Monday, February 6, 2017

Last Call For Last Bus To Beattyville

Another month, another story of poor white folks in eastern Kentucky who are desperately waiting for Trump to save them.  This time it's Beattyville in Lee County, where residents are hoping Trump will bring back oil and coal jobs from 40 years ago...and barring that, at least if they'll cut off those people who didn't vote for him so the people of this tiny town can continue getting SNAP, welfare, and Obamacare.

"If you got a job here in Beattyville, you're lucky," says Amber Hayes, a bubbly 25-year-old mom of two, who also voted for Trump. She works at the county courthouse, but is paid by the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program (K-TAP), a form of welfare. 
Coal, oil and tobacco made Beattyville a boom town in the 1800s and much of the 1900s. Locals like to bring up the fact that Lee County -- where Beattyville is located -- was the No. 1 oil-producing county east of the Mississippi at one time. 
"Growing up in the '70s? Yeah, this was the place to be," says Chuck Caudhill, the general manager of the local paper, The Beattyville Enterprise. He calls the town the "gem of eastern Kentucky." 
Today, the town is a ghost of its former self. The vast majority of Beattyville residents get some form of government aid -- 57% of households receive food stamps and 58% get disability payments from Social Security. 
"I hope [Trump] don't take the benefits away, but at the same time, I think that once more jobs come in a lot of people won't need the benefits," says Hayes, who currently receives about $500 a month from government assistance. She's also on Obamacare.

I understand that Beattyville is poor as hell, and that Lee County has fallen into dark times.  I understand that the efforts made to help the people there haven't been enough.  I understand that oil and tobacco have left them high and dry. I understand being from a town where the companies left and folks are praying for jobs.  Lee County is maybe fifty miles southeast of Lexington, I could get there in about 2 hours and change from here.  It's the same kind of small town I left behind more than a decade ago.

But when 80% of the county votes for Trump, knowing his message full well of bigotry and racism and that his message is acceptable as long as he maybe spares them the rod by yanking a few assistance programs in Louisville or Lexington where they didn't vote for him, well that's not okay.

The people who voted for Clinton in Lee County?  Yeah, I feel for them.  But the Trump voters? You're getting exactly what you wanted.

The Darkness At The Summit

As Jamelle Bouie reminds us, none of us should be surprised that eight years after the election of the nation's first black president that America has brutally reverted back to the historical norm of white nationalism.

We can’t know for certain how many Americans voted for these ideas and this approach. What we can say is that tens of millions experienced Donald Trump’s campaign, heard his racist appeals, and set them aside to take a chance on an “outsider.” Now we’re faced with the extraordinary: A White House whose chief thinkers and architects are white nationalists, keepers of a dangerous tradition in our history, with an unprecedented opportunity to pull the United States back a century to an era of unvarnished nativism and prejudice. The past three weeks are likely just the beginning; we are sure to see even more action against immigrants and Muslims, even more tolerance for the worst forces in American life.

In this usage, white nationalist isn’t a pejorative; it’s the best term we have for the ideology of the Trump administration, one that gives coherence to its actions and approach. White nationalist helps us see how the expansive refugee ban is tied to the efforts to deny government benefits to legal residents and is tied to the promise by Trump to protect entitlements for those who receive them. It helps us see how his “populism” excludes tens of millions of Americans, and why he seems more interested in narrow enthusiasm versus broad popularity. And it gives a sense of what might follow in a Trump administration: not just demonization of disfavored minorities but possible attempts to expand the welfare state for the “deserving,” defined by race—a kind of welfare chauvinism. As he did during the campaign, Trump may adopt slogans and ideas from the left and right, not because he’s really a conservative or really a liberal, but because white nationalism exists outside the familiar divide. It confounds the left-right spectrum as we understand it in the United States. Trumpish policy won’t fall neatly into our old categories of liberal and conservative. Instead, it will turn on the question of what strengthens this basic notion that ours is a white nation.

Democrats, liberals, leftists, and dissident conservatives can dissent and resist, but the only party with the power to challenge Trump and win is the Republican Party, which controls Congress and may soon (again) have a majority on the Supreme Court. But the GOP is too complacent and complicit in the rise of Trump, too willing in its past and present to tolerate or even encourage appeals to white racial tribalism and ethno-nationalism. Indeed, in some regards, Trump is the logical conclusion of a process that began when Barry Goldwater opened his arms to Southern segregationists in his crusade for “liberty.” Besides, Republican leaders like Paul Ryan have embraced Trump as a vehicle for their conservative ideological agenda, content to back the president’s agenda for racial exclusion as long as he cuts health care, cuts taxes, and delivers the federal judiciary.

Defenders of pluralism have a tremendous struggle ahead of them. But as they mobilize and defend, they must understand the stakes. This is a fight to protect our multiracial democracy. It’s the latest in an old fight, one that goes back to our Reconstruction, when freedmen, freemen, and their white allies tried to build true democracy in the former Confederacy. They lost that battle, beat back by reaction, by “redeemers.” A century later, with the civil rights movement, we thought we had won the war. Not quite.

“There is beauty in art, in literature, in science, and in every triumph of intelligence, all of which I covet for my country,” said Charles Sumner in his appeal for a national civil rights bill in the fall of 1871. “But there is a higher beauty still—in relieving the poor, in elevating the downtrodden, and being a succor to the oppressed. There is true grandeur in an example of justice, making the rights of all the same as our own, and beating down prejudice, like Satan, under our feet.” He continued: “Humbly do I pray that the republic may not lose this great prize, or postpone its enjoyment.”

We seem to have entered a time where, by choice, we have postponed the enjoyment of that higher beauty. Let us pray, like Sumner, that we do not lose the prize altogether.

Trump, Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, and Jeff Sessions: these are the folks running the show here.  The end result of this is an America divided into a "deserving" white middle class and excluded everyone else, with the wealthiest corporate titans ruling over all.  It's a massive transfer of wealth and political power to the top, the the expense of tens of millions of people of color.

When people like Trump and Bannon talk about "chaos" and "breaking the system" and "making America great again" what they mean is the restoration of native-born white Christians to first-class citizen status.  Everyone else is denied the benefits of citizenship.  A compliant populace and self-interested Republican party will go along.  They're only marginally good at this stuff right now, but they are learning quickly.

We're heading there at frightening speed.  We may not be able to turn back.  The good news is as I've said, they're making mistakes and there's still time to act.

But that time grows shorter by the hour.

The Voter ID Fraud Patrol

Many people have challenged DOnald Trump's false claims of widespread national voter fraud with a simple premise: if it really exists, why is nobody looking into it?  Well, it looks like the Trump regime's point man on investigating national voter fraud disenfranchising millions of voters of color nationwide will be VP Mike Pence.

In a pre-Super Bowl interview that aired on Sunday, President Donald Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he would establish a commission led by Vice President Mike Pence to investigate allegations of widespread voter fraud.

“We’re going to look at it very, very carefully,” said Trump.

There is, of course, no widespread voter fraud, and multiple independent observers have debunked Trump’s claims to the contrary. But the president has spent weeks repeating the false claim that undocumented immigrants cast three to five million votes against him — a lie that seems intended to explain away his loss of the popular vote by more than two million ballots cast.

In response to questioning about the “voter fraud” lie, White House press secretary Sean Spicer indicated in late January that the Trump administration would pursue an investigation into it. Not long after, Pence privately told Republican members of Congress that there would be “a full evaluation of voting rolls in this country.” Trump seemed poised to sign an executive order mandating some kind of inquiry.

But then the administration seemed to let it slide. By the end of Trump’s second week in office, the administration had quietly backed down, with one anonymous staffer telling CNN that voter fraud was no longer a “priority.”

But judging by Trump’s interview with Bill O’Reilly, “voter fraud” — likely a thin pretext to implement voter suppression tactics on the federal level — is once again a priority.

Shortly before announcing the Pence-led commission, Trump dug in on his false allegations of voter fraud and insisted he had been vindicated by, well, “many people.”

“Many people have come out and said I am right,” the president told O’Reilly. He offered no additional support to his claims.

Of course, getting the GOP in Congress to pay for such an investigation when they could have done it at any point in the past two years seems to be something of an issue.

Earlier Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he didn’t think federal funds should be spent on a voter fraud investigation.

“This sort of thing is handled at the state level, and the Democrats always claim there’s no election fraud at all. That is, of course, not true — election fraud does occur,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “There’s no evidence that it occurred in such a significant number that would have changed the presidential election, and I don’t think we ought to spend any federal money investigating that,” the Kentucky Republican said.

Of course, it will be difficult for a commission headed by the vice president to conduct any business without dipping into the federal coffers.

So we'll see what's going on.  My guess is still that we're going to see national strict voter ID measures before 2018, and definitely before 2020.


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