Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Voting For A Man Of The People

Slate's Jamelle Bouie tweets "I am... troubled by the choice to use the brutal murder of a homeless man as a device for explaining Trump voters."

He is referring to a piece by one Evan Smith, who finds serious poverty, drug addiction, and hopelessness in the "small Appalachian hill town" of Zanesville, Ohio, in which there are more high school dropouts than high school graduates. The journalist is unsurprised that last month, police there found the charred remains of a 62-year-old man, who had died from blunt force trauma.

There is a prosperous north side of town and a poor south side of town, where

In just the past year, they’ve seen sword stabbings, shootings, deadly police stand-offs, dozens of heroin overdoses each month, too many petty robberies to count, house fires, and now a burned homeless man.

"Everything is falling apart," Smith observes and

Go down those streets and you won’t see a Trump sign,” said county engineer Doug Davis, who knows the bridges and roads of the area better than anyone else. “No, instead you’ll see ‘Hillary for Prison’ signs. You’ll see ‘Drain the Swamp’ signs.”

“It’s about more than just Trump, believe me,” Davis said.

Maintaining "so nothing is surprising," even to see "a man killed and burned over $20" and Smith argues

This is the simple reason why Zanesville voted for Obama in 2012 and then flipped for Trump in 2016: the people on the southside began to rise up. It wasn’t about bankers, lawyers and doctors. Instead, it was about the unemployed, the former-factory workers, the trailer-park dwellers, the looked-down-upon, the white and angry, the white and depressed, and the lost.

Call them racist, xenophobic, deplorable. Go ahead — they’ve heard it all before from their northside neighbors.

But now, for the first time in a long time, they’ve swung back.

They've swung back on behalf of a man who claims to be worth billions and owns a  fleet of five jets, one of which has a 24-karat gold fixture and a leather toilet seat. They clobbered the opponent of a fellow who owns four mansions (Mar-a-Lago, below), as well as a Manhattan penthouse valued at $100 million, and nearly 40 other buildings in the heartland city of New York.. And they swung back on behalf of a guy who brags that not paying any federal income taxes "makes me smart."

Notwithstanding Smith's implication, Zanesville's homeless man was not killed because Hillary Clinton supports the Affordable Care Act or that Donald Trump opposes abortion rights and gun safety legislation, or even because of e-mails or Clinton's representation of the Establishment. The connection of the murder and Trump's election is somewhat tenuous.

Rather, as Bouie notes, the article gives the impression that Zanesville's voters are "justified in directing their anger toward people as or more marginalized."  But it's worse if Smith is correct when he suggests voters on the southside went for Trump because they  were "rejecting the elites on the other side of town — your neighbors who don’t see you as equals — coupled with the impossibility of crossing over to the green grass on the other side."  If widespread, such a perception of "elitism" is a disturbing sign, for Zanesville, for the American voter, and for the nation..

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Monday, December 05, 2016

Obvious Strategy

Two weeks ago, The Nation's Ari Berman- who has been on top of GOP voter suppression like no one's business- wrote (in reverse order)

North Carolina is a case study for how Republicans have institutionalized voter suppression at every level of government and made it the new normal within the GOP. The same thing could soon happen in Washington when Trump takes power....

His conspiracy theories about rigged elections during the presidential race were meant to delegitimize the possibility of Hillary Clinton’s election. But now that he’s won the election we have to take his words far more seriously. He will appoint the next attorney general, at least one Supreme Court justice and thousands of positions in the federal government. His lies about the prevalence of voter fraud are a prelude to the massive voter suppression Trump and his allies in the GOP are about to unleash.

The battle has been joined- on Trump's side, unfortunately. Yesterday we learned from Politico that (President-in-waiting)

Paul Ryan says he doesn’t know if millions of Americans voted illegally for Hillary Clinton, and he refused to repudiate Donald Trump’s groundless claims of a vast voter-fraud conspiracy.

In an interview on CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” the speaker was asked about Trump's tweet that said he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

In a nod to the GOP claims of "I am not a scientist" when asked about climate change, Ryan added "I don't know. I'm not really focused on these things."

Admittedly, his focus is on making health care a whole lot harder for elderly people and poor people to find.. Still, Ryan is intimately interested in voter suppression, without which few Republicans (including Trump) would get elected at the national level, which would leave Ryan's plans in the dust. Last week (prior to Ryan's claims of ignorance and unconcern), Brian Schaffner gave a detailed, thorough takedown of Trump's remarks alleging voter fraud.  The President-elect

and his staff are pointing to a study by Jesse Richman and his co-authors that was published in the journal Electoral Studies and advertised on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog. As a member of the team that produces the datasets upon which that study was based and as the co-author of an article published in the same journal that provides a clear “take down” of the study in question, I can say unequivocally that this research is not only wrong, it is irresponsible social science and should never have been published in the first place. There is no evidence that non-citizens have voted in recent U.S. elections.

That won't stop the Administration and its allies, including virtually all Republicans, and most significantly the Speaker of the House. "Today," Ari Berman tweeted in what is a safe bet, "Ryan, Preibus & Pence refused to condemn Trump lie that millions voted illegally. Tells you massive voter suppression is coming."

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Believing What We Want To Believe

Commence laughter. Right Wing Watch has found

On his most recent “Prophetic Perspectives on Current Events” program, televangelist Rick Joyner declared that President-elect Donald Trump is a “tough as nails” leader who is also deeply compassionate and religious …. not unlike the disciples whom Jesus chose....

Joyner insisted that Trump is also "one of the most honest people I've met" and that he possesses a "remarkable fear of the Lord."

When someone believes that Donald Trump is an honest man deeply influenced by the Holy Spirit, he'll believe anything. And so

Joyner said that he met with Trump once before the election and discussed Trump’s plans to address illegal immigration. During the discussion, Joyner claimed, he “saw the tears well up” in Trump’s eyes at the thought that his plan to deport millions of undocumented immigrants could split up families.

“He was about to bust out crying,” Joyner claimed. “He said, ‘We can’t do that, we can’t hurt the families, we’ve got to fix that.'”

Don't laugh too hard, though, for such naivete may deeply affect not only (willfully) ignorant televangelists, but also the media and global politicians. Representing the latter category we have Pakistan's Press Information Department issuing this statement:

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif called President-elect USA Donald Trump and felicitated him on his victory. President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me any time even before 20th January that is before I assume my office.

On being invited to visit Pakistan by the Prime Minister, Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people, said Mr. Donald Trump.

Laugh all you want at what seems to have been dictated by Trump himself but.... no, laugh all you want.  However, note that the Pakistani Prime Minister appears to have been impressed by Trump, who probably was "buttering Sharif up without giving much thought to the sensitivities involved in a very tense geopolitical conflict or how his words might be interpreted."

It may be unsurprising that the likes of Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Rick Joyner can be so easily fooled. So, too, however, The New York Times, whose reporters and editors two weeks after the election interviewed the President-elect. Trump said he had an "open mind" about climate change, then stated "I know we have, they say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists. Where was that, in Geneva or wherever five years ago? Terrible."

Asked whether "human activity is or isn't connected," Trump replied "It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies. You have to understand, our companies are noncompetitive right now."  "A lot of smart people disagree with you" about climate change," he told Tom Friedman. "We've always had storms," he assured Arthur Sulzberger, to whom he maintained "You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98."

Then the Times wrote its story and in the first paragraph argued Trump was "pledging to have an open mind about climate change." No. really.

During the primary and presidential campaigns, Donald Trump craved adulation as he spoke to huge, adoring crowds. However, he craves acceptance also, and will structure his remarks to accomodate the preferences of whomever he's talking to. In the age of social media, we were assured, politicians and others could not say anything without considering its impact upon a larger audience. Trump has shattered that notion.

The President-elect effortlessly soothes his immediate audience, contradicting himself promptly and often,allowing reasonable people to hold out hope that he is moderating. A United States President, we need to believe, could not possibly be as bellicose, bigoted, and ill-informed as Donald Trump appears  to be. But he can.

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