Saturday, August 19, 2017
For the record, I find Steve Bannon to be a foul and toxic individual whose view are often frightening. Some have tried to argue that Bannon is responsible for unleashing the nastiest elements of Donald Trump's disturbed psyche. I'd argue instead that Trump has been foul and disturbed for decades. In Bannon Trump simply found a kindred spirit. Having fired Bannon, some now predict that Bannon is going to "go nuclear" and that the number one casualty will be the Trump administration. My only hope is that, if this occurs, that Mike Pence is among those mowed down by Bannon's quest for revenge. Both Trump and Pence need to be removed from office and I suspects that Bannon knows where the bodies are buried as the saying goes. The Atlantic has this on Bannon's suspected counterattack:
In firing Steve Bannon, President Trump has lost his chief ideologue, the man who channeled his base and advocated for the populist-nationalist policies that helped propel Trump to victory.
But he has gained an unpredictable and potentially troublesome outside ally who has long experience running a media organization, and an even longer list of enemies with whom he has scores to settle both outside the administration and inside. “Steve is now unchained,” said a source close to Bannon. “Fully unchained.”
“He’s going nuclear,” said another friend. “You have no idea. This is gonna be really fucking bad.”
Bannon had in recent days mused about leaving, according to people who have spoken with him; he has expressed to friends that he feels the administration is failing and is a sinking ship. And last week, he told people in a meeting that he would have 10 times more influence outside the White House than inside it.
Already, Breitbart is on a war footing. “It may turn out to be the beginning of the end for the Trump administration, the moment Donald Trump became Arnold Schwarzenegger,” editor Joel Pollak wrote on Friday, referring to the actor-turned-California governor, who won office as a populist outsider and exited with a 23 percent approval rating. Another friend of Bannon’s doubted this: “Why would he help them from the outside at this point? Run the outside group and then Jared Kushner takes credit?” Two sources close to Bannon said that he has for some time complained about Kushner being an issue in the Russia investigation; one of the sources said Bannon regards Kushner as “the weak link” in the White House when it comes to the investigation.
Bannon’s animus towards the “globalists” in the administration is well known. Now, from the outside, he no longer has any reason to play nice. . . . “when Steve feels the Trump administration is wrong, will he point to the people he has the inside knowledge about who are pushing for certain policies? I assume he will.”
Bannon’s exit will be extremely consequential to the inner workings of the White House, which has been marked by infighting between his nationalist faction and the more moderate influences who have been brought in. In his departure, the nationalists lose their leader while some of Trump’s key campaign promises—the border wall, for example—still go unfulfilled. Bannon famously kept a whiteboard full of those promises in his office, checking them off as they were fulfilled.
I suspect that Bannon will satisfy his love of blood sport and the already dysfunctional Trump administration will be further rocked by incoming fire from Bannon and his white nationalist followers. That said, the sooner the Trump administration is destroyed and driven from office, the better for America.
While there has been an exodus of corporate CEO's from Der Trumpenführer's advisory boards and charities and organizations have been cancelling conferences at Trump's Florida estate, one group - with one exception - has remained true to Trump: members of his evangelical advisory board. (The Guardian has a piece that provides a who's who of this group, a number of whom have a long documented history of religious extremism). While a majority of Americans have been appalled by Trump's embrace of white supremacy and Neo-Nazism (and rightfully so), the evangelical crowd seemingly has no problem with open racism. Why? I would argue it is because if you look at the Southern Baptist Convention and certainly the Southern evangelical groups, they ARE racists and long standing proponents of white supremacy and unchallenged white privilege. The Southern Baptist Convention was indeed formed to continue church support f slavery. In March of 1861, the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens in his so-called Cornerstone Speech summed up this agenda well:
"The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution." he continued: "... the great truth [is] that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."
The take away is that one should not expect to see many defections by evangelicals from the Trump white supremacist/Neo-Nazi train. Here in Virginia, The Family Foundation - a Christofascists hate group - traces it roots to segregationists who supported "Massive Resistance" and the closure of public schools rather than desegregate. Indeed, the only refugee today from Trump's evangelical advisory board is not surprisingly from the North. The Washington Post looks at this lone defection:
Most of President Trump’s evangelical advisers have stood by him this week following much criticism over his response to violent clashes in Charlottesville, even as several CEOs left business advisory councils and members of his Committee on the Arts and Humanities have announced they are leaving the panel.
In a first for his evangelical advisory council, New York City megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard announced Friday that he had stepped down from the unofficial board of evangelical advisers to Trump.
Bernard’s Brooklyn-based Christian Cultural Center, which claims 37,000 in membership, has been described by the New York Times as the largest evangelical church in New York City. He said he submitted a formal letter on Tuesday, the same day Trump made controversial remarks about the events that took place in Charlottesville. Bernard was part of Trump’s advisory council during the campaign, but he told the Times last year that he had stepped away from that election role because he felt more like “window dressing” than a genuine adviser. The Times also reported that Bernard is a registered Republican, though he voted twice for Bill Clinton and twice for President Obama. Other leaders, including Southern Baptist pastors Jack Graham and Robert Jeffress, Tony Suarez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and televangelist Mark Burns, doubled down in their support of the president. A rising number of Americans wants Trump to resign a Public Religion Research Institute poll conducted in early August found, but white evangelicals remain most opposed to the idea. Among white evangelicals, 79 percent oppose the calls to impeach Trump compared with half of Americans who say Trump does not deserve to be impeached. On Sunday, Jonathan Falwell, who leads the megachurch Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., denounced racism from his pulpit. His brother Jerry Falwell Jr., who leads Liberty University, remained silent for several days until he tweeted support for Trump on Wednesday. Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, defended Trump earlier this week.
I have long argued that few elements in American society are more morally bankrupt than evangelical Christians who ignore the Gospel message and have turned Christianity into a cult of hate. They are utterly self-centered, see themselves as above the law, and celebrate their embrace of ignorance and hatred of others. Their continued support of Trump underscores their moral bankruptcy.
Friday, August 18, 2017
Slowly some Republicans are condemning Donald Trump's defense of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis who perpetrated domestic terrorism in Charlottesville as "fine people." But for the most part, Republican elected officials are dancing around the issue and refusing to condemn Trump even as they make spineless remarks about opposing racism and Nazis. One radio host raised the question this way: what does it say about the GOP base that GOP senators, congressman and others are seemingly afraid to condemn such people because they fear it could hurt them at the ballot box. The sad truth is that for decades now - ever since Richard Nixon launched the "Southern Strategy" - the Republican Party has pandered to the people that Trump describes as "fine people." This pandering was once discrete and utilized dog whistle calls to racists. Trump - and here in Virginia, GOP gubernatorial primary candidate Corey Stewart - have made the calls explicit. The only thing that has changed is the willingness of more Republicans to explicitly pander to hate-filled people. A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon:
Donald Trump chose Trump Tower, the place where he began his presidential campaign, as the place to plunge a dagger into his presidency.Trump’s jaw-dropping defense of white supremacists, white nationalists and Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., exposed once more what many of us have been howling into the wind since he emerged as a viable candidate: That he is a bigot, a buffoon and a bully.
He has done nothing since his election to disabuse us of this notion and everything to confirm it. Anyone expressing surprise is luxuriating in a self-crafted shell of ignorance.
And yet, it seems too simplistic, too convenient, to castigate only Trump for elevating these vile racists. To do so would be historical fallacy. Yes, Trump’s comments give them a boost, grant them permission, provide them validation, but it is also the Republican Party through which Trump burst that has been courting, coddling and accommodating these people for decades. Trump is an articulation of the racists in Charlottesville and they are an articulation of him, and both are a logical extension of a party that has too often refused to rebuke them. [I]n the modern age one party has operated with the ethos of racial inclusion and with an eye on celebrating varied forms of diversity, and the other has at times appealed directly to the racially intolerant by providing quiet sufferance.
It is possible to trace this devil’s dance back to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the emergence of Richard Nixon. After the passage of the act, the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln to which black people felt considerable fealty, turned on those people and stabbed them in the back.
In 1994 John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser and a Watergate co-conspirator, confessed this to the author Dan Baum:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. . . . Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
The era Ehrlichman referred to was the beginning of the War on Drugs. . . . . The object of disrupting communities worked all too well — more than 40 million arrests have been conducted for drug-related offenses since 1971, with African-Americans being incarcerated in state prisons for these offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that for whites, according to Human Rights Watch.
In 1970, Nixon’s political strategist Kevin Phillips told The New York Times, “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans.”
The Republican Party wanted the racists. It was strategy, the “Southern Strategy,” and it too has proved wildly successful. From there this cancer took hold. . . . . the white supremacy still survives and even thrives in policy. The stated goals of the Republican Party are not completely dissimilar from many of the white nationalist positions.
If you advance policies like a return to more aggressive drug policies and voter suppression — things that you know without question will have a disproportionate and negative impact on people of color, what does that say about you?
People think that they avoid the appellation because they do not openly hate. But hate is not a requirement of white supremacy. Just because one abhors violence and cruelty doesn’t mean that one truly believes that all people are equal — culturally, intellectually, creatively, morally. Entertaining the notion of imbalance — that white people are inherently better than others in any way — is also white supremacy.
This is passive white supremacy, soft white supremacy, the kind divorced from hatred. It is permissible because it’s inconspicuous. But this soft white supremacy is more deadly, exponentially, than Nazis with tiki torches.
This soft white supremacy is the very thing on which the open racists build. The white nationalists and the Nazis simply take the next step (not an altogether illogical one when wandering down the crooked path of racial hostility) and they overlay open animus.
White supremacy, all across the spectrum, is what lights the way to the final step as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. articulated in his “The Other America” speech in 1967:
“In the final analysis, racism is evil because its ultimate logic is genocide. Hitler was a sick and tragic man who carried racism to its logical conclusion. And he ended up leading a nation to the point of killing about six million Jews. This is the tragedy of racism because its ultimate logic is genocide. If one says that I am not good enough to live next door to him, if one says that I am not good enough to eat at a lunch counter, or to have a good, decent job, or to go to school with him merely because of my race, he is saying consciously or unconsciously that I do not deserve to exist.”
Republicans, these people and this “president” are your progeny. That is the other inconvenient truth.
Perhaps as a gay man I am more conscious of the reality of what King said: Christofascists for years - and still - say that I and millions of others in the LGBT community do not deserve to exist. When one lives with this ever present atmosphere of hate lingering in the background, you become much more sensitive to all forms of hate and bigotry. Decent Republicans need to decide whether they will embrace white supremacy or leave the GOP. The GOP will not change from within, so do not delude yourselves.
Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie has been working hard to dupe Virginia voters into believing that he is a moderate who will not follow in the policy footsteps of Donald Trump, head of the Republican Party nationally. To accomplish this message of trickery and deceit, Gillespie has adopted a campaign website that is little more than vague generalities and a tired rehashing of GOP from 30 years ago. He offers nothing new. Worse yet, he is striving to hide the reality that, if elected, he will (i) slavishly follow the culture war dictates of The Family Foundation, Virginia's leading hate group with strong historical ties to white supremacy, and (ii) pander to the near 50% of the GOP electorate that voted for Corey Stewart who campaigned on a racist/pro-Confederacy platform. A piece in the Washington Post looks at how Der Trumpenführer is making things more difficult for Gillespie to hide the toxicity he would bring to the governor's mansion. Here are highlights:
Republican Ed Gillespie has been fighting to keep the focus of his campaign for Virginia governor on state issues and away from President Trump.
That task grew more challenging this week after Trump defended some of the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville and bashed efforts to remove Confederate statues — directly injecting national politics into the Virginia governor’s race.
Gillespie, a longtime GOP operative and former Republican National Committee chairman, repeatedly said this week there’s no moral equivalence between white nationalists and the counterprotesters who clashed with them in Charlottesville.
The GOP candidate tweeted that the views of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville “have no redeeming value whatsoever. Simple as that” — without ever mentioning the president.
While Trump is highly unpopular in Virginia, and lost the state by five points to Hillary Clinton last year, Gillespie needs support from some Trump voters in November if he is to beat Democrat Ralph Northam, who has a slight lead on Gillespie in recent polls.
“Gillespie seems to be faced with one hurdle after another that Trump is actually placing in front of him in Virginia,” said Bob Holsworth, a retired Virginia Commonwealth University professor and longtime observer of state politics. “In each of these hurdles, he is trying not to directly criticize Trump, but to significantly distance himself in some fashion from Trump. That’s quite a tightrope to walk.”
Northam, and groups supporting him, have seized on Gillespie’s “silence” about Trump. “It’s disappointing to see that my opponent won’t stand up to the president when he’s so clearly been wrong,” said Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, in an interview. “The leader of our country needs to stand up to the white supremacists and say, ‘No more, stop it, go home and go back.’ Ed Gillespie needs to tell President Trump the same thing.” Vice President Pence abruptly canceled two political appearances he was scheduled to make in Virginia with Gillespie on Saturday; aides said he needed to keep his weekend flexible.
Those cancellations may ease optics for Gillespie, whose campaign declined to comment Thursday about Trump but indirectly criticized the president’s remark that there were “fine people” in the white nationalist rally.
One Republican operative unaffiliated with the Gillespie campaign said it would be a mistake for the candidate to talk about Trump. “I don’t think Ed is going to play the game of commenting on what Trump says or doesn’t say because if he does, my God, that’s the only thing he’ll answer for between now and the election,” said the operative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about strategy. Gillespie is trying to stake out a middle ground: He opposes the removal of Confederate statues but says historical context should be added.
His efforts are complicated by Corey A. Stewart, who came within one percentage point of beating Gillespie for the GOP nomination in June by making the preservation of Virginia’s Confederate heritage a signature issue.
Stewart, who has launched a campaign to challenge U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D) with a similar strategy, appeared in a combative interview Thursday on CNN in which he repeatedly denounced the “violent left” and criticized Republicans for being too apologetic after Charlottesville for fear of being branded racists.
“I can only imagine Gillespie’s people would love to pay Corey Stewart to go away, have a vacation on a Caribbean island,” Kidd said.
Again, voters should not be fooled by Gillespie's mealy mouthed dance shuffles. The Virginia GOP nowadays stands for white supremacy, the disenfranchisement of minorities and the Christofascists agenda of The Family Foundation. This reality needs to be exposed and Gillespie needs to be forced to take a stand. He does not get to have it both ways.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
As noted during my recent visit to Great Britain, most Britons view Donald Trump with revulsion and rightly so. Indeed, it was an embarrassment to be American and have to repeatedly stress that the majority of voters had voted AGAINST him and continued to oppose his toxic regime. I have also noted - many times - my impatience with what I call "good Christians" who fail to take on and directly challenge and condemn their supposed coreligionists who traffic in hate and bigotry and seemingly utterly ignore the Gospel message. Their cowardice and refusal to call evangelical and fundamentalists out as hate merchants and modern day Pharisees parallel's those who sought to appease Adolph Hitler in the late 1920's and into the 1930's. Bad people and bad ideologies need to be strongly confronted and condemned. Politeness and attempts at quiet and calm reasoning gets nowhere with such people. Yet too many liberal/progressive Christians do nothing more that occasionally write letters or hold prayer services that do nothing to openly and vigorously confront the hate merchants of the "Christian Right." Anglican Bishop, Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Leeds, shows us how "good Christians" should be acting. Here are highlights from a piece in Christian Today:
An Anglican Bishop has launched a scathing attack on the 'narcissistic amorality' of 'lying' Donald Trump, along with the American 'Christian Right' for failing to recognise the president's traits before he was elected last November.
Nicholas Baines, the liberal-leaning Bishop of Leeds, launched his comprehensive assault on 'shameless' Trump and his evangelical backers in a blog post written in the wake of the violence carried out by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, which Trump initially failed specifically to condemn.
Bishop Baines issues blame on what he calls the 'Christian Right' for failing to see the disastrous presidency coming.
'His misogyny, amorality, financial track record, sexual behaviour, narcissism and nepotism (to name but a few of the obvious challenges) would have ruled out the candidacy of any other semi-reputable politician for the Presidency of the United States of America. His subsequent lying, shamelessness, vindictiveness and inhabiting of some "alternative reality" (in which things that happened didn't happen and things that didn't happen did happen; in which things he said he didn't say and things he didn't say he did say) cannot have come as a disappointing revelation to anyone with half a brain or ears to hear.
His espousal of the alt-right has not come as news. His condemnation of anyone and anything he sees as a challenge to himself ([former President Barack] Obama, for instance) is weighed against his silence in the face of inconvenient truth or facts.
'Yet, none of this is a surprise. It was all there to be seen before he was elected. How on earth did the Christian Right even conceive of the possibility of backing a man who can't put a sentence together and who epitomises narcissistic amorality? If Hillary Clinton couldn't be trusted because of her handling of an email server (or because Americans had had enough of political dynasties), by what stretch of moral imagination could Trump have been thought of as a cleaner, brighter alternative? To which base values did he appeal?'
Turning to Charlottesville, Baines says that the 'brazen impunity' of the white supremacists there 'is only possible because the fascists believe they can get away with it – or might even get approval from the top'.
Baines adds that 'there are moments in history where a tipping point is reached and it matters that people stand up and challenge the danger. This is one of them. Charlottesville is only one (relatively small) town in an enormous country, and most of the USA will have been as horrified as the rest of us at what they witnessed this weekend; but, the images coming out of this one place become iconic of a deeper malaise. People are right to look for consistency in the rampant condemnations and criticisms of their President in his favoured medium Twitter. If he damns Islamic terrorists and wet liberals for their actions, we can expect him to damn right-wing militias and neo-Nazi criminals when they walk his streets and drive cars into ordinary people. Silence.'
I remain incredulous that evangelical Christian leaders, Bible in hand, can remain supportive of the President and administration that is corrupting their country. When will the Republican Party take responsibility, stop wringing their hands, and stand against this regime that will be able to do little without their support?'