As the 2016 presidential primary race moves on to Nevada and South Carolina, then to bigger states in March, let’s hope we’re leaving behind the tedious and divisive way both campaigns and their supporters talked to and about women.
Let’s especially hope we’re leaving behind two of the most annoying features of the campaign to date: the so-called Berniebros preying on female Hillary Clinton supporters with, at best, condescension and, at worst, sexist abuse, and the hellfire from Hillary Clinton backers—we’ll play on Madeleine Albright’s unhelpful quote about the “special place in hell for women who don’t support other women”—insisting that female Bernie supporters are failing their sister Hillary Clinton with their terrible taste in men.
What do both sets of attacks have in common? They’re both directed—critically, condescendingly, and annoyingly—at women. Of course.
To his credit, Sanders has denounced his abusive keyboard-warrior fans who troll women with sexist invective. “Anybody who is supporting me that is doing the sexist things—we don’t want them,” he recently told CNN, echoing comments he made earlier in the campaign. That meant a lot—especially when some of his high-profile male media defenders, trying to gaslight the women who’ve been targeted by obnoxious pro-Sanders sexists, have insisted that Berniebros don’t even exist. It’s also interesting to note that since the Sanders campaign spoke up, the incidence of online abuse has gone down (as far as I can tell). Apparently the keyboard warriors are listening to their leader.
I’m also bothered by the Clinton campaign’s response to the issue of younger women’s supporting her opponent. Again, it’s not coming from the candidate herself. Clinton has had a generous and pragmatic response to the phenomenon: “They may not be for me, but I am for them.”
But last weekend we saw the campaign’s messaging unravel thanks to three passionate supporters. Gloria Steinem, in a quote that’s been taken out of context, somewhat unfairly, lamentably claimed that “when you’re young you’re thinking, Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.” Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright spoke aloud, in the context of this campaign, the maxim so famous that it’s adorned Starbucks cups, seeming to condemn Sanders’ young female supporters not merely to the political margins but to hell. Finally, former president Clinton railed against the Berniebros and cited me by name, referencing the piece I wrote about the abuse I’ve taken from some of Sanders’ ugliest male supporters.
None of that helped Clinton; it may have hurt her. I hope that condescending approach to women who support Sanders is behind us—but it may not be, because when the Clinton campaign is feeling cornered, misunderstood, and down in the polls, as in was in 2008, its worst instincts come out. The campaign has to learn from that loss; defensiveness never works, and attacking her opponent only reinforces the stereotype that she plays dirty (never mind that both Obama and Sanders gave as good as they got; they were insulated from attacks because they weren’t seen as mere politicians; they were judged to have transcended politics to become movement leaders). Clinton began to rebound in 2008 when she shook off her angst about media bias and campaign sexism and became a fighter again. She needs to do that this time around.
In particular, Clinton has to look squarely at her dismal numbers with millennials to try to understand the desperation, and related distrust of politics, behind them. It’s absolutely accurate to say that Clinton’s negative numbers on honesty and trustworthiness have been driven by a 25-year “vast right-wing conspiracy”; but what’s done is done. Sanders is bringing in new voters who have little knowledge and no ingrained defensiveness about what Democrats have suffered at the hands of increasingly radical and politically vicious right-wing Republicans (and compliant media). Many have no loyalty to the Democratic Party in the first place. Democrats, starting with Clinton, must try to win their loyalty.
Young women in particular have to be a Clinton concern. Women are always more “liberal” than men, and more pro-government, because they have always been more vulnerable to the unfairness of the market. The gender gap has been at least as driven by economics as by concerns about reproductive rights and gender discrimination—poorly labeled “women’s issues”—if not more so. On one level, then, it makes sense that young women are open to Sanders’s radicalism, and his appeal to a vastly expanded welfare state, providing free college, and single-payer healthcare financed by higher taxes.
They may also feel more free of sexism than their mothers, aunts, and older sisters. They probably are more free of it. I’ve heard two messages coming from Clinton supporters, in response to that argument, in the last two weeks. One is: OK, you’re more free of sexism. That’s due to our hard work. And this is how you thank us? The other is to say: Life only seems fairer to millennial women; wait until they get older and face the condescension, contempt, and outright discrimination women meet in the workplace—especially as they age. It’s either “You’re an ingrate!” or “Life gets worse!”
As the mother of a millennial woman (albeit one who supports and works for Clinton), let me tell you, those are terrible messages. We have to drop them.
But what should Clinton say instead? She isn’t a radical, and she shouldn’t pretend to be one. She does not believe in the rapidly and vastly expanded welfare state, financed by vastly expanded taxes, that Sanders promises. But she must cast her own progressive vision in much bolder terms than she has to date. She has decent reasons to oppose “free college”; first of all, it would crowd out most of the other new and expanded government programs she has proposed. Still, Clinton must feel the desperation of a generation saddled with student debt for whom “free college” makes absolute sense. When she said flat-out in the last debate, “No, I don’t believe in free college,” I cringed. There’s a tough, candid, but sometimes flippant side to Clinton—”That’s what they offered me,” in response to concern about her Wall Street speaking fees—that I respect. To me it’s like Cautious Hillary finally doesn’t GAF, as the kids say. But she has to GAF, lots more of them, about these issues if she wants to win.
Clinton’s incrementalism is a tough sell to a younger generation unschooled by life’s limits and desperate for change. She needs to cast her own agenda boldly, as the answer to strangling student debt, stagnating wages, and a cruelly threadbare safety net for parents and children, especially compared to the rest of the developed world. Her pitch ought to be something like: “Free college may ultimately be a good idea, and maybe we’ll get there. But funding free college now would make it impossible to fund everything else on our agenda. We need universal preschool, for example, and more widely available childcare. We need to expand the Affordable Care Act until it’s truly universal. We need paid family leave. Yes, we need to make the rich pay their fair share of taxes, and we’re going to. But we are probably going to have to prioritize our most urgent issues first. So I’m starting with debt-free college, and universal preschool, and paid family leave. Until we get all of that done, I’m fine with Donald Trump’s grandkids—and my granddaughter, Charlotte—having to contribute something to their own education.”
While I’m giving free campaign advice, I’d also advise her staff to schedule a lightly moderated town hall at a South Carolina university—maybe at an historically black college. I saw her speak at Claflin University, an HBCU, in November, and she shined. But it was a small crowd, and only a minority of the audience were students. In New Hampshire last week, Clinton reportedly took questions from college-aged Sanders supporters, which was a good idea—but almost nobody saw it. There’s no guarantee we’ll see it this time, but it’s worth a try, and if she goes big and bold enough, media invested in the idea that she can’t do it might televise the spectacle.
What does Sanders have to do, on gender issues, besides keep the Berniebros reined in? I’d like his campaign to ponder its own gender gap, in which men overwhelmingly favor Sanders. Yes, the Vermont senator won women in New Hampshire, 55-45, a blow to Clinton. But he won men 66-32, an 11-point gender gap. Why did two-thirds of men reject Clinton for Sanders? It’s certainly not all sexism, but some of it is. That should give the Sanders team pause when it comes to messaging.
Sanders also heads into less-white states where the votes of African-American women, Asian women, and Latinas will matter much more. There is little polling on whether millennial voters of color, particularly women, are #Feelingthebern. He needs to work harder to make sure they do.
Finally—and this isn’t about Berniebros—he needs a dose of kindness and humility toward his opponent, and her supporters. As he takes on yet another woman—Vermont Governor Madeline Kunin has written about his tone-deaf but unsuccessful campaign against her—he ought to be a little more sensitive to the tens of millions of women who do support Clinton. (So do the media, which sometimes treat Clinton’s over-45 supporters as an albatross she should shake off rather than an advantage.) Sanders’ self-pitying victory speech Tuesday night cast him as a victim of a Democratic “establishment”—including, as he’s claimed in the past, feminist groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America—that he’ll very much need to become president. He can’t win by only being the candidate of white men and young white women. A little bit of generosity, a dose of share-the-political-warmth, from our first realistic socialist presidential contender could go a long way.
Donald Trump’s remarkable Thursday press conference, where he floridly swore a pledge of allegiance to the GOP – “and to the conservative principles for which it stands” – marks a crossroads for the party. Trump didn’t declare his fealty to Republicans; he exacted their fealty to him. It’s Donald Trump’s party now, and good luck getting anything but white votes anytime soon.
In signing the loyalty pledge, Trump is giving up nothing, while exacting a guarantee from the GOP that the party won’t sabotage his candidacy. As I wrote yesterday, a man with three wives and four bankruptcies behind him has a proven track record of finding an exit clause from his commitments. He could still pursue an independent run if he doesn’t get the nomination.
The truth is that his threat to challenge a GOP nominee who isn’t named Donald Trump was always questionable. It would be incredibly complicated and expensive; and by definition it would come after he lost the GOP nomination, which might brand him with the ultimate Trump insult: loser.
But Trump doesn’t think he’ll have to make good on that threat; his leads in national and state polls (and, crucially, his favorability numbers) are growing, not shrinking. Now he’s gotten the entire GOP field to promise to support him if he’s the nominee, no matter how noxious his campaign turns out to be.
And behind it all was poor Reince Priebus, who kicked off 2013 promising to make the GOP more “inclusive” and welcoming to voters who aren’t old and white. Priebus trooped to New York to kiss Trump’s…ring; he was also kissing goodbye the black and Latino vote for at least another generation. By the way, Priebus’s big loyalty pledge stunt serves to inoculate Trump against Jeb Bush’s favorite line of attack: that he’s a closet Democrat. Great work, Reince.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that Trump will unravel. On the night of his big GOP triumph, he had two scuffles that could hurt him down the road. He seriously botched a foreign policy interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, mixing up Iran’s Quds Force with the Kurds and confusing Hezbollah and Hamas. He criticized Hewitt for his “gotcha” questions, and told him he didn’t need to know the names of foreign leaders because “I think by the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed. They’ll be all gone.”
A little bit later, Hewitt ran the same questions by Carly Fiorina, who aced them by comparison. Hewitt isn’t a great enemy for Trump to have: he’ll be a panelist in the next debate co-sponsored by CNN and his employer, the right-wing Salem Communications.
Then came footage a Trump bodyguard cold-cocking a peaceful demonstrator outside Trump Tower and ripping away his protest signs. An angry Efrain Galicia said Trump’s security men were “just acting like their boss. This man thinks he can do whatever he wants in this country, and we’re going to stop him,” Galicia said, in Spanish.
But Trump has survived run-ins with Latino protesters and feuds with conservative media figures before. Scraps that would destroy other candidates leave him stronger. I’d like to think the Hewitt interview, at least, will leave a mark, but I’ve lost my capacity to trust the laws of political gravity when it comes to Donald Trump.
Donald Trump’s Southern Strategy: What His Alabama Pep Rally Revealed About the Right’s New Racial Politics
I got to watch Donald Trump’s Alabama pep rally from the distance of a brief vacation, and that made it at once more entertaining and more chilling. I could admire the spectacle: “Sweet Home Alabama,” that sea of adoring white faces, the proprietary American flags. Trump himself channeled Richard Nixon, claiming his Alabama backers represented a modern “silent majority” that would be silent no more.
Personally, I can’t decide whether Trump is playing Nixon or George Wallace. Of course, in polite journalistic company, we’re not supposed to say either. We’re still supposed to act like Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign represents the legitimate frustration of the white working class. The frustration is real, but the solution is Nixonian: Get those white voters focused on a menacing “other,” rather than plutocrats like Trump.
The Alabama spectacle gave Trump’s team the opportunity to showcase his Nixonian “Southern strategy.” Sure, he’s focused on Iowa and New Hampshire, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told the Washington Post, but he’s looking forward to Southern Super Tuesday, March 1. “Then comes the South. That’s the path to the nomination.”
Still, Lewandowski and other Trump backers aren’t quite sure how to deal with the racism they’re channeling. On CNN, the Trump campaign manager ducked a question about cries of “white power” heard in the Alabama crowd, though he did condemn the attacks on a homeless Latino man by Trump supporters in Boston last week. (Trump himself refused to condemn the attackers, then backtracked.)
“If that is what happened in Boston, that is not acceptable in any nature,” Lewandowski told Jim Acosta. Then he added an odd note: “We should not be ashamed to be Americans and we should be proud of our heritage, and proud to be American.”
It’s hard not to hear a dog whistle in that comment about “our heritage,” given the element of white nationalist support Trump is enjoying. The New Yorker has a great piece out Monday about Trump’s white nationalist fans. I wrote about this earlier in the month, but the controversy over the sexually charged slur “cuckservative” seemed to obscure the real news: There is a growing fissure in the Republican Party over how racially explicit the party’s appeals to white voters ought to be.
Dog whistles about crime and welfare may no longer be enough: the racist right wants party leaders who are committed to defending the country’s white “heritage.” And many think they’ve found their man in Donald Trump.
Trump is “refreshing,” white nationalist Richard Spencer told the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos. “Trump, on a gut level, kind of senses that this is about demographics, ultimately. We’re moving into a new America.” Though Spencer doesn’t think Trump himself is a white nationalist, he believes he channels “an unconscious vision that white people have—that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country. I think that scares us. They probably aren’t able to articulate it. I think it’s there. I think that, to a great degree, explains the Trump phenomenon. I think he is the one person who can tap into it.”
Jared Taylor of the white supremacist American Renaissance agrees. “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.”
So far Trump hasn’t repudiated admirers like Taylor and Spencer. Lewandowski had an opportunity when asked about the “white power” cries, but didn’t take it up. Over at Breitbart, which is itself becoming a white nationalist site, they’re angry that CNN “chose to “badger” Lewandowski about the “white power” issue. The Breitbots were also bothered by this Politico story that suggested “the ghost of George Wallace” animated Trump’s Alabama rally.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reporters David Weigel and Robert Costa are being attacked by Instapundit as ex-conservative lamestream media sellouts, because they accurately reported that the rally played “Sweet Home Alabama” and that the crowd featured a neo-Confederate. (To be fair, let’s also note that a black minister said a prayer and an African American choir performed at the event.)
But denying the racial subtext of Trump’s appeal denies who Trump is: He has long trafficked in racial stereotyping and white fear. Remember his ads urging the death penalty for the so-called “Central Park Five,” who were essentially framed for the rape of a white jogger in 1989. Trump called it a “disgrace” when the city paid the men a settlement for the wrongful conviction. “They should be very thankful I wasn’t mayor because they wouldn’t have gotten a dime,” he said just last week.
His birther crusade against President Obama likewise channeled white anger — at the outrage of having to tolerate a black president – by propagating the lie that the president was an illegitimate fraud. At the time, Trump advisor Roger Stone – Nixon’s man too – called it “brilliant,” adding, “It’s base building. It gives voice to a concern shared by many on the right.
That “base building” in the last election cycle is part of what’s made Trump the frontrunner this time around. Some of the same Republicans who courted Trump’s endorsement in 2012 now profess to be horrified by the nativism he’s channeling – but they only have themselves to blame. If they succeed in squelching Trump’s candidacy, they risk a Wallace-like insurrection, in which Trump peels away the white working class voters who’ve become the GOP base and dooms its hope of winning the White House.
But now restive Southerners and other white nationalists want more than dog whistles; they want explicit endorsement of a pro-white agenda.
“I think he’s, like, dog-whistling,” a white welder who likes Trump told the New Yorker. “He’s saying we should probably favor more European immigration, or maybe more of just a meritocracy sort of system, but he’s not coming out and saying it, because people will literally stamp him: ‘Oh, you just hate Mexicans.’ ” The welder would like to see Trump be honest: “Why not just say it?”
For now, at least, Trump is not quite saying it; he still insists his comments about Mexican “rapists” and criminals only refers to those who come here illegally, not all Mexicans. But the rising boldness of Trump’s white nationalist supporters raises the question: Can a party that rose to national power thanks to coded racism survive when noisy elements of its base demand explicit racism? We’re about to find out.
I’m running out of ways to describe the awfulness of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. If or when he fails, his jocular Thursday comment about the Iraq war — “Taking down Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal” – will be in every highlight reel.
Not only is Jeb! now fully embracing his brother’s disastrous, bloody war of choice. He’s talking about it in a glib salesman way, reminding us that the war was in fact “a pretty good deal” for his cronies: for Halliburton spinoff KBR, the entire defense industry, and a metastasizing web of private security contractors including disgraced giant Blackwater. The families of the dead and wounded in Iraq might disagree.
Things got worse in his speech Friday, where he volunteered that “Paul Wolfowitz is giving some advice.” Wolfowitz, the scowling face of the smug neocons.
I’ve asked this before: Does Bush even want to win?
Donald Trump claimed Bush had his “47 percent moment” – the comment that doomed Mitt Romney — when he suggested we’re spending too much on women’s health. But his dumb remark about toppling Saddam being “a pretty good deal” could rival that. Then again, there are so many contenders for the inconvenient, inadvertent truth-telling moment that could doom Bush: suggesting underpaid American workers “need to work more hours;” that “the federal government shouldn’t be doing this” when asked about the minimum wage; arguing that we should be “phasing out” Medicare.
Of course he walked all of those remarks back. Let’s see if he tries to do the same with this one.
All of these campaign flubs are occurring against the backdrop of the strangest presidential primary of our lifetimes, in which Donald Trump has taken the lead nationally, as well as in Iowa and New Hampshire, with 16 lackluster rivals trying to catch up. For a while Bush strategists were pretending the Trump candidacy benefited Bush, by depriving his rivals of the attention they need to gain traction, and predicting Bush would consolidate support as some of the bloated GOP field dropped out. I used to think that myself, to be honest. But now I’m not so sure.
Whose support does Jeb! think he will consolidate as the campaign goes on? Which of the non-Trump candidates is likely to throw him support? Sen. Ted Cruz and Ben Carson are surging after last week’s debate, and neither man’s supporters seem a likely match for Bush. Cruz is second so far in fundraising, so he isn’t going anywhere, and if Carson stumbles, his voters won’t flock to Bush. Among the current bottom-tier candidates, who might be expected to leave the race early — Governors Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal, plus Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum — all are to Bush’s right and seem unlikely to throw him their support (which is a collective 9.5 percent right now, anyway). Sen. Rand Paul is flailing: he’s averaging 4.5 percent in national polls and has fallen from third to ninth place in Iowa (once a stronghold, thanks to his dad) and from third to sixth in New Hampshire. But his supporters aren’t a natural for Bush, either.
Of the candidates who are closer to the Bush wing of the party – Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, Governors John Kasich, Chris Christie and Scott Walker, former Gov. George Pataki and perhaps Carly Fiorina – only Pataki, Christie and Graham seem like contenders who aren’t contending, and probably won’t. But by definition, that means none of them has much support he can turn over to Bush if he leaves the race, since they’re each polling between 0 and 3.8 percent.
For now, Fiorina and Kasich are rising, so they’re not going anywhere soon. Walker is sinking, but I have a hard time thinking that the ambitious Wisconsin governor and his moneyed backers will pull the plug quickly (although if Walker loses his neighboring state of Iowa, where he’s now dropped from a persistent 1st place to 3rd, the humiliation might drive him back to Madison). Rubio shares a natural constituency with Bush, and you can imagine a scenario in which he could be persuaded by mutual friends to step aside. But with Bush so weak, and with a decent war chest, he might think it should be Jeb who steps aside. And he might find others in the GOP establishment who agree.
Even if Trump fades, who fattens up on his voters? It’s probably not Bush. Trump fading or even dropping out would certainly shake up the race, and it’s certainly possible, if not likely, that will happen. Trump skeptics comfort themselves by saying his frontrunner status reflects his celebrity as well as the crowded field – and that the 20-25 percent support he’s getting in polls isn’t a commanding lead anyway.
But that’s where Mitt Romney rode out much of the 2012 campaign: from June 2011 to February 2012, according to Real Clear Politics, Romney hovered between 20 and 28 percent in the polls. For most of that time he was ahead of the pack, though he did surrender the polling lead to Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum, briefly. He only began to break away once he’d won some early primaries, and some rivals dropped out.
Romney benefited from candidates to his right splitting the Tea Party vote, while he chased out moderates like Jon Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty early. Conceivably Bush could benefit from the same split on the right, especially if Trump stumbles. But Bush was supposed to chase away a lot of his rivals with his presumed electability and large war chest. With every gaffe and stumble, the myth of his electability dissipates. He’s still got that war chest, though, so we can’t count him out.
Those infamous Planned Parenthood “sting” videos, deceptively edited and perhaps illegally obtained, were the years-long project of some of the most extreme, even violent figures of the anti-abortion world. They were designed to “ACORN” Planned Parenthood – that is, take a long-demonized element of progressive Democratic politics out of the game for good.
But the hoax perpetrated by the Campaign for Medical Progress, to dishonestly claim Planned Parenthood “sells” fetal tissue after abortions, may have backfired on the right, judging from the anti-choice pyrotechnics that erupted on stage in Cleveland Thursday night. CMP intended to hurt Planned Parenthood and Democrats in the run-up to the 2016 presidential campaign. But they seem to have hurt the GOP, by tricking the 2016 candidates into believing there’s more revulsion at both abortion, and at the respected women’s healthcare provider long attacked by conservatives, than there actually is.
The anti-abortion one-upmanship at the debate showed how the candidates are misreading the political opportunities and turning themselves into Todd Akin, the Republican who challenged Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2012. Akin, you’ll recall, was disputing the need for a rape exception to an abortion ban when he told an interviewer that in cases of “legitimate rape,” a woman’s body magically has a way to “shut that whole thing down.” His idiocy helped not only McCaskill but President Obama that year. (Three quarters of Americans believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape, by the way.)
Nobody said anything quite that crude and stupid about women’s bodies Thursday night, but some of the answers were equally crazy. Debate “winner” Marco Rubio disavowed his own past support for abortion bans that included a rape and incest exception, and came out for personhood legislation. Gov. Scott Walker, who personally asked Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature to write a 20-week abortion ban without any exceptions, refused to squirm when Megyn Kelly asked “Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion?”
Mike Huckabee, who has refused to rule out using federal troops to stop abortion, insisted the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution actually mean abortion is illegal because “DNA schedules.” Or something.
Jeb Bush, squirming over a question about his association with a Michael Bloomberg charity that also funded Planned Parenthood, was forced to bring up his disgusting persecution of Michael Schiavo, the husband of braindead Florida woman Terri Schiavo, a decade ago – not a winning issue for Bush. He also bragged about defunding Planned Parenthood as Florida governor.
Donald Trump gave us a memorable Trumpism when asked why he changed his mind on abortion. Some friends “were going to have a child, and it was going to be aborted,” Trump shared. “And it wasn’t aborted. And that child today is a total superstar.” The moderators didn’t follow up to find out whether, had the child turned out to be merely mediocre, Trump would have remained pro-choice.
Which brings up another way the Fox moderators tried to help the GOP Tuesday night: Not only did they go after Trump, so his rivals wouldn’t have to, they didn’t ask a question I expected would be on their agenda: Did the candidates support a move to shut down the government over their party’s failed attempt to defund Planned Parenthood?
That would have made for some memorable debate, because the field is split on the issue. Trump, along with Sen. Ted Cruz, supports a government shutdown; Sen. Rand Paul and Gov. Chris Christie, debate antagonists, actually stand together in opposing the idea, while Bush, Rubio, Huckabee and Walker have ducked the issue.
Savvy Republicans oppose such a move, of course, because once again, it would hurt the party. But that doesn’t mean it will go away. The Fox moderators decided to deprive Democrats of footage that would have shown how many of the 2016 candidates are trying to out-Akin Todd Akin this time around.
Meanwhile, the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Planned Parenthood remains the nation’s most trusted organization in the wake of the smear campaign against it — the NRA comes in second.
That’s part of why, in the days after the first videos were released, Hillary Clinton came out strong in support of Planned Parenthood. She then seemed to wobble a little, calling the videos “disturbing.” But the extent of Clinton’s wobble was a little exaggerated, since even Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards acknowledged that the videos were disturbing when she apologized for the “tone” with which one medical director discussed fetal tissue donation.
This week Clinton came out even more forcefully, with a video declaring her continued support for the organization. “If this feels like a full-on assault on women’s health, that’s because it is,” Clinton said in the video. “When politicians talk about defunding Planned Parenthood, they’re talking about blocking millions of women, men and young people from live-saving preventive care.” Clinton, and all Planned Parenthood supporters, know that defunding the group polls terribly among American voters.
Those CMP videos were intended to put Democrats on the defensive, but they’ve instead done that to Republicans. They’ve convinced the GOP field that there’s less support for legal abortion, and for Planned Parenthood, than there is. Thus Hillary Clinton may get to run against a slightly saner Todd Akin next year, and that won’t end well for the GOP.
The notion that the Confederate flag is merely a symbol of Southern “heritage,” detached from slavery and Jim Crow, has always been a pernicious lie. It shouldn’t have taken the murder of the Emanuel Nine, by flag-waving white supremacist Dylann Roof, to make that the new national consensus. But it did.
Now the flag’s racist meaning is crystal clear, which is why it’s becoming an ever more beloved symbol for racist morons, even outside the old Confederacy. The ugly Confederate flag tableau that greeted President Obama in Oklahoma City Wednesday night illuminated this new reality. It follows a similar protest earlier this month, when the president visited Nashville, Tenn. Over in Durant, Okla., where the president was scheduled to speak, there was also a Confederate flag protest earlier in the day.
When I first saw reports that some jerks were planning to wave the flag along the president’s motorcade route on social media Wednesday, I admit I shrugged: Another day, another angry right-wing tantrum. It’s OK, they’re losing; let them scream and rant and wave their hate banner. But the sight of the bright flags illuminated against the dark sky, just outside of Obama’s hotel, was unexpectedly vivid and disturbing. Especially since Oklahoma was never part of the Confederacy.
It reminded me of the October 2013 rally attended by Sen. Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin, to protest the closing of national monuments during the Cruz-triggered government shutdown. That protest culminated in an angry rump group heading over to the White House and waving a Confederate flag, outside the home of the black First Family. But hey, it’s “heritage, not hate.”
I’m not sure what to do with the fact that the Oklahoma City flag protest was reportedly led by a black wingnut, Andrew Duncomb, whose Facebook page features lots of smiling, flag-loving white people. (The rest of the folks insulting Obama with the flag were white, according to local news reports.) Duncomb, who calls himself “the black rebel,” is making a career out of claiming the flag really was about “heritage, not hate.” He led a pro-flag protest through the Oklahoma City metro areaon Monday, joined by 30 trucks waving the flag.
According to local news reports, Duncomb was arrested last year, with four white friends, on charges of shooting at a sheriff’s deputy. Using his Facebook identity to post in a comment thread, Duncomb suggested the news reports “stretched” the truth, but didn’t deny it. I found no reporting on what became of the case. “Look at these people, they all followed the black guy out here,” Duncomb told local media Wednesday night. “Do you think that any of them are racists?” It’s hard not to think of Dave Chappelle’s famous character Clayton Bigsby, the blind KKK member who doesn’t know that he’s black. They sure do love him over at Red Nation Rising.
The African Americans who showed up to support the president weren’t buying Duncomb’s claim that the flag is about “heritage, not hate,” or that it wasn’t meant as a racist insult to our first black president. A black woman wearing on Obama T-shirt broke into tears telling Politico: “He should’ve had a better welcome than he had.”
That flag is and always has been a symbol of white supremacy, a symbol of treason, and a repudiation of the multiracial democracy the Civil War helped establish. But I have to admit: the people who say the flag is about “heritage” are actually half right. It’s about heritage, all right – a heritage of hate. Increasingly it’s a symbol of our national racist heritage, which we must admit is shared by the north and the south.
But I confess I’m rattled as the flag becomes a common sight where Obama visits. What’s next: waving nooses?
Jeb Bush Steps in It Again: He’s Either a Stone-cold Plutocrat - Or Just a Terrible Pol Who Sounds Like One
Jeb Bush apparently has a plan to grow the economy. He’s telling American workers to work longer hours, without a federal minimum wage, until they’re at least 70. Oh, and don’t expect a shot at debt-free college from Jeb – that’s just “more free stuff.”
Unbelievably, in an economy in which workers have grown ever more productive over the last three decades, but productivity has not resulted in higher wages, Bush said Wednesday that they should work even longer hours.
“My aspiration for the country, and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see,” he told the New Hampshire Union-Leader in a conversation that was Periscoped. “Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours” and, “through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”
The decoupling of productivity and rising income is no obscure economic fact (it can’t be, if I know it). It’s been the topic of endless discussion and debate. Throughout the post-war years, productivity and wages grew in tandem. Sometime in the late ’70s, that stopped. As productivity soared in the last 25 years, wages have stagnated. That’s one reason labor rates may be declining.
But it’s also true that employers have worked hard to get along with fewer workers. Last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that 6.8 million Americans were involuntarily employed part time.
Bush tried to walk back his statement after social media went crazy late Wednesday, insisting he was mainly talking about those underemployed part time workers, and those who left the labor force out of discouragement. “Anyone who discounts 6.5 million people stuck in part-time work & seeking full-time jobs hasn’t listened to working Americans,” he said later.
OK, Jeb. But there was a much better way to talk about that: by putting the onus on employers who go out of their way to deny people full time work to avoid paying benefits and overtime. But Republicans don’t go around scolding employers, for Pete’s sake!
Back in March, of course, Bush came out against the federal minimum wage talking to a South Carolina group. “We need to leave it to the private sector,” he told the audience. “I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this.”
And he’s on record saying the Social Security retirement age needs to be raised to 70. “We need to look over the horizon and begin to phase in over an extended period of time going from 65 to 68 or 70,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” last month. “And that by itself will help sustain the retirement system for anybody under the age of 40.”
Finally, on the same day as his “work longer hours” comment, Bush dismissed the debt-free college plan unveiled by former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley as an example of Democrats providing “more free stuff.”
Now, to be fair, some journalists are working overtime to help Bush clean up his gaffes. On Thursday morning ABC’s “The Note” had a long explainer about what Bushreally meant when he said to “work longer hours,” while last month Vox told us he didn’t really come out in favor of Social Security privatization in remarks where he praised his brother’s plan — because he didn’t use the word “privatization.”
Side note: It’s already astonishing how hard journalists will work to clean up the messes made by the Republican frontrunner, who is supposed to be the smart, serious one in the race. But they’re invested in him. They created the image of Jeb as the smart and serious Bush, so when he looks either dumb or politically tone-deaf, they look kinda dumb too. If Bush’s defenders are right, we’re going to have to paraphrase Ann Richards’ famous description of his father: “Poor Jeb, he can’t help it: he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
Seriously, here’s what we know: either Jeb Bush is a stone cold plutocrat who wants workers to labor for longer hours, with no federal minimum wage, and not retire until 70 — or later, if their privatized Social Security accounts go down in another stock market crash. Or else he’s a terrible politician who says those things but doesn’t mean them. We’ll see if the Bush approach brings in the white working class voters who were cool to Mitt Romney.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget troubles are cramping his plan to announce his 2016 presidential campaign. He’s already been forced to delay his official launch while he wrangles with angry legislators, including Republicans, to try to fill the holes his tax cuts have created.
Wisconsin law now says employers must pay a “living wage,” defined as pay that offers “minimum comfort, decency, physical and moral well-being.” Walker has long insisted the state’s $7.25 an hour minimum wage is the same as a “living wage”; workers have sued to challenge that definition. If the state strikes the language that defines living wage more broadly, that will cut the legs out from under such legal challenges.
One of the plaintiffs in that suit, fast food worker and activist Cornell White, talked to Think Progress about the sneaky move. “I am a hard working man. It’s disgusting that these Republicans would rather force me to feed my son with food stamps instead of standing up to their corporate lobbyist friends.”
White scoffs at Walker’s claim that $7.25 an hour is livable: “They clearly they don’t believe their own argument since they are trying to repeal the law before they even know the outcome of the case.”
But the living wage and open records moves weren’t the only shameful additions to the budget over the weekend. Unbelievably, legislators also used an omnibus motion to deregulate predatory payday lenders, make it harder for victims of police shootings to obtain information and to gut a requirement that workers be given at least one day off a week.
Oh Rand Paul. I sometimes want to take you seriously, if only to make clear Democrats don’t have a corner on black votes, and can’t take them for granted. But as long as you’re the chief advocate for African American outreach in the 2016 GOP presidential field, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and the rest of the Democratic field won’t have to worry at all.
On Tuesday the junior senator from Kentucky tweeted:
You can be a minority because of the color of your skin or the shade of your ideology. #StandWithRand http://t.co/a4UZ1VM5tm— Senator Rand Paul (@Senator Rand Paul)1435702821.0
The day before, Paul met with Cliven Bundy, the welfare rancher who became a hero to wingnuts everywhere last year, especially on Fox News, when he refused to pay $1 million in federal grazing fees. With the help of armed right-wing militia members like the Oath Keepers and the White Mountain Militia, Bundy got the Bureau of Land Management to back down. But the right’s Bundy worship went a little underground when the rancher, enjoying the limelight, introduced a racist diatribe by saying, “Let me tell you something about the Negro.”
Maybe Paul thought that when Bundy began that way, it made him an expert on black people. But Bundy’s “knowledge” consisted of explaining that the problems of black people began when slavery ended, and they were no longer taught to pick cotton.
We should give Paul credit for consistency: he used that silly line about downtrodden ideological “minorities” when speaking at a historically black college, Bowie State University, earlier this year.
“You can be a minority because of the shade of your skin, or you can be a minority because of the shade of your ideology. You can be a minority because you’re African American or Hispanic, but you can also be a minority because you’re an evangelical Christian,” Paul said told the crowd at Bowie State, which is the nation’s oldest historically black university.
Paul seems to be comparing facing political debate to enslavement, dispossession, lynching, segregation, employment discrimination and everything else racial minorities suffer.
Meanwhile, Paul wrapped up a visit to Nevada by meeting with Bundy. Paul aides escorted the welfare rancher into a back room, where he met with the 2016 candidate for almost an hour. “I don’t think he really understood how land rights really work in the western United States,” Bundy said. “I was happy to be able to sort of teach him.”
In their private meeting, Paul suggested one solution for welfare ranchers like Bundy was for private groups to buy back grazing lands and turn them over to the states, which would presumably provide free grazing rights to ranchers. “I disagree with that philosophy,” Bundy said he told Paul. “My stand is we are already a sovereign state. The federal government doesn’t need to turn this land back to us. It’s already state land. I don’t claim ownership. I claim rights.”
Bundy told the Associated Press, “In general, I think we’re in tune with one another.”
Paul should be embarrassed. (But so should the AP, which circulated the story about Paul meeting with Bundy without noting the Nevada wingnut’s history of racist commentary.)
Maybe the Kentucky senator’s foray into African American outreach has discouraged him, and he thinks there’s more profit in the gun-toting anti-Obama patriot movement. Or maybe he thinks outreach for the GOP means visiting black colleges, but espousing the same old policies that have driven nine out of 10 black voters to the Democratic Party.
What’s clear is that young Rand Paul seems to be assembling the coalition of his father Ron Paul, which was notably light on black support because Paul himself was kind of a racist, given to Bundy-like musings about black crime and indolence in his newsletters over the years. Communing with Cliven Bundy isn’t going to win Paul black votes, however — no matter how much he thinks he knows about the Negro.