Why Is One of Sanders’ Most Important Proposals Being Ignored?

By Robert Reich
Alternet via USW Blog

Why is there so little discussion about one of Bernie Sanders’s most important proposals – to tax financial speculation?

Buying and selling stocks and bonds in order to beat others who are buying and selling stocks and bonds is a giant zero-sum game that wastes countless resources, uses up the talents of some of the nation’s best and brightest, and subjects financial market to unnecessary risk.

High-speed traders who employ advanced technologies in order to get information a millisecond before other traders get it don’t make financial markets more efficient. They make them more vulnerable to debacles like the “Flash Crash” of May 2010.

Wall Street Insiders who trade on confidential information unavailable to small investors don’t improve the productivity of financial markets. They just rig the game for themselves.

Bankers who trade in ever more complex derivatives – making bets on bets – don’t add real value. They only make the system more vulnerable to big losses, as occurred in the financial crisis of 2008.   

All of which makes Bernie Sanders’s proposal for a speculation tax right on the mark.

He wants to tax stock trades at a rate of 0.5 percent (a trade of $1,000 would cost of $5), and bond trades at 0.1 percent.

The tax would reduce incentives for high-speed trading, insider deal-making, and short-term financial betting. (Hillary Clinton also favors a financial transactions tax but only on high-speed trading.)

Another big plus: Given the gargantuan size of the financial market and the huge volume of trading occurring within it every day, this tiny tax would generate lots of revenue. 

Even a 0.01 percent transaction tax (a basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point, or 0.01 percent) would raise $185 billion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Sanders’s 0.5 percent tax could thereby finance public investments that enlarge the economic pie rather than merely rearrange its slices – like tuition-free public education.

Successful ‘Labor for Bernie’ Meeting at Labor Notes

By Joshua Koritz

Workers’ Movement

April 14, 2016 – On April 1, over 100 people packed a room near O’Hare Airport in Chicago in advance of the biennial Labor Notes conference. Reports were shared from union locals across the country – all reflecting the still growing momentum for Bernie Sanders within the labor movement. Though the internal situations differ, veterans of the labor movement were all astonished at how quickly Labor for Bernie has grown and gathered endorsements.

Labor for Bernie has had enormous success: it has nearly 30,000 likes on Facebook, five major national unions have endorsed Sanders as well as nearly 100 other union locals. Most recently, Sanders won the endorsement of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). This groundswell of support, unfortunately, stands in sharp contrast to the role of a number of union leaders who rushed to back Hillary Clinton and, in many cases, gave their own membership no opportunity to express their views democratically.

Speakers and participants arrived from around the country including Seattle socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant. Many raised the importance of continuing the network that Labor for Bernie has started after the Democratic primary. There was talk of independent electoral politics and building a lasting alternative, however it was guarded and speculative. To huge applause, Kshama called for labor to make a jailbreak out of supporting corporate Democrats and to run its own candidates. An important element of the forces that could be gathered to form a workers’ party was visibly represented in the room.

National Nurses United (NNU) and California Nurses Association (CNA) Director of Public Policy Michael Lighty explained the top issue for the NNU; “Medicare for all is at the forefront. It is unconscionable that a Democrat [Clinton] can be running saying, ‘We’ll never get single payer.’”

Reports from unions around the country included the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), Minnesota Nurses Association, the American Postal Workers Union, United Electrical Workers (UE), New York State Nurses Association, New Jersey Industrial Council, and Unite Here Local 2 in San Francisco. Experiences and internal situations vary widely from the NNU which endorsed Bernie nationally, to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) which decided on no national endorsement and has let its locals decide their own endorsements. From AFSCME Council 28 in Washington state which went against its international endorsement to back Bernie, to the CWA which did an online poll of its members and now backs Bernie. (Continued)

Why Progressives Need a National Electoral Strategy—and Fast

By Bill Fletcher, Jr. [1] /

AlterNet [2]

April 12, 2016  – Every electoral cycle gives me the sense of “Groundhog Day” within progressive circles. It feels as if the same discussion take places over and again. No matter what has transpired in the intervening years; no matter what mass struggles; no matter what theoretical insights; progressives find themselves debating the relative importance of electoral politics and the pros and cons of specific candidates. These debates frequently become nothing short of slugfests as charges are thrown around of reformism, sell-outs and purism. And then, during the next cycle, we are back at it.

What has struck me in the current cycle are two related but distinct problems. First, progressives have no national electoral strategy to speak of. Second, elections cannot be viewed simply or even mainly within the context of the pros and cons of specific candidates. In fact, with regard to the latter, there are much bigger matters at stake that are frequently obscured by the candidates themselves.

Let’s begin in reverse order. In a recent exchange on Facebook I had with a friend, he raised the point that Hillary Clinton holds some positions to the right of Donald Trump. His, apparent, point was that in a final election, should it come down to Clinton vs. Trump, it would actually not make much of a difference who won. Someone I do not know responded to my friend by pointing out that Hitler was to the “left” of certain candidates as well and that the issue of intolerance needed to be the point of focus.

Looking at the platform or views of a candidate reveals only part of the equation. It gives one a sense of the candidate. What is just as important are the social forces that have assembled around a particular candidate and the direction of their motion. Let’s go back to Hitler for a moment. Within the NSDAP (Nazi Party) there were forces on the left and the right, of course these terms being quite relative. The Brownshirts, otherwise known as the SA (Stormtroopers) proselytized in favor of a “national revolution” in Germany. Hitler and his SA supporters advocated some very radical solutions to the problems facing Germany. They consciously utilized left-wing symbolism (such as a red flag as background to the swastika) in order to appeal to the working class and other disgruntled forces crushed by the economy. They did this while promoting antisemitism and militarism. On June 30, 1934, after assuming power and after cementing his alliance with the German military and major elements of the economic establishment, Hitler and the SS crushed the SA and any further discussion of a “national revolution.” While the SA may have sincerely been interested in their perverted notion of a “national revolution,” the Nazi movement had built a base and a set of alliances that was interested in something quite different: a radical restructuring of capitalism, the end of political democracy, and a relocation of Germany among the world’s powers.

Right-wing populism, whether in its fascist or non-fascist form, can assume a posture and articulate a language that can appear left-wing. History has demonstrated this time and again. Yet right-wing populism is NOT “right-wing + populism” but is, instead, a specific integral phenomenon known as “right-wing populism.” It is irrationalist, xenophobic, frequently anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic. And it is a movement, rather than just a few crazed individuals.

Looking at Trump and his platform tells us something but not enough. An examination of his base and their objectives is just as important. The white revanchism that exists among his base, i.e., the politics of racial and imperial revenge, flows through and from the Trump campaign like waste through a sewer. The economic anger of the Trump base is something that is very real, but it is anger seen through a racial lens and articulated through coded racial language. (Continued)

Sanders Still Rising; Republican Nightmare Worsens


By Robert Borosage
Campaign for America’s Future

March 7, 2016 – Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders won three of four state contests over the weekend. On the Republican side, Ted Cruz emerged as the leading challenger to Donald Trump in what is quickly becoming a two-man race. And the seventh Democratic debate, in Flint, Mich., highlighted the differences between the parties as much as the differences between the two contenders.

Democrats: Sanders Still Rising

Sanders took the caucuses in Nebraska, Kansas and Maine, while losing the Louisiana primary, as Clinton continued her sweep of the red states of the South. While the mainstream media – egged on by the Clinton campaign – edges towards calling the race over, Sanders keeps on rising. His expanding army of small donors continues to fuel his campaign. And he can look forward to growing support – particularly in the contests after mid-March, as he introduces himself to more and more voters.

For Clinton, the victory in Louisiana showed her “firewall” of African-American voters continues to hold. The two candidates ended dividing the delegates won over the weekend, showing the tough challenge Sanders faces. But Clinton’s losses in the caucuses should raise concern. Unlike 2008, she is organized and intent on competing in the caucus states. But she clearly has trouble rousing the passions of the activist voters who tend to dominate caucuses.

Republicans: The Donald Is The Moderate

The Republican race is rapidly turning into a two-man faceoff between Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Trump won the Louisiana primary and the Kentucky caucus over the weekend. Cruz won the caucuses in Kansas and Maine. Marco Rubio and Governor John Kasich trailed badly in all four. Rubio did pick up the Puerto Rican primary on Sunday.

Clearly, the much ballyhooed plan of the “Republican establishment” to rally around Marco Rubio has collapsed. Rubio’s schoolyard taunts at Donald Trump haven’t helped him. If Rubio doesn’t win Florida on March 15 – and he trails badly in the most recent polls – he is gone. If Kasich doesn’t win Ohio, the race may be virtually over.

Now Republicans must look on their works in horror. Trump – the xenophobic, racist, misogynistic blowhard – is the moderate in the race. Cruz, the most hated Republican in the Senate, is a right-wing zealot. He criticizes Trump not for being extreme, but for being squishy – on abortion, on immigration, on judges, on government. Moderate Republicans may now try to rally around John Kasich, if he wins Ohio. Good luck with that.

Their choice is winnowing down to the disruptor against the zealot. The politics of resentment and racial division have blown up in their faces.

The Democratic Contrast: We Do Substance

The most notable contrast during the seventh Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan was not between Clinton and Sanders, but between the Democrats and the Republicans. As Andrea Bernstein, editor at WNYC, tweeted: “Democratic debate so far: guns, schools, health care, trade, infrastructure, transportation, welfare, racism. GOP debate last week: hand size.”

The Democratic exchange was feistier than normal. Clinton is perfecting the technique of interrupting Sanders, hoping to set off a testy explosion. The campaign and the press tried to make much of Sanders telling her “Excuse me, I’m talking.” But after the Republican melee, this is pretty hard case to make. Sanders remains the courtliest of contenders. (Continued)

Standing Against the Right

By Bill Fletcher
Telesur


Dec 18, 2015 – It is not just Donald Trump; nor is it just Trump and Marine Le Pen (leader of the Front National in France). The specter of right-wing populism haunts the planet and places us all in a state of perpetual anxiety.

Right-wing populism is not equivalent to the entirety of the political Right. It is a specific trend within which one can find movements such as fascism. It rises in response to progressive social movements and it specifically seems to emerge in times of economic crisis when the larger capitalist system has proven dysfunctional. It poses itself as the defender of the “people” against various elites and “alien” forces, frequently defining the elites in racial/ethnic/religious terms. While it may articulate language reminiscent of the political Left, it is more a caricature or a deception which aims to peel away supporters and potential supporters of Left and progressive projects.

Right-wing populism is dangerous in its irrationalism. As one can observe in the Donald Trump campaign, Trump has never been constrained by facts or the truth. Perhaps the most obvious example has been his repeated references to alleged cheering by thousands of Arab Americans (and/or Muslims) on 11 September 2001 at the time of the al-Qaida terrorist attacks. No documentation has ever been discovered of such alleged cheering, yet Trump insists upon it and many of his supporters have either been willing to take a pass on his suggestion or go so far as to back up his story.

There is a term for seeing things that don’t exist…

The irrationalism and revanchism of right-wing populism speaks very much to the crisis faced by the white population of the U.S. and, indeed, the crisis facing so-called whites in many parts of the capitalist world. While right-wing populism is not limited to whites — with a case in point being the Hutu genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 — there is a particularity to right-wing populism in the advanced capitalist world. It is a combination of the sense that their [white] old world is disintegrating due to both massive economic changes as well as demographic changes. In the U.S., such a combination has fueled movements such as the Tea Party that emerged during the first year of the Obama administration.

With the rise of the Islamic State group, right-wing populism in multiple countries has shifted gears with Muslims becoming the target of choice. In fact, it can be argued that Islamophobia is the most acceptable form of open racism of the moment. Islam has been branded, by right-wing populists, not only the religion of terrorists but the religion of the brown and black barbaric masses that supposedly threaten Western so-called civilization.

Right-wing populism cannot be written off as irrelevant lunacy, despite its irrationalism. It is a powerful social movement that represents danger to progress wherever it raises its ugly head. For forces on the Left, the challenge is how to combat this phenomenon? While it will not be easy, it cannot be collapsed into simply offering an alternative for the future, though our work must contain that. It should include, but not limit itself to: (continued)

Trump’s Demagoguery Threatens Democracy Itself

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Oskaloosa, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

By Chip Berlet

Daliy KOS

Dec. 10, 2015 – Now is the time for blunt talk. Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue generating "scripted violence." Trumpism threatens not just the First Amendment but democracy itself. I call him a right-wing populist using fascistic rhetoric to target scapegoated groups. Other journalists and scholars have dubbed him a fascist or a totalitarian. But we all smell the stench of the burning bodies. So let us have our terminological debates, but setting aside all intellectual disagreements, as citizens of an increasingly unfree society, we must stand up and speak out.

The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, and that includes the right to call religion ridiculous. It protects devout Roman Catholics and those in the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster–even those who sometimes wear colanders as hats. Over at Talk to Action. where I often blog, we are nonpartisan, welcome respectful contributions discussing human, civil, and constitutional rights, and find debates between theists and atheists annoying (no trolls blasting either are allowed). Democracy is what we cherish…and it is in trouble.

Some early studies of prejudice, demonization, and scapegoating treated the processes as marginal to “mainstream” society and an indication of an individual pathological psychological disturbance. More recent social science demonstrates that demonization is a habit found across various sectors of society among people who are no more prone to mental illness than the rest of society.

Philosopher Hannah Arendt taught us that ordinary people can become willing–even eager–participants in brutality and mass murder justified by demonization of scapegoated groups in a society

Lawrence L. Langer raises this as a troubling issue regarding the Nazi genocide:

“The widespread absence of remorse among the accused in postwar trials indicates that we may need…to accept the possibility of a regimen of behavior that simply dismisses conscience as an operative moral factor. The notion of the power to kill, or to authorize killing of others, as a personally fulfilling activity is not appealing to our civilized sensibilities; even more threatening is the idea that this is not necessarily a pathological condition, but an expression of impulses as native to ourselves as love and compassion.”

A troubling concept–that some of us who helped jumpstart the Talk to Action website have discussed for decades–is that when most people in a society realize that a fascist movement might actually seize state power, it is too late to stop it. So let us act now: as Republicans, Democrats, Independents and the folks who think voting just encourages a corrupt system. As people of faith, the spiritual, the agnostic, and those who think that God is Dead because she doesn’t exist. We are all in the same lifeboat here. Grab an oar.

Facing History and Ourselves reminds us of the “Fragility of Democracy” in a series of essays by Professor Paul Bookbinder, an international expert on the Weimar Republic in Germany in the period just before that nation collapsed into the inferno of Nazi rule and genocide. No, we do not face a crisis like that faced by the German people in the 1920s and 1930s. Yet as Bookbinder observes, there were moments when Hitler’s thugs could have been stopped.

In her small yet powerful book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt concluded that evil was banal, and that if there was one clear universal truth, it is that ordinary people have a moral obligation to not look away from individual or institutional acts of cruelty or oppression. We recognize the processes that lead from words to violence, they are well-studied, and the theories and proofs are readily available. Silence is consent. Denial is complicity with evil.



Chip Berlet, an activist involved with building democracy and human rights for over 50 years, is an investigative journalist and independent scholar whose blog is Research for Progress. This post first appeared on Talk to Action.

‘Unfortunately in Pittsburgh, We Have a Tale of Two Cities.’

Local filmmaker Chris Ivey stands at the entrance to East Liberty, now marked by new development. - PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL

Local filmmaker Chris Ivey stands at the entrance to East Liberty, now marked by new development

Pittsburgh is poised for growth for the first time in 60 years. Will the city’s African-American community grow with it?

By Ryan Deto

Pittsburgh City Paper

It used to be that community activists, politicians and developers would fight over allowing the gentrification of city neighborhoods. If you eliminated affordable housing and replaced it with housing that was not as affordable, most people agreed it was at least the start of gentrification.

These days, the battle is apparently a little more nuanced. 

On Nov. 5, for example, Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted: “So far Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood has avoided gentrification while reducing crime & improving investment,” with an accompanying study by local analytics firm Numeritics.

The study claims gentrification is “obviously not the case in East Liberty” because all new market-rate development happened on vacant land, and because neighborhood demographics from 2010 to 2013 remained the same.

However, Pittsburgh filmmaker Chris Ivey feels differently.

“The [report authors] certainly knew the story they wanted to tell and chose to ‘back up’ that story with the facts that happen to support it,” wrote Ivey, who documented the demolition of an East Liberty housing project in 2006, in an email to City Paper.

Ivey notes there has been a demographic shift in East Liberty since 2000, with the numbers of blacks declining three times as fast as whites, according to U.S. Census data. Census data also indicate that the northern tract of East Liberty lost hundreds of African-American residents since 2000, and that the median black income there went up 14 percent as a result — or, as Ivey puts it “poor blacks moved out.”

Another statistic foregone by the study was homeownership. According to statistics compiled by Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), from 2011 to 2014, East Liberty saw 55 homes purchased by whites, while only three homes were bought by blacks.

So while some may argue whether what’s gone on in East Liberty and other city communities is gentrification, one fact is uncontroverted: African Americans are leaving some of their long-time Pittsburgh neighborhoods in droves because they can no longer afford to live there, and that urban flight could get worse before it gets better. 

With thousands of residential units slated for development, the city is seemingly poised for growth for the first time more than 50 years. But will Pittsburgh’s black population grow with it?

Historically, many African Americans came to Pittsburgh in the years between World War I and World War II. During this era of black migration, African Americans settled in the city neighborhoods of South Side, Garfield, East Liberty and Homewood, with the Hill District becoming the preeminent black neighborhood. (Continued)

Donald Trump, Nasty Rhetoric, and Scripted Violence

December 4, 2015

By Chip Berlet

Demagogic rhetoric targeting unpopular groups of people can incite violence. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump can claim he never told his followers to hurt anyone, and perhaps avoid legal consequences, but Trump is morally responsible. His nasty vilification produces “scripted violence.” The victims of Trumps rhetoric are piling up. The term “incited violence” also describes this process that draws from the media studies concept of “constitutive rhetoric.” Incitement to violence also has legal ramifications.

Last August the Washington Post in an editorial warned that “Mr. Trump’s immigrant-bashing rhetoric breeds violence.”[1] In a column, Robert Reich collected a long list of violence in the path of Republican bigoted blustering. Those that commit bigoted violence “often take their cues from what they hear in the media” wrote Reich in November following the murderous attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.[2] Reich said “the recent inclination of some politicians to use inflammatory rhetoric is contributing to a climate” in which violence against targeted groups is real.

Writing about Trump’s nasty rhetoric, and the alarming welcome it has found during the Republican pre-primary media blitz, American Prospect journalist Adele Stan put it bluntly:

===What Trump is doing, via the media circus of which he has appointed himself ringmaster, is making the articulation of the basest bigotry acceptable in mainstream outlets, amplifying the many oppressive tropes and stereotypes of race and gender that already exist in more than adequate abundance.[3]

And it is not just Trump. Some of the other Republican hopefuls closer to the Christian Right also demonize gay people and feminists, and excoriate defenders of reproductive rights. One militant slogan is “If abortion is murder, then act like it is.”

How does the process of scripted violence work? The leaders of organized political or social movements sometimes tell their followers that a specific group of ‘Others’ is plotting to destroy civilized society. History tells us that if this message is repeated vividly enough, loudly enough, often enough, and long enough—it is only a matter of time before the bodies from the named scapegoated groups start to turn up. Social science since World War II and the Nazi genocide has shown that under specific conditions, virulent demonization and scapegoating can—and does—create milieus in which the potential for violence is increased. What social science cannot do is predict which individual upon hearing the rhetoric of clear or coded incitement and turn to violence.

In their study of how media manipulation for political ends can help incite genocide, Frohardt and Temin looked at ‘content intended to instill fear in a population’, or ‘intended to create a sense among the population that conflict is inevitable’. [4] They point out that ‘media content helps shape an individual’s view of the world and helps form the lens through which all issues are viewed’. They found two patterns: content creating fear and content creating a sense of inevitability and resignation that violence was about to occur. According to the authors:

  • In Rwanda prior to the genocide a private radio station tried to instill fear of an imminent attack on Hutus by a Tutsi militia.
  • In the months before [conflicts] in Serbia, state television attempted to create the impression that a World War II–style ethnic cleansing initiative against Serbs was in the works.
  • Throughout the 1990s Georgian media outlets sought to portray ethnic minorities as threats to Georgia’s hardfought independence.

Frohardt and Temin found that media can create a sense within a target population of potential perpetrators of violence that ‘imminent’ and serious threats were to be expected, even though ‘there was only flimsy evidence provided to support them’,

===When such reporting creates widespread fear, people are more amenable to the notion of taking preemptive action, which is how the actions later taken were characterized. Media were used to make people believe that ‘we must strike first in order to save ourselves’. By creating fear the foundation for taking violent action through ‘self-defense’ is laid.

In approaching some of these questions social science uses the concepts of ‘constitutive rhetoric’; the vilification, demonization, and scapegoating of a named ‘Other’; coded rhetorical incitement by demagogues; the relationship between conspiracism and apocalyptic aggression; and the process of scripted violence by which a leader need not directly exhort violence to create a constituency that hears a call to take action against the named enemy. These processes can and do motivate some individuals to adopt a ‘superhero complex’ which justifies their pre-emptive acts of violence or terrorism to ‘save society’ from imminent threats by named enemies ‘before it is too late’.

Conspiracism evolves as a worldview from roots in dualistic forms of apocalypticism. Fenster argues that persons who embrace conspiracy theories are simply trying to understand how power is exercised in a society that they feel they have no control over. Often they have real grievances with the society—sometimes legitimate—sometimes seeking to defend unfair power and privilege. [5] Nonetheless, Conspiracism can appear as a particular narrative form of scapegoating that frames demonized enemies as part of a vast insidious plot against the common good, while it valorizes the scapegoater as a hero for sounding the alarm. [6]

Conspiracist thinking has appeared in mainstream popular discourse as well as in various subcultures in the United States and Europe. [7] In contemporary examples we can see conspiracy theories built around fears of liberal subversion by President Obama;[8] fears of government attempts to merge the United States, Canada, and Mexico into a North American Union; [9]and fears that Muslims living in the United States are plotting treachery and terrorism.[10] (Contnued)

Bernie Sanders Gets Immigration Policy Right

By THE NYT EDITORIAL BOARD

NOV. 26, 2015

Senator Bernie Sanders released his immigration plan on Tuesday. To read it — and every citizen should — is to be yanked back in time, to an America that not so long ago was having a reasonable immigration discussion and a time when major reform had strong bipartisan support and a shot at becoming law.

But since the immigration reform bill was killed, in 2013, the party that killed it — the Republicans — has dragged the immigration debate to grotesque depths that go well beyond the usual nativist bigotry. Republican presidential candidates are arguing, in all seriousness, about sealing the border with fantastical 2,000-mile fences and weaponized drones; merging state, local and federal authorities and private prisons into one all-seeing immigration police state; forcibly registering American Muslims; mass-deporting 11 million Mexicans and others in a 21st century Trail of Tears; and turning away thousands of refugees fleeing war and terrorism in the Middle East.

Mr. Sanders, the Vermont senator seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, turns away from the insanity. His plan starts with the right premise: that immigrants should be welcomed and assimilated, not criminalized and exploited. His proposals seek to uphold American values, bolster the rule of law, bolster the economy and protect and honor families.

Recognizing Congress’s chronic inaction on immigration, Mr. Sanders promises to use executive authority well beyond what President Obama has done. He would protect young immigrants and their parents from deportation, and give “broad administrative relief” to young immigrants, to the parents of citizens and legal permanent residents and to others who would have been allowed to stay under the 2013 Senate bill. This affirms the humane and sensible principle behind that legislation — that 11 million unauthorized immigrants should stay and contribute, not be isolated and expelled. (Continued)

Donald Trump, American hustler: The Frightening Fascist Tendencies of his GOP Rise

Previous right-wing leaders had a healthy fear of the rage they unleashed from their base. Not this one

By Rick Perlstein

Washington Spectator

Oct 7, 2015 – Donald Trump is not a fascist––probably.

His ex-wife Ivana once claimed he kept a volume of Hitler’s collected speeches in a cabinet by his bed, and read from time to time the fuhrer’s vision of human life as a pitiless war of all against all. “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them,” he told Vanity Fair in 1990. But consider something the architect of Trump Tower, Der Scutt, once said on how to evaluate the truth value of Donald Trump claims: “divide by two, then divide by four, and you’re closer to the answer.”

Trump worships armed force, pronouncing at a rally in August in Derry, New Hampshire: “I believe in the military and military strength more strongly than anybody running by a factor of a billion.” (Applying Scutt’s formula, that means Trump believes in military strength 125,000,000 times more than Lindsey Graham, who opened his presidential campaign with a promise to go to war with Iran.)

When Trump speaks in the subjunctive mood, he can certainly sound like an aspiring dictator. Regarding a $2.5 billion plant Ford intends to build in Mexico, he announced that “every car, every truck, and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35 percent tax—O.K.?” The Constitution, of course, grants Congress, not a president, the power to tax. Maybe it’s just ignorance on his part. Or maybe, by “we” he’s referring to the Congressional coalition he’s building in his spare time between stadium rallies. But if Trump has ever made reference to any understanding of the three coequal branches that govern the United States, I haven’t noticed it.

He refers lustily to his passion to destroy the malcontents stabbing America in the back, longing for the days when they received summary executions: “So we get a traitor like Bergdahl, a dirty rotten traitor [pause for applause], who by the way when he deserted, six young beautiful people were killed trying to find him, right? . . . You know, in the old days:bing, bong.” (Trump pantomimed cocking a rifle.) “When we were strong, when we were strong.”

Too much to expect procedural niceties—innocent until proven guilty?—from the guy who in 1989 took out full-page ads in four New York newspapers, headlined: “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!” There followed a 600-word essay: “What has happened is the complete breakdown of life as we know it. . . . How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS.” It went on to relate a tale from some mystically perfect past, where he witnessed “two young bullies cursing and threatening a very frightened waitress. Two cops rushed in, lifted up the thugs and threw them out the door, warning them never to cause trouble again. I miss the feeling of security New York’s finest once gave the citizens of this City.”

The ad was Trump’s response to the arrest of five kids for the vicious rape and beating of a jogger in Central Park. The kids were coerced into confessions, later proven to be false, by the same police force Donald Trump insisted had been intimidated into politically correct timorousness. Last year, after the five families settled for $41 million in compensation for the years the accused youths spent in prison, Trump published an op-ed calling the settlement “ridiculous.”

“These men do not exactly have the pasts of angels,” he claimed. At the time of the event, one of “these men” was 14 years old.

A demagoguery so pure

Trump has now provided more “specifics” about his immigration plan: a forced population transfer greater than any attempted in history, greater than the French and Spanish expulsions of the Jews in 1308 and 1492; greater than the Nabka of approximately 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from British-mandate Palestine; greater than the 1.5 million Stalin consigned to Siberia and the Central Asian republics; greater than Pol Pot’s exile of 2.5 million city-dwellers to the Cambodian countryside, or the scattering of Turkey’s Assyrian Christians, which the scholar Mordechai Zaken says numbers in the millions and required 180 years to complete.  Trump has promised to move 12 million Mexicans in under two years––“so fast your head will spin.”

Only then will he start building the wall.

But all Republican politicians say stuff like this, right? They all want a wall, they all want to bury criminals under the jail, they all crave war, even if they’re not quite so explicit about it.

Not quite, actually. Previous Republican leaders were sufficiently frightened by the daemonic anger that energized their constituencies that they avoided surrendering to it completely, even for political advantage. Think of Barry Goldwater, who was so frightened of the racists supporting him that he told Lyndon Johnson he’d drop out of the race if they started making race riots a campaign issue. And Ronald Reagan refusing to back a 1978 ballot initiative to fire gay schoolteachers in California, at a time vigilantes were hunting down gays in the street. Think of George W. Bush guiding Congress toward a comprehensive immigration bill (akin to that proposed by President Obama) until the onslaught of vitriol that talk-radio hosts directed at Republican members of Congress forced him to quit. Think of George W. Bush’s repeated references to Islam as a “religion of peace.”

Trumpism is different. Donald Trump is the first Republican presidential front-runner to venture a demagogy so pure. (Continued)