What Donald Trump Understands About Republicans
By Thomas B. Edsall
New York Times Op-Ed
Sept 2, 2015 – Donald Trump’s success is no surprise. The public and the press have focused on his defiant rejection of mannerly rhetoric, his putting into words of what others think privately. But the more important truth is that a half-century of Republican policies on race and immigration have made the party the home of an often angry and resentful white constituency — a constituency that is now politically mobilized in the face of demographic upheaval.
Demographic upheaval may be understating it. From 1970 to 2010, the Hispanic population of the United States grew fivefold, from 9.6 million to 50.5 million. From 2000 to 2010, the number of white children under 18 declined by 4.3 million while the number of Hispanic children grew by 4.8 million. In 2013, white children became a minority, 47.7 percent of students ages 3 to 6.
We have become familiar with Trump’s selling point — that he, more than any other Republican candidate, voices nativist and protectionist views in aggressive and abrasive terms, without qualm: “I Love the Mexican people. I do business with the Mexican people, but you have people coming through the border that are from all over. And they’re bad. They’re really bad.” He has vilified Latin American immigrants as “bringing drugs, bringing crime” and as “rapists.”
Not very subtly, Trump conflates American blacks with Mexican immigrants. “I know cities where police are afraid to even talk to people because they want to be able to retire and have their pension,” he declared in Nashville on Aug. 29. “That first night in Baltimore,” when rioting broke out in protest over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, “they allowed that city to be destroyed. They set it back 35 years in one night because the police weren’t allowed to protect people. We need law and order!”
Urban gangs, in turn, provide Trump with an opportunity to link immigration and crime. “You know a lot of the gangs that you see in Baltimore and in St. Louis and Ferguson and Chicago, do you know they’re illegal immigrants?” Trump vows that after the election, “they’re going to be gone so fast, if I win, that your head will spin.”
Percent of white respondents in 2014 who agreed or disagreed with this statement: Today discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.
The ease with which Trump has grasped top-dog status has provoked apprehension in the Republican establishment –perhaps most vividly in George Will’s comment on the renegade billionaire:
Every sulfurous belch from the molten interior of the volcanic Trump phenomenon injures the chances of a Republican presidency.
George Will and other traditional conservatives reject the bombastic language Trump favors, preferring a more elliptical approach in order to avoid alienating moderate voters Republicans need to win in 2016. (Continued)
By Robert Creamer
Since he entered the GOP contest, most pundits and GOP insiders have treated Trump as a sometimes humorous — sometimes infuriating — distraction from the real race for the Republican nomination.
Now they are beginning to wake up to the fact that Trump is not going away. He is, in fact, a real contender for the nomination. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that a significant portion of his voters will "come to their senses" and withdraw their support from Trump.
In a Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll released August 25, Trump held a commanding lead in the first in the nation New Hampshire primary with 35% of the vote. The establishment candidates, Bush (7%), Walker (7%) and Rubio (6%) don’t even come close. In fact Trump has a lead of 15% on the three of them combined.
A Monmouth University poll showed Trump with a commanding lead of 30% in South Carolina as well.
Trump is not a political clown. He is a very talented right wing populist demagogue. And he has brought into full relief many of the radical policies of the entire GOP field – especially when it comes to immigration.
Trump has seven critical advantages in his campaign for the GOP nomination:
First, his core message is resonant with many GOP voters – especially working class white men. His message is simple: "I will stop them from taking advantage of you."
Remember, most Americans haven’t had a raise in 30 years. All of America’s massive economic growth has gone to the top 1% — people like Trump. Most Americans do believe that someone has been taking advantage of them. Of course Trump doesn’t pin the blame on CEOs, Wall Street banks or big corporations – or on the politicians that have stacked the economic deck in their favor at the expense of ordinary Americans.
Like most right wing populist demagogues before him, he focuses on "the other" – immigrants, and foreign governments – and on the political class in general – whom he positions as incompetent and corrupt.
To make real change he offers a strong man – himself – a man who is not beholden to anyone and can make "real" change.
Second, Trump is credible at delivering that right wing populist message because he can claim that the "establishment" won’t own him, because he doesn’t need their money. He can claim he is free to destroy the status quo, since he won’t owe anyone anything.
Trump understands that many voters, especially frustrated white working class men, don’t care about his "policy proposals" or his "experience" in government. They want a tough son-of-a-bitch who will tear down the establishment that they believe has failed them. And Trump has spent his entire career learning how to behave like a tough son-of-a-bitch. His trade-mark line, after all, is: "your fired."
Donald Trump’s ‘white nationalist’ coalition takes shape—for now
By Evan Osnos
The New Yorker
Aug 31, 2015 issue – On July 23rd, Donald Trump’s red-white-and-navy-blue Boeing 757 touched down in Laredo, Texas, where the temperature was climbing to a hundred and four degrees. In 1976, the Times introduced Trump, then a little-known builder, to readers as a “publicity shy” wunderkind who “looks ever so much like Robert Redford,” and quoted an admiring observation from the architect Der Scutt: “That Donald, he could sell sand to the Arabs.” Over the years, Trump honed a performer’s ear for the needs of his audience. He starred in “The Apprentice” for fourteen seasons, cultivating a lordly persona and a squint that combined Clint Eastwood on the high plains and Derek Zoolander on the runway. Once he emerged as the early front-runner for the Republican Presidential nomination, this summer, his airport comings and goings posed a delicate staging issue: a rogue wind off the tarmac could render his comb-over fully erect in front of the campaign paparazzi. So, in Laredo, Trump débuted a protective innovation: a baseball hat adorned with a campaign slogan that he recycled from Ronald Reagan’s 1980 run for the White House—“Make America Great Again!” The headwear, which had the rigid façade and the braided rope of a cruise-ship giveaway, added an expeditionary element to the day’s outfit, of blazer, pale slacks, golf shoes—well suited for a mission that he was describing as one of great personal risk. “I may never see you again, but we’re going to do it,” he told Fox News on the eve of the Texas visit.
When Trump announced his candidacy, on June 16th, he vowed to build a two-thousand-mile-long wall to stop Mexico from “sending people that have lots of problems.” He said, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Three of the statements had no basis in fact—the crime rate among first-generation immigrants is lower than that for native-born Americans—but Trump takes an expansive view of reality. “I play to people’s fantasies,” he writes in “The Art of the Deal,” his 1987 memoir. “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.”
Trump’s campaign announcement was mocked and condemned—and utterly successful. His favorability among Republicans leaped from sixteen per cent to fifty-seven per cent, a greater spike than that of any other candidate’s début. Immigration became the centerpiece of his campaign. “Donald Trump has changed the entire debate on immigration,” Rush Limbaugh told his listeners last month. As the climax of events in Las Vegas and Phoenix, Trump brought onstage Jamiel Shaw, Sr., whose seventeen-year-old son was killed, in 2008, by a man who was in the country illegally. Trump stood by while Shaw told the crowd how his son was shot.
Before departing for Laredo, Trump said, “I’ve been invited by border patrols, and they want to honor me, actually, thousands and thousands of them, because I’m speaking up.” Though Trump said “border patrols,” the invitation had in fact come from a local branch of the border-patrol union, and the local, after consulting with headquarters, withdrew the invitation a few hours before Trump arrived, on the ground that it would not endorse political candidates. Descending the airplane stairs, Trump looked thrilled to be arriving amid a controversy; he waded into a crowd of reporters and described the change of plans as the handiwork of unspecified enemies. “They invited me, and then, all of a sudden, they were told, silencio! They want silence.” Asked why he felt unsafe in Laredo—which has a lower crime rate than New York City or Washington, D.C.—he invoked another “they”: “Well, they say it’s a great danger, but I have to do it. I love the country. There’s nothing more important than what I’m doing.”
Trump was now going to meet with city officials instead of with the union. He disappeared into one of seven S.U.V.s, escorted by a dozen police vehicles—a larger motorcade than Mitt Romney merited as the Republican nominee. He passed shopping malls, churches, and ranch houses with satellite dishes in the front yard. Some drivers waved; others stared. A car had been positioned along the route with a sign across the windshield: “Mr. Trump, Fuck U.”
He reached the World Trade Bridge, a trucking link to Mexico, where he stepped inside an air-conditioned building for a half-hour briefing. He emerged to talk to reporters, and, after pausing to let the cameras set up, resumed his event. He was asked, “You keep saying that there’s a danger, but crime along the border is down. What danger are you talking about?”
Trump gave a tight, concerned nod. “There’s great danger with the illegals, and we were just discussing that. But we have a tremendous danger along the border, with the illegals coming in.” (Contyinued)
Pia Colucci, right, of Oakland waits for Bernie Sanders to begin speaking during a telecast broadcasted at a meet-up held in Lawrenceville on Wednesday. Supporters of the Democratic presidential hopeful gathered across the country to watch the telecast. Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette
By Tony Norman
July 31, 2015 – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has more than a few fans in Pittsburgh, judging by the turnout for his first televised meet-up since his poll numbers began shifting in a positive direction nationally. The muggy Wednesday evening air did its best to discourage a line from forming outside the Spirit Lounge on 51st Street in Lawrenceville, but 350 supporters squeezed into the former Moose Lodge that had once been the home to many a studio ’rasslin’ night.
After ponying up the suggested $5 donation at the door, the cross-generational crowd of Democrats and fellow travelers jockeyed for the best vantage point in front of a projection screen on the east end of the hall. Mr. Sanders would televise his remarks to 3,100 similar gatherings across the country from an apartment in Washington, D.C., shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern time.
According to organizers, Mr. Sanders would be addressing as many as 100,000 supporters nationwide — a number that should concern the complacent Democratic establishment, even though the insurgent candidate trails former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton by as much as 40 points in some polls.
Still, Bernie Sanders has roughly the same level of name recognition that Sen. Barack Obama had at this point in his underdog campaign against Mrs. Clinton. Unlike Mr. Obama, who was still trying to justify his candidacy to skeptical black leaders already committed to Mrs. Clinton in the summer of 2007, Mr. Sanders is drawing more energetic and enthusiastic crowds than Mrs. Clinton — a sign that the party’s progressive and liberal base is hungry for something it isn’t getting from its presumptive front-runner.
There is still time for Mrs. Clinton to ignite the passion of grass-roots Democrats, of course, but Bernie Sanders is on fire right now in ways no other candidate for the nomination can remotely claim. When he finally appeared on screen to make his speech, there was a collective roar from the crowd that felt almost primal — a mix of sweat, genuine giddiness and exasperation that it has taken so long for a candidate who shares their deepest convictions and disappointment with the status quo to finally emerge.
Technical difficulties with the live stream signal on Pittsburgh’s end prevented him from being heard at first, but when his Brooklyn-forged accent finally broke through the buffering silence, the crowd was primed to hear the candidate declare his allegiance to their issues and priorities.
“The American people are saying loudly and clearly — enough is enough,” Mr. Sanders said after ticking off a series of priorities that would occupy his days in the White House. The candidate would return to this mantra many times after promising to reverse 40 years of middle-class decline and income inequality, raising the minimum wage, affordable college education and combating the “real unemployment rate” he insisted was over 10 percent.
“Maybe, just maybe, instead of higher rates of incarceration,” he said referencing minority youth, “we could provide them with education and jobs.” In a tip-of-the-hat to the #BlackLivesMatter movement that heckled him a week earlier, Mr. Sanders pledged to fight against institutional racism. Just as he was beginning say something about instituting a campaign finance system that didn’t reward corporate bribery, Mr. Sanders’ image froze on the screen, prompting someone in the crowd to shout: “It’s a conspiracy!”
By Frank Chapman
Field Organizer, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.
Over the July 4th weekend 10 people were killed and 55 wounded. As usual this opened a one-dimensional discussion on “Chicago violence” that focused exclusively on violence in the African American community and “Black on Black Crime”. If a Black person kills a Black person, and particularly if it involves gang rivalry, then that always provides an opportunity for the Mayor, the Anti-Violence Movement and Police Superintendent McCarthy to come out and hold our community in moral contempt for allowing this state of affairs to exist. In fact the Opinion section of the Chicago Sun-Times (July 13, 2015) has an op-ed by Laura Washington that says, “My people are committing genocide”. Raphael Lemkin, an authority on the subject, defined genocide as “a coordinated strategy to destroy a group of people, a process that could be accomplished through total annihilation as well as strategies that eliminate key elements of the group’s basic existence, including language, culture, and economic infrastructure.” So clearly Laura Washington does not understand the gravity of her statement or is unaware of the genocidal policies perpetrated against Black people in America from slavery to the present.
As organizers who are fighting against police crimes and for community control of the police we are constantly challenged by defenders of the status quo to focus on Black on Black crime. How do we respond to that challenge?
First, we start with the objective conditions of oppression in our communities that exist independently of anyone’s opinion. These conditions include high unemployment rates and below poverty wages, massive evictions and foreclosures, inadequate delivery of health services combined with an epidemic of alcohol and drug addiction and high infant mortality rates, miles of dilapidated housing, school closings, and scarce or non-existent recreational facilities. Add to these a phony war on drugs combined with a massive influx of drugs and deadly weapons, mass incarceration, 70% or more of gang related homicides unsolved and the active role of police in some of these murders (never censured, much less prosecuted) , hundreds of innocent victims of police torture and families whose children have been murdered by the police. All of these above-stated conditions are the result of existing government policies (such as austerity programs and institutionalized racist practices) and are the breeding ground for the violence in Chicago focused on by the media. The conditions that breed violence are never honestly discussed by the Mayor and his official and unofficial supporters. In fact, the status quo power relationships in the city are maintained and perpetuated by not addressing the root problems.
The reason why we are agitating, educating and organizing in our communities is because we know that this system of racist injustice that habitually blames the victim is incapable of solving this problem of Chicago violence. We are constantly delivering the message that we must enact an all elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) that will hold the police accountable for the crimes they commit and the way they police our communities.
Police crimes and corruption are related to all crimes. That is why when we are petitioning/recruiting in the neighborhoods for CPAC and the response is overwhelmingly “Yes, I’ll sign”! “Yes, I’ll volunteer!”(To date we have about 500 volunteers). We see what the police do every day, and we experience the racist contempt they have for us first hand. The news media, the Mayor, Police Superintendent McCarthy and all their concocted schemes of community policing cannot and have not changed the harsh realities we face on a daily basis.
Finally let me say that the best response to those who would make us responsible for the breeding ground of violence that they created is to continue to build for a Mass March on City Hall this August 29, 2015. On that historic day we must make our voices heard like they have never heard before.
[For more information on the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, see http://naarpr.org .]
PDA’s Conor Boylan with Bernie Sanders
Thanks to social media campaigns and behind-the-scenes work from the Progressive Democrats of America, Sanders’ chances at president have become a reality.
By Theo Anderson
In These Times
"Bernie is a no-nonsense guy who says what he believes and has legislation to back up what he believes."
July 13, 2015 – In late April, when he announced that he would enter the presidential race, Bernie Sanders was the relatively unknown junior U.S. Senator from Vermont. Now he’s everywhere.
Though the “Sanders surge” seemed to come from nowhere, it was long in the making. Sanders’ rapid rise in the polls, and his increasing visibility over the past few weeks, are in part the result of behind-the-scenes work by organizations like Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).
PDA was founded in 2004 by progressives at the Democratic National Convention who were disappointed with the party’s presidential nominee, John Kerry, but were unwilling to give up on electoral politics. One evening, at the convention’s conclusion, about 200 people met to chart a path forward.
“PDA was founded that night with an inside-outside strategy—to bring outside energy inside the party,” said Conor Boylan, who began working for PDA in 2009 and has been its co-director since 2014. “It was almost an insurgency: We’ll be members of the party, but we’ll also form our own chapters and hold the party accountable.”
PDA now has about 90,000 people on its email list. Of those, about 35,000 members actively support and participate in its work. It is funded by donations from its membership.
In early 2014, PDA began a petition drive to persuade Sanders to run for the presidency. When Sanders attended its tenth anniversary celebration in May of that year, PDA presented him with the petition. That event marked the beginning a strong push by the organization to encourage him to run for the Democratic nomination.
The effort paid off this spring when Sanders announced his candidacy. “We’ve just caught fire since then,” Boylan said. “So it has grown from this small idea—that we have to get Bernie to run—to him actually announcing. And I’m starting to think now that he could actually win this thing. It’s been amazing the way it’s gone the past 15 or 16 months. And where’s it going to end?”
Along with its sister organization, People Demanding Action (which focuses on advancing a policy agenda rather than electoral politics), PDA’s priorities are healthcare reform, campaign finance reform and environmental and economic justice.
House parties are central to PDA’s work. Its website allows people interested in volunteering for the Sanders campaign to sign up to organize a party or find one that’s scheduled near them. PDA sends organizers a kit with information on the basics of hosting a party and assigning people to different tasks, like handing out flyers and maintaining a social media presence. (Continued)
Jalaluddin Abdul Hamid shouts, ‘Take it down!’ in response to a pro-Confederate-flag demonstration outside the South Carolina State House on June 27. (Lexey Swall / Getty Images)
The flag may be wiped from state grounds and license plates, but its ideals live on in the GOP agenda
BY Salim Muwakkil
In These Times
July 8, 2015 – The modern Republican Party—with its voter suppression schemes, states’ rights fetish, and steep cuts to government jobs and services that most benefit black communities—has absorbed the Confederate message.
It is an irony that the symbol of the old Confederacy has become the most prominent victim of the June 17 massacre in Charleston, S.C., rather than the three men and six women who were slaughtered at church.
After photos surfaced of the shooter posing with the flag, a bipartisan chorus of politicians, including at least a dozen Southern Republicans, denounced the flag’s display on state grounds and license plates.
Though the Stars and Bars served as the battle flag for the Confederate Army, it only became a totem of the South in opposition to the integrationist push of the 1950s and 1960s, when it was adopted by the Dixiecrats—Southern Democrats repelled by their party’s embrace of civil rights.
Those disgruntled white Democrats were aggressively recruited by the GOP through Nixon’s Southern Strategy, which was exceedingly successful in transforming the Dixiecrat South into Republican central. Alienated Republican Michael Lofgen, a former staff member of the House and Senate Budget Committee, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in 2013 that the GOP has become, in the past few decades, “an insurrectionist, neo-Confederate party.” Or, as Paul Krugman put it in a June 22 column, “Race made Reaganism possible.”
Some see the Tea Party as the latest manifestation of the GOP’s neo-Confederate march. Law professor Ian Haney Lopez, author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, argues that the Tea Party’s appeal has much to do with its coded racist messaging. The modern Republican Party—with its voter suppression schemes, states’ rights fetish, and steep cuts to government jobs and services that most benefit black communities—has absorbed the Confederate message. Its platform is in line with the principles espoused by neo-Confederate white separatist groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens, which donated $25,000 to GOP candidates in the last election cycle.
There is little doubt that the ascension of the first black president has contributed to this neo-Confederate boomlet. Obama’s election exacerbated anxiety among America’s white majority about the demographic changes that will, according to the U.S. Census, render it a minority in the next three decades. According to a 2014 Bloomberg poll, most Americans believe black-white “race relations” have worsened since Obama’s election. In its official statement responding to the massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) noted that racist hate groups are on the rise. The Charleston shooting was “an obvious hate crime by someone who feels threatened by our country’s changing demographics and the increasing prominence of African Americans in public life,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. The most prominent example is the presence of a black man in the White House.
Every week, it seems we’re presented with new evidence (often videotaped) of ongoing racial turmoil in Obama’s America, incidents so egregious they’ve sparked national protests and given birth to the Black Lives Matter movement. (continued)
July 4, 2015 – CNN dubbed this “the summer of Sanders ” as media outlets finally picked up on the large crowds Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has attracted during campaign stops. His rocketing poll numbers in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire led to countless stories heralding a Sanders surge — but the story is as much about the issues as it is about the man.
Even Republican candidates have taken notice of Sanders’ rise. Ahead of a recent stop in Madison, Wisconsin, likely 2016 contender and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker welcomed Sanders to the state with a series of tweets  attacking the democratic socialist once dismissed as too fringe. Walker may not have taken too fondly to Sanders attracting a record 10,000 people in his home state.
But Sanders’ campaign, surely more so than that of any of the Republican candidates, seems to be gaining traction more for the ideas he espouses than because of a cult of personality.
Granted, many supporters have pointed to Sanders’ straightforward manner and willingness to call out bad actors as refreshingly appealing, but unlike with Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Chris Christie, it isn’t just a brash style that’s being sold. Sanders makes a direct effort to address many of the issues that have arisen since the Hope & Change campaign of 2008 and it appears as though he is tapping into very real and long-simmering sentiments in the Democratic base.
More than a protest vote against Hillary Clinton, as some have suggested, Sanders’ support appears to be support for issues Clinton’s yet to fully address. Here are some of the ways that Sanders is gaining support by leading on issues or movements that other candidates ignore:
Sanders was chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee when Democrats last controlled the chamber, and following the VA scandal, Sanders worked with Republicans in the House to pass legislation  that expands health care access for veterans and makes it easier to fire underperforming officials.
His record and work on veterans’ affairs issues has earned Sanders top awards from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Military Officers Association of America, and now it appears as though that recognition is translating to support for his campaign.
The Boston Globe writes  that Sanders’ “surge is partly fueled by veterans,” citing “entire Reddit threads  [that] are dedicated to how veterans can best pitch Sanders to other veterans” and “a Facebook page promoting Sanders to veterans.” As the Globe notes, in the early voting state of South Carolina veterans make up about 11 percent of the electorate.
Occupy Wall Street
The short-lived global protest movement suddenly shifted the national debate in the aftermath of the recession from talk of austerity to a focus on growing income inequality by introducing terms like the 1 Percent to national prominence in time for the 2012 campaign. But the Occupy Wall Street movement achieved no great legislative win, and after the encampments were broken down many of the grievances remained unacknowledged, let alone addressed.
Sanders’ 2016 campaign embodies much of the demands of the OWS movement. Speaking to the largest campaign crowd of this cycle  in Wisconsin this week, Sanders said, “The big money interests — Wall Street, corporate America, all of these guys — have so much power that no president can defeat them unless there is an organized grassroots movement making them an offer they can’t refuse.” For activists who organized, protested and camped out in Zuccotti Park and squares across America, this message of unfinished business is powerful. The acknowledgement of a continued struggle and willingness to put up a fight is what was galvanized the Draft Warren movement and it has now seemingly shifted to Sanders.
Student Debt Movement
Some Occupy Wall Street activists joined a movement against student debt, which has now surpassed $1 trillion in the U.S. The activists, some of whom had refused to make any more payments on their federal student loans , achieved a major victory this year when Corinthian colleges (you know them by their annoying commercials hawking their schools like Everest, Heald and WyoTech) shuttered the last of their remaining U.S. campuses, and the erasure of $13 million in debt. The movement has successfully overseen the closure of campuses in Canada the year before.
Sanders has proposed the College for All Act,  a plan to provide tuition-free education at public colleges funded by a small tax on Wall Street transactions. (Continued)
The labor federation’s rules don’t allow its state and local leaders to endorse presidential candidates, Richard Trumka says as the Vermont senator surges.
By Brian Mahoney
July 3, 2010 – Richard Trumka has a message for state and local AFL-CIO leaders tempted to endorse Bernie Sanders: Don’t.
In a memo this week to state, central and area divisions of the labor federation, and obtained by POLITICO, the AFL-CIO chief reminded the groups that its bylaws don’t permit them to “endorse a presidential candidate” or “introduce, consider, debate, or pass resolutions or statements that indicate a preference for one candidate over another.” Even “‘personal’ statements” of candidate preference are verboten, Trumka said.
The memo comes amid signs of a growing split between national union leaders — mindful of the fact that Clinton remains the undisputed favorite for the nomination — and local officials and rank and file, who are increasingly drawn to the Democratic Party’s growing progressive wing, for whom Sanders is the latest standard-bearer.
The South Carolina and Vermont AFL-CIOs have passed resolutions supporting Sanders, and some local AFL-CIO leaders in Iowa want to introduce a resolution at their August convention backing the independent senator from Vermont. More than a thousand labor supporters, including several local AFL-CIO-affiliated leaders, have signed on to “Labor for Bernie,” a group calling on national union leaders to give Sanders a shot at an endorsement.
The AFL-CIO’s constituent unions — as distinct from divisions of the federation itself — remain free to make endorsements however they wish. But they can’t make those endorsements acting through local and regional divisions of the AFL-CIO, as Trumka reminded everyone in the memo.
His message wasn’t anything new for the federation’s state leaders: They know that endorsement decisions belong to the national leadership. Still, it was unusual for Trumka to call them out in a memo. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one before like this,” said Jeff Johnson, the president of the AFL-CIO’s Washington state labor council.
Johnson agreed that it was important for the AFL-CIO to speak with a single voice. But “there’s a lot of anxiety out there in the labor movement,” he said, “and we’re desperately searching for a candidate that actually speaks to working-class values. The Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders camp is very, very attractive to many of our members and to many of us as leaders, because they’re talking about the things that need to happen in this country.”
Similarly, Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman said he agreed that Trumka had to lay down the law. More tellingly, though, he added: “Bernie Sanders has spent his life actually fighting for working people. He’s made no secret of it, and he’s used it as his mantra. And that I respect very much.” When asked about Clinton’s candidacy, Tolman was less effusive: “Who? Who? Please. I mean with all respect, huh?”
Other state-level union leaders affiliated with the AFL-CIO didn’t bother to give Trumka and his memo lip service. “I was disappointed by it,” said UPTE-CWA Local 9119 organizing coordinator Lisa Kermish, of Berkeley, California. “I think that local unions and national unions, while it’s important to work together for strength, I think that this is in some ways truncating dialogue. And I find that very unfortunate.” (Continued)
‘The Face of Racism Today is not a Slaveowner': Eric Foner on the Past and Present of White Supremacy
South Carolina Is Hardly Alone in Refusing to Confront the Burdens of History, Celebrated Historian Tells Salon
By Elias Isquith
June 24, 2015 – During the past generation or two, the way educated Americans, and especially historians, have come to understand the Civil War and Reconstruction has dramatically changed. Whereas it was once in vogue to play contrarian and argue that the war over slavery — and the subsequent effort to establish true, multiracial pluralist democracies in the South — had little to do with African-American liberation and white supremacy, that is thankfully no longer the case.
While no one, two or three-dozen people can rightly be said to deserve all the credit for this decades-in-the-making shift, few would deny the pivotal role played by Columbia University’s Eric Foner — especially his classic book “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” as well as the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.” Among others, it was Foner whose top-notch scholarship and unusually engaging prose helped usher in a new understanding of this seminal era that continues to gain influence today.
Recently, Salon reached out to Foner to get his take on the historical roots of the savage attack on Charleston, South Carolina’s, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. We also discussed Gov. Nikki Haley’s call for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the state’s Capitol grounds, as well as what it means to say Americans must confront their own history. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.
How significant would it be, symbolically, for the Confederate battle flag to be removed by South Carolina?
As you know, and as it has been reported many times, the Confederate flag was only put up on top of the Statehouse in South Carolina in 1962. It was put there as a rebuke to the civil rights movement. It was not a long-standing commemoration of Southern heritage. It was a purely political act to show black people in South Carolina who was in charge.
Symbolism has its limits. On the other hand, to see that flag flying … it’s a statement by South Carolina. Black people perfectly well understand what it stands for. A lot of white people do also. I think removing it is certainly a positive step.
Can you tell me a bit about South Carolina’s history in this regard, and why it’s often singled, out even among its fellow former Confederate states?
I have taught in South Carolina as a visiting professor. I have lectured many times in South Carolina at the University of South Carolina, at Clemson, at Beaufort, in Charleston. I have good friends there and I’m certainly not trying to suggest that everyone in South Carolina is a deep racist or has anything to do with a guy like Dylann Roof. On the other hand, one has to recognize that South Carolina has a very unique and deplorable history when it comes to slavery and race.
It goes way back to the American Revolution. South Carolina had delegates who insisted that Thomas Jefferson take out a clause that condemned slavery from the Declaration of Independence. It was South Carolina delegates who got the Three-Fifths Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Clause into the Constitution. It was South Carolina who was the leader in nullification, the leader in secession. The first shot of the Civil War was shot there. South Carolina was the only Southern state in which the majority of white families owned slaves.
And yet, not incidentally, it also had an unusually large African-American population, too, right?
It had about a 60 percent black population at the time of the Civil War. In other words, the majority of the people in South Carolina were slaves. To say that the Confederate flag represents the heritage of that state is not true; it actually did not represent the majority of South Carolinians even at the time the Confederacy existed. (Continued)