very foundation of the republic is in danger. And yet that is exactly what happened at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch this spring: An alleged criminal defeated the cops, because the forces of lawlessness came at them with guns — then Bureau of Land Management officials further surrendered by <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/blm-wrangler-armed-confrontation-utah">removing the government markings from their vehicles</a> to prevent violence against them.</p><p>What should be judged a watershed in American history instead became a story about one man’s racist rants. Even as two more Nevada lunatics, inspired by their stint at Cliven Bundy’s ranch, allegedly ambushed and mowed down two police officers and killed a bystander after crying, “This is the start of a revolution.” And now, an antigovernment conspiracy theorist named Douglas Cole recently <a href="http://www.modbee.com/2014/06/16/3393718/nevada-county-sheriff-identifies.html">shot at two police officers in Nevada County, California</a> (though you may not have heard about that, because the New York Times hasn’t found the news yet fit to print).</p><p>Such actions are the logical conclusion of a movement that has been veritably sweeping the nation for years now. Early Tea Partiers began attending rallies with guns on their hips. “Open carry” advocates make a fetish of just this sort of brandishing of guns in public places, especially where they are most unwanted. The slogan “molon labe” — “come and take them,” the defiant cry allegedly uttered by King Leonidas I when the Persian army ordered the Greeks to surrender their weapons at Thermopylae — <a href="http://web1.thenation.fayze2.com/blog/175011/molon-labe">is everywhere on the right</a>: molon labe T-shirts, molon labe <a href="http://www.cafepress.com/+molon_labe_cloth_napkins,766117942?utm_medium=cpc&amp;utm_term=766117942&amp;utm_source=google&amp;utm_campaign=sem-cpc-product-ads&amp;utm_content=search-pla">cloth napkins</a> for your next dinner party, sexy <a href="http://www.cafepress.com/+molon_labe_classic_thong,1164196169?utm_medium=cpc&amp;utm_term=1164196169&amp;utm_source=google&amp;utm_campaign=sem-cpc-product-ads&amp;utm_content=search-pla">molon labe thongs</a>, <a href="https://www.etsy.com/listing/191794567/molon-labe-magazine-releasecatch-old?utm_source=google&amp;utm_medium=product_listing_promoted&amp;utm_campaign=everything_else_low&amp;gclid=CjgKEAjwn-WcBRD61NHM-uqDrm4SJADrP4tP3sXKMR6Bbj-LzuW-7DJLMLPIF_rO9pGzYAOF5wwtwPD_BwE">molon labe release-catches for your AR-15</a>, available on Etsy.com from “<a href="http://www.molonlabe.com/">MolonLabeLLC</a>.”</p><div data-toggle-group="story-13706748"><p>The message implicit in such products was but rendered explicit by the “patriots” Jerad and Amanda Miller, speaking to reporters from Bundy’s spread back in April: “I feel sorry for any federal agents that want to come in here and push us around or something like that. I really don’t want violence toward them, but if they’re going to come bring violence to us, well if that’s the language they want to speak, we’ll learn it.”</p><p>It was the logic of some ultra-leftists from the 1960s: the intentional forcing of violent “contradictions” between citizens and the state, the better to spur revolution. It is, at the very least, a handy negotiating position: In Cliven Bundy’s case, it saved him about a million bucks in grazing fees he owes on land owned by taxpayers like you and me. Armed force trumped law. Armed force trumped politics. Which is, of course, for a citizen of a republic, the opposite of patriotism: The more people who believe that — and more and more are believing it every day — the more irrelevant the Constitution these people claim to revere becomes.</p><p>Now, as a historian, it has been my project to demonstrate that there is nothing particularly new about the fetishization of anti-constitutional insurgency as Constitution-worship on the right. I’ve written about the Minutemen, the early-’60s crowd of gun nuts who stockpiled weapons for the final showdown against the state they were sure was imminent once the Communists finally took it over, and slapped stickers on the mailboxes of perceived enemies reading, “Traitors, beware! Even now the crosshairs are on the back of your necks.” In 1966 authorities arrested their leaders and confiscated their stockpiles of tons of ammunition, bombs and even rockets. The right’s vision of sidearms as any patriot’s must-have accessory got a boost from the riots and increasing crime rates of the late 1960s. Inside the National Rifle Association, once mostly an anodyne gun-safety organization aimed at sportsmen, a faction emerged to take aim at any and all attempts at gun regulation, many of which they once supported. Laws, for example, aimed at banning the sale of guns by mail — the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine said that followed the “Communist line.” From there it was but a short distance to the conviction that gun-toting was a patriotic imperative — the better to beat back “those,” as Ronald Reagan wrote inGuns &amp; Ammo magazine in 1975, “who see confiscation of weapons as one way of keeping the people under control.”</p><p>So what’s different now? Why is this language so prevalent, and why do so many on the far right seem so eager to act upon it? They haven’t changed. We have.</p><p>By “us,” I mean Democrats — though the kind of Democrats, to be fair, who decide party policy from Washington. Once upon a time, Democratic presidential candidates robustly argued for gun control — that, as the party platform put it in 1980 (the year the NRA made its first ever presidential endorsement, of Ronald Reagan), “handguns simplify and intensify violent crime”; Democrats support “enactment of federal legislation to strengthen the presently inadequate regulations over the manufacture, assembly, distribution, and possession of handguns.” Note no mention of machine guns, because back then the notion that there should be no barrier to their ownership would have seemed self-evidently ridiculous to most reasonable observers. It’s fascinating to read the series of “Doonesbury” strips from 1979 in which Garry Trudeau’s resident madman Uncle Duke, who <a href="http://www.gocomics.com/doonesbury/1979/03/02#.U5sSLdy4lSU">covered his living room couch in land mines</a> and owned <a href="http://www.gocomics.com/doonesbury/1979/03/03#.U5sSa9y4lSU">a Soviet-made Makarov mortar for deer-hunting purposes</a>, goes to work lobbying for the NRA. In response to Duke’s clichéd claim that “once you have gun control, the only people left with guns are criminals,” a <a href="http://www.gocomics.com/doonesbury/1979/03/08#.U5sTjNy4lSU">congressman points out</a> that even that would reduce the carnage, because “as you well know, almost 70% of all murders are committed among family members and over half of them involve handguns!”</p><p>Responds Duke: “Exactly! So look at it from the point of view of the victim! What if yourwife were attacking you with a handgun?”</p><p>“I don’t follow, Mr. Duke.”</p><p>Duke’s answer reduces his interlocutor to confused splutters: “Well, wouldn’t you want to be in a position to return the fire?”</p><p>In 1979, this sounded so absurd as to be self-evidently satirical. Now, it just sounds like an ordinary day on C-SPAN — with congressmen, not NRA lobbyists, being the ones making the once-absurd “argument.”</p><p>In the interim, the mainstream of the Democratic Party simply gave most of the gun control argument away. Al Gore ran on a platform in 2000 that devoted about 250 words to gun control, including a pledge to push for mandatory child safety locks and a full background check and gun safety test before anyone could buy a handgun in America. Then, after Gore lost his home state, Tennessee, and other “border” Southern states, the geniuses running the Democratic Party decided to abandon gun control as an issue in order to court Southern white men (how’s that working out?). The gun-control portion of the platform in 2004 was slimmed down to 46 words. 2012’s version gave away the store: It affirmed, “We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms,” and asked only for “an honest, open national conversation about firearms” (yeah, the NRA is really interested in that), “effective enforcement of existing laws, especially strengthening our background check system,” and reinstating the assault weapon ban and closing the gun show loophole.</p><p>In other words, there is virtually no countervailing power to the now-hegemonic acceptance that there’s nothing much to do about the proliferation of guns in America. Democrats, as usual, gave an inch. The right, as usual, took a mile. And now we face the consequences.</p></div><p> </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2014 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1007320'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1007320" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 18:54:00 -0700 Rick Perlstein, Salon 1007320 at http://www.alternet.org guns Why the GOP Is So Extremist and Reactionary http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/grand-old-tea-party-0 <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '937370'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=937370" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Is there a way to get past their scorched-earth approach to politics? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1341276087_gopsplit.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>This article originally appeared in <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/177018/grand-old-tea-party" target="_blank">The Nation</a>, and is reprinted here with their permission.</em></p><p>A Democratic president begins a new term in the White House. Two years later, America votes a cadre of aggressive conservatives into Congress, loaded for bear. At first the Republican establishment, thrilled to have the Democrats on the run, puts its wariness about the fire-breathers aside. Within a few years, though, the new guys throw out all the old rules of consensus and compromise, and the establishment shows signs of buyer’s remorse. One of the new conservatives, a bulky, take-no-prisoners senator who sees socialist quislings everywhere, takes control of the agenda and threatens to drive the GOP into the ground.</p><p>But this is not 2008 or 2013. It’s the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the senator is not Ted Cruz but Joseph McCarthy.</p><p>A new sort of conservative has taken over the Republican Party from the ground up—and they don’t give a goddamn about anything the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says. They want a total divorce between capitalism and the government, and whoever disagrees can go straight to hell. Business people, above all else pragmatists, are alarmed at the prospect of losing control of “the party of business” and hatch schemes to take it back. The Democratic president, for his part, declares a White House open-door policy for business leaders and makes maintaining a climate favorable to business a keynote of his administration. Suddenly, the direction of the Republican Party itself seems to be at stake.</p><p>But this is not 2013. It is 1964. The business-friendly president is Lyndon Johnson, and the Republican insurgents are followers of Barry Goldwater.</p><p>Moderate Republicans are on the run. The most powerful establishment Republican in Washington is by most measures a conservative. He argues in his speeches that the nation’s economic problems “bear a label: Made in Washington, DC.” He proclaims “a crossroads in our history”: whether America will continue on the path of “bigger government” and “higher taxes” or take a new direction to “halt the momentous growth of government.” But that’s not enough for the leader of the grassroots conservatives, who proclaims the establishment leader a sellout. But even more rabid conservatives distrust the conservative leader and call him a sellout as well. They hatch an insurgency against the insurgency. </p><p>But the establishment leader is not John Boehner. It is Gerald Ford. The conservative leader is not a Tea Partier but Ronald Reagan. And the insurgents—led by Jesse Helms, fresh from an effort to start a conservative third party—insist that Reagan’s campaign strategy isn’t conservative enough. So they effect a boarding party and attempt to turn the Republican platform into a full-on extrusion of right-wing ideological rage—“a reminder,” a columnist then opined, “that Helms belongs to that rabid band of committed conservatives who stop just short of conceding that they are willing to kill the party if they can’t control it.” Sound familiar?</p><p>I could proliferate the analogies endlessly: the New Right ideologues who called the newly elected President Reagan a sellout (a 1982 article in Richard Viguerie’s Conservative Digest devoted two pages to attacking the establishment cast of White House state dinners); the Gingrich revolutionaries who horrified establishment Republican leaders by squandering the party’s historic 1994 takeover of Congress with their insistence on shutting down the government. Each and every time, the right-wing fire-breathers insist that the only reason their insurrection failed was that they hadn’t been conservative enough.</p><p>No historical analogies are exactly precise. I offer these to drive home a point. The phrase “Tea Party conservatives” is on everyone’s lips these days. And because the movement has a new identity (although if I were being pedantic, I’d point out that conservatives in 1975 called for citizens to staple tea bags to their IRS returns to protest high taxes, even though President Ford, like President Obama, had just lowered taxes), the temptation has been to depict the Tea Party’s brand of reactionary extremism as a new thing, too. Their radicalism this fall has indeed been breathtaking. But understanding today’s right-wing insurgency as a new phenomenon only weakens our attempts to defeat it. Grasping it instead as the product of a slow, steady evolution is our only hope of stopping the cycle before it repeats itself anew.</p><p align="center">* * *</p><p>First, a conceptual distinction. There is indeed little new under the wingnut sun; if studying the right full time for 16 years has taught me anything, it is that. But the structural context for their attempts to get what they want is different from what it was in previous decades. </p><p>The reactionary percentage of the electorate in these United States has been relatively constant since McCarthy’s day; I’d estimate it as hovering around 30 percent. A minority, but one never all that enamored of the niceties of democracy—they see themselves as fighting for the survival of civilization, after all. So, generation after generation, they’ve ruthlessly exploited the many points of structural vulnerability in the not-very-democratic American political system to get their way. For McCarthy, that meant using the rules of Senate investigations—in which the accused enjoy few of the procedural protections of the courtroom—to shape the direction of the government through the sheer power of intimidation. For the Goldwaterites, that meant flooding low-turnout party caucuses at the precinct and county level to win control of the Republican nomination process. In the past, such minoritarian ploys were stymied in the end by bottlenecks. For McCarthy, it was the canons of senatorial courtesy. For the Goldwaterites, it was the necessity of actually winning general elections. Now, however, the bottlenecks against right-wing minoritarian power are weaker than ever; America’s structural democracy deficit has never been greater. And that’s the biggest difference of all. </p><p>For example, the Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for reactionary political money, and as a result, billionaires have become increasingly brazen in their exploitation of campaign finance loopholes. In September, The New York Times discovered that the Koch brothers and their allies gave $236 million more than had been previously known to conservative groups during the 2012 election, simply by registering a new organization as a “business league” instead of a “social welfare” group. This enabled its 200 “members” to make contributions of $100,000 or more as “dues,” which not only hid the donations but potentially qualified them as deductible business expenses.</p><p>Then there’s been the steadily increasing sophistication of the independent conservative infrastructure funded by such donations. Since the 1970s, these groups have followed a similar trajectory: ideological entrepreneurs like Viguerie or Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus (in the ’70s) or Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks (these days) spy some localized outrage attributable to liberal perfidy on the horizon. They then leverage the outrage for the greater conservative movement. “We organize discontent,” Phillips once explained, by which he meant he turns it into money, movement and political results. These operatives then retroactively label the outcome of their organizing as a “spontaneous” uprising, a story line that gullible reporters eagerly lap up.</p><p>I watched the process happen a decade ago during the 2003 California gubernatorial recall campaign. Talking to citizens on the ground, I discovered that their anger centered on two grievances: the possibility that undocumented immigrants might be issued driver’s licenses, and a new car tax. These grievances were then leveraged by hustlers into the successful crusade that overthrew Democratic governor Gray Davis. I interviewed one of those hustlers, Sal Russo, in his luxuriously appointed Sacramento office plastered with portraits of Ronald Reagan. He told me he considers right-wing talk radio hosts his “ward bosses.” Another consultant named Phil Paule explained to me, “We found an opponent with a really weak hand; we just kept raising and raising the stakes.”</p><p>In 2009, the weak hand held by Barack Obama was the bank bailout inaugurated by George W. Bush, which Obama was left to administer. The entrepreneurs got to work. As Thomas Frank points out in "Pity the Billionaire," most participants at the sparsely populated (but overly covered) early “Tea Party” rallies were either staffers from conservative groups or congressional offices. The grassroots came later, at which point the entrepreneurs raised the stakes by launching congressional campaigns. Russo trademarked the phrase “Tea Party Express” and organized the Senate campaigns of Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. Americans for Prosperity funneled some $40 million to rallies, phone banks and canvassing for the 2010 campaigns, including for five of the six newly elected Republicans who found their way onto the House Energy and Commerce Committee. And in 2012, AFP piloted charter buses around Wisconsin for “educational” rallies in support of Tea Party Governor Scott Walker. While reporting from there, I collected a flier with the following revealing typo: “We are gathering citizens together from across <em>Michigan</em>. ...Join forces with Americans for Prosperity to defend the Wisconsin Way and fight back against the failed policies of Barack Obama.” This year, the strategy to shut down the government was driven by Heritage Action, the political wing of the Heritage Foundation think tank, which has been playing this game since 1973.</p><p>The engineers of the shutdown were aided by the final structural component that makes the current conservative push different from right-wing crusades of the past: the aggressive gerrymandering of Congress by conservative state legislatures. To take one infamous example, Pennsylvania has 13 Republican and only five Democratic members of Congress, even though 52 percent of the state’s voters chose Barack Obama in 2012. That had been the plan all along: as a Texas Republican operative close to Tom DeLay said about their redistricting work following the 2000 Census, “This has a real national impact that should assure that Republicans keep the House no matter the national mood.” It has also meant that Republican seats have become so safe that the remorseless far-right ideological entrepreneurs have been able to run further- and further-right candidates in primaries against establishment Republicans. It’s a win-win strategy: even if their candidates lose, they manage to drive incumbents far to the right to save their seats; and if they win, Tea Party representatives can rest secure in the knowledge that their re-election is safe no matter how recklessly they “govern.”</p><p>Presto: after decades of trying, the reactionary tail finally wags the establishment dog. The recklessness of the goals, however, have always been the same. </p><p align="center">* * *</p><p>Read the paper trail. Barry Goldwater in "Conscience of a Conservative" (1960): “I have little interest in streamlining government...for I mean to reduce its size. ...My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them." The "Leninist strategy" for undoing Social Security, published in The Cato Journal in 1983. Grover Norquist in 2001: "My goal is to cut government in half in 25 years,” to "get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Why wouldn’t conservatives shut down the government? They hate it. They’ve just been biding their time, waiting for the opportunity.</p><p>One mistake of the establishments past and present has been to fail to take seriously the apocalypticism of conservative insurgencies: They couldn’t possibly mean it, could they? So the policy wizards in the Obama White House build a Rube Goldberg healthcare law that relies on states to expand Medicaid and create healthcare exchanges, and then are utterly blindsided when red-state legislatures and governors decline. Haven’t they heard the news that conservatives don’t like it when people benefit from government? Likewise, the White House offered up cuts to government programs popular with both the left (social programs) and right (the military) in the last round of budget negotiations, confident that Republicans would never let the sequester actually come to pass—blindsided again.</p><p>Another mistake has been to ignore the organizational capacity of reactionaries. In 1976, an anonymous staffer of Gerald Ford’s presidential campaign, startled at having lost the Texas primary to Ronald Reagan in a landslide and dumbfounded that Republican turnout in some cities in various states had doubled since the last election, circulated a fascinating memo. “Turnout is very high,” the staffer wrote. “The people coming to vote or to the caucuses are unknown and have not been involved in the Republican political system before; they vote overwhelmingly for Reagan.”</p><p>The memo continued, “A clear pattern is emerging; these turnouts now do not seem accidental but appear to be the result of skillful organization by extreme right-wing political groups in the Reagan camp.” They were “operating almost invisibly through direct mail and voter turnout efforts conducted by...a loose coalition of right-wing political committees. Many of these committees are set up by or in conjunction with Richard Vigurie’s [<em>sic</em>] political direct mail firm. Others have been funded either by a wealthy sponsor (Joe Coors) or by a special interest group like the NRA. ...They have been raising money for many years, and have extensive mailing lists made up of people interested in these issues.” The groups included the National Conservative Political Action Committee, the Committee for the Survival for a Free Congress, the Heritage Foundation, the American Conservative Union, the NRA’s “Campaign 1976” and anti-abortion groups. “Many of the members of these groups are not loyal Republicans or Democrats. They are alienated from both parties because neither takes a sympathetic view toward their issues. Particularly those groups controlled by Vigurie [<em>sic</em>] hold a ‘rule or ruin’ attitude toward the GOP.” </p><p>The memo also noted the Reagan supporters’ novel methodology: “They can target an effective direct mail campaign based on response to fund raising mail using outrageous literature designed to motivate people interested in a right wing cause. ...The mailing lists can be turned into telephone lists and door-to-door canvassing lists and used to turn the vote out. ...In caucus states where few people attend the county caucuses such an effort can control the state conventions.”</p><p>It was an accurate assessment—but a conspicuously belated one. These forces had been organizing assiduously from the time Goldwater was defeated in 1964. Viguerie had been raising millions for conservative candidates and causes ever since going into business for himself in 1965. The memo was written in May 1976. A couple of months earlier, the Reagan campaign had been so weak it couldn’t even afford fuel for the candidate’s charter plane; the Republican establishment was begging him to quit. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Reagan came back from the dead with a resounding victory in North Carolina. </p><p>That triumph amounted to a veritable hinge in US political history: under the noses of the press, Senator Jesse Helms had all but kicked the official Reagan campaign committee out of the state, instead running the election via his own National Congressional Club, a Viguerie-style organizing machine that soon dwarfed the budgets of the state’s Republican and Democratic parties. Patiently combing the attics and back rooms of county courthouses for months, volunteers headed by a young Helms staffer pulled together a roll of 80,000 names of Republican voters—the first such list in the state. Those 80,000 voters were bombarded with direct mail depicting the far-left horrors afoot in the Ford White House (“Do you plan to continue to lead our country to full socialism?” a questioner asked the president at one of his rallies). </p><p>Outsiders at the time failed to understand how Reagan won North Carolina and revived his campaign. Somehow, the details of these far-right organizing coups only seem to emerge later—no one on the other side ever sees them coming in the moment. Case in point: in early October, The New York Times ran a story titled “A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning,” which described a secret meeting in which the plotters, including Ed Meese, conspired to exploit the House’s power of the purse to threaten a government shutdown unless Obamacare was defunded. “To many Americans,” the Times continued, “the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010—waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known.”</p><p>That last clause is so telling. Why wasn’t it “commonly known”? It’s not 1976 anymore. We can’t be flies on the wall in the rooms in which right-wing cabals plot—but we surely should know by now that any advance for liberalism will be subject to a vigorous effort to undo it. In the bowels of the White House, within the corridors of the Democratic National Committee, the AFL-CIO, what strategic counter-plotting was in effect? It’s OK if “to many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere.” Democratic professionals in Washington, on the other hand, should have seen it coming. Perhaps, though, their vision is too occluded by the example set by President Obama, who continues to see Republicans as responsible negotiating partners despite all evidence to the contrary.</p><p align="center">* * *</p><p>This time, liberals are also making a new mistake. Call it “racial defeatism.” Folks throw their hands up and say, “Of course reactionary rage is going to flow like mighty waters against an African American president! What can we possibly do about that?” But it’s crucial to realize that the vituperation directed at Obama is little different from that aimed at John F. Kennedy, who was so hated by the right that his assassination was initially assumed by most observers to have been done by a conservative; or Bill Clinton, who was warned by Helms in 1994 that if he visited a military base in North Carolina, he’d “better have a bodyguard.”</p><p>All right-wing antigovernment rage in America bears a racial component, because liberalism is understood, consciously or unconsciously, as the ideology that steals from hard-working, taxpaying whites and gives the spoils to indolent, grasping blacks. Racial rhetoric has been entwined with government from the start, all the way back to when the enemy was not Obamacare but the Grand Army of the Republic (and further in the past than that: Thomas Jefferson, after all, was derided as “the Negro President”). When former IRS Commissioner T. Coleman Andrews ran for president in 1956 on a platform of abolishing the income tax, it was no accident that his war cry—he was fighting against the “degeneration of the union of states into an all-powerful central government!”—was indistinguishable from that of the Southern governors enacting a policy of massive resistance against Brown v. Board of Education. Every time the government acts to expand the prerogatives of citizenship and economic opportunity to formerly disenfranchised groups, a racism-soaked backlash ensues. Defeatism—or ideological accommodation—only makes it worse.</p><p>Ironically, liberals of previous generations understood this better than we do now, despite decades more experience watching how the right’s game is played. For a Partisan Review symposium in 1962, Harvard sociologist David Riesman advised that the Kennedy administration “can gain the leeway on the domestic front…only by combatting the radical right rather than seeking itself to move onto rightist ground—an illusory operation since the right can always go still further right and will.”</p><p>Well, we’re on rightist ground now. Listen to Norquist in a recent interview with The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein: “We won in 2011 and then again with the president making 85 percent of the Bush tax cuts permanent. We really did get caps and sequestration that limits government spending. If we just went home and put the government on autopilot, it would be a win. This Republican Congress has made a fundamental shift in the size of government equation.”</p><p>Note, though, he said it in an interview meant to excoriate Ted Cruz and his strategy to defund Obamacare by holding the continuing resolution funding the government hostage. “And people went out on talk radio and said if you’re not for this you’re a coward, you’re a RINO [Republican in Name Only].” This was stupid, said Norquist. But how stupid? The continuing resolution that eventually went through, with Democrats everywhere declaring victory over Tea Party intransigence, cuts spending at a faster pace than the budget Paul Ryan proposed in 2011—$217 billion less in discretionary spending than the budget Obama proposed. They’ve also made crisis governing the new normal, as the deal that the two sides struck funds the government only until January; then we get to enjoy the whole melodrama over again. </p><p>And here, finally, is a pattern to sear into your brain, too. They’re revolutionaries—they say so themselves. Revolutionaries, we all know, eat their children. When Goldwater broke with Reagan in favor of negotiating with Panama over the future of the Panama Canal, he got such angry hate mail he told an interviewer, “I didn’t realize Western Union would send telegrams like that.” He complained, like today’s establishment Republicans talking about Tea Partiers, “Reagan has some of those people, the really ideological ones who won’t change.”</p><p>Now this: Grover Norquist, last year’s revolutionary, is the responsible one, complaining about radical right intransigence. Scary times. At least we have a road map to navigate it. It’s the right’s own history, which doesn’t change much. They’re maximalists. They want it all. And the bigger our democracy deficit, the more they’ll be able to get.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '937370'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=937370" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 16 Dec 2013 12:35:00 -0800 Rick Perlstein, The Nation 937370 at http://www.alternet.org The Right Wing The Right Wing gop U.S. Republican Party Libertarian Developer's Ayn Rand Fantasy Is Detroit's Latest Nightmare http://www.alternet.org/economy/libertarian-developers-ayn-rand-fantasy-detroits-latest-nightmare <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '786238'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=786238" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Libertarian real estate developer wants to buy 982-acre Detroit park and start an independent nation, selling citizenships at $300,000. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-01-30_at_3.28.35_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article first appeared on the<a href="http://thenation.com">Nation.com.</a> For more great articles <a href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/NN/NAN/NAN_Low-Cost-Sub.jsp?cds_page_id=123820&amp;cds_mag_code=NAN&amp;id=1359578254116&amp;lsid=30301437335024577&amp;vid=2&amp;cds_response_key=I12DTOOLE&amp;cds_to_id=TOLLE">subscribe here. </a></em></p><p>Check out what the loopy Ayn Randroids are up to now. In long-suffering Detroit, a libertarian real estate developer wants to buy a civic crown jewel, Belle Isle, the 982-acre park designed by Frederick Law Olmstead—think the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belle_Isle_Park" target="_blank">Motor City’s Central Park—</a>and turn it into an independent nation, selling citizenships at $300,000 per. Not, mind you, out of any mercenary motives, says would-be founder Rodney Lockwood—but just “to provide an economic and social laboratory for a society which effectively addresses some of the most important problems of American, and the western world.” (Sic.)</p><p>Address how? Well, let’s say I’ve never seen a <a href="http://www.commonwealthofbelleisle.com/faq/" target="_blank">document</a> that better reveals the extent to which, for libertarians, “liberty” means the opposite of liberty—at least since Rick Santorum held up the company town in which his grandpa was entombed as a beacon of freedom.</p><p>An aspiring Ayn Rand himself, Lockwood has set out his vision in a “novel,” poetically titled Belle Isle: Detroit’s Game Changer. Although he’s actually done the master one better, by imagining he can get his utopia built. Last week he presented the plan, alongside a retired Chrysler executive, a charter school entrepreneur (who apparently enjoys a cameo in the novel running one of the island’s two K-12 schools) and a senior economist at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, to what <a href="http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130112/BIZ/301120319" target="_blank">The Detroit News</a> called “a select group of movers and shakers at the tony Detroit Athletic Club,” who included the president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.</p><p>Never let it be said Rod Lockwood (perfect pornstar name? You be the judge) hasn’t thought this thing through. The plan is foolproof: “Belle Isle is sold by the City of Detroit to a group of investors for $1 billion. The island is then developed into a city-state of 35,000 people, with its own laws, customs and currency, under United States supervision as a Commonwealth.” Relations with neighboring, impoverished Detroit will be naught but copacetic, and not exploitative at all: “Plants will be built across the Detroit River…. with the engineering and management functions on Belle Isle. Companies from all over the world will locate on Belle Isle, bringing in massive amounts of capital and GDP.” (Because, you know, tax-dodging international financiers of the sort a scheme like this attracts are just desperate to open and operate factories.) Government will be limited to ten percent or less of GDP, “by constitutional dictate. The social safety net is operated charities, which are highly encouraged and supported by the government.”</p><p>Although, on Belle Isle, “the word ‘Government’ is discouraged and replaced with the word ‘Service’ in the name of buildings.” Note the verb-tense slippage between present and future throughout. Lockwood is a realist.</p><p>He says what he imagines is a “Midwest Tiger”—helpfully explaining that his self-bestowed nickname is “a play on the label given Singapore as the ‘Asian Tiger.’ Singapore, in recent decades, has transformed itself into the most dynamic economy in the world, through low regulation, low taxes and business-friendly practices.”</p><p>Singapore. You know: that libertarian paradise where <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chewing_gum_ban_in_Singapore" target="_blank">chewing gum is banned</a>; thousands of people each year are <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caning_in_Singapore#Offences_punishable_by_caning" target="_blank">sentenced to whippings with rattan canes</a> for such offenses as overstaying visas and spray-painting buildings; the punishment for littering can be $1,000, a term of forced labor and being required to wear a sign reading “I am a litter lout”; and where pornography, criticizing religion, connecting to an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot and (yes!) over-exuberant hugging are <a href="http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/singapore-weird-laws/" target="_blank">all banned</a>. Freedom!</p><p>What are the Commonwealth’s other inspirations, you ask? “The country of Liechtenstein, which, although a monarchy, has a very effective government.”</p><p>And indeed, just like little Liechtenstein, Belle Islanders will enjoy protection from America’s security umbrella: “As a Commonwealth of the United States…Belle Isle pays its share of the U.S. defense budget, based on its population. It amounts to about $2,000 per person per year.” In fact Belle Islanders can expect nothing but fiscal gratitude from citizens of the United States. Yes, “a citizen who lives on Belle Isle who operates an investment fund with world-wide customers will pay no income taxes” to the United States. “Won’t the US lose a lot of tax revenue?” Oh, ye of little libertarian faith. “It will probably gain revenue….  Entrepreneurs from around the world will locate on Belle Isle and headquarter there, but often have their plant operations in the US because the island is so small. Businesses producing products in the U.S. will still be taxed at US corporate rates…. the influx of capital and jobs will be staggering…. Detroiters will see this vision as the answer to their prayers, and how could the federal government deny Detroit a chance to turn itself around, accelerate its re-birth, all at no cost to the taxpayer? How could they deny this long standing population of over 700,000 their first real shot at the American dream.” (Sic.)</p><p>Want in? Three requirements. First, of course, you need to come up with $300,000. “Will the citizenship fee pay for the purchase of any land for homes or businesses on Belle Isle?” “No—that will be an additional cost.” But look what that $300,000 buys you: “One of the core values” of the new nation, Lockwood writes, “is respect for all its citizens, no matter their station in life.”</p><p>Second: approval by the “citizenship board.” (Freedom!) Third step: “a command of English.” Because nothing says “respect for all its citizens” like “funny-talkers need not apply.”</p><p>And yes, it’s true, Lockwood proposes the “Rand” as the name of Belle Isle’s currency. But I’m sure he means Rand as in “Ayn Rand,” not, you know, Rand as in “South Africa,” the former home of a social system that functioned by surrounding minority enclaves of affluent whites with a reserve army of impoverished and disenfranchised blacks. Not like that at all.</p><p>What could go wrong? What’s the downside? After all, writes Lockwood in the section of his FAQ asking, ‘What is Bell Isle used for currently?”, “It is uninhabited and functions as a public park.” Just like that dead zone between 59th and 110th Streets in Manhattan.</p><p>You can sign up for updates on the project <a href="http://www.commonwealthofbelleisle.com/become-a-supporter/" target="_blank">here</a>. Although, take note, in order do so you have to give the organizers your phone number. Because, you know… freedom.</p><p>Rick Perlstein last posted about Barack Obama’s <a href="http://www.thenation.com/blog/172415/our-obama-bargain-part-3-3-obama-indonesia">upbringing in violence-ridden Indonesia</a> and how it may have affected his “art of denial” regarding Republican obstructionism.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '786238'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=786238" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 30 Jan 2013 12:19:00 -0800 Rick Perlstein, The Nation 786238 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy ayn rand detroit Stand Against Rahm! The Chicago Teachers' Strike Is the Next Chapter in the Fight Against Plutocracy http://www.alternet.org/education/stand-against-rahm-chicago-teachers-strike-next-chapter-fight-against-plutocracy <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '708385'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=708385" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Chicago isn’t seeing its teachers as greedy. They’re seeing them as a vanguard in the struggle against what might happen to the rest of the middle class next if they don’t speak up.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1347306568342-3-0_3.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p> </p><p>CHICAGO — I was awoken by honking car horns yesterday morning, and couldn’t have been happier for the fact. Chicago’s public schoolteachers are on strike against the city government and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. And while no one likes the budget crisis that forms the strike’s fiscal context, nor the fact that 350,000 students aren’t at school, much of Chicago is finding joy in the municipal impasse — which is why, anywhere within earshot of the schools where the Chicago Teachers Union’s 25,500 members are picketing in front of their workplaces, solidarity car horns are blasting away.</p><p>Since Rahm Emanuel’s election in the spring of 2011, Chicago’s teachers have been asked to eat shit by a mayor obsessed with displaying to the universe his “toughness” — toughness with the working-class people that make the city tick; toughness with the protesters standing up to say “no”; but never, ever toughness with the vested interests, including anti-union charter school advocates, who poured $12 million into his coffers to elect him mayor (his closet competitor raised $2.5 million). The roots of the strike began when Emanuel announced his signature education initiative: extending Chicago’s school day. Overwhelmingly, Chicago’s teachers support lengthening the day, which is the shortest of any major district in the country. Just not the way Rahm wanted to ram it down their throats: 20 percent more work; 2 percent more pay.</p><p>He had already canceled a previously negotiated 4 percent cost-of-living raise, and accused teachers who balked of not caring about their students. The teachers’ response to this abuse is something all of us should be paying attention to. If Chapter 1 of the American people’s modern grass-roots fight against the plutocracy was the demonstrations at the Wisconsin State Capitol in the spring of 2011, and Chapter 2 was the Occupy encampments of that summer, the Chicago Teachers Union’s stand against Emanuel should go down as Chapter 3. It’s been inspiration to anyone frustrated that people have forgotten how good it feels to stand up to bullies — and how effective it can be.</p><p>The CTU lost the first skirmish last year when Emanuel trundled down to the state capitol in Springfield to wire a new statute sure to forestall accountability for his draconian plan: alone among Illinois municipal workers, teachers would need a 75 percent vote among their membership to authorize a strike. Then in June of this year, after a rally that overflowed a 3,929-capacity theater with red CTU T-shirts, almost 90 percent of members voted through that authorization, should their leaders choose to call a strike. Counting spoiled ballots, the number of teachers voting against the authorization amounted to little more than a handful.</p><p>Teachers trust their leadership. They don’t trust the mayor — who the union’s feisty president, Karen Lewis, claims told her at a social outing at the ballet shortly after his election “that 25 percent of the students in this city are never going to be anything, never going to amount to anything and he was never going to throw money at them.” The exchange points to a key hinge in the story: Who in the dispute, the teachers’ union or the mayor, most earnestly has the interests of “the children” at heart?</p><p>The CTU stumbled in negotiations out of the gate, asking for a 30 percent raise that made them look just like the mercenary self-seekers right-wing critics always claim municipal unions are: a cash-extorting cartel against the taxpaying public. But Lewis later dialed that down to 19 percent. And Rahm has never had Chicago citizens with him on the issue — he’s just arrogantly acted as if he had. In one poll this spring 40 percent of Chicago Public School parents said they “side the most” with the teachers, only 17 percent with the mayor. Black voters who gave Emanuel a majority of their votes over Carol Moseley Braun, the first African-American senator since reconstruction, are especially alienated by his treatment of the teachers — a backbone of the black professional class.</p><p>Chicagoans came to trust the union further after system president Jean-Claude Brizard expressed frustration that the authorization vote came before an arbitrator’s fact-finding report came down — but which, when it did, largely aligned with the union’s positions. Meanwhile the public has mostly come to believe the broader story they’re telling: that this struggle is ultimately about improving kids’ learning experience (including preserving arts and physical education, keeping class size in check and enhancing services in the classroom), and that treating teachers fairly only helps kids in the end. The union also makes the morally compelling argument that yoking the survival of struggling schools to their test scores disrupts the education of the most vulnerable students — though they’re also able to make the utilitarian argument that those scores have been rising.</p><p>So for now, the momentum rests with them. A Labor Day rally in Daley Plaza in front of the soaring black Mies van der Rohe civic center was probably the most impressive political demonstration in that marquee Chicago public space since 2010′s massive immigration march (that one had city support). It concluded with an unpermitted street action, as thousands poured into Washington Street to symbolically shout up at Rahm Emanuel’s fifth floor City Hall office. The unplanned outburst of exuberance trapped several unwitting civilians’ cars inside the scrum. Cops — cheerful cops, surely thrilled at the solidarity they would likely enjoy when <em>their </em>contracts came up for renegotiation — parted the crowd to let them through. One motorist I saw began leaning heavily on the horn. But not from frustration. Her other hand formed a fist and shot into the air. She was beaming, apparently thrilled to be caught inside history.</p><p>Chicago public schoolteachers don’t have a strike fund; the lost wages come straight out of their household budgets. One kindergarten teacher of my acquaintance took to Facebook to ask for bean recipes. So though this may change if the strike turns lengthy and disruptive, Chicago isn’t seeing its teachers as greedy. They’re seeing them as a vanguard in the struggle against what might happen to the rest of the middle class next if they don’t speak up.</p><p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: 16px; font-style: italic; line-height: 20px; ">Rick Perlstein is the author of "Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America" and "Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus"</span></p> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2012 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '708385'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=708385" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 12 Sep 2012 00:00:00 -0700 Rick Perlstein, Salon 708385 at http://www.alternet.org Education Activism Education Labor chicago Carol Moseley Braun Chicago Public School Chicago Teachers Union Daley Plaza education facebook illinois jean-claude brizard Karen Lewis labor day labor mayor Person Career Quotation rahm emanuel rahm Radio Edits With Heavy Hand in the Name of Fairness? http://www.alternet.org/story/101137/radio_edits_with_heavy_hand_in_the_name_of_fairness <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '650212'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=650212" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A splendid illustration of how conservatives launder lies across our political discourse.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><br />I had an interesting experience on the radio this past weekend. It might have been a telling one—I'm not sure.<br /><br /><br />On Friday I went to Chicago's public radio station WBEZ to tape a discussion on the week's news for American Public Media's show Weekend America. My co-panelists were <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0332344/">comedian Dana Gold</a> and <strike>comedian</strike> <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2JCD0RpKeA">conservative congressional staffer Tara Setmayer</a>. We were asked about the financial collapse. I said it was the fault of the conservative ideology of deregulation. She said it was the fault of Jimmy Carter. Because he passed what she misidentified as the "Community Reinvention Act."<br /><br /><br />Yes, well, that would be the right-wing <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/09/acorn_obama_and_the_mortgage_m.html">smear du jour</a>: the Community Reinvestment Act caused the meltdown, not greedy bankers and the oily politicians who love them. As regular readers at OurFuture.org know, we've called the idea a <a href="http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2008093923/masters-universe-fight-back-race-angle">modern day equivalent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion</a>—a Big Lie narrative that blames a despised, outcast social group for problems they had nothing to do with, in order to aggrandize the ability of the dominant group to hate and oppress.<br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2008 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '650212'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=650212" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 01 Oct 2008 09:51:01 -0700 Rick Perlstein, Campaign for America&#039;s Future 650212 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK PEEK Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Old_Blog Type Content radio jimmy carter cra