Tag Archives: Obama

A Brief History of Race and Politics: from the KKK to Donald Trump

If we want to understand how we got to this point in American politics we should remind ourselves of some basic history and not deny the facts.

Yes, it was Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, who freed the slaves. The North won the Civil War and the South still hasn’t gotten over it. From 1864 to 1964 the majority of the White South voted Democrat. Southern Democrats were not liberal in any sense of the term– but they were anti-Republican. Their resentment over the Civil War has lasted more than a hundred years. And their battle cry has always been “the South will rise again”.

The White South’s alliance with the Democratic Party, however, began to shift in 1964. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he turned to Bill Moyers and said, “we may have just signed the South over to the Republican Party for the rest of our lifetimes”. And from 1964 to 1984 – the White South turned Red. Barry Goldwater ran against the Civil Rights Act; Richard Nixon ran his famous “Southern Strategy”; and Ronald Reagan perfected that strategy. By 1984 there were very few White Southern Democrats left– they had all become Republicans.

Today’s Republican Party is not the party of Lincoln; they are the party of anti-Lincoln. They are the party of The South. If you look at a map of the Red States and the Blue States it basically still traces the Mason-Dixon line of the Civil War. There are few exceptions.

This is not to say that all Republicans are racist. But the party has aligned itself with the racially motivated elements of the South – they have accepted them in order to maintain a conservative majority. The Republican Party has, in effect, become a ‘white power’ movement. Republicans in The House of Representatives are 98% white and 95% male. And Fox ‘news’ is already pushing for a “white turnout” in the upcoming presidential election.

“Rapists and Criminals”

The Ku Klux Klan rose up after the Civil War claiming that the newly freed black slaves were criminals who were raping white women. Their stated aim was to protect “Southern Heritage”. Their underlying aim was, of course, racism. They were America’s first and foremost terrorist organization. They are still alive today. They just don’t always were white robes.

Remember Donald Trump’s announcement speech. When he came down that “golden elevator” from on high, the first thing that he said is that Mexicans are “rapists and criminals”. And he was going to “build a wall” to keep them out. Next he went after the Muslims– calling for a ban of all Muslim immigrants to this country. He immediately shot up to number one in the Republican primary.

We have seen this happen before. And not just in our country. We should keep in mind that Adolf Hitler’s campaign slogan was “Make Germany Great Again”. The same thing that Hitler said about “the Jews”– Trump says about Mexicans and Muslims.

This is not to say that all Trump supporters are racist. But all racists are Trump supporters. They have unmasked the most insidious elements of the Republican Party. They are once again speaking out– they hate “politically correct” speech. They want to “make derogatory language great again”.

Racists are fueled by hate, and they wear their emotions on their sleeves. What, in the past, has been “dog-whistle” politics has now become a fog horn. Much of this has been the language of “States’ Rights”.

“States’ Rights” was used before the Civil War to protect slavery. “States’ Rights” was used after the Civil War to protect segregation and suppress voting rights. And “States’ Rights” are being used today to re-suppress voting rights, women’s rights, and the rights of the LGBT community.

In fact, it was the Civil Rights Act which limited the ability of “States’ Rights” to undermine Human Rights. And that is why the South has always hated it.

Trump is galvanizing the South. His rallies are an emotional hotbed, fueled by rage. He has a brand of white ethno-centric nationalism and he is now courting fundamentalist Christians. Sinclair Lewis declared that “when fascism comes to the U.S. it will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross”.

Now Donald Trump is running as “the law and order” candidate. This was how Richard Nixon described himself– and look how well that turned out!
The Trump campaign knows that they cannot win-over even a small minority of the Hispanic vote.

The vast majority of African-Americans will never vote for him. Their strategy is thus to get out the white vote and suppress minority voting. Is this the democracy that we really want? To win elections by racial division and voter suppression.

That is where we are headed in American politics. No wonder so many Americans believe that our country is headed in the wrong direction.

As I said before: I am tired of remaining silent on these matters. Though I struggle with feeling that there is nothing I can do about it, I am going to be speaking out more– whether it has the desired effect or not.


The Enthusiasm Gap

ballot box

Four weeks from today we are going to the polls. Or should I say, some of us are going to the polls. Republicans will turn out in record numbers to express their disdain for Obama, Democrats will sit on their hands and pout. Not voting is the same as not caring. Turning your back on democracy is not the solution for frustration. If you think things couldn’t be worse, just wait until you see what a Republican controlled congress will do, or not do.

The economy is better than most people realize: 248,000 jobs were created in September. Yet wages have stagnated. Wall Street is doing better than ever but corporations are not sharing this windfall with their workers. Can we reasonably blame this on The President?

When are middle class voters going to realize that neither the Republican establishment nor those who fund the Tea Party are on their side? It is the same party that wrecked the economy from 2001–2006, laying the groundwork for the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression… They did not want the economy to recover under Obama – it would make them look even worse. So they obstructed any chance for recovery, and continue to blame Obama for the slow job growth.

The enthusiasm gap… the liberals are upset because we are bombing ISIS. The Latinos are upset because Obama has not single-handedly changed immigration policy. The working class is upset because we haven’t increased minimum wage, nor created better paying jobs. If any of these groups think that the Republican Party would do a better job on the things that they are upset about, then they should stay home… see what happens.

Just listen to their criticisms of President Obama. They do not offer alternatives, but if you realize what they are implying: we would have ground troops fighting in Iraq and Syria, we would never have immigration reform, and minimum wage would never go up. They would continue their agenda of cutting taxes for their wealthy donors, slash regulations which protect consumers and the environment, and militarize the border.

The reason why inequality is continuing to grow goes back 30 years when we were told that all of the prosperity created by cutting taxes for the wealthy would eventually ‘trickle down’. Now we know the truth. All of the economic recoveries since 1980 have benefited the wealthy more than the working class. And you cannot reasonably blame Obama for this.

Each president has to play the hand he or she is dealt. The Republicans want you to forget the hand which they dealt Obama. They took over the House of Representatives in 2011 and have obstructed any chance for job recovery – knowing that Americans would blame the president.

One Lesson From Obama’s Presidency: America Is Still Racist

It is an unfortunate fact that one legacy President Obama will leave behind is that of reminding us just how prejudiced this country still is.

Presdient Obama

It has become a bit of a joke, but on that November night in 2008, after we had elected our first black president, it really did seem as though racism was dead.

This is not to say that we thought there were no more racists. No, we knew there were plenty of them. Nonetheless, this great accomplishment brought with it the feeling that, while racism was still a problem, it was confined to a very small minority of cross burning skinheads and Klansmen.

Unfortunately, such idealistic dreams have a way of becoming bitterly disappointing. As Ta-Nehisi Coates deftly pointed out, “Barack Obama governs a nation enlightened enough to send an African American to the White House, but not enlightened enough to accept a black man as its president.”

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Vote, or Don’t Vote

In five weeks Republicans are going to go to the polls and resister their disdain for President Obama. Democrats are going to stay home to express their own frustration. This is a losing proposition for our country. Democrats are disillusioned and who can blame us. Latinos are discouraged because Obama has not taken enough steps toward reforming immigration. So they may stay home from the polls. The Republicans will then kill any chance for immigration reform.

The talk of impeaching President Obama began within months of his presidency. The right wing of this country would love to be able to impeach him. The main reason why this hasn’t happened (despite the fact that he has done nothing to warrant impeachment) is because the hearings are held in the Senate. Democrats hold the Senate… for now.

There are at least six states right now that will decide which way the Senate goes. If the democrats cannot even mobilize the voters in these states, then we might as well go down in defeat: self-defeat.

We get enough setbacks from the regressive right. We do not need to add to these by refusing to vote. We only defeat our own agenda. We stayed home in 2010 and look what we got.

We know that we cannot regain control of The House because of Gerrymandering, if we think that we don’t have much more to lose– think again. It is the Senate which confirms judicial appointments. We are going to have setbacks on health care and the environment if we lose the Senate.

But if you like gridlock and obstruction, just sit back and watch– you’ll love what is coming next. We have not been able to accomplish much in the last four years, it will be much worse if the Republicans take control of the Senate.

Psychological disenfranchisement is the frustration which is felt when we feel that it is impossible for things to get any better. We give up. We don’t even bother to vote because we don’t think that it will make any difference. This is what the right wing wants us to feel, and they have been successful at it. The GOP has taken steps to keep Blacks, the poor, the youth and other minorities from being able to vote, but we are defeating ourselves even more because we are not even turning out at the polls. We are not even bothering to fight back.

If we don’t vote then we get what we deserve. Disillusionment, apathy, and cynicism are not a recipe for progress.

The reason why there has been so little progress in the last four years is because of the Republican turnout at the polls in 2010. That was the year the Tea Party rose up out of the South (they said they were going to rise again) and registered their hatred of Obama.

And even though Obama has not been able to accomplish much in the last four years, they are still blaming all of the world’s problems on him.

So stay home Democrats… and lose. Stomp your feet, pout, complain… but keep in mind that you only have yourselves to blame when things don’t get any better. I have written previously that I am almost to the point of despair… but I am at least going to vote.

The War Drums Beat Louder

As many of you have now heard, the United States has just begun bombing operations against ISIS in Syria. However, the crucial aspect of this is that there are at least four Arab countries who are working with us against ISIS. Of course if the Republicans had their way we would have begun bombing operations earlier, but we would have been fighting alone.

The Obama administration moved more slowly, but also more intelligently. The Muslim world can not merely point to the West as attacking Islam. We have created enough enemies in the Middle East, it is crucial that we not be seen as solely a Western invading force. The other crucial aspect of this is that the countries working together on these bombing raids are Sunni Muslim, rather than Shia Muslims. It is because of the Shia majority in Iraq, which was not inclusive, which is partially responsible for creating Sunni support for ISIS in Iraq. It was a failure of democracy.

However, the real war on ISIS and other fundamentalist ideologies has to be an ideological war. This must come from within Islam itself.

It is time for moderate Muslims to spread the word that what made Islam great in the past was the fact that they were moderate, scientific, and inclusive. Fundamentalist Muslims such as ISIS want to take Islam back to the 13th century. However, what made Islam the great empire in the 13th century was that they were much more liberal than Christian Europe.

The greatest university in the world in the year 1250 was the House of Wisdom at Baghdad. The reason for this is that they welcomed all scholars: not just Islamic, but Christian and Jewish as well. Islam, during this epoch was far ahead of Christian Europe in medicine, astronomy, mathematics, architecture, hydraulics, and philosophy.

The House of Wisdom

It was the spirit of the age, which was one of liberalism– tolerant, inclusive, open-minded, and progressive– which made the religion great in the first place. Trying to recreate this greatness through the barrel of a gun can never achieve positive consequences.

The last best step in this coalition would be to get Saudi Arabia and Iran on the same side. However, as I wrote in my last blog, Saudi fundamentalism is partially behind the spread of groups such as ISIS. When they realize that they may have started something that they never intended go this far, they may take a reflective step toward a little more liberalism. As long as there is a religious civil war within Islam there will be no peace. The major step toward this peace would be for Iran and Saudi Arabia to be on the same side.

One of the reasons why young Muslims throughout the world are rushing to fight for ISIS is because of the failures of modernity to create meaningful jobs, a more inclusive culture, and eradicate all forms of racism. But this is not a reason to turn against liberalism, it is a reason to renew the liberal project which was begun in the age of Enlightenment.

I Don’t Know What To Do About ISIS, And Neither Do You

Socrates believed that “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Whenever I find myself in a discussion of ISIS and what the U.S. should do about these monsters, I can’t help but feel torn and confused. What do I think about fighting ISIS? I don’t really know.

ISIS Execution

I am well aware that many other people do know what to do.

Some know that we should avoid getting involved. They point to our recent track record concerning wars in the Middle East, and rightly show how victory is far from certain.

Others focus on the sheer inhumanity of ISIS, not only in their atrocities against our own people, but the people of Iraq and Syria who are caught in the crossfire just because they happen to live in the wrong part of the world. Crucifixions, beheadings, and mass executions on this scale, and at this level of brutality, cannot be tolerated. We sat idly by as Rwanda imploded; we must not do that again.

So, some know that we need to drop massive amounts of bombs. Some know that we need boots on the ground if we actually want victory.

Again, I can’t help feel that everyone is right, or perhaps everyone is wrong. There are valid points on every side, and I seem incapable of making a decision.

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