Trigger warning! Those who are afraid of cute, cuddly cats should skip #8, the cute cat videos below! (Trigger warning #2: Those afraid of everything ELSE should skip right to the cute cat videos below at #8.)
Local interests: A Washington Post profile of the Illinois 6th District race is noted below, #9.
1. Everyone now is talking about it, or should be: hate in America. Racial hatred and anti-Semitism are not new here. But have they been increasing in intensity or breadth under the demagoguery of Trump and his enablers?
We have gone from discussing “civility” in discourse to admitting that we are facing a new wave of hate.
A. We will begin with a key insight from Paul Krugman in Tuesday morning’s New York Times. “In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the midst of a wave of hate crimes. Just in the past few days, bombs were mailed to a number of prominent Democrats, plus CNN. Then, a gunman massacred 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Meanwhile, another gunman killed two African-Americans at a Louisville supermarket, after first trying unsuccessfully to break into a black church — if he had gotten there an hour earlier, we would probably have had another mass murder,” Krugman writes.
“All of these hate crimes seem clearly linked to the climate of paranoia and racism deliberately fostered by Donald Trump and his allies in Congress and the media….
“[The synagogue shooter’s] rage seems to have been fueled by a conspiracy theory being systematically spread by Trump supporters — the claim that Jewish financiers are bringing brown people into America to displace whites. [emphasis added]
“It’s also the barely veiled subtext of the manufactured hysteria over the caravan of would-be migrants from Central America. The fear mongers aren’t just portraying a small group of frightened, hungry people still far from the United States border as a looming invasion. They have also been systematically implying that Jews are somehow behind the whole thing. There’s a straight line from Fox News coverage of the caravan to the Tree of Life massacre.
“So how are Trump apologists dealing with this ugly picture? Partly through denial, pretending not to see any link between hateful rhetoric and hate crimes. But also through attempts to spread the blame by claiming that Democrats are just as bad if not worse. Trump supporters try to kill his critics? Well, some Trump opponents have yelled at politicians in restaurants! ….
“False equivalence, portraying the parties as symmetric even when they clearly aren’t, has long been the norm among self-proclaimed centrists and some influential media figures. It’s a stance that has hugely benefited the GOP, as it has increasingly become the party of right-wing extremists…. At this point, pretending that both sides are equally to blame, or attributing political violence to spreading hatred without identifying who’s responsible for that spread, is a form of deep cowardice. The fact is that one side of the political spectrum is peddling hatred, while the other isn’t. And refusing to point that out for fear of sounding partisan is, in effect, lending aid and comfort to the people poisoning our politics. Yes, hate is on the ballot next week.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/opinion/hate-is-on-the-ballot-next-week.html
B. In The Guardian, Cas Mudde, Stanley Wade Shelton UGAF Professor in International Affairs at the University of Georgia, Professor at the University of Oslo, and the author of Populism: A Very Short Introduction and The Far Right in America, agreed with so many American columnists when he said, “While all three men might be ‘lone wolf’ terrorists, operating alone and without support of other individuals or an organized group, they do not act within a political vacuum. [emphasis added] Yes, US society is polarizing, but as has been shown well before Trump became the leader of the (far) right, it comes primarily from the right. Conspiracy theories about an allegedly violent left or about the nefarious George Soros have moved from the fringes of Infowars to the tweets of the US president. And they have inspired a host of far-right terrorists.
“Sure, only the terrorists themselves are legally responsible for their heinous crimes. But those stoking the far-right fires have at least a moral responsibility. And so have most of the US media, who continue their frame of false equivalence, in which liberals who shout abuse at Republicans in restaurants are equated to far-right terrorists who kill Democrats and minorities, or try to.
C. The Anti-Defamation League (the ADL) reports that in 2017 alone, there were 1986 reported anti-Semitic incidents. They say, “In its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, ADL found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose 57 percent in 2017 – the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking such data in 1979. The sharp rise was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row.” Read the full report here: https://www.adl.org/resources/reports/2017-audit-of-anti-semitic-incidents.
D. How far is Trump himself responsible for the growth of anti-Semitism nationally? Of course he is not directly responsible for the actions of an extremist armed to the teeth. No. But at the same time, we need to recall the history here. It began during the 2016 campaign. Here is what Dana Milbank, columnist for The Washington Post has to say. “Consider some of the many times Trump gave sanction to bigotry before 11 worshipers were shot dead at the Tree of Life:
“Saying ‘I don’t have a message’ for supporters who threatened anti-Semitic violence against a Jewish journalist, and Melania Trump saying the writer ‘provoked’ the threats.
“Branding his campaign with the ‘America First’ slogan of the anti-Semitic pre-war movement.
“Alleging that ‘blood suckers’ and ‘a global power structure’ including ‘international banks’ are secretly plotting against ordinary Americans. [If you have not seen this 2016 ad, or have tried to forget it, it would be instructive to watch it now. Click here, or on the thumbnail below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vST61W4bGm8]
This Trump Campaign ad appeared in November, 2016. The ad specifically calls out Trump’s conception of “the political Establishment that is trying to stop us,” as images flash of Democratic financier George Soros, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen. All three are Jewish. The ad also features Hillary Clinton. It accuses the international bankers of being blood suckers, a term Trump used in an October, 2016 speech as well. This is a traditional “blood libel,” an anti-Semitic trope of long standing.
“Once in office, in addition to making common cause with the Nazis of Charlottesville, Trump stocked his administration with Stephen K. Bannon and other figures of the nationalist ‘alt-right,’ hesitated to condemn the rise of anti-Semitic threats and vandalism; issued a Holocaust remembrance statement without mention of Jews; lamented the attempts to silence Alex Jones, who peddles anti-Semitic conspiracy theories; and, declaring himself a ‘nationalist,’ increased verbal attacks on ‘globalists,’ particularly Soros.”
It is an instructive, and only partial, list. Milbank concludes, “Whatever Trump’s motives, his words and deeds inspire the hateful and the violent. The man accused of sending pipe bombs to a dozen favorite Trump targets (including Soros) eschewed politics, his family’s lawyer says, until he ‘found a father in Trump.’ The accused Pittsburgh gunman, though apparently rejecting Trump for being insufficiently nationalist, embraced on social media the themes Trump has popularized: the ‘globalist’ danger, immigrant ‘invaders that kill our people’ and an ‘infestation’ of undesirables.
“After the shooting, Trump read from the teleprompter the proper denunciation of anti-Semitism. But proceeding with a rally mere hours after the massacre, he galvanized the crowd with the same complaint the alleged Pittsburgh killer cited in social media before the carnage: the migrant caravan. Trump told the crowd, ‘No caravans, right? We don’t want caravans. We’re not having caravans.’
E. Also in The Washington Post, columnist Jennifer Rubin adds this: “There is… one particular way in which anti-Semitism is being mainstreamed in the United States and in Europe: the propagation of ‘blood and soil’ right-wing nationalism that by definition excludes Jews (whom many nationalists do not consider white). A country defined as white and Christian, one in which foreigners and different ethnic groups are seen as ‘infesting’ the country and diluting its true heritage, by definition casts Jews as a fifth column, as outsiders, as ‘the other.’ [emphasis added] Right-wing nationalism in Europe goes hand in hand with overt anti-Semitism. Sure enough, as authoritarian governments have come to power, anti-Semitism has become endemic in illiberal Eastern European countries, including Hungary (where left-leaning Jewish billionaire George Soros is an all-purpose bogeyman) and Poland, but also in Western European countries, such as like [sic] Italy, which is drifting toward fascism….
F. In The Nation online for Oct. 27, Sasha Abramsky calls out Trump’s Jewish enablers. “Non-Jewish advisers and cabinet members have, of course, similarly failed in this basic moral duty. In fact, as the nationalist rhetoric, the incitement to violence, has intensified over the past months, none of Trump’s inner circle, Jewish or otherwise, have taken a principled stand and withdrawn their support for the Make America Great Again movement. None have tried to staunch the moral bleed,” she writes.
“But, as I sit at my desk and try to make sense of the utterly senseless taking of life at a synagogue named ‘Tree of Life,’ I find myself particularly horrified by Jewish enablers of the Trumpian madness, all of whom know only too well the vast destruction that Jews suffered in the recent past at the hands of bigoted nationalists….
“Two years into his violent, nationalist presidency, a number of high-profile Jewish political and business figures continue to support and enable his presidency.[emphasis added] Despite the fact that Trump has repeatedly dallied with the far right of US politics; despite the fact that the KKK supports him and that fascist websites such as The Daily Stormer routinely cheer him on; despite the fact that he found it impossible to unequivocally condemn neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville last summer; despite the fact he retweets tweets from virulent, conspiracy-minded organizations and individuals; despite the fact that several of his speeches over the past two years eerily echo language from speeches given by Mussolini and Hitler—despite all this, Jewish advisers to, and backers of, Trump such as Sheldon Adelson, Jared Kushner, and Stephen Miller have utterly abnegated their responsibility to call him to account.
On Tuesday, an essay in The Washington Post remarked that “President Trump is mobilizing the vast powers of the military and other parts of the federal government to help bolster Republican election efforts, using the office of the presidency in an attempt to dictate the campaigns’ closing themes and stoke the fears and anxieties of his supporters ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections.
2. A. Hysteria promoted by right-wing news outlets has made the caravan of Central American migrants seeking asylum into an invasion. And Trump has responded with typical drama. As The Washington Post reported, “The Pentagon said Monday it is sending 5,200 troops to the Southwest border in an extraordinary military operationordered up just a week before midterm elections in which President Donald Trump has put a sharp focus on Central American migrants moving north in slow-moving caravans that are still hundreds of miles from the U.S. [emphasis added] The number of troops being deployed is more than double the 2,000 who are in Syria fighting the Islamic State group.
“Trump, eager to keep voters focused on illegal immigration in the lead-up to the elections, stepped up his dire warnings about the caravans, tweeting, ‘This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!’”
Of course, “any migrants who complete the long trek to the southern U.S. border already face major hurdles — both physical and bureaucratic — to being allowed into the United States.
The troops will not, despite the fantasy invoked here, be opening fire to prevent crossings. That would be illegal under US law. But they will join about 2000 National Guard troops sent to help the Border Patrol with logistics.
B. It is also true that rumors that Jews were somehow responsible for the caravan, through Soros’s wealth, were behind the Pittsburgh shooter’s deranged thinking. As David Leonhardt pointed out in Monday’s New York Times, “President Trump and his political allies told a series of racist lies about a caravan of migrants. Those lies dominated right-wing websites and, for a few days, the mainstream news. (As Serwer notes, we in the media fed Trump’s hype machine by covering the caravan so heavily.) A deranged man who frequented right-wing websites then cited the caravan as a reason to commit mass murder.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/opinion/tree-of-life-synagogue-shooting.html
C. Why are they coming? As The Guardian reported on Oct. 24, “People in the group say they are fleeing grinding poverty, and the violent crime which has helped turn Central America into one of the most dangerous regions of the world…. A few Nicaraguan families in the group say they fled their country to escape political unrest and the violent government crackdown which has claimed more than 300 lives.
However, there is another, hidden reason for the migration: climate change. An article in The Guardian on Wednesday says, “Thousands of Central American migrants trudging through Mexico towards the US have regularly been described as either fleeing gang violence or extreme poverty.
“But another crucial driving factor behind the migrant caravan has been harder to grasp: climate change. [emphasis added]
“Most members of the migrant caravans come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – three countries devastated by violence, organised crime and systemic corruption, the roots of which can be traced back to the region’s cold war conflicts. Experts say that alongside those factors, climate change in the region is exacerbating – and sometimes causing – a miasma of other problems including crop failures and poverty.
“And they warn that in the coming decades, it is likely to push millions more people north towards the US.”
The paper quotes one expert who says, “’The main reason people are moving is because they don’t have anything to eat. This has a strong link to climate change – we are seeing tremendous climate instability that is radically changing food security in the region.’’’
Moreover, coffee growing is central to this region’s economy, and a spreading blight has made growing conditions unfavorable, and crops have failed. Warmer conditions, sporadic drought, and devastating floods have taken a toll on commodity-based agriculture throughout the region. One expert, Robert Albro, a researcher at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University, points out that “’Coffee and maize are sensitive to temperature and rainfall changes,’ said Albro. ‘If a coffee crop fails you can’t just turn on a dime and do something else, it takes a long time to recover. There have been several lost crops in a row and it’s caused tremendous hardship for small-scale farming.’” [emphasis added] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/30/migrant-caravan-causes-climate-change-central-america We have seen little or no discussion of these root causes in the US press.
D. But this month, again poorly reported, Pope Francis addressed this issue when he spoke during his annual address to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Catholic World Report says, “Francis… highlighted the relationship between hunger and forced migration, saying the problem can only be solved ‘if we go to the root of the problem,’ rather than coming up with superficial solutions. [emphasis added]
“Referencing various studies, the Pope noted that the main underlying causes of hunger, which in itself prompts many to migrate, are ‘conflicts and climate change.’ [emphasis added] The effects of climate change are felt on a daily basis, he said, explaining that thanks to science, the international community already knows how to face the problem. He praised initiatives such as the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, and urged nations to uphold the agreement. However, he noted that ‘unfortunately, some are moving away from (it).’” https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/10/16/hunger-must-be-fought-by-actively-going-to-the-roots-pope-francis-says/
3. A. This week, Trump made the fabulous claim that he could vanquish the Constitution’s birthright citizen clause, the Fourteenth Amendment. Here is the report in The New York Times: “To accomplish the idea he floated on Tuesday, Mr. Trump would have to find a way around the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which states, ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.’ [emphasis added]
“The amendment means that any child born in the United States is considered a citizen. Amendments to the Constitution cannot be overridden by presidential action — they can be changed or undone only by overwhelming majorities in Congress or the states, with a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or through a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of state legislatures.”
So no, of course he cannot do this. But here is what the Defender of the Constitution told Axios on Monday, as reported by The Times: “President Trump said he was preparing an executive order that would nullify the long-accepted constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship in the United States….
“’We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits,’ Mr. Trump told Axios during an interview that was released in part on Tuesday, making a false claim. ‘It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.’
“In fact,” The Times points out, “at least 30 other countries, including Canada, Mexico and many others in the Western Hemisphere, grant automatic birthright citizenship, according to a study by the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that supports restricting immigration and whose work Mr. Trump’s advisers often cite.
B. Though the Amendment’s language seems clear enough, prepare for some conservative commentators and lawyers to argue that “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” in the text does not apply to undocumented immigrants. But most legal experts think that argument is specious and has been implicitly or even explicitly rejected by Supreme Court decisions. In an important op-ed in The Washington Post, two legal scholars, one a noted conservative, one a liberal, argue that the Amendment is self-evident and clearly based on fundamental principles of the republic. George T. Conway III is of counsel at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.; and Neal Katyal is a partner at Hogan Lovells and former acting U.S. solicitor general in the Obama administration.
They argue that “at its core, birthright citizenship is what our 14th Amendment is all about, bridging the Declaration of Independence’s promise that ‘all men are created equal’ with a constitutional commitment that all those born in the United States share in that equality.
“Birthright citizenship sprang from the ashes of the worst Supreme Court decision in U.S. history, Dred Scott v. Sandford,the 1857 decision that said that slaves, and the children of slaves, could not be citizens of the United States. The blood of hundreds of thousands of Americans was shed to repudiate that idea….
“The drafters were motivated by their utter revulsion toward slavery and a system that relegated people to subordinate political status because of their birth. [emphasis added] They weren’t thinking of, or concerned with, any exceptions to birthright citizenship other than the absolutely essential….”
The authors point to an 1898 Supreme Court ruling that “’[the] Fourteenth amendment affirms the ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the territory’ — ‘including all children here born of resident aliens.’ [emphasis added] The exception? ‘Two classes of cases’ in which the United States could not apply its laws to foreigners under historic Anglo-American legal principles: ‘children born of alien enemies in hostile occupation, and children of diplomatic representatives of a foreign state.’
C. Given the lack of support among lawyers and Congress for such a move, it is likely that this new stunt will be only a rhetorical bone thrown to the most avid followers of right-wing news outlets, who have long inveighed against “anchor babies,” born here of undocumented immigrants to gain a foothold in America. But many conservatives balk at the idea of attacking the Amendment, even if they do see immigration as a problem. In The National Review, conservative attorney Dan McLaughlin argued, “Constitutional Originalism Requires Birthright Citizenship.” He writes, “birthright citizenshipexists for reasons intrinsic to our American creed that ours is a society you join, not one reserved to those with an ancestral connection to the blood and soil. Any effort to uproot birthright citizenship, even for the children of illegal aliens, would bring us closer to the European problem of a two-tiered caste of citizens and permanently alienated aliens. Tampering with the status quo to root out the abuses might well create more problems than it is worth. All of that is to say, the policy criticisms of birthright citizenship are legitimate, but they are far from an open-and-shut case. The legal argument, however, is much more open-and-shut.” https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/constitutional-originalism-requires-birthright-citizenship/
D. But: do not imagine this issue will vanish quickly. Reports The Washington Post: “Earlier Wednesday, Trump vowed to push forward with his call to end birthright citizenship, despite a backlash from legal scholars and some prominent members of his own party against his pledge a day earlier to take executive action on the matter. In morning tweets, Trump said he would end the 150-year-old practice ‘one way or the other,’ seeming to leave the door open to either congressional action or a constitutional amendment, which many legal scholars say would be necessary to achieve his aims. Trump also said the issue would ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.” [emphasis added] The paper reported that Trump attacked Paul Ryan for dismissing Trump’s claim that he could nullify the Amendment’s guarantees by executive order. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-presses-on-with-case-to-end-birthright-citizenship-one-way-or-the-other/2018/10/31/bcd69dc2-dd12-11e8-85df-7a6b4d25cfbb_story.html
4. Unfortunately, Trump is not the only Republican who is race-baiting. Racism is being charged by many candidates in electoral races across the country. Recently, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy was criticized for an anti-Semitic tweet, since taken down, that appeared just before the Pittsburgh shooting. As Salon reported Wednesday, “It’s more than a tweet: Kevin McCarthy’s tweet targeting George Soros reveals a troubling history: The House Majority Leader has previously claimed that Christians are the most persecuted group in America.” The website reports, “The California lawmaker has come under intense scrutiny in recent days after he suggested on Twitter last Tuesday that progressive Jewish donors are trying to buy the midterm elections this November, just four days before a gunman opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue, leaving 11 people dead and six others injured. The suspect allegedly made anti-semitic remarks to police after his arrest. In a tweet posted last Tuesday, McCarthy wrote, ‘We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election. Get out and vote Republican November 6th! #MAGA.’ The tweet accompanied a video of McCarthy making the same remarks….
C. And then we have Steve King, the Iowa Republican whose racialist views are well-known (though not well enough known in Iowa). The Guardian reported on Wednesday that “The Anti-Defamation League has sent the House speaker, Paul Ryan, a letter requesting that Steve King, the controversial Iowa Republican, be stripped of committee assignments and formally censured for what the organization said was a ‘disturbing series of involvements and statements … that are anti-Semitic and offensive not just to the Jewish community, but to all Americans.’ In its letter, the ADL pointed out that King had relationships with Austria’s far-right Freedom party, which has stumbled through repeated neo-Nazi scandals; that King had deployed an anti-Semitic smear about George Soros, the Jewish-Hungarian philanthropist; and that King had endorsed foreign politicians linked to anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi groups…. [emphasis added]
“The national Republican party withdrew support from King on Tuesday, with a tweet from Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is in charge of defending the Republican House majority. [emphasis added] ‘Congressman Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate,’ Stivers tweeted. ‘We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.’” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/31/steve-king-antisemitism-paul-ryan-anti-defamation-league
You would be correct to think that the situation has to be pretty bad for the national party to withdraw support. It is. A profile of King in The Guardian on Saturday is titled, “‘He’s so openly racist’: why does Iowa keep electing Steve King to Congress?.” The answer is that few in Iowa seem to know or take seriously the charges. But his statements are hard to misinterpret. “Ask people why they like King, and they point to his relatability – ‘you understand what he says, and you know what he means’ – and his reliability on issues such as opposing abortion and promoting corn-based ethanol fuel, two top perennial concerns in the Hawkeye state….
“At times, King has made statements so suggestive of racial bias – ‘We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,’ he has tweeted – that he has drawn rebukes from Republican party leaders…. Raymond Beebe, 76, a lifelong Republican in Forest City, said he had voted for King in the past ‘but I’m tired of the embarrassment.’
“’The comments,’ Beebe said, ‘I mean they’re all over the place – [Mr. Beebe quotes King:] “all uneducated immigrants smuggle drugs,” “black people could afford abortions if they stopped buying iPhones,” “no group has done better for the country than the white people”– he’s so openly racist, and I find that very abhorrent.’” As The Guardian also reports, King has visited Europe to ally himself with far-right and nativist parties. Read the full profile to get a taste of what deep racialism looks like, and also to understand why the low-information voters in Iowa either do not believe or do not take seriously the offensiveness of his views: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/26/hes-so-openly-racist-why-does-iowa-keep-electing-steve-king-to-congress.
5. Given the increasingly shrill rhetoric, the intensifying resentments on all sides, increasing hate crimes, and the easy availability of guns, the question of future domestic unrest, even civil war, is slowly entering mainstream discourse, though only as a worst-case-if-this-continues suggestion. This fear is slowly seeping out on both sides. An article in The American Conservative by William Smith suggests, “While the elites have deliberately cut themselves off from their civilizational inheritance [i.e. European culture] because they view it as unworthy, Trump supporters do not feel estranged from national and religious symbols and traditions. Most never attended an elite university, have never read Derrida, and have no desire to deconstruct the customs they love. The elites and Trumpites live in different moral universes, and their unrelenting political warfare derives from both groups’ understanding that power flows to those whose narratives retain legitimacy and validity. These battles are so worrisome because they are existential, not simply political.
And an even more inflammatory article appeared in one of Canada’s premier general-interest magazines, The Walrus, talking about scenarios for “America’s Next Civil War. The United States shows all the warning signs of impending social and political collapse.” But conservative historian Niall Ferguson, in a widely-reprinted article, has rejected these ideas as alarmist, while acknowledging a growing danger: “That people on both sides of the political divide are using intemperate language is undeniable, even if the left will always insist the other side is worse. That there is a potential for an increase in US political violence seems clear. By European standards there are terrifying numbers of lethal weapons in private hands. But civil war?
“Some of the people who make this argument can be dismissed as scaremongers. When a Canadian novelist [in The Walrus article linked above] fantasises about Trump being assassinated, the United States tearing itself apart and all the nice Americans moving to Canada, it’s better to avert your gaze. Same drill when a marine turned chat show host calls for red states to secede if a future Democratic administration comes for their guns…. Like our colleague Morris Fiorina, I am inclined towards the optimistic view that most normal Americans find the culture war exhausting.” At the same time, Ferguson is troubled by historical precedent that suggests that tiny minorities can have an outsized influence on events, especially if electoral politics do not calm down. http://www.niallferguson.com/journalism/miscellany/america-is-edging-closer-to-civil-war
But in a recent essay, Robert Reich takes a more nuanced view. Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 15 books, including the best sellers “Aftershock”, “The Work of Nations,” “Beyond Outrage,” and, his most recent, “The Common Good.” Salon reprints his essay, “A second American Civil War?”
“In early April,” he writes, “Sean Hannity predicted that if impeachment began, ‘there’s going to be two sides of this that are fighting and dividing this country at a level we’ve never seen’ — ‘those that stand for truth and those that literally buy into the corrupt deep state attacks against a duly elected president.’ Last summer, Trump consigliore Roger Stonewarned of ‘an insurrection like you’ve never seen,’ and claimed any politician who voted to oust Trump ‘would be endangering their own life.’
Perhaps we need not a political scientist but a poet, William Butler Yeats, to prophesy. Below is a famous quote from The Second Coming, written in 1919, after the First World War, but just before the Irish War of Independence. But since we at the Research Team are committed to calming the atmosphere, we suggest that “serious social unrest” is a far less unnerving matter than civil war—or “mere anarchy.”
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
6. A. The news is not too good from abroad, either. The press has reported on the “far-right conservative” who won the Brazilian election, Jair Bolsonaro. The description of Bolsonaro in the UK Guardian tells you what you need to know. “A far-right, pro-gun, pro-torture populist has been elected as Brazil’s next president after a drama-filled and deeply divisive election that looks set to radically reforge the future of the world’s fourth biggest democracy….
“Over nearly three decades in politics, he has become notorious for his hostility to black, gay and indigenous Brazilians and to women, as well as for his admiration of dictatorial regimes, including the one that ruled Brazil from 1964 until 1985.
“’The extreme right has conquered Brazil.’ Celso Rocha de Barros, a Brazilian political columnist, told the election night webcast of Piauí magazine. ‘Brazil now has a more extremist president than any democratic country in the world … we don’t know what is going to happen.’
“Clóvis Saint-Clair, a Rio-based journalist who has written an unauthorised Bolsonaro biography, said he feared Brazil’s young democracy was at risk….
“Bolsonaro voters had voted on ‘feelings not facts’ and were obsessively focused on the PT’s not inconsiderable sins while refusing to recognise the advances of its 13 years in power, which ended with Dilma Rousseff’s highly controversial impeachment in 2016.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, The Guardian’s profile seems to describe… a fascist: “Deliberately provocative and polarising. He has praised Gen Pinochet, expressed support for torturers and called for political opponents to be shot, earning him the label of ‘the most misogynistic, hateful elected official in the democratic world.’ In his bid to capitalise on Latin America’s lurch to the right, he paints himself as a tropical Donald Trump: a pro-gun, anti-establishment crusader set on ’draining the swamp’ and cracking down on violent crime.
C. Here in the US, the editorial board of The New York Times on Tuesday also shied away from extreme labels (or name calling?), preferring the term “far-right.” Readers will be happy to hear that the US president was cordial: “Not surprisingly, President Trump, with whom Mr. Bolsonaro shares views on many issues ranging from gun rights to China, was among the first to proffer warm congratulations along with a cheery tweet (‘Excellent call, wished him congrats!’).
“Mr. Bolsonaro poses a danger to Brazil’s democracy,” say The Times’s editors. “Like Mr. Trump, he is a polarizing force — he was seriously wounded by a would-be assassin during the campaign, and even before the election Brazilian media reported that police were staging raids in universities, purportedly to stop illegal electioneering. He is expected to name several former generals to his cabinet, a troubling move in a nation with a dark history of military control.” The Times neglects to mention the former generals who have served in the Trump White House. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/30/opinion/brazil-bolsonaro-election-nationalism.html
7. Reports continue to come out of Texas of voting machine malfunctions. As The New York Times reported last Friday, “Some Texas voters are complaining that machines flipped their straight-ticket selections to the other party in key races during early voting, especially the much-watched Senate battle between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke.
“The secretary of state’s office said Friday that there have been reported issues with Hart Slate voting machines, which are used in around 30 percent of counties statewide and feature a wheel for selecting candidates and buttons to move from screen to screen. But it says they are caused by voters themselves and often occur when they complete and submit ballots too quickly.” The state Democratic Party ‘called the issue ‘a malfunction,’ said it was causing Democrats to inadvertently vote for Cruz and accused the secretary of state’s office of not doing enough to warn voters of potential issues.” Cruz has also complained about the machines flipping votes. https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2018/10/26/us/politics/ap-us-election-2018-texas-voting-machine-complaints.html
8. Time for our comic relief segment! Cat videos. Click on the link or on the thumbnail below. Our favorites this week: boxing cat and Ping-Pong cat. Oh, and the cats again seem to get the best of the dogs. And a couple of horses. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcGOoDThC1E
9. On Thursday morning, The Washington Post published a profile of the Casten-Roskam race in DuPage County. “A bastion of genteel ‘country-club Republicanism’ — the median household earned nearly $100,000 in 2017; there are 19 golf courses within the district’s largest county, DuPage — the 6th District has been sending GOP representatives to Washington since 1972. Most of that time, it was pro-life icon Henry J. Hyde, until Hyde retired and Roskam won a race to succeed him in 2006. In 2016, however, the district reelected Roskam while preferring Clinton by seven points over Donald Trump for president, one of 23 districts nationally that split its vote between her and a GOP House candidate. That instantly made the district a 2018 Democratic target. Team Blue has spent millions on behalf of nominee Sean Casten, a clean-energy entrepreneur making his first bid for public office.
“The Democratic push in the 6th District is part of a nationwide strategy to flip suburban House districts from red to blue, on the assumption that moral revulsion to Trump will outweigh material prosperity among well-educated, upscale voters. [emphasis added]