Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Last Call For All About The Benjamin

My friend Emily L. Hauser wonders why President Obama is even bothering to meet with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu today at the White House, because it's not like Bibi hasn't smacked the president around like a wet noodle for eight years and laughed at him every second of it.  I don't often see her upset with President Obama over things, but she's pretty frustrated over this, and rightfully so.

Many things stand in the way of a durable Israeli-Palestinian peace, not least Palestinian terrorism; domestic politics on both sides; a mutual refusal to recognize the just demands of long-time enemies; the hugely fraught questions of how to share Jerusalem and the status of Palestinian refugees; and all those wars in Gaza, each of which was part of a cyclical and very lopsided war of attrition waged between the sides for decades. 
But even if all that were somehow, through sheer force of will, resolved, Obama's stated goal of a two-state peace literally cannot be achieved if Israel not only refuses to leave Palestinian land but continues to build on it. Which is, and has always been, the goal of settlement — to force permanent Israeli control over the West Bank. 
What could the Obama administration have done to convince its client state that compromise for the sake of peace was in its own best interests? Any number of things, ranging from the geopolitical to the financial. We'll never know if putting real pressure on Israel would have worked, because Obama — like every other president before him, with the single and short-lived example of George H.W. Bush — was never willing to push Israel past its comfort zone. I believe Obama to have been an excellent president for the American people, but the simple truth is that he has failed Israelis and Palestinians miserably
Netanyahu, on the other hand, has staked his entire career on settlement and was once secretly recorded telling a group of constituents: "I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily… They won't get in our way." 
Do you think Obama wants a chance to tell Netanyahu he was right?

It's not hard to admit that Obama's foreign policy failures are real and lasting.  He's done a lot of good things over the last eight years, but Syria, Israel, and Yemen  (and in reality, Russia) are never going to be counted among his successes.  I love the man dearly and will always respect him, and I wish he could server another term, but as with Emily, the rose-colored glasses have to come off when it comes to MENA and the failure of Arab Spring, and what could have been.

He's not alone in that blame.  But he gets his healthy share of it, deservedly.

Eight years of letting Bibi kick him in the crotch and run away giggling, then giving him $38 billlion in new military aid? C'mon. The truth is, Obama got sandbagged, bruised, battered, beaten, and just plain outsmarted in his second term, like Clinton and Dubya before him.  Clinton's weakness was domestic, Dubya's was both domestic and foreign policy, but Obama's is definitely foreign policy and the next President has a hell of a mess to clean up.

And no, I expect even less from Hillary when it comes to dealing with Israel, so let's get that out of the way now.

God help us all if it's Trump, though.

Not Here To Entertain You

Donald Trump's Traveling Medicine Show For Black America Featuring Sean Hannity is in Cleveland today, and as The Grio's Brian Bush reminds us, the packaging of black grief for absolution consumption by white audiences is snake oil for everyone involved.

So as the circus that is the Trump campaign makes a stop in Cleveland, what, exactly, could Donald Trump hope to possibly communicate during this interview with Hannity? After all, his rise to political prominence came as a result of overtly racist talking points and “Alt-right” fervor. His arena-filling rallies over the past year have been little more than public gathering spaces for white supremacists, and hotbeds of violence against protesters. 
Should, then, Donald Trump’s last-ditch effort be enough to convince black voters that he is the candidate best able to address “African-American concerns?” 
His track-record suggests no, and he can’t wheel out enough black faces to convince me otherwise. Simply put, the Trump campaign’s recent push to secure black votes is absurd.

It always has been about selling Trump as White Savior not to black America, but to white America. The problem is Trump's past is so awful that nobody believes him.  But he sure is selling the notion that he's forgiven, because after all if Trump and the GOP are absolved of their guilt on race, it because the fault of black America alone.

Speaking last month to a predominantly white crowd in Dimondale, Michigan, Donald Trump boldly asked “What the hell do you have to lose,” going on to use inaccurate statistics to paint a dystopian portrait of black America. The question posed was odd for a few reasons. 
First, because the audience present was mostly all white, and the question itself was directed towards black voters. More odd, though, was the fact that the person asking the question seemed to ignore his own past of discrimination; the very type of discriminatory views that helped create the environment he now criticizes. 
In 1973 while Donald Trump served as the president of his father’s real estate company, the Trump Management Corporation, the Department of Justice sued the company for violating the Fair Housing Act, alleging racial discrimination against potential black renters in several of the Trumps’ buildings. While Donald and his father ultimately settled the lawsuit without having to admit guilt, the suit alleged that the Trumps quoted different rental conditions and terms to black renters seeking housing than to white renters, and lied to black rental candidates about apartments not being available. In fact, just a few short years later, the Justice Department sued the Trump company again for the same reason. 
Recognizing that, it’s hard to believe Donald Trump when he now says that he’s concerned with issues facing black Americans. The disparities in education and employment that exist now are a result of the same racist attitudes Donald Trump helped perpetuate. 
While Trump was allegedly keeping black tenants out of his buildings, an employer a few blocks away was likely denying an applicant because of the color of his skin. Both worked in concert to create inner-city communities with few economic opportunities, and crumbling, underfunded schools for black children. Trump, more than most, has played a direct role in preserving the structure of white supremacy. Even if his data is a bit off (things aren’t as bad as he makes them seem), Donald Trump is objectively one of the many architects of a system that has worked to disadvantage black people for many years. 
And he’s done a poor job during his campaign to change my perception. 
Trotting out black preachers in order to ingratiate himself with black Americans has hardly worked to refurbish his image. Not because of their religious affiliation, but because they have been so willing to lie about the most basic things.

But lie they will, because lies sell very well in the game of forgiveness.  And it's all right there on FOX News.

The Millennial Puzzle

Greg Sargent takes on the question of who would be to blame if Trump wins, Millennials or Boomers, but argues that the much larger story is while Trump has certainly driven away voters under 36, Democrats in general have a long way to go in order to earn their votes.

Earlier this year, as the conventions were displaying two sharply different visions of the country’s future, Democrats were talking about the possibility that the GOP’s nomination of Trump might create a historic opportunity to persuade younger voters that the Democratic Party is the one firmly aligned with diversifying America. Meanwhile, it might also cement their views of the GOP as unremittingly hostile to cultural, social, and demographic change. Some Never Trump Republicans watched the conventions and agreed that for this reason, the nomination of Trump might alienate a new generation of voters, with catastrophic consequences. As you’ll recall, leading GOP strategists also reacted to the 2012 outcome by resolving to modernize the party to make it appear less hidebound and trapped in the past to young voters — unaware, of course, that Trump was already feverishly plotting to seize control of their party. 
Now, it’s looking as if this analysis was right — at least in predicting that Trump would indeed alienate these voters. Beyond Trump, it’s possible that many are already hardened against the GOP after having come of age during the debacles of the George W Bush presidency and after having witnessed the party’s failure to evolve on gay rights and other cultural issues well into the 21st Century. But with Clinton struggling among them, and with larger than expected percentages considering minor party candidates, we can no longer be sure what is going to happen with these voters over the long term. This seems particularly true of the younger millennials, who loved Barack Obama but aren’t feeling it for Clinton
My strong sense is that millennials will likely come home to Clinton in substantial numbers, if not quite at the levels Democrats might hope for. But the broader point is that, even if Clinton does win, the political loyalties of these voters — and efforts to engage them, particularly in midterm elections — will be topics of concern that long outlast this election, given the long term stakes. The party leadership during the Clinton presidency, should she win, will undoubtedly have to make ministering to these voters a major aspect of their agenda, including innovations in communicating with younger voters in the digital age. I hope to have more in a future post on what the Clinton campaign and Democrats are thinking and doing on this score. But I just wanted to plant a marker on the idea that this could be a big, consequential story going forward.

In other words, while 2016 is important, so is 2018.  And if Millennial turnout two years from now and six years from now is anything like 2014's dismal showing, the Republicans will continue to control everything but the White House for a long, long time to come.

It's also important to note that by 2018, Millennials will be the largest bloc of eligible voters in America, with the very youngest of them (those born in 2000) ready to cast ballots.  How many of them will bother to show up to vote, well, that will determine where America goes.


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