Memo to “Jeb!” from the Base: Go Racist or Go Home

Republican presidential contender “Jeb!” Bush recently came out against multiculturalism.

“We should not have a multicultural society,” he said.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Then, the article goes on to explain:

But Bush, who’s a self-admitted policy wonk and tends to use nuanced language, was referring to “multicultural” in the literal sense — a social model in which cultures live in “isolated pockets,” as he described them, rather than assimilating into society.

See, here’s the amusing thing.  Bush is trying to “me too!” his way into the racist Republican vote, which is considerable.  It’s very obviously the basis of Trump’s 31-35% support.  But he’s trying to do it the old fashioned Republican way, which is to use dog-whistles.

“Jeb!” isn’t getting it.  The Republican electorate is in no mood for “nuanced” language.  All the Republican candidates, “Jeb!” included, have been hoisted on the petard of the nonstop drumbeat toward overt racism that has been proliferated by their media arms, most notably Fox “News” and AM hate radio.  The base is not in the mood to hear about the evils of “multiculturalism,” which is a seven-syllable word.  

They want to hear about how the Mexicans are rapists and murderers. They want to hear about how there’s a problem in this country and it’s called Muslims.  They don’t want to hear about multiculturalism.  They don’t even know what the hell that is.

“Jeb!” was raised in polite society, of course, where we just don’t say things like that out loud.  You say things like that in dog-whistle language.  You don’t say that all blacks are lazy moochers out loud.  You instead do like Reagan did, and tell anecdotes about Cadillac-driving “Welfare Queens” and let the coded language do the rest.  You don’t say that you’re for the return of segregation, you say you’re simply for “states rights.”  You don’t call Michael Dukakis an n-word-lover.  You put Willie Horton, black rapist and murderer in television ads in order to scare people into voting for the tough-on-crime white guy (who was, incidentally, in that case, “Jeb!”‘s father, George H. W. Bush).  (Oddly enough, there were no radio ads about Willie Horton.  Why was that, you suppose?)

But what you certainly don’t say that you’re not down with “multiculturalism.”  You might as well say “cultural hegemony promotes greater disaffection among the proletariat, risking upheaval of the overall social strata” to the base.  See how far that gets you.

You’re not getting it, “Jeb!”.  Your base wants overt racism in all its venal, ugly, base glory.  And you may want to ditch that Latina wife of yours.  The base is not going to be down with that either.  Don’t whine about it, just ditch her.  Now.  Do you want the nomination or not?

However, if you are sane, and not a racist, there is a candidate for you.  And he does more than pander to black voters by dancing the nae nae on the Ellen DeGeneres show.  His name is Bernie Sanders, and he has a lot to say about race relations, including solid policy proposals.

In the meantime, let us enjoy the Schadenfreude that comes with watching “Jeb!” flapping there in the wind, desperately trying to “me too!” his way into the racist Trump vote, but in such an awkward way that is commensurate with the congeniality of his hoity-to-the-toity upbringing.  This is has been coming for years.  Fox News and AM Hate Radio have been pushing the envelope and pushing the envelope and pushing the envelope to see how far the bounds of acceptability will go, and they have finally found out— there are no bounds!  So they have created for themselves a climate where their base electorate can demand of their candidates: Go Racist or Go Home.

Dog-whistles about “multiculturalism”?  That was last year’s culture war.  You have to keep up with the times, “Jeb!”.

If “Jeb!” really wants to put his racist bona fides on the table, he could remind us about that time he managed to get 58,000 voters arbitrarily thrown off the voter rolls in Florida in an effort to target black voters.  But that would raise the thorny issue of how “Jeb!” helped his brother steal the 2000 election, and I don’t think “Jeb!” wants to remind anybody of that.

Let’s face it, “Jeb!”  You can’t just “me too” your way into Trump’s racist vote.  You have to out-racist and out-venal the king of venal racism, but that goes against the entire Bush Family way of doing things (dog-whistles and whisper campaigns).

Looks like you’re in a bind.

-Robert Gross

Oh My Godwin

Godwin’s Law states that the longer a contentious discussion goes on the internet, the more likely somebody is going to compare something to Hitler or to the Nazis.  The essential point of Godwin’s Law is that comparisons to the Nazis are usually hyperbolic overblown analogies that trivialize the horrors of what the Nazis (or Hitler himself) actually did.

But we are living in times when, according to one poll, nearly half of all Republicans polled, and twice as many as Democrats, could conceive of a situation in which they support a military coup.

Does this really surprise anyone?

For a party that once prided itself on being the Party of the Constitution, that old saw seems hold little truck with today’s modern GOP.  We are living in a world where your Republican frontrunner calls one of the Amendments to the Constitutional “unconstitutional” and argues with Bill O’Reilly— hardly a friend to the Constitution given his desperate need to establish Christianity as the national religion in defiance of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment— that the president would be within his rights simply to ignore the constitution and deport all the so-called “anchor babies” anyway.  All in the name of “taking our country back.”  Back from whom?

This is a party that is dangerously stoking racial resentments to gain electoral advantage.  Watch here as Trump fields a question at one of his rallies from a racist who says we have a “Muslim problem” in America.  He calls the president a Muslim— as if that were a bad thing— and Trump fails to correct the questioner, indulging and endorsing the questioner’s patently absurd premise.

You might think that Trump, being Trump in all his base, ugly glory, is alone as the sole extremist candidate for the Republican nomination who says he will openly defy the Constitution.  But you’d be wrong.  Here, Mike Huckabee says that he won’t rule out using the national guard to storm abortion clinics in order to stop abortions.  Remember, however much the Republicans have succeeded in eroding it, Roe v. Wade is still actually the law of the land and abortion is a constitutionally protected right.  Yet, Huckabee says that he will use the presidency to invoke military powers to stop United States citizens from exercising their constitutional rights.

So we have Muslims and Latinos being scapegoated for all the evils of our society.  We have candidates saying they will openly defy the constitution and become autocrats (that’s a gentler, more polite term for “dictators”).  But Godwin, alas, takes the call to alert everyone to the obvious proto-fascism off the table.  It is much like the Boy Who Cried Wolf.  Anyone in politics who anyone dislikes gets automatically compared to Hitler.  It happens so much that when actually Hitlerian politicians begin to emerge on the scene, we are completely incapable of hearing the call, so weary we are of hearing the comparison.

The antidote to Godwin’s Law is to read this novel, It Can’t Happpen Here by Sinclair Lewis.   Written in 1935, it accurately prophesies exactly the kind of politician that many of us would be all too happy to promote to dictatorship: charismatic, populist, folksy, “authentic.”  It unveils an entirely plausible scenario in which a populist United States senator becomes president and institutes perpetual martial law.

Regarding the dictator-du-jour of It Can’t Happen Here, Lewis writes:

“The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store.
Certainly there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches, nor anything convincing in his philosophy. His political platforms were only wings of a windmill.”

Remember, this is 1935.  Yet, Lewis readily identifies exactly what kind of American dictator the American people would dearly love to have.  The above passage could apply to any number of Republican demagogues currently running for the nomination.  We have had the folksy populist streak within us since at least the 1930s, and we have seen broad hints of it in Republican presidents we’ve actually had, most notably Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

But never before have we had Republican candidates bending over backwards to show how much they vilify the constitution of the United States and to abandon dog-whistle campaigns and instead overtly demonize oppressed minorities so openly.  If the pundits are correct that Trump is doing so well because he represents “authenticity,” then it raises the question: exactly what is authentic here?  The only conclusion one can draw is the profound racism and the frightening yearning for fascism.

Sinclair Lewis posited that there is one and only one proper response to the assertion that fascism can’t happen here.

The hell it can’t.

-Robert Gross

This Woman

So I encountered this reasonably cogent, well-written post on one of the Bernie boards I frequent on facebook:

A. I have yet to see a single Bernie Sanders supporter mention Benghazi, Vince Foster or cocaine smuggling in the Arkansas governors mansion. That would be silly. What I have seen is people who do offer legitimate critique being slammed by those who would promote HRC as an equally progressive or viable option.

B. The “Bernie or bust” people are not pouting children who cry when they don’t get their way. Though I have not assumed the label I suppose I fit into this group. The reason, which most do not address or perhaps are unaware of (I hope I can express it half as well as others have done better already) is; our politics have been held hostage for too long by “centrists” whose only worthwhile political plank is “I’m not as bad as the fascist I’m running against.” They are not agents for change. They have the same economic agenda. They have zero interest in delivering power back to the hands of the people which in fact is the first and only issue that matters. Everything else comes after that.


That is why Hillary Clinton will not get my vote.

I’ve voted out of fear for the last time and refuse to vote for anyone who has done nothing to earn it.
In conclusion, if you want me to be silent about my difference of opinion, then stop trying to shove this woman down our throats as the inevitable candidate.

Okay, I hear you.  I want to put that up front.  It’s not as though I don’t feel your pain; I do.  And in the spirit of Bernie Sanders speaking to Liberty University today, I want to first find the common ground.  And that common ground is pretty simple: Bernie Sanders.  We all agree in Bernieland that Bernie is the best person for the job.  So I join you in pledging to work my ass off for Bernie Sanders, and hopefully, once he gets the nomination, the thorny question about whether or not to support the Democratic nominee will be moot.

I just think this author is being guided by his emotions rather than by his reason.  That’s the problem here.  He’s not using his head.  So let me go point by point and deconstruct the post.

A. I have yet to see a single Bernie Sanders supporter mention Benghazi, Vince Foster or cocaine smuggling in the Arkansas governors mansion. That would be silly.

True, and there we agree.  But there are some Bernie supporters who are now getting around to using the e-mail scandal against her.  Prominent progressive commentator Ed Schultz does that here. 

The issue regarding the e-mail is not whether or not there was wrongdoing.  Almost everybody agrees that technically there was.  The issue is the magnitude of importance the “scandal” entails in the grand scheme of things.  Did anybody actually die?  No.  Did ISIS actually obtain top secret classified information that led to American deaths on foreign soil?  No.  Is the proper use of e-mail security at the State Department going to help an underprivileged student go to college, feed a hungry child, or do anything at all about the gaping gulf between the very rich and the very poor?  No, no and no.  The issue here is one of perspective.  There is a tension in the argument of Sanders supporters who seize upon this as a bludgeon with which to bash Hillary Clinton.  Bernie Sanders himself refuses to do it, and says he wants to wage a clean campaign on real issues that are important to the American people, like, say, helping the underprivileged go to college, feeding hungry children, or doing something about the gaping gulf between the very rich and the very poor.  Those Sanders supporters seizing upon the e-mail scandal are showing that their priorities are not aligned with the very candidate they profess to support.  And as a Sanders supporter who believes in a certain amount of reality and realpolitik, I am telling you that this “scandal” is not going to fly, precisely for the reasons Bernie Sanders has intuited: it has nothing to do with the day to day lives of the American people.  It deals in hypotheticals.  Hypothetically, sure, ISIS could get ahold of classified information if it’s in the wrong e-mail account.  And hypothetically, yeah, that puts Americans at risk.  But the American people, I predict, will respond resoundingly with a “no harm no foul” and beg the political process to stop with the partisan nonsense and get back to issues that actually resonate with them.

What I have seen is people who do offer legitimate critique being slammed by those who would promote HRC as an equally progressive or viable option.

Welcome to a contested election.  You offer your critique; they offer theirs; and we do the dance.  As some prominent progressives once said, politics ain’t beanbag, and if you can’t stand the heat….  He also says this as if it is self-evident that HRC is not “an equally progressive or viable option.”  I’ve got news for this writer: it’s not.  The revelation that HRC is not an equally progressive or viable option for progressives is not actually obvious to a lot of progressives.  That’s why you have to make an argument.  You cannot just condescendingly pooh-pooh the Hillary Clinton supporters and complain about their orientation on the political spectrum.  That’s why we have a contested election.  You don’t get to cry foul because some other candidate exists and has her backers.  That’s not foul.  The existence of another candidate is not foul play.  This writer never says what “slammed” means, but guess what?  You’re going to get slammed in a contested election.  Bring your A-game or go home.  I for one am confident that the superiority of Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton will persuade progressives when I take the time to present the argument.  If I spend my time crying foul about Hillary Clinton’s supporters, then I’m not spending my time presenting the argument— an argument that could change a Hillary Clinton supporter into a Bernie Sanders supporter.  And that’s the goal.  Isn’t it?

B. The “Bernie or bust” people are not pouting children who cry when they don’t get their way.

Yeah, they are.  That’s exactly what they are.  They are political adolescents who cannot accept reality like adults: that in a system where other people have a say, you are not always going to get your way.  I also called out the DNC on this blog as needing to grow up too because they are not getting their way given that Hillary Clinton is not getting the nomination by fiat.  It cuts both ways.  Both Clinton and Sanders supporters have to accept reality.  One of them will inevitably lose.  People who can’t be adults about it don’t belong in the process.  There is a reason we don’t allow children to vote.

Consider this.  Suppose Sanders gets the nomination.  Are the Hillary Clinton supporters by and large going to fall in line behind the Democratic nominee?  Yes, they will.  That’s because they tend to be party faithful, establishment Democrats who have the adult experience to know that they too will not always get their way.  They certainly did not get their way in 2008; yet Barack Obama sailed into office without any significant evidence of Hillary Clinton supporters writing in Hillary Clinton’s name or voting third-party.  If Hillary Clinton’s supporters can show that degree of maturity, why can’t some Sanders supporters?

The reason, which most do not address or perhaps are unaware of (I hope I can express it half as well as others have done better already) is; our politics have been held hostage for too long by “centrists” whose only worthwhile political plank is “I’m not as bad as the fascist I’m running against.”

“I’m not as bad as the fascist I’m running against” is a hell of a good reason to support a candidate.  One.  HELL.  Of a good reason.

Donald Trump says he is going to defy the Constitution, ignore the 14th Amendment and deport 11 million people.  Do you think he’s not serious?  Do you want to find out?

When did Hillary Clinton say that she was going to defy the constitution and deport 11 million people?

Mike Huckabee says he is going to defy the Constitution, allow clerks everywhere to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, oh, and, get this, use the national guard to stop abortions, even though Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land under that central document that creates the very core foundations of the system in which we live, the Constitution.

Remind me.  When did Hillary Clinton say that she was going to defy the Constitution, allow clerks to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, and storm Planned Parenthood clinics with national guard troops?  Tell me again.

And that’s not even to touch Ben Carson’s crazy creationism, Carly Fiorina’s disastrous tenures in business, Scott “Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Koch Brothers” Walker, Ted “I Once Said the U.N. is Going to Force Us To Live In Hobbit Holes” Cruz, Chris Christie’s actual corruption and scandals in office, or Jeb “Need I Say More, Just Look at My Last Name” Bush.  Just to name a few.

Is there any doubt that any one of these clowns in the clown car would be a tremendous disaster?  Is there a one of them that you can point to and say, well, that one makes a whole lot of sense, clearly a reasonable choice?  Kasich?  Pbbbbbbbsssssssssst.  Anti-choice extremist.

When was the last time Hillary Clinton questioned the legitimacy of contraception (let alone abortion)?  When was the last time Hillary Clinton declared that the world was made in six days and that the Scopes Monkey Trial let Scopes off too easy, and said we should impose creationism in schools?  When was the last time Hillary Clinton ran a company into the ground four times into bankruptcy?

Let me be perfectly clear.  I want to beat Hillary Clinton.  I want to beat Hillary Clinton on the merits.

But I also live in reality, and reality tells me, you know, she has a better than even chance of actually, you know, winning the Democratic nomination.  And then we all have a choice to make.  We either resist the fascism with which we are presented, or we don’t.  And that’s the choice.

They are not agents for change. They have the same economic agenda. They have zero interest in delivering power back to the hands of the people which in fact is the first and only issue that matters. Everything else comes after that.

But you do have power.  You have the power to work for Bernie Sanders, which is what you and I are both doing.  See, this writer seems to keep saying that “power” means “I always win.”  That doesn’t happen in politics.  Sometimes you lose.  That doesn’t mean the people have zero power.  And I’m sorry, but an amorphously stated tenet like “delivering power back to the hands of the people” is indeed not “the only issue that matters.”  This writer can’t even formulate “the only issue that matters” in any concrete terms; why should I concede that there is one and only one “issue that matters” if it’s presented to me as a vague platitude?

Abortion rights matter.  Black lives matter.  Economic disparity matters.  Kids going hungry matters.  Whether or not we go to war matters.  Respecting the Constitution matters.  To say that there is one and only issue that matters is preposterous.  I concede we have a broken system in which average people do not wield as much power as they should.  But there are enormously complex reasons for that.  Do you really think that writing in the name Bernie Sanders in 2016 is a solution for “the only issue that matters”?  Once again, this writer shows that he’s living in Fantasy Land.

That is why Hillary Clinton will not get my vote.

I’ve voted out of fear for the last time and refuse to vote for anyone who has done nothing to earn it.
In conclusion, if you want me to be silent about my difference of opinion, then stop trying to shove this woman down our throats as the inevitable candidate.

And here the use of language betrays the real motivation of the writer, in two succinct words.

“This woman.”

Not “this candidate.”  Not “this politician.”  Not “Hillary Clinton” or “Secretary Clinton” or “Senator Clinton.”

No.  We’re shoving “this woman” down his throat.

Why use the term “this woman”?  It’s obvious that she’s a woman.  There is no other reason to use that phrase other than to convey the fact that this candidate being a woman is something contemptible.

This writer says that he won’t vote out of fear again?  I submit that he is precisely voting out of fear— out of fear that a woman might actually become the most powerful person on the planet.  I have always thought that unlike the word “racism” and unlike the word “misogyny,” the word “homophobia” was the most apt description of a particular kind of prejudice because it gets at the heart of what’s really going on— fear.  Fear of the other.  Fear of losing power.  Fear of losing a position of superiority.  Fear, fear, fear.

The writer might say, but!  He was perfectly prepared to vote for Elizabeth Warren.  Yes, and some of my best friends are women too.

This writer needs to face it.  He slipped up, and his use of language betrayed him.  It’s not really about electing the most progressive person possible.  It’s not really about delivering more power to the people.  It’s not really about Bernie Sanders and his agenda for the American people.  Look at where he put his bon mot— the very end of his essay, where one rhetorically marshals the greatest conclusive force one can.  So we are left with the very deep impression that for this writer, it is ultimately about one thing and one thing only:

“This woman.”

Well, if it’s a choice between proto-fascist Trump and “this woman,” I’m voting for “this woman.”

-Robert Gross

Responding to a Misogynist Sanders Supporter

I apologize for some foul language and I hope the context justifies its use.

So I just got done arguing with a Sanders supporter who is a Bernie-or-Buster (that means someone who is going to write Bernie Sanders’s name in, in the general election even if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee).  He basically wondered aloud, “when did America become full of pussies?” because I said that I would not do anything to enable Donald Trump to become president.

Here is your Hillary Hate vote.  This person obviously hates Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman and he is supporting Sanders as the first roadblock that could viably derail her candidacy.  Doubtless he will vote for Trump next, or whoever is the GOP nominee (unless it’s Carly Fiorina, though that’s obviously very unlikely).  I’m deeply skeptical that he will hold true to his pledge to vote for Sanders when he hates Hillary Clinton this much.  He’ll vote for Trump, or whoever else is the penis-possessing candidate.

My adolescent Sanders supporter then appealed to the Founding Fathers.  After all, they took risks, right?  Isn’t that what makes America great?  Taking risks?  So if it comes down to Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton, we should take a risk and write in the name Bernie Sanders (or, as he implicitly sort of implies, maybe even consider pulling the lever for Trump), shouldn’t we?

Sorry, no.  I’m not taking a risk on proto-fascism.

Donald Trump has said he will openly defy the 14th Amendment and attempt to deport millions of people.

If it comes down to Hillary Clinton versus Trump, I will vote for Hillary Clinton as many times as I can.  Otherwise, we’re looking at a constitutional crisis.  We’re looking at setting up camps at bus depots that might as well be concentration camps.  We’re looking at such an economic disaster that it will make the Great Recession look like blip on the radar screen.

My adolescent correspondent of course gave himself away with his language.  The use of the term “pussy” to mean “coward” is inherently misogynist, and reveals his attitude toward women in general.  Dicks are manly and brave.  Pussies are womanly and cowardly.  So he has no credibility, as far as I’m concerned, to invoke the Founding Fathers (who, by the way, if you hadn’t noticed, were all men) and proclaim his motivations to be noble.  (He also sorely needs a history lesson if he thinks the Founding Fathers’s motivations were absolutely noble and selfless too.)

His motivations are obvious.  Hillary Clinton is a bitch and needs to be silenced.  And anyone who votes for Hillary Clinton is a pussy.  And he’s going to bully anyone who declares otherwise into silence, like so much the widdle boy on the playground.

Too bad.  I’m not going to be bullied.

Let me make this clear.  I’m an enthusiastic supporter of Sanders in the primary.  I really, really, really hope he gets the Democratic nomination.

But I also live in reality, and I understand that this may not come to pass.  When I look at whom the GOP has on offer, yes, indeed, I am very frightened.

If it comes down to Hillary versus Trump, this pussy is voting for Hillary, thank you very much.

-Robert Gross

Stuck in the Middle With You

Clowns to left of me, jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you

There are two equally wrongheaded camps supporting Bernie Sanders right now.  First, you have the people who hate Hillary Clinton so much that they are willing to (a) do anything it takes to take her down, including promulgating bogus right-wing “scandals” about her and (b) refuse to support her in the general election in 2016 if she gets the Democratic nomination, thus giving their vote to the Republicans.

On the other hand, there are those who say that because Bernie Sanders has waged a “positive campaign” in which he has largely refused to personally attack Hillary Clinton, we should therefore refrain from addressing Hillary Clinton in any way, shape or form and only focus on why we like Bernie Sanders.

They’re both very wrong.

The first camp is wrong for reasons described herehere and here.  No need to regurgitate the arguments therein; suffice to say that those of us who live in reality understand the limitations of the two party system and understand that it’s vastly preferable to elect a corporatist over a proto-fascist.  If it comes down to Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, I will go out and vote for Hillary Clinton as many times as I can.  Are you kidding me?

On the other hand, those who say that we should “follow Bernie’s example” and refrain from critiquing Hillary Clinton under any circumstances are just as wrong.  It’s primary season.  Primary season is adversarial.  There’s a big difference between mudslinging and what Bill Clinton used to call “fact-slinging.”  If you stick to the issues, it’s perfectly valid to critique the other candidate, as I did here.

Even in the often-repeated soundbite where Sanders refuses to attack Hillary Clinton and confronts the media about their attempts to goad him into it, Sanders nonetheless says that in the debates he will draw up legitimate contrasts between himself and Hillary Clinton on the issues.  That’s exactly the “example” we should follow.

We need a Goldilocks approach.  The Bernie-Or-Busters (Sanders supporters who will not support the Democratic nominee if the nominee is not Sanders) are too hot.  Those who say “hands off Hillary” are too cold.  Sticking to the issues and drawing contrasts between Sanders and Clinton?

That’s just right.

-Robert Gross

UPDATE: I started a facebook group called Sane People For Bernie Sanders.  If you agree with this article, this is the group for you.

Progressive Difference Podcast 9-12-15

Progressive Difference launches its new podcast!

We discuss the two populist candidates in the presidential race— unrepentant racist Donald Trump and working-class hero Bernie Sanders.  We destroy the idea that the two are comparable in any way.  We also give you our politically charged electroacoustic concert music piece Cataclysms which we think you will really enjoy!

-Kenneth Downey and Robert Gross