Make America Safe Again

Through six months of Donald Trump the progressive resistance has been united by opposition to his policies.  The good news is that we have stopped his legislative program.  The bad news is that most Americans don’t understand what progressives stand for, other than opposing Trump.  Now’s the time to bring forward an  agenda that emphasizes safety.

During the next six months, Trump won’t change.  He’ll continue to lie, bloviate, and feather his own nest.  His racism and resentment will become more obvious.   And congressional Republicans will careen from issue to issue without challenging Trump or accomplishing anything of significance.

This six-month period provides a golden opportunity for progressives and Democrats, in general, to tell voters what they stand for.  So far, the results have been underwhelming.

Democrats have responded with “A Better Deal.” (https://democrats.senate.gov/abetterdeal/#.WZGuAHeGOE0)  Washington Progressives have their own “Progressive Agenda.” (http://www.21stcenturydems.org/index/the-progressive-agenda-in-13-steps/#.WZGiCHeGOE3)  Both documents are too complicated.  They follow the losing HRC prescription: “when in doubt hand the voter a policy paper.”

An affective progressive agenda should contain only a handful of objectives. And, hopefully, one or two memorable phrases.

Affordable Healthcare: The obvious place for progressives to begin is with healthcare.  The resistance has beaten back Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Progressives believe in strengthening Obamacare and expanding Medicaid into the 19 states that do not have it.

We should aim higher.  Progressives should advocate Medicare for All; a concept easy to remember.  We stand for safety through the democratization of healthcare.

Economic Equality: Most Americans believe the system is rigged.  61 percent feel “the country is headed in the wrong direction.”  Voters continue to rank “the economy” as the number one problem.

While the stock market is booming and total employment is at record levels, most Americans do not believe capitalism is working for them.  Consumer-credit is at near-record levels; Americans carry more than $1 trillion in credit-card debt.

The Progressive Agenda offers a thirteen-point proposal “to restore an economy that works for working Americans.”  While they are all good important, progressives need to identify one or two memorable ideas that differentiate them from Republicans.  Two suggestions:

Feature the slogan: Give America a raise.  The Progressive Agenda suggests: “Raise the federal minimum wage, so that it reaches $15/hour, while indexing it to inflation.”  Republicans have shown no interest in this measure but it’s one that resonates with most voters.  (A recent poll [http://thehill.com/homenews/335837-poll-bipartisan-majority-supports-raising-minimum-wage ] found that 74 percent of respondents favored raising the minimum wage.) Safety through better wages.

The second suggestion is adopt the slogan: Make Capitalism work for everyone.  One of the unnoticed sections of “A Better Deal” is the section on “Cracking Down on Corporate Monopolies” (https://democrats.senate.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/A-Better-Deal-on-Competition-and-Costs-1.pdf) which states:

The extensive concentration of power in the hands of a few corporations hurts wages, undermines job growth, and threatens to squeeze out small businesses, suppliers, and new, innovative competitors… A Better Deal on competition means that we will revisit our antitrust laws to ensure that the economic freedom of all Americans—consumers, workers, and small businesses—come before big corporations that are getting even bigger.

This break up monopolies stance represents a dramatic change from previous Democratic platforms.  It differentiates progressives from Republicans and is an issue that resonates with voters in general — for example, a 2015 poll found that a majority of Americans favored breaking up the largest financial institutions.

Of course there are many other issues that could be featured in a progressive agenda; among these are climate change, immigration, reproductive rights, and criminal justice to mention only a few.  Rather than add another issue to the three already mentioned, it would be more productive for the progressive agenda to focus on values.

The place to start is with safety.  

America is a great country but American democracy is not working for everyone.  We need look no farther than the Charlottesville violence, or the number of voters that believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, to understand that Americans are not satisfied with the status quo.

Donald Trump won the presidency because his slogan, “make America great again,” resonated with more voters than did Hillary Clinton’s slogan, “stronger together.”

Trump’s slogan, “make America great again,” was interpreted by many of his supporters as, “let’s return to the fifties when America was number one in the world and white men called all the shots.”  Clinton’s tepid slogan was interpreted as “let’s keep doing what Obama has been doing,” an endorsement of the status quo.

Progressives need an effective alternative to “make America great again.”  Make America safe again.  This reflects the reality that because of economic inequality and Donald Trump, most Americans are fearful.  They fear for the future because the economy is not working for them and they do not have adequate healthcare, education, or housing.  Many Americans fear for the future because of climate change.

In addition, the Charlottesville violence reminds us that many Americans are fearful because of the color of their skin, or their gender/sexual orientation, or their religion or country of origin.  Donald Trump has brought bigotry and hate into the mainstream.  He has legitimized the politics of resentment.

It’s time for progressives to stand up to Trump’s hate-filled conduct and proclaim to all Americans: We will make America safe again.

6 Months of Trump, 6 Lessons Learned

After six months of the Donald Trump presidency, we know what to expect going forward.  We’ve learned six lessons.

1.Trump lies all the time:  Going into the election we knew that Trump lies at an astounding rate — typically more than one lie per day — but after January 20th some of us nurtured the hope that Donald would begin acting more presidential.  No way.

Trump may go incommunicado for a day or two , but then he will unleash a barrage of misstatements, distortions, and outright falsehoods — usually via twitter.  On July 26, The Washington Post posted a headline, ” 26 hours, 29 Trumpian False or Misleading Claims.”

Writing in Mother Jones, Denise Clifton ( http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/08/trump-nonstop-lies/ ) mused that while Trump’s “chronic duplicity” may be the consequence of a severe psychological disorder, “the 45th president’s stream of lies echoes a contemporary form of Russian propaganda known as the ‘Firehose of Falsehood’.”  Clifton wrote:

In 2016, the nonpartisan research organization RAND released a study of messaging techniques seen in [Russian-controlled] media. The researchers described two key features: “high numbers of channels and messages” and “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions.”

Whether Trump lies because he’s adopted a Russian tactic or because he’s mentally ill, his chronic duplicity is having serious consequences for American political discourse.  Many voters don’t know who to believe; they can’t discern “fake news.”  As a result there’s unparalleled polarization: voters who trust Trump and the majority who don’t.

Trump’s conduct riles up legitimate news outlets, such as Mother Jones and The Washington Post, and they report negatively on Trump, which feeds his paranoia, causing him to lash out.

2. The Trump Administration leaks: Viewed from the Left Coast, the Washington culture thrives on gossip and insider information.  Nonetheless, the Trump era has seen an unusual number of leaks.

Trump supporters blame this on the dark state — the national security state — and the liberal media — such as Mother Jones and The Washington Post — whom they believe are out to get Trump.  There’s some truth to this suspicion because once Trump entered office, he blasted both groups.

But there’s another explanation: Trump has an unusually abrasive personality and a lot of Washington insiders don’t like him.  He lashes out and they respond by leaking.

Whatever the cause, the leaks are likely to continue, which will contribute to Trump’s paranoia.

3. Trump only cares about Trump.  After the election, there was a brief interval where some Americans thought, “I didn’t vote for Trump, but whether I like it or not, he’s the President and I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.”  That period is over.  The nation is divided between those who support the President (roughly one-third of the electorate) and those who do not (two-thirds of the electorate).

Since January 20th, Trump has made no attempt to reach out to those who either did not vote for him or did so reluctantly.  He only talks to his base.

And he’s used his office to benefit his business interests.

4. Trump hasn’t gotten the job done.  In an August 7th tweet, Trump said his base supports him because of the “record Stock Market, border security, military strength, jobs, Supreme Court pick, economic enthusiasm, deregulation & so much more.”

Trump tries to take credit for the booming stock market and the generally positive financial news, but a case can be made that these are carryovers from the Obama Administration.  On the tweeted list, the only event that Trump was directly involved in was the selection of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Trump’s base expected him to keep his campaign promises, such as “repeal and replace Obamacare,” “build a border wall,” and “lock up Hillary Clinton.”  None of these have been accomplished.  Furthermore, Trump’s recent failure to push through Obamacare repeal suggests that he does not have the wherewithal to move his legislative agenda through the (Republican-controlled) congress.

5. Trump’s strongest card continues to be racism.  Writing in The New York Times, Emory University professor Carol Anderson observed:

The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage — that calculated mechanism of executive orders, laws and agency directives that undermines and punishes minority achievement and aspiration.

On August 2nd, Trump endorsed a Republican initiative — led by Senators Cotton and Perdue — that would dramatically change immigration policy and reduce immigration levels by 50 percent.  That same day, presidential aide Stephen Miller appeared at a White House press conference to laud the immigration initiative and claim that current policy has produced a slew of economic problems such as income inequality and a dearth of good-paying jobs.  There’s no compelling evidence for this assertion but it plays well with Trump’s (white) base.

6. The Mueller inquiry isn’t going away.  Since May, former FBI director Robert Mueller has been the special counsel responsible for the investigation into possible ties between Russia and Trump’s election campaign.  Trump calls the Mueller inquiry “a witch hunt.”  The good news is that the Trump-Russia investigation will grind on, mostly out of sight of the media, and eventually produce results.  The bad news is that it will take many months — we’ll be fortunate to see definitive results in a year.

Meanwhile the Mueller inquiry will feed Trump’s paranoia. An already unstable President will become even more erratic.  Hold on tight!

Trump: Bring Back the Fifties

In March of 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump was asked: “Your slogan is ‘Make America Great Again,’ When was America actually great?”  Trump responded that America was last great in the late forties and the fifties.  Sorry Donald; I remember that period and it wasn’t great.

Trump explained that after World War II: “We were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody… we were pretty much doing what we had to do.”  (http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/26/politics/donald-trump-when-america-was-great/index.html)  Most Trump voters agree with this sentiment (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/make-the-sixties-great-again/481167/), but their response is influenced by when they were born — for example, Trump supporters born in the sixties think the eighties were great.

As to be expected, Trump’s recollection of the fifties is way off.  He recalls, “We were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody…”  But this was the era of the Cold War with Russia (U.S.S.R.).  Trump conveniently forgets the “Iron Curtain” and the threat of nuclear war.  (Many of us, who lived through that period, remember “duck and cover” exercises where students prepared for a Russian nuclear attack.)  The fifties era was dominated by anti-communist rhetoric.  There was a “Red scare” led by anti-communist zealots such as Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Now Trump wants to normalize relations with Russia and replace the Cold War, in the public consciousness, with the threat of a global war with terrorists. Trump has combined this dangerous image with his vision of an invasion by undocumented immigrants; Trump’s obsession with building a wall along the southern border stems in large part from his obsession with these immigrants.  Thus Trump would replace the “Red scare” of the fifties with a new “brown scare.”

Trump recalls the fifties as a period where, “we were pretty much doing what we had to do.”  He’s ignoring the fact that a huge portion of the world — the USSR and mainland China — was “off limits” to Americans.  Nonetheless, during the fifties US corporations dominated trade in “the free world.”  (We came out of World War II with a robust economy whereas the economies of most of our allies had been decimated by the war.)  It’s understandable that Trump, and his supporters, long for a simpler time when the US economy ran the world and and American companies dominated trade.  Realistically, that time is long gone.  We now live in a much different, global economy.

One way to interpret Trump’s comments, “We were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody,” is that he is referring to the United States.  Another way to interpret this remark is that he is referring to white folks, white men in particular.  Indeed, the fifties represents the zenith of what UC professor George Lakoff has described as the “strict father” morality:  “In the strict father family, father knows best. He knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says… This reasoning shows up in conservative politics in which the poor are seen as lazy and undeserving, and the rich as deserving their wealth.”  In many regards, from a cultural standpoint, the fifties was the last decade where white men reigned supreme.

Obviously, Trump ignores the fact that the late forties and early fifties witnessed a resurgence of white supremacy — which had been somewhat muted during the war years.  After the end of World War II, “Jim Crow” laws were strictly enforced in most parts of the country and many people of color were forced to use segregated facilities.  (The initial battle against segregation began in 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott and culminated in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.)  In general, the late forties and early fifties was a period of unfettered racism and sexism.  (Until the Trump era, this was the last period where hate and bigotry were considered politically correct.)

So, when Trump says he want to “Make America Great Again,” he’s calling for a return to the mentality of the fifties.  In terms of foreign policy, he wants America to be the top dog, to once again be the world’s policeman.  And in terms of domestic policy, he’s calling for a return to the era of white supremacy, to the period where straight protestant white males ruled American cultural life.  Trump is calling for an end to “political correctness” and, indeed, for an end to everyday decency.

Trump doesn’t actually want to “Make America Great Again,” his intention is to “Make America Hate Again.”

As Trump Decompensates, GOP Disintegrates

We’re sailing in uncharted presidential waters.  Donald Trump has moved beyond incompetency to the designation: “a danger to himself and others.”  One small solace, before Trump blows up the planet he’ll probably first destroy the Republican Party.

Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-killing-the-republican-party/2017/07/16/048056dc-68c4-11e7-a1d7-9a32c91c6f40_story.html?) recently wrote that Trump is “killing” the GOP: “the wreckage [caused by Trump] will break the Republican Party into pieces.”

In the movie, Annie Hall, Woody Allen told an old joke:

This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, ‘Doc, my brother’s crazy, he thinks he’s a chicken.’ And the doctor says, ‘Well why don’t you turn him in?’ and the guy says, ‘I would, but I need the eggs.’

The joke captures the essence of the GOP conundrum: most Washington-based Republicans know that Trump is crazy but they’re afraid to “turn him in” because they “need the eggs.”  They’re afraid of alienating Trump voters.

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/months-record-low-trump-troubles-russia-health-care/story?) found Trump with record low approval ratings (36 percent).  Nonetheless, 82 percent of Republican voters approve of his job performance.  The Republican rank-and-file hold fast to a President whom the rest of the electorate regards as certifiable.

Writing in the New York Times Magazine Mark Leibovich (http://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/magazine/washington-dc-politics-trump-this-town-melts-down.html?) observed, “Trump got elected…by portraying and revealing [Republican] politicians to be feckless weenies — and many of them went out and reinforced this view by displaying their… unwillingness to stand up to him in office.”  That’s the number one reason why Trump is killing the GOP, he’s turned a set of weak leaders (Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan) into quivering lumps of Jello.

That wouldn’t be a problem, if Trump was a strong leader with a well-defined policy agenda but that’s not the case.  Trump’s crazy.  His only consistent behavior is unpredictability.  As a consequence, the Trump Administration has no consistency.  The only unifying themes are incoherence and fear.

Mark Leibovich writes that many Republican congress members live in “fear of mean tweets.”  They are afraid to oppose Trump because they fear the potential backlash.

When Trump ran for President, some voters mistakenly identified him as a “successful businessman” and, therefore, believed that he would provide a steady hand on the ship of state; that is, provide both a clear strategy and a seasoned ability to get things done.  But Trump wasn’t a successful businessman in the usual sense of that phrase; he’s a successful media personality.  Trump doesn’t have a clear strategy but rather a collection of campaign phrases: “build the wall,” “lock her up,” “repeal and replace Obamacare,” and (of course) “make America great again.”  From the standpoint of saving the Republican Party, Trump doesn’t have a good record of getting things done.  He’s not a hands-on manager who badgers his subordinates until his objectives are accomplished; Trump lends his general support to initiatives and then disappears.  Since occupying the White House, Trump has been disengaged from GOP congressional initiatives.  Some observers say he spends more time watching Fox News than he does interacting with Republican leaders.

The failure of the Republican initiative to replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) illustrates Trump’s desultory management style.  All of the heavy healthcare lifting was done by GOP leaders such as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell (aka “feckless weenies”).  On a day-to-day basis, Trump was not involved and often seemed out-of-step with GOP leaders — as when he characterized the House version of Trumpcare as “mean.”

Buzzfeed (http://www.buzzfeed.com/tariniparti/trump-is-showing-the-world-what-a-weak-american-presidency?) observed: “The premise of the value proposition that voters bought into was: [Trump] knew about the art of the deal and that he could break through ‘Washington,’ break through political norms, and get things done.”  Trump mislead his base; he doesn’t know how to get things done.

Trump’s evocative promise to “make America great again” was based upon three loose narratives: repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “terrific;” negotiate better trade deals that would (magically) bring back manufacturing jobs with decent wages; and build a border wall that would keep out immigrants and “protect American lives and jobs.”  While these were never detailed policy prescriptions, Trump’s promises had a powerful hold on his base.

Now the Trump triad is in trouble.  The GOP is incapable of repealing and replacing Obamacare.   Trump hasn’t displayed his ballyhooed prowess as a deal maker; for example, he promises to renegotiate NAFTA but, so far, nothing has come of this.  Finally, Trump has no plan to build the wall.

Nonetheless, Trump voters hold tight to the belief that he’s going to turn it all around, “get things done.”  Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/think-trumps-poll-numbers-are-bad-just-wait-till-his-backers-realize-theyve-been-had/2017/07/17/80415204-6b3e-11e7-96ab-5f38140b38cc_story.html?) explains that Trump supporters believe he can manage the economy, in general, and specifically bring back manufacturing jobs.  Milbank notes, “manufacturing employment hit a record low last month of 8.47 percent of overall employment… Manufacturing wages rose less than the overall private sector.”  Milbank asks, “what happens [when] Trump’s core backers discover that they’ve been had… manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back and a Trump-ignited trade war is hurting U.S. exports?”

What will happen is that the Trump base will turn against Trump.  And, the Republican Party.  Winter is coming for the GOP.

The Resistance Bookshelf

If you’re part of the Trump resistance, here are four books you should add to your summer reading list.

Strangers in Their Own Land (2016):  Most of us are perplexed by Trump voters.  My first two suggestions clarify the underlying psycho-political dynamics.  In Strangers in Their Own Land, U.C. Berkeley Professor Arlie Hochschild elaborates the “deep story” of Louisiana Trump voters:

You are standing in a long line leading up a hill, as in a pilgrimage.  You are situated in the middle of this line, along with others who are also white, older, Christian, and predominantly male… Just over the brow of the hill is the American Dream, the goal of everyone waiting in line.  Most in the back of the line are people of color… Look!  You see people cutting in line ahead of you!  You’re following the rules.  They aren’t.  As they cut in, it feels like you are being moved back… Who are they?  Women, immigrants, refugees, public sector workers — where will it end?

Hochschild wrote, “the far right felt… there was a false PC over-up of [their] story… So it was with joyous belief that many heard a Donald Trump who seemed to be wildly, omnipotently, magically free of all PC constraint.”  The interviewees believe Trump, and big business in general, will provide the solutions to their (many) problems.

Moral Politics (2016, Third Edition): Reading Hochschild’s book, it’s natural to ask, “Why do these voters buy Trump’s lies?” That question is addressed by the research of U.C. Berkeley Professor George Lakoff:

Political values tend to arise from the fact that we are all first governed in our families, and so the way that your ideal family is governed is a model for the ideal form of government… conservative moral values arise from the values of the strict father family.

Lakoff writes that conservatives typically subscribe to a “strict father” morality, while liberals operate with a “nurturant parent” morality.

In the strict father family, father knows best. He knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says… They are supposed to become disciplined, internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world.

This reasoning shows up in conservative politics in which the poor are seen as lazy and undeserving, and the rich as deserving their wealth. Responsibility is thus taken to be personal responsibility not social responsibility. What you become is only up to you… You are responsible for yourself, not for others.

Hochschild’s interviewees are living in a monolithic strict father family culture.  They see their failures as their own fault.  They look to a strict father, Trump, to improve their lives.

Indivisible A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda (2016):  If you’re wondering what to do about Trump, here are two books with practical suggestions.  Written at the end of 2016, The Indivisible Guide has become a cultural phenomenon.  (https://www.indivisibleguide.com/guide/)

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting… resistance to the Trump agenda… a resistance built
on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness.

To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.

The Indivisible Guide spurred the formation of approximately 6000 Indivisible Groups — at least two in every Congressional district. (If after reading The Indivisible Guide, you decide to form your own group, I recommend that you watch the Marshall Ganz video: How to Structure and Build Capacity for Action:[ https://www.resistanceschool.com/session-three-1/]. )

No is Not Enough (2017):  The Indivisible Guide is has been criticized because it focuses on resistance to the Trump Administration; it does not spell out what the resistance is fighting for.  In this regard, Canadian journalist Naomi Klein has written the perfect companion piece. No is Not Enough contains both an erudite analysis of how we got here, why Trump won, and a prescription for what to do next: The Leap Manifesto.

Klein sees Trump as the logical consequence of the rise of the dominant  economic philosophy, Neoliberalism:

If there is a single, overarching lesson to be drawn from the foul mood rising around the world, it may be this: we should never, ever underestimate the power of hate… Especially during times of economic hardship, when a great many people have reason to fear that the jobs that can support a decent life are disappearing for good.  Trump speaks directly to that economic panic, and, simultaneously, to the resentment felt by a large segment of white America about the changing face of their country..

So many of the crises we are facing are symptoms of the same underlying sickness: a dominance-based logic that treats so many people, and the earth itself, as disposable.

Klein’s answer is The Leap Manifesto (https://leapmanifesto.org/en/the-leap-manifesto/#manifesto-content), a document created to deal with the 2015 Canadian economic crises, but a manifesto that is applicable to the current situation in the United States: “An attempt… to show how to replace an economy built on destruction with an economy built on love.”

Klein’s book encourages us to move beyond resistance.

 

Searching for the Soul of the Democratic Party

Writing in Politico, Bruce Bartlett complains the Republican Party has lost its way because it has ceased to champion ideas; he says the GOP has become the Party that panders “to the lowest common denominator in American politics.”  What Bartlett says is true, but the Democratic Party has also lost its way.  Not because its ceased to champion ideas but rather because Democrats have forgotten who they are, they’ve lost touch with their soul.

Bruce Bartlett is a historian who served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations.  His Politico article (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/06/24/intellectual-conservatives-lost-republican-trump-215259?) savages Trump: “He has instituted policies so right wing they make Ronald Reagan… look like a liberal Democrat… Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power.”

Bartlett dates the GOP decline to the 1994 ascension of Newt Gingrich:  “In power, Republicans decided they didn’t need any more research or analysis; they had their agenda, and just needed to get it extended.”  But there’s another equally viable explanation: Republicans came under the control of a small number of billionaire conservatives, such as Charles and David Koch and Robert Mercer.  After Gingrich came to power, new conservative initiatives originated not from GOP congress members but instead from conservative think tanks (such as the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC]) funded by the billionaires.

Over the course of two decades, the Republican Party became the Oligarchy Party.  It didn’t abandon ideas but rather turned the conservative intellectual process over to a small number of billionaires.  Republican congress members became tools of the oligarchs.  Inevitably, this produced the situation where Donald Trump cut his biggest deal; Donald became President of the United States after agreeing to let the oligarchs guide his domestic and foreign policy after accepting millions in financial support.

Democrats have not responded effectively to this change.

The rise of the oligarchs has had two direct impacts on the American political process: first, it has savagely increased the impact of big money.  Elected officials now have to spend a huge percentage of their time raising money for the next election.  Over time this has vastly increased the impact of big donors and lobbyists.   The Republican Party is now run by oligarchs but, to a worrisome extent, the Democratic Party is also influenced by big money.

When Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren talk about the political system being “broken” or “rigged” this is what they are talking about.  Wealthy Americans have too much influence in the political process.  Democrats acknowledge this but they haven’t done anything about it.

The second impact of the rise of the oligarchs has been the increase of partisanship in American politics — the death of “comity.”  The current debate about “Trumpcare” is emblematic of this situation: in 2009, when the Affordable Care Act was being discussed, Democrats had lengthy discussions with Republicans and incorporated many of their ideas in the legislation (even though most Republicans ended up not voting for the Affordable Care Act).  In 2017, when Trumpcare was being discussed, Republican Senators made no effort to consult Democrats.

There’s considerable research (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/12/upshot/why-americans-vote-against-their-interest-partisanship.html?) that indicates voters in the last election voted more because of partisan sentiments than because of ideas discussed by the candidates.  Trump prevailed because he motivated his base with “white male identity politics.”  Trump prevailed because he was perceived as an outsider who could “shake up the system.”  (He’s definitely done that.)

Even though Hillary Clinton was widely believed to be the most qualified candidate to ever run for President, she wasn’t popular.  Voters didn’t have the visceral sense of attachment to her that eight years before they had had with Barack Obama.  There are a lot of reasons why voters didn’t like Hillary: the fact that she is a woman; her reputation as an intellectual; the email scandal; and on and on.  But if we compare Clinton in 2016 to Obama in 2008, there’s one word that jumps out: soul.  Obama had soul and Clinton didn’t.

in 2008, millions of voters believed that Obama would transform the system.  (Remember “the audacity of hope”?)  In 2016 few voters believed that of Clinton.  (Trump supporters believe he would blow up the system.)  Obama had soul and Clinton never did.

That was a problem for Clinton in 2016 and a continuing problem for Democrats.  Voters don’t see much difference between the two Parties.  If you ask a typical American, “In the difficult days ahead, which Party has got your back?”  They’ll probably answer, “Neither.  Politicians are only in it for themselves.”

At the moment, the most popular US politician is Bernie Sanders who is neither a Democrat nor a Republican.  He’s a Socialist who runs as an Independent.

But it’s not his Party affiliation that generates Bernie support, it’s his authenticity.  Bernie has gained respect by telling it like it is.  He recognizes the system is broken and the oligarchs are winning.  He’s willing to stand up and tell the unvarnished truth.  Bernie has soul.

Not so long ago, Democrats distinguished themselves as “the Party with a soul.”  That’s what they need to do now.  Democrats need to follow Bernie Sanders.

When Will Trump Lose His Base?

After the Trump White House careened through another terrible week, Washington insiders wonder how long Trump can survive.  The answer is: as long as he holds his base.  Trump and his voters are locked in a deadly embrace: his base desperately wants to believe he will address their grievances and Trump is willing to lie to keep their support.

In her latest insightful Trump analysis, in the New York Review (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/06/22/trump-presidency-in-peril/), Elizabeth Drew observed, “Trump is, for all his deep flaws, in some ways a cannier politician than [former President] Nixon; he knows how to lie to his people to keep them behind him…People can have a hard time recognizing that they’ve been conned. And Trump is skilled at flimflam, creating illusions.”

Despite Trump’s “flimflam,” his approval ratings steadily decline.  538 (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/) finds that 56 percent disapprove of the job trump is doing versus 38 percent that approve.  Nonetheless, 82 percent of Republicans approve of Trump.

Elizabeth Drew asks the question that most Trump opponents have been pondering: “When, or will, Trump’s voters realize that he isn’t delivering on his promises, that his health care and tax proposals will help the wealthy at their expense, that he isn’t producing the jobs he claims?”

There are four factors that determine Trump’s base support:  the first is his health.  Donald is 71, overweight, with a poor attitude towards food, sleep, and exercise.  During his recent overseas junket, his staff described him as “exhausted.”  (Trump is limiting further trips because of the exhaustion.)  During a sojourn in Italy, Trump wasn’t able to walk to a restaurant with other world leaders and travelled the short distance in a golf cart.

Some of Trump’s erratic behavior could be the result of poor physical health.  If his health deteriorates further — for example, he is unable to travel overseas or to attend campaign rallies — then Trump will be labelled as  “weak,” “frail, “incompetent,” and “pathetic.”

The second factor that could impact Trump’s support is media coverage.  While the mainstream media (MSNBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post…) has reported adversely on Trump’s behavior, the right-wing media (Fox, Breitbart…) has been supportive.  (When Trump said he was “vindicated” by James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the mainstream media scoffed but the right-wing media echoed Trump’s sentiments.)  What could cause the right-wing media to shift?

Elizabeth Drew noted that Trump is a “cannier” politician than Nixon.  “He can… make use of social media, Fox News, and friendly talk shows to keep [his base] loyal.”  Trump has the ability to dominate the daily news by means of a tweet or a call to a conservative talk-show host.  However, as the Trump-Russia investigation has accelerated he has lost some of this advantage.  (For example, during the week of June 5th the news was dominated by James Comey not by Donald Trump.)

If Trump continues to fail to perform — if, for example, the Senate is unable to make progress on healthcare — or if evidence of his physical limitations becomes more obvious, then the right-wing media will turn on him.

The third factor that could determine Trump voters attitude is the stance of the Republican Party.  At the moment, the only political entity more unpopular than Trump is the GOP.  Therefore, Party leaders such as Mitch McConnell, Reince Priebus, and Paul Ryan continue to back Trump.  Their attitude seems to be: “Trump may be crazy but he’s the only chance we have of accomplishing our agenda.”

So far, the Republican Congress has been remarkably disciplined supporting Trump.  Nonetheless, the more dire Republican prospects in 2018, the more likely we are to see Republican congresspeople abandon Trump.  For example, a few days ago Arizona Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally told constituents: “They (Democrats) only need 23 seats. The path to that gavel being handed over is through my seat, and right now it doesn’t matter that it’s me.  It doesn’t matter what I’ve done. It doesn’t matter. It’s just that I have an ‘R’ next to my name, and right now this environment would have me not prevail.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/06/12/secretly-taped-remarks-arizona-congresswoman-forecasts-trouble-gop/102776408/)

The Republican problem is that they have not advanced any meaningful legislation. Trump’s agenda is supposed to be Obamacare repeal, massive tax cuts, and a trillion dollar infrastructure package.  So far, none of this has happened.

The Trump Administration is running out of runway.  If there are no meaningful GOP legislative accomplishments by Labor Day, then Republican congress people will begin distancing themselves from Trump.

Finally, the fourth factor that could influence Trump voters is the economy.  So far Trump has been blessed by a positive, if tepid economy.  (The 2017 first quarter GDP increased by only .7 percent.)  The US economy is at full employment and wage growth has barely exceeded inflation.

Trump promised to push economic growth by means of a massive infrastructure investment.  So far this program has languished.

Trump’s position is deteriorating.  He’s beginning to lose his domination of the news.  His legislative agenda appears to be dead in the water.  All it will take is one major setback and the Trump facade will crumble; his voters will massively unfriend him.

The question is what will this setback be?  Will it be developments in the Russia investigation or the economy or something unpredictable?

Angry Trump, Angry Supporters

Five months into the Trump presidency, Donald’s erratic behavior has spawned an avalanche of “what’s wrong with Trump” theories. Rather than speculate on his psyche, it’s sufficient to label Trump: an angry man whose actions are fueled by the anger of his supporters.

For many observers, Trump’s psychological profile matches that of individuals afflicted with the so-called “Dark Triad.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/darwins-subterranean-world/201608/donald-trump-high-in-the-dark-triad)  Writing in Psychology Today, Glenn Geher considered whether Trump met the three criteria:  “Psychopathy: The tendency to show little regard for the thoughts, feelings, and outcomes of others.  Narcissism: The tendency for one to show a particularly high focus on oneself.  Machiavellianism: The tendency to manipulate others for one’s own personal gain.”  Geher concluded: “Does Donald Trump demonstrate the features of the Dark Triad? … Absolutely and unequivocally.”

This opinion doesn’t help us cope with the facts that Trump is President of the United States and enjoys the support of millions of Americans.  Moreover, the Trump base doesn’t regard him as crazy; they see Donald as their last chance to save America.  What unites Trump and his base is anger.

There are two elements of Trump’s angry perspective.  Both were displayed in his June 1st speech pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords.

The first is his belief that the U.S. is being disrespected: “The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Agreement.  They went wild.  They were so happy.”  Trump contends this happened because the rest of the world believed the U.S. had signed a bad deal.  “At what point does [the rest of the world] start laughing at us?”

This is the cornerstone of Trump’s perspective: The U.S. is losing everywhere.  The rest of the world is laughing at us.

When Trump talks about “the rest of the world,” he often implies people-of-color and non-Christians.  He’s overlaid “the world community outside the United States” with bigotry.  Trump’s racially-tinged xenophobia is shared by his base — which is predominantly rural, White, and Christian.

The second element of Trump’s angry perspective is his contention that the United States is being taken advantage of.  “We’re losing everywhere.”  During his June 1st speech, Trump frequently used this imagery:

The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States, to the exclusive benefit of other countries.

This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States… the obvious reason for economic competitors and their wish to see us remain in the agreement is so that we continue to suffer this self-inflicted, major economic wound.

The agreement is a massive redistribution of United States’ wealth to other countries… Our businesses will come to a halt, in many cases, and the American family will suffer the consequences in the form of lost jobs and a very diminished quality of life.

The same nations asking us to stay in the agreement are the countries that have collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices and, in many cases, lax contributions to our critical military alliance.

Beyond the severe energy restrictions inflicted by the Paris accord, it includes yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called Green Climate Fund… Foreign leaders in Europe, Asia and across the world should not have more to say with respect to the U.S. economy than our own citizens and their elected representatives.

Exiting the agreement protects the United States from future intrusions on the United States’ sovereignty and massive future legal liability.

These assertions are lies (http://www.factcheck.org/2017/06/factchecking-trumps-climate-speech/) but that doesn’t matter to Trump’s supporters.  They believe him.

Trump’s message is consistent: America is losing.  The rest of the world is taking advantage of us.  Trump alone can save the U.S.

One of the characteristic of a narcissist, such as Trump, is psychological projection: Donald takes an uncomfortable feeling about himself and attributes it to others.  Thus, Trump believes he is being disrespected and turns this belief into “the U.S. is being disrespected.”  Trump feels that others are laughing at him and projects “the rest of the world is laughing at the United States.”

It’s relatively easy to understand Trump’s dysfunctional behavior but more difficult to understand that of his loyal followers.  After the election, many polls noted that Trump supporters voted for him because they believed it to be their last chance to save the country and to regain power over their lives.  Many Trump voters are angry because they believe the American dream is slipping away.

In her landmark study, “Stranger in their own Land,”  sociologist Arlie Hochschild detailed the shared narrative, “deep story,” of Trump voters who feel that, in their pursuit of the American Dream, they have been pushed aside by “women, immigrants, refugees, public-sector workers…”  Trump has given voice to the resentment of his base.

Trump may be a narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopath but that’s not what determines his support.  His base believes the American dream is slipping out of their reach.

Bill Clinton famously remarked, “I feel your pain.”  Trump’s motto should be, “I share your anger.”

The Four Faces of Trump

After four enervating months of Donald Trump’s presidency, Americans have  seen four different sides of Trump.

Trump the politician:  We’ve seen a lot of the same Donald Trump we saw during the 2016 political campaign.  Trump the Tweeter.  Trump the media basher.  Trump the braggart.  Trump the liar…

There’s no indication that Trump’s move into the Oval Office has changed him.  If anything, he seems more insular.  So far, Trump’s presidency has been characterized by scandals, such as the hiring and firing of Michael Flynn, and unprecedented disapproval.  Trump has responded by retreating into the White House (or Mar Al Lago) and firing off angry tweets.  (The worst job in Washington is being a member of the White House press corps.)  The only time Trump seems happy is when he’s giving his occasional campaign speech to the Trump faithful.  (Who, so far, have stuck with him.)

Trump the manager.  During the presidential campaign, we got a glimpse of Trump’s managerial style: he burnt through three campaign managers and preferred the advice of his family — particularly daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared — to that of seasoned political operatives.  Once in the White House, Trump’s managerial shortcomings have become more obvious.

His primary criteria for hiring is not “can they do the job” but instead “are they loyal to me.”  He stuck with Michael Flynn way much longer than he should have because Flynn was loyal.  Trump fired James Comey because Comey would not pledge loyalty to Trump (and because Comey would not reign in the investigation of Russian collusion in the election.)  As a result of Trump’s hiring bias, the White House is understaffed and those that stand by Trump’s side are, for the most part, in over their heads.  In general, the Trump Administration lags far behind other presidential administrations in the number of political appointees.

Trump voters like him because he seems authentic: a guy who “shoots from the hip” and is not harnessed by Washington convention.  Trump shoots randomly.  He has no impulse control.  Day-to-day there’s no coherent Trump strategy.

There’s an old joke about Dwight Eisenhower’s decision-making style: “He was most influenced by the last person he talked to.”  That seems an apt characterization for Trump’s decision-making process: he seems to change his mind from day-to-day.  For example, he was for the House Republican healthcare bill, then he was against it, and then he was for it.  Trump disparaged China’s economic policies until he met Xi Jinping, then he decided he liked China’s policies.  Trump will tell his communication staff to respond to an allegation in a certain manner and then he’ll tweet something different. Trump has no consistency — other than attacking the investigations into collusion with the Russians.

Trump the Party Leader:  By virtue of his presidential victory, Trump is also the leader of the Republican Party.  This means he sets the Party’s legislative agenda and ensures that Republican politicians are elected in 2018.

Trump’s legislative agenda is not going well.  He promised to repeal Obamacare and, so far, this hasn’t happened.  He promised to build a wall along the Mexican border and this, to say the least, is off to a slow start.

Trump and Congressional leaders seem to have agreed on a four-step plan: repeal Obamacare, enact massive tax cuts, reduce entitlements, and pass an infrastructure bill.  While all of these have been discussed, the relevant legislation has been slow to take form.  Part of this is due to confusion in Congress, where Republican leaders in the House and Senate are not on the same page.  But much of the responsibility lies with Trump.  He’s not a hands-on policy guy and hasn’t shown interest in pushing anything other than a big concept, such as “a terrific healthcare plan.”

Theoretically, Trump’s other responsibility is to ensure that Republican continue their control of the House and Senate.  Trump pays lip service to this job but in fact hasn’t done much; he’s a lone wolf and not a team player.

Trump the ideologue: When he was running for President, Trump didn’t seem particularly ideological, except on the issue of immigration.  He often struck a populist tone in his campaign speeches.  Nonetheless, as President Trump has taken an extremely conservative stance.

Once Trump gained the support of Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who had been Cruz supporters, many predicted that he would adopt the Cruz position on cutting government spending by eliminating the Departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and the Internal Revenue Service.  (The Mercers are also in favor of eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency.)

So far, Trump hasn’t proposed eliminating these Departments but he has appointed right-wing zealots to run them: Wilber Ross (Commerce), Betty de Vos (Education), Rick Perry (Energy), Ben Carson (Housing and Urban Development), and Scott Pruitt (Environmental Protection Agency).   In his just-released budget, Trump proposes dramatic decreases in each agency budget .

Summary: Trump the leader is what we expected: a petulant showboat.  Trump the manager is worse than we expected.  Trump the Party leader is actually hurting the Republican Party.  Unfortunately, Trump the ideologue threatens to do grievous harm to the environment and the least fortunate Americans.

 

Preparing for Trump’s Coup

In the fifties, in Los Angeles schools, students routinely participated in civil defense drills.  We were taught “appropriate” actions to take in the event of a Russian nuclear attack, such as “duck and cover.”  Sixty years later, many Americans are bracing for Donald Trump’s attack on the foundations of our democracy.  How will we respond when Trump uses some traumatic event as an excuse to claim dictatorial power?

Many Americans worry that the White House is planning for a “Reichstag fire” moment, a traumatic event the Administration can use to leverage Trump’s power.  On February 27, 1933, the German parliament building, the Reichstag, was set on fire.  (The Nazis named a young communist as the arsonist, but this was never proven.)  Hitler used the Reichstag fire as an excuse to suspend civil liberties and attack German communists — thus ensuring that the Nazis would be the dominant force in the German parliament.  Many of us believe Trump is capable of a similar coup.

Given Trump’s demonstrated instability, it does not matter whether America’s Reichstag-fire moment is a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 or a smaller event such as last year’s Orlando nightclub shooting; it might even be a natural disaster, such as a killer hurricane or a ghastly epidemic.  Whatever form the event may take, Trump will use it as an excuse to declare that the United States is under siege and attempt to assume extraordinary powers.

Here are five steps to take to prepare for Trump’s coup attempt:

1. Identify your affinity group: In the Bay Area, we prepare for earthquakes by forming neighborhood “earthquake preparedness” groups comprised of the residents of a few adjacent streets — typically 20-30 homes.  When the “big one” comes we will support each other by checking that everyone is accounted for and then doing whatever is required such as providing first aid, putting out small fires, or sheltering the homeless.

In the event of an attempted Trump coup we’ll need the emotional support of our closest friends and family.  (These should be people who live near you.)  Identify who they are ahead of time.  When the “Reichstag fire” event occurs, quickly meet with them, and assure them of your support.  Then jointly plan a  response.

2. Preselect your communication network:  Once the coup attempt happens, the White House will be all over the mainstream media pushing their narrative: “America is under attack; it’s time to take the gloves off and fight back with everything we’ve got.”  Underlying this narrative will be the Administration’s characterization of Trump as a strong leader unafraid of taking action to protect the homeland.

In the face of the anticipated Trump propaganda onslaught, the resistance needs three things: an alternative communication network; a designated speaker; and a narrative.

While the resistance speaks with many voices, the Indivisible movement is perhaps the best organized to respond to a coup attempt.  Indivisible has more than 6000 chapters linked by email, Facebook, and Twitter.  The national Indivisible leaders (headquartered in Washington DC) are well positioned to get the message out to local chapters and to pass it on to the progressive media outlets, as well as progressive politicians.  Thus, in a crisis, the Indivisible network can be become an effective alternative to the mainstream media.  Furthermore, if you are attached to Indivisible, your affinity group can use the Indivisible network to rapidly respond to Trump’s actions.

In a time of emergency, the White House will dominate the mainstream media.  Therefore, it’s important to identify, ahead of time, reliable alternative sources of information, media outlets that can provide you with an objective perspective.  Among these news sources are NPR, The Guardian, BBC, Mother Jones, Talking Points Memo, Democracy Now, and The Rachel Maddow Show.

3. Focus your response: When Trump makes his move, the resistance needs to speak with one voice.  While we can count on Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to take a strong stand, our most effective national spokesperson is likely to be Rachel Maddow.  Information passed through the Indivisible network, or other progressive channels, will get to Rachel.

Another response channel is communication with your local (progressive) member of congress.

4. Prepare a narrative: Resistance to a Trump coup attempt begins with a simple assertion: “Trump cannot be trusted.”  The resistance needs to speak with a unified emphatic voice:  “Trump is a failed President desperately attempting to stay in power.  He is not trustworthy.  Therefore, Trump’s interpretation of [the traumatic event] cannot be the basis for national action.”

After the traumatic event, the resistance needs to immediately appeal for calm and decry hasty action.  You and I need to communicate with our affinity group, our national network, and our members of congress.  Above all: we need to question authority.

5. Mobilize for Action:  The appropriate response to a Trump coup attempt depends upon the nature of the traumatic event.  For example, an environment calamity may require tight coordination with your local member of Congress.  On the other hand, invasion of North Korea should inspire direct action such as demonstrations, marches, and strikes.

Work with your affinity group, and your national network, and plan a coordinated response.  One possible response would be a “No war, no Trump” march a few days after the event.

Above all, prepare for the worst.  Trump isn’t going to go down quietly.

Explaining Trump’s Base Support

Donald Trump continues to be unpopular with voters, in general.  However, his base overwhelmingly supports him.  Why?

According to Five Thirty Eight, 52 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing while 42 percent approve of his performance.  (A ten-point gap that has held steady for a month.)  Nonetheless, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll finds a stark difference of opinion between Trump voters and everyone else: 94 percent of Trump voters approve of his performance, 92 percent of Clinton voters disapprove, and 62 percent of other or non-voters disapprove.

There are three explanations for the rabid support Trump gets from his base.  The first is political, the Trump voters don’t have another choice; they don’t see any other politician they prefer to Trump.  The Washington Post/ABC News poll asked voters who was to blame for Trump’s lack of accomplishments in his first 100 days in office.  Trump voters felt this was due to the obstruction of congressional Democrats.  On the other hand, Clinton voters felt that the lack of accomplishments was Trump’s fault.

The typical perspective of Trump voters is, “Give him a chance to show what he can do.”  Trump hasn’t repealed Obamacare or built the border wall or kept Muslims from entering the U.S., but these failures are dwarfed by what appears to be a strong economy.  Trump claims to have created 500,000 jobs (but overall economic growth is a tepid .7 percent).

From a political perspective, Trump voters aren’t going to desert him until the economy stalls.

There’s also a sociological reason why Trump voters are “standing by their man.”  Trump has fashioned a narrative where he is the most reliable source of information.  When Trump says things like, “We’ve accomplished more in 100 days than any previous Administration,” it’s laughed at by the mainstream media but accepted as truth by Trump voters.

Roughly one-third of Trump’s April 29 Harrisburg speech was spent attacking the press.  “Media outlets like CNN and MSNBC are fake news…They’re incompetent, dishonest people, who, after [the] election had to apologize…the media deserves a very, very, big fat failing grade.”

The next third of the speech was spent lauding Trump’s accomplishments: “For decades, our country has lived through the greatest jobs theft in the history of the world…[the media won’t report this because] they’re all part of a broken system that profited this global theft… We’ve delivered 100 days of action.”

The final third of the speech was about the “threat” of illegal immigrants. the audience called out, “Build the wall!” and Trump promised he would.  He said, “The last, very weak administration allowed thousands and thousands of gang members to cross our border and enter into our communities where they wreaked havoc on our citizens.”

Trump voters buy this narrative because they identify with Trump and trust him; most of their associates share this sentiment.

Finally, there’s a psychological reason why Trump voters continue to support him: they are trapped in an abusive “system.”  These voters suffer from a version of Stockholm syndrome where prisoners “develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy.”

After the election, many polls noted that Trump supporters voted for him because they believe it to be their last chance to save the country and to regain power over their lives.

In her landmark study, “Stranger in their own Land,”  sociologist Arlie Hochschild detailed the shared narrative, “deep story,” of many  Trump voters: “You are standing in a long line leading up a hill…  You are situated in the middle of this line, along with others who are also white, older, Christian, and predominantly male… Just over the brow of the hill is the American Dream, the goal of everyone waiting in line.  Most in the back of the line are people of color… Look!  You see people cutting in line ahead of you!  You’re following the rules.  They aren’t.  As they cut in, it feels like you are being moved back… Who are they?  Women, immigrants, refugees, public sector workers — where will it end?”  Hochschild explained, “[Trump voters] felt that the deep story was their real story and that there was a false PC over-up of that story… So it was with joyous belief that many heard a Donald Trump who seemed to be wildly, omnipotently, magically free of all PC constraint.” Trump made them feel okay about themselves.

Hochschild observed, “Underlying all these other bases of honor — in work, region, state, family life, and church — was pride in the self of the deep story… What seemed like a problem to liberals — the fact that conservatives identify ‘up,’ with the 1 percent — was actually a source of pride to the [Trump voters] I got to know.” Trump voters admire Donald.

A recent Time magazine article (http://time.com/3309687/why-women-stay-in-abusive-relationships/), about why women stay in abusive relationships, observed: “Research also shows that abusers are drawn to people who already feel powerless in other aspects of their life. These people question their own worth and thus do not consider whether their needs are being met. Predators build up the victim’s self-esteem before introducing the abuse.”  This explains the relationship between Trump and his supporters.

Donald Trump is an abuser.  He’s found an audience with millions of American who feel powerless.  Now, he’s getting ready to abuse them by taking away their healthcare, polluting their air and water, and reducing public services.

What will take for Trump voters to realize they have been fooled?

Berkeley Gets Trolled

 

CBS News

“What’s happening to Berkeley?  Are you safe?” our friends ask.  National headlines scream: “Riots in Berkeley!” “The Death of Free Speech!”  Yes, something is happening in Berkeley.  We’ve been trolled by the hard right.  And our “leaders” haven’t responded effectively.  Now it’s time for the true defenders of free speech to step forward.

The so-called “riot” unfolded in three acts.  ACT ONE: Berkeley Young Republicans invited Breitbart bigot Milo Yiannopoulous to speak on campus (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/01/us/uc-berkeley-milo-yiannopoulos-protest.html).  On February 1st a crowd formed before the speech (estimated size 1000).  Suddenly it was invaded by the East Bay anarchists, who call themselves “AntiFa.”  They threw cherry bombs, started fights, and generally riled things up.  Campus police cancelled the speech.

Milo’s speech, and subsequent (cancelled) speeches by David Horowitz and Ann Coulter, were funded by the Young America’s Foundation,  one of whose donors is the notorious Rebekah Mercer — daughter of Oligarch (and Trump supporter) Robert Mercer.(http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/mercers/ )  [Young America’s Foundation has sued the University of California over the cancellation of the Coulter speech.]

ACT TWO: Subsequent to the cancellation of Milo’s speech, a pro-Trump group scheduled a protest in a downtown Berkeley park; part of the nation “March 4 Trump” demonstrations — which drew a laughable 160 to the National Mall.  A few Trump supporters showed up in Berkeley and were met by many more Anarchists, resulting in fist fights and 10 arrests.

On April 15th there were national tax day marches.  Once again, in the same downtown Berkeley park, the pro-Trump forces staged a rally.  Predictably they were met by the anarchists, resulting in a several hours of sporadic fistfights and 23 arrests.  And national news headlines: “Riots in Berkeley!”

It’s informative to consider who was at the April 15th rally.  Prominent was Identity Evropa a White Nationalist group founded by Nathan Damigo (http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/military/sd-me-nathan-damigo-20170417-story.html). Their office is in Oakdale, California, the central valley.  The source of their funding is unclear but Damigo is affiliated with Richard Spencer, of the National Policy Institute (http://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2017/white-nationalists-work-make-inroads-us-colleges).  The National Policy Institute was founded by far-right donor William Regnery;  some of its board members are connected to Rebekah Mercer.

Another group at the rally was the Oath Keepers.  Formed in 2009, this is among the largest US extremist groups claiming 30,000 members many of whom are former members of the military or law enforcement.  It’s founder, L. Stewart Rhodes, was present on April 15.  Again their funding is unclear.  Rhodes lives in Montana.

Also present were The Proud Boys, who called for the April 15 Alt-right rally.  They were represented by Rich Black.  Once again, it’s not clear how they raise funds.  (Although Black has solicited donations for his organization, “Liberty Revival Alliance” on the notorious Alt-right site Wesearchr.)  The Proud Boys’ offices are in New York City.

What these three Alt-right groups have in common is their mysterious funding and that they are headquartered outside the Bay Area,

On the other hand,  the Antifa group is local.  Antifa, short for anti-fascism, is a collection of anarchists, including the Berkeley chapter of “By Any Means Necessary.”  Its most prominent member is Yvette Felarca.

On April 27th, the hard right staged another Berkeley protest because of the cancellation of Ann Coulter’s speech.  At the downtown Berkeley segment, there were a couple of dozen identified Alt-right individuals.  Oathkeeper L. Stewart Rhodes said he was there to defend free speech.  (Antifa didn’t show; Yvette Felarca reportedly boasted, “We don’t need to come to the park.  We won.  We caused the cancellation of Coulter’s speech.”)

ACT Three: In hindsight, the Milo Yiannopoulous event was mishandled by the UC authorities.  The hard right has seized upon this as an excuse to troll Berkeley; they’re likely to keep doing this until Berkeley citizens take charge.

Milo Yiannopoulous should have been allowed to speak, as should other conservatives no matter how inflammatory their views.  Antifa is wrong to block the exercise of free speech.  Berkeley must remain the home of free speech.

History indicates that if there is a massive outpouring of nonviolent-free-speech support this will check the violence from the Alt-right and from Antifa.  Therefore, the Berkeley nonviolent community has to mount a concerted effort to mobilize several thousand free-speech advocates to show up whenever there is a far-right speech or the Alt-right schedules a rally.

This is our challenge, Berkeley.  We must defend free speech by standing up to political violence.