U.S. Politics

It didn’t end at the ballot box: Donald Trump’s biggest supporters now push for a divisive agenda

It didn't end at the ballot box: Donald Trump's biggest supporters now push for a divisive agenda

(Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer)


Confederacy boosters, xenophobes and alt-right firebrands are pursuing divisive agendas in their home states

Plenty of Americans wake up in the morning, remember that wealthy real estate tycoon and pathological liar Donald Trump is president of the United States, pinch themselves, and morosely confirm that yes, he really is president. I sure do. It also happens when I think about a fossil fuel industry shill and climate change denier running the EPA, or a billionaire who wants to fund religious private schools with public dollars in charge of the education department. And certainly a white nationalist, who apparently calls colleagues “cucks” and “globalists,” as chief adviser to the president.

But let’s not forget the droves of political figures, state campaign chairs and other supporters who didn’t make it into the White House but may be just as demented as racist “alt-right” figure Steve Bannon or disgraced Islamophobe Michael Flynn.

Wonder what they’re up to now that Trump is president? They’re definitely keeping busy.

Among the most extreme Trump devotees are the neo-Nazis and the neo-Confederates, groups that often overlap. Throughout a campaign launched on the racist fallacy that Mexicans are rapists and rooted in the erasure of Muslims from America, Trump earned the enthusiastic support of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, neo-Nazis like Richard Spencer, and Breitbart News, the “platform of the alt-right” that Bannon led until he became CEO of the Trump campaign last August. (According to Breitbart Washington editor Matthew Boyle, the two still talk regularly as the outlet continues its fierce support for the president.)

Some Confederacy boosters hold state office, and they’re trying to celebrate their so-called “cultural heritage” through legislation. In March, Republican Georgia state representative Tommy Benton introduced a bill to make April “Confederate History Month” and April 26 “Confederate Memorial Day at the state capitol.”

“Georgia has long cherished her Confederate history and the people who made sacrifices on her behalf,” reads the bill, apparently discounting the roughly 3.3 million African Americans (32 percent of the state’s total population) who live in Georgia and don’t exactly look fondly upon slavery, not to mention the many people of all races who think Confederate history is not worthy of celebration. When the Confederacy fought the Union for “states’ rights,” it was fighting to keep its slaves, plain and simple.

At a press conference, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, “When asked whether the resolution … includes the need to understand the role that slavery and systemic exploitation and oppression of African and African-American people played and an acknowledgement of what the war was fought about, Benton declined to answer … ‘Next question,’” he said.

The bill was inspired by Trump’s victory. “We just elected a president that said he was tired of political correctness,” said Benton. “And so that was the reason that we were looking to introduce the resolution.”

Benton is known for his earlier disturbing comment that the KKK “made people straighten up.” His district of 54,000 people is 84 percent white, and only 20 percent have a college education. This is the demographic — rural white Americans without a college degree — that voted overwhelmingly for Trump last November.

The three other co-sponsors of the bill, all Republicans, are also big Trump fans: Rep. Steve Tarvin, who was a co-chair of Trump’s Georgia campaign and whom Trump endorsed last year; Rep. Jesse Petrea, who was seen celebrating Trump’s win with his country’s Republican group and who introduced a bill in February that would create an online list of undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes; and Rep. Alan Powell, who has praised Bannon.

The Georgia racists are in good company in the South among fellow Trumpers. In Virginia, the chair of Trump’s Virginia operation is running a gubernatorial campaign on a neo-Confederate platform. Corey Stewart, currently the chair of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, promises that as governor he’ll prevent liberals from removing Confederate monuments, bring back specialty license plates emblazoned with Confederate emblems and “absolutely not” mention slavery when addressing Confederate history.

Much like Benton, Stewart says, “I think things have changed … I think the 2016 presidential race was a watershed moment where you saw voters … just fed up with political correctness and these gotcha techniques that the left has used to shut down speech.”

Right-wing websites, think tanks and state legislators around the country who are proposing deceptively named “campus free expression bills,” even one originally nicknamed after the proud racist Milo Yiannopoulos, know what they’re doing by attacking political correctness: trying to make hate speech great again.

Since the election, another upstanding state chair for Trump has distinguished himself among the pack of extremely bigoted Trump supporters. Co-chair of the Trump New York campaign Carl Paladino responded to a December questionnaire from Art Voice with some truly disgusting answers.

On what he’d most like to happen in 2017, he replied, “Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford [sic]. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarrett, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a jihady [sic] cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.”

Paladino’s alma mater, St. Bonaventure University, called his comments “racist and demeaning.” Paladino claimed his commentary “has nothing to do with race” and was merely “a little deprecating humor.” Many called for Paladino to leave his post on the Buffalo School Board, including the board itself, but the education commissioner has not yet asked him to leave.

Here are a few more political whack jobs who just so happen to be big Trump fans.

Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King, who’s proven himself to be a consummate white nationalist along the lines of Dutch arch-Islamophobe Geert Wilders, endorsed Trump in August. He’s since tweeted such savory things as, “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end” and more recently, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” King’s extreme nationalism is right in line with that of Bannon and another of Trump’s top advisers, Stephen Miller, who ultimately want to decrease legal immigration as much as they can. It appears Jeff Sessions is on their page as well.

Former presidential candidate and Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, known for his vehemently anti-gay rhetoric (and whose last name was redefined by sex advice columnist Dan Savage), continues his reliable, frothy stream of preposterous statements as a cable news commentator. Some of his recent epiphanies include the idea that millions of sick Americans are defrauding health insurance companies and that Trump’s plan to increase coal mining in Pennsylvania and other states is “a breath of oxygen into the lungs of small-town, rural communities.”

In North Carolina, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, who has been the state’s biggest champion of the widely derided anti-LGBTQ “bathroom bill” that in its original form would cost the state billions of dollars in lost revenue, is pushing a new bill that would criminalize student protest. His plan, which is derived from a model bill drafted by scholars from two Koch-backed think tanks, likely imposes harsh penalties including expulsion on students who disrupt guest lectures, as his 2016 plan would have done just that. After a slew of sexual assault allegations against Trump, Forest gave a speech introducing Trump at an October rally in Charlotte.

“If you wanna protect federalism and the right that every state has to determine how they represent themselves in the United States of America … then we better elect Donald Trump president of the United States,” proclaimed Forest.

Also in North Carolina, we mustn’t forget Earl Philip, the Trump campaign’s state director who pulled a gun on at least one of his subordinates. When this came to light in August 2016, he had to leave the campaign. Philip previously stated, “You cannot be a Christian and be a member of, or support, or be a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party,” and claimed that Barack Obama was neither black nor Christian.

These are some of the honorable citizens Trump picked for his campaign operations. As he slowly fills hundreds of vacant staff positions and judgeships, what could possibly go wrong?


U.S. Politics

Steve Bannon’s disturbing views on ‘genetic superiority’ are shared by Trump

Stephen Bannon, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, attends Trump’s Hispanic advisory roundtable meeting in New York, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016 CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert


They also validate a core belief of white nationalists.

Former Breitbart head Steve Bannon has been a national lightning rod ever since he was appointed CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. At-issue: Bannon’s deep ties to the growing white nationalist movement, which provided some of Trump’s earliest and most fervent supporters.

On Sunday the New York Times published a profile on Bannon, casting him as a “combative populist.” Buried deep within the profile is an account of Bannon talking about his belief in the “genetic superiority” of certain people and his support for restricting voting rights to only property owners.

A former colleague of Bannon’s, Julia Jones, recounted her interactions with Bannon to reporter Scott Shane:

Ms. Jones, the film colleague, said that in their years working together, Mr. Bannon occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.

“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’ I said, ‘But what about Wendy?’” referring to Mr. Bannon’s executive assistant. “He said, ‘She’s different. She’s family.’”

Jones also previously described Bannon’s comments about voting to The Daily Beast.

Restricting voting to only property holders would take the country back centuries to its founding — when only white, male property holders could vote in most states. Today, such a restriction would disenfranchise huge swaths of people, including students, people of color, young Americans, many city dwellers, and low-income populations.

Far from populism, this is Revolutionary-era elitism drawn along racist lines. And for white nationalists, it’s a familiar goal.

Former KKK wizard David Duke, for example, has been proclaiming on Twitter that Trump’s election and cabinet picks are the first steps toward “taking America back” — that is, taking America “back” from anyone who isn’t descended from fair-skinned Europeans. In white nationalist ideology, only white Americans have a true right to the country — and the rights that go along with citizenship, like voting.

Bannon’s musings on voting restrictions are a dog-whistle to white nationalists. The same goes for his reference to “genetic superiority,” a view that Donald Trump also has said he shares.

Trump has repeatedly connected his success to his “good genes,” as ThinkProgress previously reported. He’s said that his children “don’t need adversity” to build character or skills, because they share his good genetics.In an interview once, he went so far as to compare himself to a “racehorse” and discussing his “breeding” at length.

The belief in the genetic predisposition of qualities like intelligence are a hallmark of white nationalism.

In Trump’s rhetoric on genes, white nationalists hear validation of their belief that genetics alone can qualify someone for leadership — or make them inherently inferior. Genetics and connections to race are a common theme on white nationalist, neo-Nazi sites like American Renaissance and Stormfront.

Yet despite the validation Bannon (and Trump) have given to white nationalist ideologies, many insist that the term “white nationalist” is inappropriate. Woven throughout the New York Times profile were quotes from Bannon’s friends and family pointing to his personal relationships with people of color, and therefore insisting that he was not, himself, a racist.

Laurel Raymond

U.S. Politics

Republican leader explains why the GOP has a big problem with racism


Image result for evan mcmullin

Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin (Screen cap).


Republican upstart Evan McMullin — the mainstream GOP alternative to President-elect Donald Trump — is cautioning his party that it has a deeply rooted vein of racism that needs to be addressed and that the party’s leadership is ignoring it.

In a series of tweets that used Trump advocate Carl Paladino’s offensive comments about First Lady Michelle Obama as a jumping off point, McMullin said talk like Paladino’s wont go away on its own.

Paladino proved to be an embarrassment to both the Trump campaign and his family after saying Michelle Obama would be resuming her life as “a man” and that she should be “let loose” in Africa so she could live with apes.

According to McMullin, Paladino is not the exception in the party, writing: “Racism like @CarlPaladino’s and that of others in the GOP won’t just go away on its own. It’s a problem that requires better leadership.”

Then came a series of warnings for Republicans.

See below:

A number of Republicans see the problem (racism). They try to lead the party in a new direction, but too many disagree & thus the problem. https://twitter.com/jason_w_simmons/status/813814027931422720 …  | This post was deleted…could not embed post

U.S. Politics

6 Despicable Things President-Elect Trump Has Done This Week

6 Despicable Things President-Elect Trump Has Done This Week

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump yells to members of the media from the steps of the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar


It has been one of the longest weeks in human history and the Trump presidency has not even begun yet. Any notion that reasonable, well-intentioned people should give him a chance—hey, maybe he was just kidding about all that hateful, bigotedstuff he spewed on the campaign trail—was immediately dispelled. One of his first official acts was to name the anti-Semitic mastermind of the racist “alt-right,” fake news website Breitbart, Steve Bannon, to chief propagandist and horse’s ass whisperer. The president-elect dodged the media, regained control of his Twitter account and proceeded to confirm all of our worst fears about him.

If it was not already clear, Trump plans to surround himself with sycophantic yes-men who share his racist views and will just as gleefully set about laying waste to civil liberties and justice as he will. Also, his unelected children will be playing major roles in the new White House, it appears, while also running his businesses.

“We won,” he and his team have told anyone who disagrees with them. They have every plan to claim all the spoils. Here is a partial list of the both the horrors and the mere affronts to decency Trump has visited upon us this week.

1. He tapped Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General.

Early loyalist Sessions has been rewarded for being one of the earliest lap dogs for Trump with one of the most powerful positions in the country, Attorney General. The two men share a deep love of racist policing, hatred of civil rights and desire to roll the clock back to approximately the 1950s. That would place us well before the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, Roe v. Wade and nationwide legalization of gay marriage. Sessions would also be perfectly positioned to undo some of the gains made during the Obama Administration to reverse the worst effects of the 1994 Omnibus Crime bill that rained mass incarceration down on vast portions of the black and Latino populations. The two share a hatred and demonization of marijuana. Sessions once hilariously joked that he liked the KKK until he heard they smoked weed. Another piece of common ground: they both hate immigrants, with Sessions saying in 2006 that no one from the Dominican Republic has anything of value to contribute to the United States.

Alabama Senator Sessions was deemed too openly racist to be a federal judge by Senate Republicans in 1986 after President Ronald Reagan nominated the then United States attorney from Alabama. Former colleagues gave devastating testimony about Sessions’ blatant racism. But Senate Republicans are not what they used to be.

There’s no evidence that the years have dimmed Sessions’ racist views, which are apparently right in line with his new boss man. On Friday, Sessions praised Trump’s demand for the death penalty for the Central Park Five in 1989. He said it shows that Trump has always been a “law and order” guy. The teenagers Trump demanded death for were fully exonerated by DNA evidence and shown to have been victims of police railroading. Despite all this inconvenient truth, Trump has continued to stand by his earlier bloodlust, and now the nation’s likely top prosecutor has praised him for it.

That is some very twisted law and order.

2. His surrogate floated the Muslim registry idea and justified it by citing one of the most shameful pieces of American history.

One of the more terrifying campaign ideas Trump floated was the idea of a registry for Muslims in this country. Undaunted by the very real comparison between this and the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany, the president-elect has made it clear that this awful breach of human rights, and act of outright religious persecution, is still very much a possibility.

A prominent Trump backer and spokesman for a major super PAC that backed him by the name of Carl Higbie laid out the legal justification for this atrocity on Wednesday to a horrified Megyn Kelly. His argument was that the mass internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was a “precedent” for Trump’s planned Muslim registry. Since it has a “precedent,” a kind of legalistic term that Higbie was just using to mean something like this happened before, the Muslim registry would therefore “hold constitutional muster,” Higbie argued.

Kelly tried in various ways to express her utter shock and dismay that Japanese internment camps were being used as some sort of positive example of how the United States should behave today.

Higbie may just be a Trump-loving supporter with no official role, but word is that the Muslim registry is definitely being considered. A day earlier, an actual member of Trump’s transition team, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, said Trump’s advisers were discussing whether to send him a formal proposal for a national registry of immigrants and visitors from Muslim countries. It’s happening.

Kobach, whose other claim to fame is crafting a law making it legal for police to profile Latinos, was said to be in line for the Attorney General position. Now he’ll have to wait for another plum position, like czar of immigration.

3. He tapped insanely Islamophobic retired General Michael Flynn for top national security post.

There is every indication that Trump has great respect for fellow hotheads, as long as they are sufficiently sycophantic and Islamophobic. Retired General Michael Flynn, Trump’s truly frightening pick for national security adviser, fits the bill perfectly.

Flynn served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was later tapped to lead the Defense Intelligence Agency. Obama subsequently fired him. It is unclear at what point he became the virulent Islamophobe with a shaky grasp on the truth, but that is who he is today. Ever since, he has been sounding the amped-up alarm about the threat posed by extremist Islamic groups and blaming Obama for “coddling” them to anyone who will listen. And Trump very obviously listens to him and in fact wants to keep on listening to him.

What President Trump will likely hear from Flynn are variants on his recent tweet, “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” He has also said in interviews that he considers Islam—yes, the whole religion—a cancer that has metastasized. Another thing Flynn likes to say is: “Lock her up,” referring to Hillary Clinton.

4. He invited his daughter to a meeting with the Japanese prime minister.

Way before his election, Trump had shattered every norm of someone aspiring to public office, using campaign press conferences to promote his hotels, refusing to release his tax returns, and ignoring the usual rules regarding conflicts of interest. Surprise, as president-elect, he’s still writing his own rules as he goes. Early in the week, he was said to be requesting security clearance for his kids and son-in-law.

He has promised to place his business holdings in a “blind trust” while he is president, and of course he always keeps his promises. The “blind trust” would also be run by his kids, so not really blind at all. Plus, his kids are part of the government now! They are part of the transition team!

As the week wore on, after confusing the hell out of the Japanese prime minister about when and where they would meet, Trump invited daughter Ivanka to attend. So far no word if she will be selling any of the items she wore to the meeting online.

5. He took credit for the fact that a Ford factory is not moving to Mexico when it was never going to move to Mexico.

On Thursday, the president-elect tweeted that he got a phone call “from my friend Bill Ford, Chairman of Ford, who advised me that he will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky—no Mexico.”

He tweeted this because had he sent a press release, the mainstream media just might have (no guarantees, but might have) looked into it and found out that Ford was never going to close the factory in question. To get even more granular, the company had considered moving one production line to Mexico, but the move would not have cost any Americans their jobs, and then it decided not to. Details, details.

But that did not prevent Trump from taking credit for it and calling it a win for him. And it did not prevent various fake newsoutlets from agreeing and perpetuating his false claim. And now he’ll say it a bunch more times, and the fake news outlets will say it a bunch more times and then it will become true.

That’s the way things work in the post-truth world.

6. He demanded an apology from the “Hamilton” cast.

On Friday night, our virulently homophobic VP-elect Mike Pence went to see the smash hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.” There, in addition to being entertained, he was also booed. At the end of the show, cast member Brandon Victor Dixon delivered the message to Pence that many Americans are truly afraid and worried that the new “administration will not protect us, defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.”

This rather mild, and completely true statement—millions of Americans really are worried!—was termed “harassment” by our new commander-in-chief in waiting on Twitter the next day. It was so rude, Trump said, and demanded an apology.

Without a trace of the bitter irony that surrounds us every day, Trump invoked the notion of a “safe space” in his tweets about the incident. “The theater must always be a safe and special place,” he said.

Let the boos continue to rain down upon both of these deplorable men and their cast of horribles, forever.

U.S. Politics

15-year-old black, autistic cross country runner assaulted during race


CREDIT: Screencap via CNYCentral.com


Initially, no charges were pressed, but police have renewed the investigation.

Last month, 15-year-old Chase Coleman got lost during a cross country race in Rochester.

According to witnesses, Coleman — who is autistic, nearly nonverbal, and African American — was running down the middle of the road when Martin MacDonald, a 57-year-old white man, got out of his car and shoved the teenager to the ground. Before driving away, MacDonald allegedly shouted, “Get out of here!”

Chase’s mother, Clarise Coleman, wanted to press charges against MacDonald, but a judge in Rochester initially denied the request for an arrest warrant.

After the case received an onslaught of media attention, however, police in Rochester changed their minds. They announced on Monday that they are renewing their investigation into the case.

“If that man had been black and Chase had been white, and that [police] report went in, he’d have been in jail,’’ Clarise told Syracuse.com.

According to the initial incident report, MacDonald never denied pushing Chase.

“When [the deputy] asked [MacDonald] why he did that, he replied that he thought Chase was going to mug his wife and take her purse,” the report reads, via the Washington Post. “MacDonald’s wife was sitting in the front passenger seat at the time of the [incident]. When [the deputy] asked him why he thought that, MacDonald told him that some youths had broke into his car recently and that crossed his mind. MacDonald went on to say that Chase wasn’t responding to him telling him to move out of the road.”

MacDonald particularly stressed that the people who broke into his car recently were black men, making this case seem like a pretty clear-cut case of racial profiling in the eyes of Syracuse city councilor Susan Boyle.

“If that man had been black and Chase had been white, and that (police) report went in, he’d have been in jail.”

After finding out about the incident on Facebook, Boyle wrote a letter to Monroe County District Attorney’s Office asking them to explain the lack of charges.

“For an Autistic, nonverbal student to have joined a team, to be competing in organized athletic programs and acting as a part of a team and community is the kind of success we strive for,” Boyle wrote. “For all of this progress to be lost due to a racist, aggressive, unprovoked attack on a disabled African-American minor with absolutely no consequences is, for lack of a stronger word, unacceptable.”

With the police investigation starting back up, Clarise Coleman hopes that her son will regain his love for running. It took the family many tries to find a sport that made Chase happy, but since the assault, he has refused to go to practice and even turned in his uniform to his coach.

“[MacDonald] snatched a joy out of my child that took a long time to establish,” she said.

Lindsay Gibbs

U.S. Politics

Will Trump Resurrect a Violent South?



Hate groups are on the rise. Klan membership is increasing astronomically. In Trumped-up America, are we marching back to Bloody Sunday and Bombingham?

As police shootings of blacks continue, as anti-Muslim speech and violence intensifies, and as Donald Trump surfs a wave of Alt-Right bigotry toward the White House, I can’t help flashing back to the Alabama of my childhood, half a century ago. I grew up in a small town during the heyday of George Wallace and the turbulence of the Civil Rights movement, when wholesale hatred and violence from angry whites were directed against African Americans seeking equality.

I was seven in May 1963, when the police chief in Birmingham turned fire hoses and police dogs loose on Civil Rights protesters. I was still seven in September, when four KKK members planted a bomb beneath the steps ofBirmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, which had played an active role in the movement. The bundle of dynamite—15 sticks say some accounts, 19 say others—went off shortly before the worship service was scheduled to start, killing four girls and injuring more than 20 other people. It was the city’s deadliest bombing, but far from the first: previously some 50 racially motivated explosions had already earned Birmingham the nickname “Bombingham.”

I was nine in March 1965, when state troopers and a mounted sheriff’s posse blocked a march by peaceful protesters in Selma. After a brief standoff, the police attacked the marchers, firing tear gas and clubbing people with wooden nightsticks. At the time, I was too young and too sheltered—I lived in a quiet town of 6,500—to grasp the ferocity of the bigotry and violence.

By the time I was in seventh grade, my school had integrated. One of my basketball teammates was a black boy named Earl—“Earl the Pearl”—who, confounding stereotypes, played as badly as I did. Earl sometimes stopped by my house after school to shoot hoops, but we both remained benchwarmers, sitting side by side: equals, judged not by the color of our skin but by the lameness of our game. Dr. King’s dream had come true, at least in a third-string sort of way.

In high school I got religion and felt called to the ministry; at 16, I landed an appointment as a Methodist lay pastor, preaching the gospel twice a month at a one-room country church whose dead, their graves adorned with dusty plastic flowers, far outnumbered the living. One day early in my appointment, I passed a hand-lettered sign beside the road, less than a mile from my church: Klan Meeting Tonight. I was astonished; I’d imagined the Klan was over and done with. I was also baffled. Who would go to a Klan meeting in this sleepy crossroads? Would Etta Mae, the church’s fifty-something pianist? Her husband, Bob, whom I never saw on Sundays because he had his own pulpit, in a fire-and-brimstone Primitive Baptist church? The handful of quiet farmers and highway-department workers scattered among my pews?

Being young and new and unsure of myself, I didn’t ask about the sign, I’m sorry to say. Over the course of my pastorate—which ended two years later, when I went off to college and lost my theological certainty—I never saw the sign again.

I remember it, though—more often than ever now, against the backdrop of Ferguson and Black Lives Matter and White Lives Matter and Charleston and a sickening rise in hate groups and Klan groups. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose Intelligence Project tracks extremists of all stripes, the number of U.S. hate groups rose last year to more than 1,600—a 14 percent increase in just one year. More alarmingly, says the SPLC, the number of Klan chapters rose by more than 250 percent in 2015, to a total of nearly 200.

Last fall came the mass shootings in San Bernardino and Paris, which killed dozens of people in the name of radical Islam. Those tragedies were followed by a fierce anti-Muslim backlash. Donald Trump vowed to ban Muslim immigration and called for a “national registry” of Muslims already in the country. Trump’s Muslim-bashing was mirrored by (perhaps partly responsible for) a continuing surge of anti-Muslim violence, including incidents of vandalism and arson at mosques, widespread harassment, and violent assaults—beatings and murders—of innocent Muslims.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sympathizing with radicalized terrorists who kill in the name of Allah. Their actions sicken and grieve me, just as “Christian Identity” violence—shootings and bombings at abortion clinics, or calls for the killing of every Jew in America—sickens and grieves me. Murder gives God—any God—a bad rap. You don’t have to be a former preacher boy to realize that.

I no longer live in Alabama; now I’m next door in Georgia, in the music-making, tatted-up town of Athens, home of the University of Georgia. I love it here. And yet: Two weeks after the Charleston church shootings—and less than an hour after my wife and I first arrived in Athens—a shiny crew-cab pickup rumbled past us, cruising the street that doubles as the university’s fraternity row. Two big Confederate battle flags streamed behind it, waved by jeering young white men, and my wife—a newly hired professor of social work and human rights—stopped dead, turned to me, and wept tears of sadness and fury.

Last month, in Covington, Georgia, a Muslim group’s plan to build a mosque was thrown into doubt when a militia group staged a protest at the proposed site. Some of the militia members wore fatigues and carried assault rifles. Their spokesman called the local Muslims “a future ISIS training group.”

It’s not very far to Covington from Athens. Truth is, these days it’s not very far to Covington from anywhere in Georgia. Or Alabama. Or America. The back roads of bigotry and dark alleys of violence could quickly take us all to Covington. From there, it’s only a hop, skip, and a rope back to Bloody Sunday and Bombingham and Klan Meeting Tonight.

Jon Jefferson is a crime novelist in Athens, Georgia.

Jon Jefferson

U.S. Politics

Self-proclaimed “genius” reaches new highs in stupidity: Trump puts his incompetence on full display

Donald Trump (Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri)


Trump’s candidacy is an ugly joke — but insidious racism and media idiocy have kept him within striking distance

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is a former United States senator and secretary of state with decades of experience as a public servant. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is a real estate developer and reality TV star. He has never held public office. According to new national polling data on the 2016 presidential campaign, Clinton and Trump are in a virtual tie. How did this happen?

There are many reasons. Primarily, both candidates are viewed negatively by large segments of the American public. The U.S. economy has also experienced a relatively anemic recovery (in terms of wages and wealth) from the Great Recession of the George W. Bush years.

Furthermore, the American electorate is highly partisan and polarized. As Election Day in November approaches — and despite whatever misgivings voters may feel — it is much more likely than not that individuals will solidify their support for their political party’s chosen candidate.

These foundational factors have combined to create a close presidential race.

The American news media, much of it owned and controlled by large corporations, has also played a significant role in keeping Hillary Clinton within reach of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is an atypical presidential candidate who has utter disregard for the standing norms of American politics and even less respect for the Fourth Estate. This has allowed him to outmaneuver and manipulate many journalists and pundits. They feel beholden, or perhaps enslaved, to norms of “objectivity,” “fairness” and “balance.” Trump feels no such limitations.

By some estimates, the American media has given Trump at least $3 billion worth of free coverage. The 24/7 cable news cycle and the media’s corporate culture have fueled an obsession with creating a “horse race” and a willingness to massage, distort and misrepresent events in order to sustain that narrative. For example, the media continues to manufacture “scandals” about Clinton’s emails while ignoring or underplaying Trump’s misdeeds, from the buying of political influence and various documented acts of political corruption to his encouragement of election tampering by a foreign power, his questionable business practices and other instances ofunethical behavior.

The sum effect of these dynamics (aided by no small amount of cowardice among the pundit classes) is that the American corporate news media has buttressed and legitimated Trump. In all, this amounts to grading on a curve. Hillary Clinton is an A student being held to an impossibly high standard and punished for minor mistakes. Donald Trump is a D student, at best, who is being marked up to an A minus because the teacher is afraid of his parents.

The impact of white racism and racial resentment on American politics also plays a large role in explaining why Clinton and Trump are so close in the polls. Donald Trump is a racist, a bigot, a nativist and a fascist. The Republican Party in the post-Civil Rights era has become the United States’ largest de facto white identity organization. It also attracts white authoritarians. Trump’s selection as the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nominee is the nearly inevitable outcome of almost five decades of the “Southern strategy” pioneered by Pat Buchanan in 1968, as well as a broader right-wing electoral politics that is based first and foremost on mobilizing white voters and demobilizing nonwhites.

Moreover, despite the media’s discussion of the so-called alt-right, which is little more than an ideological smoke screen, Trump and his supporters are not outliers or aberrations in the Republican Party. They are its unapologetic base and its political id. Right-wing elites may be turned off by Trump’s lack of polish, but his core message, attitudes and values resonate among mainstream Republicans. This gives Trump a deep reservoir of preexisting support.

In some ways, Trump began his 2016 political foray in 2011 with the racist conspiracy known as “birtherism.” Five years later, 72 percent of Republicans still express doubtthat Barack Obama was born in the United States.

During the Republican campaign, Trump proposed banning all Muslim noncitizens from entering the United States. Seventy-one percent of Republicans supported it.

Social scientists have demonstrated that “old-fashioned” racism is resurgent in America and can now be used to predict whether a given white voter will support the Republican Party. Anti-black animus is also highly correlated with hostility to Barack Obama. Other work has demonstrated that racial animus has a “hangover” effect that can impact a given white person’s attitudes and beliefs about ostensibly race-neutral policy issues, like public transit and infrastructure projects, which may be perceived as benefiting blacks.

The ascendancy of Donald Trump has also empowered white supremacists and other hate groups to bolster their recruitment efforts. The Independent reports that white nationalist groups are growing at a higher rate than ISIS, at least in terms of social-media presence.

These are abstract facts and the results of social science research. They are essential and extremely important. The passions and rage that Donald Trump has summoned, however, also help to explain why he is able to be so competitive with Hillary Clinton.

Trump is the beneficiary of a populist moment of discontent in American and global politics. While Bernie Sanders’ progressive version of populism was inclusive, cosmopolitan and forward-thinking, Trump’s populism appeals to racism, tribalism and reactionary thinking. Trump is also a political necromancer, deftly skilled in manipulating white conservatives’ anxieties and fears of both generational and cultural obsolescence.

This political moment and broader atmosphere has resulted in some ugly events. Trump supporters have attacked and beaten immigrants. Violence against protesters at Trump rallies has become commonplace. Several weeks ago  a Trump supporter stabbed an interracial couple at a restaurant in Olympia, Washington. White supremacists have been emboldened by Trump’s rise to power in the Republican Party. They openly attend his rallies and other events and see him as a champion for their cause. In August a white supremacist killed a 19-year-old black teenager by running him over with a vehicle. Trump has embraced the implicit racist sentiment channeled by “All Lives Matter” and has described Black Lives Matter members as thugs and criminals who are a threat to public order. Paul LePage, the Trump-like governor of Maine, recently suggested that blacks and Latinos were the “enemy” of police and deserved to be shot.

While many political observers like to pretend that the racially toxic civic atmosphere that spawned Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party was an unexpected surprise, it was foreshadowed during Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008. While this factor may seem almost irrelevant at the end of his two successful terms in office, it is estimated that white racism cost Barack Obama 3 to 5 percentage points in the final presidential vote that year.

Obama’s election spawned a vicious reaction on the right. Racially resentful white conservatives flocked to the Tea Party faction. To undermine Obama’s constitutional powers, congressional Republicans refused to follow through on basic responsibilities of governance (such as raising the debt ceiling so that the government could continue to operate). Right-wing media outlets made increasingly inflammatory, racist and bizarre claims about the country’s first black president. Movement conservatives and the broader Republican Party openly discussed a second American Civil War with overtones of Southern slave owners’ beliefs in their right to “nullification” and “secession.”

At its core, politics is a struggle over resources and values. These struggles and their outcomes can be described as “push and pull factors,” “continuity and change” or “thesis and antithesis.” Political struggles, even in a democracy, do not usually result in a type of equilibrium where all parties benefit equally. Shorter version: There are winners and losers.

Donald Trump has been made competitive with Hillary Clinton because of a complicit media, the structural and institutional features of America’s two-party system and political culture and the power of white identity politics and racism. This will get Trump close to the finish line but not over it. Clinton has substantial leads in crucial swing states, and many more paths to victory in the Electoral College. Ultimately, Donald Trump burned all his racist, nativist and pseudo-fascist fuel in order to reach political orbit. He cannot sustain his altitude and will soon come crashing down. The question then becomes who gets caught in the political conflagration and what level of collateral damage will follow.

Chauncey DeVega

U.S. Politics

Alums accuse Florida Christian school of ignoring student racism after post about ‘N-word’

A Confederate flag display allegedly used for an art show at The First Academy school in Florida. (Facebook)

A Confederate flag display allegedly used for an art show at The First Academy school in Florida. (Facebook)


Instagram post has led to accusations that a Christian school in Orlando, Florida has turned a blind eye to racism and homophobia on the part of students, WKMG-TV reported.

The allegations against The First Academy (TFA) began when New York Daily News columnist Shaun King shared a picture on Facebook attributed to a current white student asking all her “fans” about how to use the “N-word.”

“Is it n**ga or n**ger” the student asked. “I think n**ga is more respectful and [another student] thinks it isn’t supposed to be used as a respectful term. So. Like for n**ger comment for n**ga.”

King then began publishing what he described as emails he received from both First Academy alumni and current students.

“The student body is very racist,” a TFA student said in one post. “They, for example, hang confederate flags from their cars, and place them as their iPhone backgrounds. They even, believe it or not, sculpt them and submit them into TFA art shows.”

The post included a picture of what appeared to be a flag matching that description, as seen below:


King also posted a letter from someone describing themselves as a student at First Academy from pre-K through their sophomore year of high school, who said officials “covered up sexual assault, children bringing alcohol to school and drinking in mid day, severe bullying, inappropriate teachers, failing students, cheating students, harrassment, forced religious beliefs.”

The same person said another student was forced to submit to counseling for being gay under the threat of expulsion.

Another post, from an alumnus identifying himself as a gay man read in part:

… In my last period class this one upperclassman girl exclaimed “oh my god he’s gay!” and the whole class fell silent and the teacher didn’t even do a thing.

This began my spiral into 4 years of hell and me relapsing into depression. I constantly had to keep my sexuality under wraps, the school’s hate filled atmosphere changing my perception on not only my own parents or how the world felt towards me but driving me away from God.

On Thursday morning, King wrote that the school “is going to need serious legal representation” based on the letters he had received.

“I’m sure as they read this, they know full well what I’m talking about,” he said. “They have to.”

Officials with the school, which is affiliated with the First Baptist Church or Orlando, have not responded to King’s allegations aside from the issue involving the post with the anti-black slur. According to WKMG, officials took “disciplinary action” against the students involved but did not specify how they were punished.

“Have we been doing enough? The answer is no,” school president Steve Whitaker said in a statement. “However, we will continue to learn from this experience and are committed to the necessary and important work to grow as a school community in this area of racial reconciliation.”

U.S. Politics

Why “black-on-black crime” isn’t a valid argument against criticizing police brutality

VOX Policy & Politics

Harry Houck caused an uproar on Monday when he implied that black people were “prone to criminality” during a CNN panel.

“Facts have got to matter,” Houck said. “If we were going to make some changes to what’s going on here, the police have already recognized the fact that we’ve got some issues we’ve got to deal with. Now the black community has got to also understand that they have issues they have to deal with.”

But the facts Houck cited are telling. He mentioned the controversial “Ferguson effect”: that more crime is happening because officers are reluctant to do their jobs for fear of backlash from protesters and community members. He also said black people accounted for a much higher percentage of violent crimes than both the population they represent and their white counterparts.

For Houck, police brutality discussions too often turn into “a one-sided argument” where “racial demagogues out there turn [these facts] around that the blacks are being picked on.” While police officers are scrutinized, Houck suggests that black people take responsibility for their own crimes.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani issued a similarly inflammatory statement Monday. Not only did he call the Black Lives Matter movement “racist,” but he also chastised protesters for not protesting crime within their own communities.

“Black Lives Matter never protests when, every 14 hours, somebody is killed in Chicago, probably 70 to 80 percent of the time [by] a black person,” Giuliani said on Fox News. “Where are they then? Where are they when a young black child is killed?”

But the facts Houck and Giuliani left out are important too. Black people care just as much about racial disparities in policing as they do violence within their communities. And violence within their communities is too often tied to structural inequalities that racist policing perpetuates.

Black people care about crime within their communities and racism in the criminal justice system

A recent YouGov survey of 1,000 Americans underscored what many black Americans have long argued — that police brutality and crime are not mutually exclusive concerns.

While 64 percent of respondents believe intracommunal violence is a bigger problem for black Americans than racial justice in the criminal justice system, the results diverged when race factors in: 71 percent of white respondents share this belief, compared with 42 percent of black respondents.

A new survey finds that views on "black on black crime" diverge along racial lines.

A new survey finds that views on “black on black crime” diverge along racial lines.

But the degree to which black Americans diverge is also important: Black respondents in the YouGov survey are concerned more with violence within the community, but only slightly more so. Thirty-six percent do not feel intracommunal violence is more important than addressing racial injustice in the criminal justice system.

This suggests that black Americans may not prioritize the issues the same way, but it doesn’t mean they discount either of them. And maybe a better question to ask is why those like Houck presume that black people do and should choose between the two issues in the first place.

“Black-on-black crime” is a symptom of broader structural inequalities

Since the term emerged in the early 1980s, hysteria over “black-on-black crime,” which diagnoses the issue as a broader cultural failing, has obscured the economic and social inequalities that contribute to high crime rates in black neighborhoods.

“Supposedly we saw youth that were going astray and that was the problem,” University of Illinois geography professor David Wilson told the Root in 2010. “The media imposed this narrow [black-on-black] lens that looked at the category of culture. The culture was deemed as problematically different than the mainstream.”

Black people aren’t uniquely predisposed to commit crimes against each other; crime is generally just racially segregated, based on a number of factors, including that most people commit crimes against people they either know or live near. According to the FBI’s 2014 Uniform Crime Reports, close to 90 percent of African-American homicides were committed by other African Americans, while the majority (82 percent) of white American homicide victims were killed by other white people.

Another factor that contributes to crime is poverty. A 2014 special report by the Department of Justice found that black and white households that lived in poverty were much more likely to be victims of crime, and were victims of crimes at similar rates (51.3 per 1,000 compared with 56.4 per 1,000, respectively).

Black people are more likely to live in poverty without the resources necessary to get out of it. Redlining practices targeting black communities have deprived entire neighborhoods of their economic viability for generations. A 2015 report by the Century Foundation found that more than one in four African Americans lived in concentrated poverty, in comparison to one in 13 white people.

Meanwhile, white families have six times as much wealth as black families, and the poverty rate for black people (27.2 percent) is almost three times that of their white counterparts (9.6 percent).

Additionally, unemployment is far higher for black people, and always has been — by at least 60 percent since data collection started in 1972. At the end of 2015, the black unemployment rate was 9.5 percent — only slightly less than the national peak (9.9 percent) in 2009. The white unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.

And yet politicians and government officials have advocated for community policing programs to curb crime, despite a lack of evidence demonstrating that it effectively does so. In September 2015, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the Department of Justice would provide $12 million for these programs.

In fact, racist policing can exacerbate these issues. Some departments try to turn a profit by ticketing, which tends to exploit racially biased policing practices. The Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson, Missouri, showed high incarceration rates there, because residents often could not afford to pay the fines incurred from ticketing they disproportionately faced. And a panel of New York police officers recently admitted they often target the most vulnerable — poor people, people of color, and LGBTQ people — to meet quotas.

Violence within black communities and the overpolicing of black people are linked. But if an honest conversation is going to be had about either topic, especially in light of the latest officer-involved fatal shootings of black people, it needs to based on the fact that “black-on-black crime” is not simply black people’s making.


U.S. Politics

Spike In Racism Reported After Brexit Vote, ‘We Voted Leave, It’s Time For You To Leave’

(Credit: AP Photo/Tim Ireland)


The first Muslim woman to serve in the British cabinet says that her country’s vote to leave the European Union triggered a spike in racist abuse.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash/File)

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash/File)

“I’ve spent most of the weekend talking to organisations, individuals and activists who work in the area of race hate crime, who monitor hate crime,” says Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a former co-chair of the Conservative Party who served as Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2012 until 2014. “They have shown some really disturbing early results from people being stopped in the street and saying look, we voted Leave, it’s time for you to leave.”

Baroness Warsi added that “they are saying this to individuals and families who have been here for three, four, five generations.”

It’s not particularly surprising that the Brexit vote appears to have emboldened racists, as Britain’s far right openly appealed to racism and xenophobia during the lead up to this referendum:

Polls indicate that “79 percent of Brits who thought immigration was a ‘force for good’ voted ‘Remain,’ while 80 percent of Brits who thought it was a ‘force for ill’ voted ‘Leave.’”