Opinion: The Media Must Stop Feeding Trump’s Spread Of Election Panic

The stories we tell ourselves, especially the ones we tend to repeat over and over and that circulate throughout our political and cultural discourses, matter.  They impact us. They carve neural pathways, so to speak, in our collective cultural mindset, in our political nervous system.  They set expectations for us about the future, map out and set the course for our imagination of possibilities, preparing us for, priming us to accept, some future outcomes more than others.  In this sense, they can make us feel powerful and hopeful or demoralized, powerless, and anxious. read more

New York AG Letitia James: Execs Used NRA as “Their Personal Piggy Bank”

Letitia James has claimed some people at the National Rifle Association used the organization as their “personal piggy bank” as she moves to dissolve the gun group.

The New York Attorney General spoke to MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow on Thursday following her announcement the previous day of her intention to seek the NRA’s dissolution.

James caused a major stir on Thursday with a press conference alleging major financial malpractice and self-dealing at the NRA. She stuck to her position during her interview with Maddow.

James said “it was the diversion of millions, upon millions of dollars” that convinced her to move against the NRA.

Watch the video:

New York AG Letitia James alleges NRA corruption "runs very deep"

"The corruption is pervasive, it's persistent, it's not limited to one person. It's throughout the entire corporation and that's why we seek to dissolve the corporation in its entirety." pic.twitter.com/XNalgRTDfs read more

While Trump Seeks Elimination of ACA, Pelosi Re-focuses Americans, Media Heading into 2020

As coverage of the coronavirus streams 24-7 on the airways, updating cases and casualties as well as policy shifts and other breaking developments, it is understandable Americans might find their attention riveted to day to day events linked to the pandemic, making it hard to even think about larger political contexts or issues raised by the pandemic.

We rarely even hear, for example, about the Democratic primary, much less about the approaching presidential election in November, on which many American interests hang in the balance.

Last March 23, read more

Opinion: Decency and Empathy are Key Political Factors Helping Biden, Hurting Sanders

As primary election day, March 17, approaches in Illinois, I have been doing some canvassing for a candidate running to keep her seat as a state representative, Lindsey LaPointe.  I have known Lindsey for a few years as someone who is active in our neighborhoods (before she took over as state rep), always present around local issues and trying to make life better in our little corner of the world in Chicago.  Last fall I attended an event at a local park called “Peace in the Preserves,” and of course Lindsey was there.  We fell into conversation, and as a professor at a small state university in the city, I drifted into my usual and somewhat long-winded talking points about higher education funding, pension issues, and so forth.

She listened with a placid yet eager thoughtfulness and care.  I could see the look of careful listening, of absorption, on her face. She was taking it all in, really wanting and trying to understand. You could tell she wanted to represent people, not just her own views and ideas.

When I canvass, it is this experience and these qualities of Lindsey I talk about.  Although I have some sense of her political platform, I can’t say I have a complete or in any way thorough knowledge of all her platforms and views, or even how she has voted.

That doesn’t matter so much.

What matters more is that she listens and wants to represent people’s interests and advocate for their needs to make our world better for all.

Listening to people carefully with the objective of knowing—and feeling—how they experience the world is the basis of empathy. Seeking to understand their needs and do good by them without harming others, that is decency.

As I watch the Democratic primary narrow down to a tussle between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, I have been thinking about these terms, wondering in particular why I have seemed to gravitate toward favoring Biden over Sanders, even though I define myself as a socialist and believe in a single-payer healthcare system.

It is beyond question, in my view, that our healthcare system is incredibly inefficient, with one-third of costs going to fund the bureaucracies of private insurance companies reaping billions in profits. We could reform, meaning socialize, this system and certainly find a way to fund quality healthcare for all.

But that’s not the point. Or, it hasn’t come to be the point for me.

As much as I might get a little weary of Biden talking about the death of his son as a way of connecting with people’s pain and grief, wishing he would talk more about issues and his platforms, I at least see him listening to people, empathizing with them, trying to understand them. This quality may in fact guide the development of his platforms and policies.  These qualities have, in fact, become the hallmark of his campaign, even intentionally so.

This quality not only differentiates him from the uncaring and often downright meanness of Trump, but it also distinguishes him from Sanders, who often comes off more as someone who wants to be right than someone who wants to figure out how actually to improve people’s lives working within the inevitable constraints of our current political arrangement.

For example, at a previous Democratic primary debate, both Sanders and Warren were under fire, being asked how they would proceed on healthcare policy given that many Democrats, not to mention basically all Republicans, did not support Medicare for all. Warren gave examples of measures she could pursue immediately to expand healthcare coverage for many more Americans.  Sanders simply said that he will make sure Congress passes his Medicare for all plan.

His response did not seem like a serious one, by which I mean he did not come across as one who was really taking Americans’ suffering seriously. He was not confronting the reality of the composition of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

It wasn’t just a naivete. He’s been a senator for a long time, maybe too long.  Rather than naivete, his response indicated a refusal to engage the political process as it is and make what progress he can to actually improve people’s lives using the power one has.

Like too many on the left (and I consider myself a leftist), Sanders is more content to settle in, pleasure in, his righteousness and moral superiority, than to figure out how to work with others who don’t share his views in order to address people’s dire needs.

I published a piece earlier this week railing against the media and political pundits for basically rallying for a “stop Sanders” campaign. I argued it flat-out flew in the face of democracy.

After Super Tuesday, Sanders supporters have blamed the electoral outcomes on the machinations of Democratic establishment.

Seriously? What about the voters? Especially those African American voters in South Carolina that may have had more than a little to do with Biden’s surge?

Again, there is a refusal to listen.

And the tenor of his campaign, in which I include the tenor of his supporters’ behaviors, reflects a lack of decency and an unwillingness to engage and listen to others respectfully.

In a painful “exit” interview with Rachel Maddow, Elizabeth Warren clearly struggled in discussing the attacks of Sanders’ supporters on her supporters and campaign, and even the actual harassment of others who expressed different views, including members of the Nevada Culinary Union.

So much for solidarity.

Empathy means listening to people to figure out what they think their interests, concerns, and needs are, not simply telling them what is best for them. The latter is not good democratic governance or process.

Policies and platforms aside, we can see why decency and empathy have become such key issues this political season.

 

 

 

Beyond Disowning Trump, GOP Apostates Must Be Accountable for History of Exploiting Political Offices at People’s Expense

Joe Scarborough, former Republican but still self-proclaimed conservative host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, has hoisted himself into media and political limelights of late with his popularizing of the moniker “Moscow Mitch” for senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who has refused to bring to the senate floor for a vote a bill to fund measures to protect U.S. elections from Russian interference.

Certainly, Scarborough has positioned himself as an anti-Trump crusader, critical of both Trump and a sycophantically compliant GOP. He, in fact, publicly announced his departure from the Republican Party on Stephen Colbert’s show in October 2017.

Scarborough stands with other disaffected Republicans, such as former Florida representative David Jolly, who formally left the party, and talk show host and former member of George W. Bush’s administration Nicolle Wallace.

Wallace claims she didn’t leave the party; the party left her by changing its core platforms, saying “This Republican Party is unrecognizable to me . . . I’m not embarrassed to share a political party with John McCain or the 41st president or 43rd president.”  Her show is also known to parade other disaffected Republicans such as David Frum, Steve Schmitt, and Charlie Sykes.

There is always something unsettling about these figures’ somewhat holier-than-thou turning on the GOP, disavowing its current politics and form as though they represent a sharp break, an incongruous discontinuity with the respectable and dignified GOP with which they reverently identified.  This stance of moral indignation at Trump’s cruelty, hate, and flagrant celebrations of racism and sexism, just doesn’t sit right.

It’s not just insufficient; it’s dangerously deceptive, erasing the Republican Party’s complicity in producing Trump and in promoting the divisive, repressive, self-serving, and hostile politics characteristic of the current White House.

This week’s bombshell reporting on the newly-released tape of Ronald Reagan’s conversation with Richard Nixon, in which Reagan referred to African diplomats as “monkeys,” begins to make this point clear. Reagan doesn’t sound all that different from Trump, when he tells Nixon, ““Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television, as I did, to see those, those monkeys from those African countries — damn them — they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”  And Nixon laughs.

The only difference between Trump and Reagan here is that Reagan thinks nobody will hear the conversation, so his hateful racist attitudes can inform Republican policies in coded and unrecognized ways.

This m.o. is, of course, the playbook of the infamous Southern Strategy, which has been insufficiently addressed and recalled by media pundits. Michael Tomasky is one of the few, penning a piece about how the Southern Strategy has returned “with a vengeance.” And Maya Wiley, in a recent segment on Hardball, invoked it to point out that Trump, even in violating the code of the Southern Strategy, represents a continuity with past Republican politics:

“So all we`re really seeing here is a continuation.  Donald Trump blew up the southern strategy when he ran for president.  Remember, the southern strategy, which Richard Nixon perfected, which was sort of wink, wink, nod, nod, we`ll use coded language, but we`ll be very polite because we don`t think racism is okay to say aloud.  So we`ll wink and we`ll nod.  He threw the wink and the nod out already in 2016.”

But we aren’t getting enough analysis of and emphasis on this linkage between past and present when it comes to demanding accountability from these now self-satisfied, even self-righteous, disaffected Republicans lamenting the loss of their dear GOP.

Let’s remember exactly how Republican operative Lee Atwater described the Southern Strategy he crafted to get Nixon elected in 1968 and, really, move to consolidate Republican dominance in the South moving forward to the present, aiding and abetting the likes of Scarborough.

Here’s how Atwater characterized the strategy in a 1981 interview, laying bare its racist underpinnings:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “[N-word], [n-word], [n-word].” By 1968 you can’t say “[n-word]”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N-word], [n-word].”  (parenthetical substitutions of “n-word” are mine.)

So what did Republicans like Scarborough support? What did the George W. Bush administration, for whom Wallace served as a Communications Director, support?  They supported vigorously positions that defended states’ rights and tax cuts—the codes for defending racist policies. States’ rights, of course, are about allowing states to skirt federal enforcement particularly around civil rights issues, enabling local governments to be as racist as they like. And Atwater neatly explained the racist dimensions of tax cuts.  Scarborough was a member of the New Federalists that advocated for states’ rights, and he had been recognized by the conservative organization Americans for Tax Reform for his support for cutting taxes.

And anyone who has seen Adam McKay’s Vice, a biting satirical “documentary” of Dick Cheney’s rise to power, or Rachel Maddow’s more serious Why We Did it, documenting the complicity of the Bush administration and oil corporations in deceiving the American people to sell the invasion of Iraq, can certainly see good reason to believe that the administration in which Nicolle Wallace participated is not different from Trump’s in the way it abused the Presidency for personal enrichment or to serve the enrichment of a good old boys corporate network at the expense of the American people.

Without accountability for this past and how it has created our present, we can’t move forward in a new direction by fully recognizing the mistakes off the past.

We can’t be fooled that restoring a GOP establishment is any less racist or harmful to the people than Trump.

We might ask Wallace, given the Southern Strategy and the corporate-sponsored Iraq war, if Trump’s GOP is really so unrecognizable.