Sunday, November 6, 2016

Last Call For Echoes Of A Dark Past

Trump's "closing argument" ad out today is awful, and as Josh Marshall notes, it's a direct appeal to America's anti-Semites to vote for Trump.

From a technical and thematic perspective it's a well made ad. It's also packed with anti-Semitic dog whistles, anti-Semitic tropes and anti-Semitic vocabulary. I'm not even sure whether it makes sense to call them dog whistles. The four readily identifiable American bad guys in the ad are Hillary Clinton, George Soros (Jewish financier), Janet Yellen (Jewish Fed Chair) and Lloyd Blankfein (Jewish Goldman Sachs CEO).

The Trump narration immediately preceding Soros and Yellin proceeds as follows: "The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. For those who control the levers of power in Washington [start Soros] and for the global [start Yellen] special interests [stop Yellen]. They partner with these people [start Clinton] who don't have your good in mind."

For Blankfein: "It's a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the [start Blankein] pockets of a handful of large corporations [stop Blankfein] and political entities."

These are standard anti-Semitic themes and storylines, using established anti-Semitic vocabulary lined up with high profile Jews as the only Americans other than Clinton who are apparently relevant to the story. As you can see by my transcription, the Jews come up to punctuate specific key phrases. Soros: "those who control the levers of power in Washington"; Yellen "global special interests"; Blankfein "put money into the pockets of handful of large corporations."

This is an anti-Semitic ad every bit as much as the infamous Jesse Helms 'white hands' ad or the Willie Horton ad were anti-African-American racist ads. Which is to say, really anti-Semitic. You could even argue that it's more so, given certain linguistic similarities with anti-Semitic propaganda from the 1930s. But it's not a contest. This is an ad intended to appeal to anti-Semites and spread anti-Semitic ideas. That's the only standard that really matters.

Nobody, I repeat, nobody should be at all surprised by this.  This is who Trump is, this is who his supporters are, and always have been.

This is intentional and by design. It is no accident.

Trump has electrified anti-Semites and racist groups across the country. His own campaign has repeatedly found itself speaking to anti-Semites, tweeting their anti-Semitic memes, retweeting anti-Semites. His campaign manager, Steven Bannon, is an anti-Semite. The Breitbart News site he ran and will continue running after the campaign has become increasingly open in the last year with anti-Semitic attacks and politics.

Beyond that, this shouldn't surprise us for a broader reason. Authoritarian, xenophobic political movements, which the Trump campaign unquestionably is, are driven by tribalism and 'us vs them' exclusion of outsiders. This may begin with other groups - Mexican immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims. It almost always comes around to Jews.

You can add women and LGBTQ Americans to that list too.  We have a white nationalist running for president, and he's going to get 40% of the vote minimum.

Just another reminder that Wednesday morning these assholes are still going to be here.

The Late, Great, Early Voting Movement

In states that are controlled by Republicans in 2017, I fully expect to see efforts to completely end early voting altogether, and Nevada is going to be the reason why.

Michael McDonald, the chair of the Nevada Republican Party, complained at a rally on Saturday that “certain people” had the opportunity to vote. According to CNN, McDonald “was referring to a polling location in Clark County, which is 30% Hispanic and the county in which Las Vegas is located.”

Video of McDonald’s remarks were captured by Correct the Record, a group which supports Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy.

In the video, McDonald complains that “in Clark County, they kept a poll open ’til 10 o’clock at night so a certain group could vote,” even though “the polls are supposed to close at 7.” It is, indeed, true that polling places were kept open past the stated 7pm closing time, but not for the nefarious reason that McDonald suggests.

It is a standard practice during elections to allow anyone who was in line prior to closing time to cast a ballot, so that no one is disenfranchised because they failed to anticipate their neighbors’ interest in the election. In Nevada, Latino turnout is unusually high — an ominous sign for Republican candidate Donald Trump, who has campaigned on his overt racism towards people of Mexican descent. This has led to long lines at some polling places with large numbers of Latino voters.

On Friday night, for example, hundreds of voters were still in line at 9pm at a Mexican grocery store which served as a polling place in Las Vegas. So long as these voters took their spot in line before 7pm, however, they were allowed to vote.

Mr. Trump, for his part, attributed the later closing times to some kind of conspiracy during a rally in Reno. “It’s being reported that certain key Democratic polling locations in Clark County,” the Republican candidate claimed, “were kept for hours and hour beyond closing time to bus and bring and [SIC] Democratic voters in.”

Whether Clinton wins Nevada on Tuesday (and I think she'll win handily) expect Republicans to stop with the subtle dog whistles and get out the Trump bullhorns starting Wednesday to equate early voting with voting fraud.  Hell, don't be surprised by a push for federal legislation to set "common sense national voting standards" either.  National voter ID/end early voting laws will be the new rallying point in 2018 midterms.

Watch. When it becomes clear that Republicans were done in for the third presidential election in a row by early voting, they will seek to eliminate it completely as "saving an undue burden on taxpayers", especially when it becomes clear that the Latino voters the GOP were courting have utterly turned against them.

It will be time to punish Clinton supporters, just as the last eight years have been a concerted GOP effort to punish Obama supporters.

Spooked A Man In Reno Just To See Him Flee

Things got ugly at a Trump rally last night in Nevada as somebody yelled "He's got a gun" in the crowd, a fist fight broke out, and Donald Trump was rushed off stage all over a man with a "Republicans against Trump" sign.

During Trump's speech, scenes of chaos broke out near the front of the stage after a scuffle involving a protester, when an unidentified individual yelled "gun," the Secret Service said in a statement.

A man was escorted out of the crowd by agents, but, "upon a thorough search of the subject and the surrounding area, no weapon was found," the Secret Service said. "A thorough investigation is ongoing at this time by the U.S. Secret Service and the Reno Police Department."

Two Nevada Republican sources who spoke with multiple attendees who witnessed the incident at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center said a scuffle broke out when a man appeared to raise a sign in protest of Trump.

Moments before, the Republican presidential nominee had predicted he would have “tremendous” support from Hispanic voters on Election Day when he spotted the protester.

“We have one of those guys from the Hillary Clinton campaign,” Trump said. “How much are you being paid? $1500? Out. Take him out,” Trump continued, as the crowed roared.

Less than 30 seconds later, Trump was stopped mid-sentence when two Secret Service agents rushed him off stage to safety behind a curtain. An announcer alerted the crowd that Trump would return soon.

The Republican nominee appeared unharmed back on stage several minutes later, finishing his speech.

"Nobody said it was going to be easy for us, but we will never be stopped. I wanna thank the Secret Service. They don't get enough credit. They're amazing. So let's get back," Trump said on his return to the stage.

More than anyone I respect the US Secret Service for keeping President Obama safe for these last eight years, a Herculean task.  Yes, they've had problems but they've done the job.  Having said that, the Donald Trump fear and paranoia playbook has real consequences, and we saw that last night.

We have to vote on Tuesday.  We have to stop this madness, and then continue to fight against it starting Wednesday morning.

Sunday Long Read: Coming (Back) To America

New York Times Magazine writer Jim Yardley has spent more than a dozen years as a foreign correspondent and editor, living in and covering Beijing, New Delhi, and Rome.  This summer he came back to the United States to cover the 2016 election as one of America's wayward sons, a man who decidedly no longer recognized the country or the people he left more than a decade ago.

I had forgotten how big the people are, how big the cars are, how much fried food can be stacked onto a single plate. Everything seemed larger than I remembered, even the night sky. Driving along the 610 Loop in Houston, I saw a cigar shop named SERIOUS CIGARS that was easily triple the size of my grocery in Rome.

“This country is huge,” Tomás said one day. “It is like 50 countries all together.”

Tomás, a Chilean, has traveled the world, but this was his first long tour across the United States. On seeing one rural road sign, he asked what it meant to “adopt a highway.” Another day, another road sign: “Hitchhikers May Be Escaping Inmates.” Tomás was startled by how thoroughly so many American cities emptied out at night. In Colorado Springs, we attended a rodeo where the announcer made a long soliloquy praising our military for defending our freedom at home. Tomás had embedded many times with American forces in Afghanistan. He liked the soldiers, but he didn’t understand how sending troops to other countries, particularly Iraq, kept Americans free at home.

Before the rodeo, I met two ranchers, Rob Alexander and Bill Craig. The air smelled faintly of horse manure as we sat on a plastic cooler drinking Coors. Alexander, 53, explained that the rodeo was a fund-raiser for ranch hands, who often lacked health insurance or a safety net to help out in emergencies. Ranching families had taken a hit in the past two decades, in part because trade agreements led to the consolidation of many cattle operations and an increase in imported beef from South America. Craig, 35, is a fourth-generation rancher, but he said land is now so expensive and profit so meager that he could never afford to start a ranch from scratch today. They talked like men whose lifestyles and values were endangered.

“Something is wrong,” Craig said. “Watch the TV. The moral compass is so far out of whack in our country right now.”

At the University of Texas at Austin, I met Lisa Moore, a professor of English and women’s studies who is one of three plaintiffs suing to overturn a new state law allowing students to carry concealed handguns on campus. Born in Canada but a resident of Texas for 27 years, Moore is a naturalized American citizen who is still a bit baffled by her new country. “That is the weirdness of the United States to me: Everybody is always talking about their rights,” she said, while identity in Canada derives from the idea of the social compact.

Moore is a gay, married mother of two children who teaches courses on L.G.B.T. literature. “Campus carry” infringes on free speech, she argues, by inhibiting her ability to provide a safe learning environment. What if a student becomes enraged by the subject matter and pulls out a Glock?

American gun manufacturers produced 3.3 million guns the year I left for China, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. By 2014, the number was nine million (supplemented by 3.6 million guns imported into the country). According to some recent estimates, there are now roughly as many guns as people in the United States, maybe even more. To many foreigners, the American infatuation with guns is an inexplicable, if defining, national trait. On a taxi ride in Beijing once, the driver, upon discovering I was American, shaped his hand like a pistol and began shooting imaginary bullets.

At a firing range outside Austin, I met six guys shooting semiautomatic rifles. Several of them worked for Defense Distributed, the open-source organization in Austin that came up with a plastic handgun whose design can be downloaded from the web and produced with a 3-D printer. The State Department ordered the company to remove the design code, but the company is challenging that order in court. For Benjamin Denio, at the time a 36-year-old who worked in desktop support and did product testing at Defense Distributed, being able to produce your own plastic gun is a safeguard against the tyranny of the state. “The term I would use to describe the level of vitriol in the country,” Denio said, “is that it is the ‘cold civil war.’ ”

A "cold civil war" seems about right.  America is broken, having been largely rendered ungovernable and unmanageable by political forces on the right that decided an America they could no longer fully control was going to slowly burn to the ground instead.  History says we've gotten repeatedly lucky to avoid the fascist moment, although even a cursory glance at our history shows many such moments and systems that took decades and centuries to be dismantled, and some that very much remain.

We're at one of those nexus points now, where we choose whether or not we're going to continue down the road of this country's decidedly darker and awful days, or the brighter ones where we work to correct our many mistakes.

Only 150 years ago these states were disunited.  We're closer to that moment again now than we've been in some time. Maybe we just need a little perspective from somebody who has been away for a while.

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