Norman Lear: Will Republican Leaders Show Decency and Stand Up to Trump?

This piece originally appeared as a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter.

Having just turned 94, I am aware that each day I spend as an American, in the company of loved ones, engaging with creative colleagues, and yes, swearing at the television news, is a gift. So maybe I owe Donald Trump, that human middle finger to the American Way, a bit of thanks for getting my heart pumping better than any exercise routine.

One benefit of having been around so long is that what may seem like ancient history is alive within me. Most of my fellow Americans do not personally remember World War II, in which the United States led the free world to defeat the forces of fascism in Europe and Asia. Like so many of my compatriots, I left college to enlist in that war. Unlike too many of them, I returned home safely after flying 52 combat missions. For that good fortune I can thank the Tuskegee airmen and others who flew escort and protected us during those bomb runs.

After the war, when I was a young writer hustling to make my way in show business, Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee were on a rampage, targeting political opponents, people in the arts, and ordinary Americans. One of the real American heroes, who stood up to those who were pretending to be, was Joseph Welch, chief counsel for the U.S. Army when it became a McCarthy target. After McCarthy used a public hearing to drag the name of a young lawyer through the mud, Welch challenged his cruelty and recklessness. And in words that expressed what so many felt but feared to say, Welch asked, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Those just might be the most famous words in American political history that were not uttered by a U.S. president. They didn’t change McCarthy, but they did help others find the strength to stand up to him.

The witch hunts and blacklists didn’t end overnight. One target was John Henry Faulk, a civil libertarian and folk humorist who fought a successful libel lawsuit that finally helped bring an end to blacklisting. In my recent memoir, written before Donald Trump had blessed us with his candidacy, I wrote of Faulk, “How do you not love a man who, in that East Texas drawl of his, says of some fatuous asshole in the news, ‘I’d like t’buy the somunabitch for what he’s worth and sell’m for what he thinks he’s worth!’”  That would translate to selling for a billion dollars today the Trump you payed a nickel for yesterday.

I have little to add to what has been said about Trump’s cruel treatment of immigrants and other political targets or his relentless demeaning of anyone who challenges him. As painful as it was to watch Trump’s attacks on the family of a soldier who sacrificed his life so that others might live, it was even more revolting to watch him suggest that maybe “the Second Amendment people” could do something about a President Clinton and her judicial nominees. Trump is making it clear to Americans who he is; we need to pay attention and avoid the horrific mistake of making him our leader. 

Trump is not the first demagogue we have faced; neither was McCarthy. One of the formative experiences of my youth was when, as a young child playing with my crystal radio set alone in my bedroom, I stumbled across Father Coughlin and learned that there were people in this country who hated Jews. But I also learned in civics classes that were held in grade school then (unfortunately not now) that people like Coughlin held ideas that were antithetical to those of our Founding Fathers and the Constitution they bequeathed us, ideas and ideals which we have strived to realize, and which have inspired so many generations of people from across the globe to make their way to our shores.

For all our continued flaws, we are a more decent nation than Donald Trump imagines. That’s why Joseph Welch’s words packed such a punch. And it is why Americans deserve more courage from their political leaders. As for Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and others who have climbed on board the Trump train even though I have to believe their hearts knows better, it’s time they looked at themselves in the mirror and asked, “Have you left no sense of decency, Sirs, at long last?”

Norman Lear is a television and film producer and the founder of People For the American Way.


Hillary Clinton Continues to Call for Democracy Reform on Campaign Trail

Big money in politics has been a banner issue this election, with both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders including a comprehensive set of solutions to this fundamental problem as a core focus of their campaigns from the very beginning. Now that the primaries are over and the election is less than three months away, Hillary Clinton continues to express her support for legislative changes necessary to level the political playing field and create a democracy that is of, by and for the people.

"We've got to get unaccountable money out of politics, overturn Citizens United, and expand voting rights" said Clinton yesterday at a campaign event in Michigan.

Clinton is supported by a vast majority of Americans who support taking action on this issue, as well as a broad coalition of organizational supporters working to pass solutions on the local, state and national level. Donald Trump, while occasionally suggesting that the system is ‘rigged’, has offered no concrete policy solutions to address this problem and his party’s platform calls for the further erosion of our nation’s campaign finance laws.  


PFAW Members Catch Up to Kelly Ayotte in Manchester 5K to Ask if She Trusts Donald Trump to Fill Supreme Court Vacancy

kelly ayotte

Yesterday, at the Cigna/Elliot 5K Road race in downtown Manchester, Sen. Kelly Ayotte revealed a level of trust in Donald Trump’s ability to choose a qualified Supreme Court justice when questioned by a Manchester voter.

Watch her response:

Ayotte, who has repeatedly ignored the vast majority of Granite Staters who want her to do her constitutional duty and support moving forward with hearings and a vote for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, seemed unconcerned with the particulars of Trump’s judgement regarding the next Supreme Court justice, but said she’d looked at the list and thinks it’s a “good start.”


PFAW Hosts Telebriefing on the Supreme Court and 2016

Even as GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump hits new lows in his campaign—from attacking Gold Star parents to suggesting gun violence as a way to stop Hillary Clinton—Republican senators continue to hold open the vacant Supreme Court seat for Trump to fill.

Yesterday People For the American Way held a telebriefing for members and supporters about the critical role the Supreme Court plays in 2016 and beyond, and how progressive activists can hold GOP senators accountable for their unconscionable blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. PFAW’s Marge Baker, Drew Courtney, and Elliot Mincberg were joined by Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen to discuss how to make the Supreme Court a winning issue in the election.

You can listen to the full telebriefing here:


Donald Trump Exploits Years Of GOP Voter Fraud Conspiracy Theories

This piece originally appeared on Huffington Post.

For longtime observers of voter suppression laws, it wasn’t a surprise when it was discovered that Wisconsin and North Carolina lawmakers were deliberately disenfranchising minority voters under the guise of preventing voter fraud. After all, conservative politicians have all but admitted that these laws purportedly combatting “voter fraud” are meant to help elect conservative candidates.

It also came as no surprise when Donald Trump suggested that Democrats will use voter fraud to win the 2016 presidential election.

Just as Trump has embraced years of GOP attacks on President Obama, Hillary Clinton, immigrants and others, the GOP presidential nominee has seized on the widespread but erroneous belief that Democrats have used voter fraud to win election after election. Trump has regularly claimed that voter fraud is rampant in America,baselessly charging that Republicans were defeated in 2012 due to voter fraud andcalling for a “revolution” to protest President Obama’s victory. Indeed, large swaths of Republican voters believe that Obama used voter fraud to win in both 2008 and 2012.

Now, Trump insists that polling firms are deliberately skewing poll results against him, and at least one of his advisers, Roger Stone, claims that this is part of a grand conspiracy to cover up the fraud that Democrats are planning to unleash in the coming election. If Hillary Clinton defeats Trump but his “private polls” show him leading, Stonesays, the real estate mogul should try to block Clinton’s inauguration and call his supporters into the streets to protest. “It will be a bloodbath,” he warned.

While Trump and Stone’s suggestions have raised eyebrows from Democrats and Republicans alike, no one should be shocked after years of GOP claims that elections have swung to Democrats because people unlawfully vote multiple times by impersonating othersundocumented immigrants are illegally voting and thegovernment hands out free cell phones — the notorious “Obama phones” — in order to win votes for Democratic candidates.

For example, then-congresswoman Michele Bachmann falsely claimed that Obama won re-election in 2012 because he gave millions of undocumented immigrants the right to vote by executive order — an order that never existed. William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC said that 2008 was the most “fraudulent election I’ve seen in my life.” Trump surrogate Wayne Allyn Root said the community activist group ACORN, which has been defunct since 2010, stole the 2012 election by having people vote “10 times each for the Democrats” and predicted that ACORN “will steal states with weak voter ID laws,” “stuff the ballot box in inner cities” and “have illegal aliens voting” in 2016. And conservative activist Tony Perkins erroneously alleged that “there is some evidence” that the “Obama phone” was used to help re-elect the president. More damagingly, GOP lawmakers have cited such bogus claims in attempts to justify laws that strip voting rights from thousands of eligible voters.

Thousands of people across the country have already lost or are on the verge of losing their ability to cast a ballot as a result of this push to suppress the vote, even though, as Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice noted, “Statistically you are more likely to be hit by lightning than to commit in-person voter fraud.” Studies consistently demonstrate that widespread voter fraud is nothing but a myth. When Pennsylvania’s restrictive voter ID law was challenged in court, the state even admittedthat there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania.” 

Beyond just Trump’s paranoia, the Republican Party’s sweeping attacks on voting rights will be the real legacy of the voter fraud craze. Republicans promoted the voter fraud myth so they could impose damaging laws in the hopes of winning elections. They were so successful in convincing their base of these myths that their presidential candidate is now taking them to dangerous extremes.


On Trump's Views of Women, the Headlines Speak for Themselves

One of the constants of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been insulting, demeaning, and blaming women—from talking about women as animals, to suggesting “punishment” for those who seek abortions, to saying that women should do “as good a job as men” if they want equal pay. A new video PFAW released today compiles some of the many headlines on Trump’s insulting anti-women rhetoric and proposed policies:


No, Trump, Women Who Are Harassed At Work Should Not Have to Find a New Career

This piece was originally published on Huffington Post.

After over a dozen women came forward to say they were sexually harassed by former Fox CEO Roger Ailes, last week Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump offered his “solution” to the pervasive problem of workplace harassment: women who are targeted should just quit their jobs. If his daughter Ivanka were harassed, Trump said, “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company.” As others have noted, it was a response breathtakingly out-of-touch with daily realities for most women, who could not afford simply to leave our jobs and who, it should go without saying, should never be asked to change careers for becoming the target of harassment.

For almost anyone else in the political spotlight, such an outrageous response would have been hard to believe. But for Donald Trump, these remarks are simply the latest example of his dehumanizing brand of sexism, where women are objects to be ranked from one to ten and where proposed “solutions” to the challenges women face are constituted of victim-blaming rather than actual policy changes.

Take his view on the gender pay gap. At an event in New Hampshire last year, a woman in the audience asked Trump about it, telling him that she wants to be paid the same as a man for her work. His response was that “you’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Seriously? In our country, white women are paid 78 cents for every dollar white men make, while African American women make 63 cents and Latinas make only 54 cents. It’s a discrepancy that causes women to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars across our lifetimes and threatens the economic stability of countless women and their families. Suggesting that the real issue behind the gender pay gap is that women just don’t do as good a job as men could not be more offensive, or more wrong.

The same can be said about Trump’s comments on workplace harassment. According to a 2011 ABC News/Washington Post nationwide poll, a staggering one in four women has experienced sexual harassment at work, with some polling showing even higher numbers. It’s a pervasive and disturbing trend that affects women across all types of workplaces and requires a serious policy response. But instead, Trump’s answer is to place the blame on those who are harassed, asking them to upend their careers in hopes that they might find in a new career an environment free of harassment. His son, Eric Trump, even went as far as to say that a woman like Ivanka Trump “wouldn’t allow herself to be subjected” to workplace harassment, implying that women who are targeted are part of the problem themselves.

Women who are harassed at work should just quit, and women who are paid less than men should just do a better job: this is how the Republican presidential candidate sees women in the workplace. If voters elect Trump when they go to the polls in less than 100 days, that’s the disturbing worldview he would bring to the presidency. Trump’s brand of chauvinism – one in which he takes every opportunity to demean, blame, and undermine women — doesn’t belong in our country, and it certainly doesn’t belong in the Oval Office. On Election Day, let’s make sure he doesn’t get that chance.


The Trump Test -- Searching for Decency

This piece was originally published in Inside Sources.

What first seemed like faux pas and jabs at political correctness by Donald Trump have turned out to be a series of deeply troubling revelations about his malignant character and his seemingly pathological dishonesty. Trump’s campaign is providing Republican Party officials with repeated tests of their character, tests that they are failing again and again, to the long-term detriment of their party and our country.

Consider Trump’s devotion to — in his words — “getting even.” As he promised during the Republican primary, “Anybody who hits me, we’re gonna hit them 10 times harder.” He’s given us many examples, including his declaration during a rhetorical feud with Sen. John McCain that McCain (and by implication other prisoners of war) was not a war hero because he had been captured. “I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said.

This Trump trait was on full display during the Democratic convention. When retired four-star general John Allen criticized Trump over his support for torture and other violations of international law, Trump responded by calling Allen a “failed general.” Michael Bloomberg, who Trump had previously called a “fantastic” mayor, became a “disaster” who “couldn’t get elected dog catcher.”

Most notoriously, Trump attacked Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Muslim parents of an American soldier who was killed in Iraq. Khizr Khan challenged Trump’s vow to block Muslims from entering the United States, speaking movingly about his son’s sacrifice and asking Trump if he had ever read the U.S. Constitution. Trump considered this criticism a “vicious” attack, and responded to the family’s loss with shameful religious bigotry and innuendo.

When his actions generated significant outrage, Trump did not acknowledge error or apologize. Instead, his allies are doubling down on Trump’s bigotry. Mike Huckabee, for example, has flatly denied the fact of Trump’s repeated vow to block Muslims from entering the United States. Trump confidant Roger Stone and campaign adviser Al Baldasaro both promoted a stunningly irresponsible post from fringe extremists alleging that Khan is a Muslim Brotherhood agent and suggesting that his son was an Islamist double agent who was killed before his murderous mission was accomplished. Baldasaro tweeted a link to the article, saying “Read the truth about your hero.” (He later tweeted that he was “not sure” about the extremists’ credibility.)

In the face of this ugliness, most Republican elected officials have remained weak kneed or shamefully silent. Some have put out statements supporting the Khan family but they didn’t have the courage to criticize Trump by name.

Even John McCain, who strongly criticized Trump, has not repudiated his endorsement for a candidate whose recklessness has become undeniable. This is the same John McCain who, in refusing to consider President Obama’s nomination of the unquestionably well qualified judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, is holding the vacancy open to be filled by the reckless, irresponsible and unprincipled Donald Trump.

More than 60 years ago, a dangerous, bullying demagogue was deflated with a simple question, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

An open letter to Donald Trump from a group of Gold Star families echoes those sentiments, calling Trump’s comments about the Khans “repugnant,” and saying, “This goes beyond politics. It is about a sense of decency. That kind decency you mock as ‘political correctness.’”

It is time for Republican Party leaders to recognize that Trump poisons everything he touches, including, and especially, them and their party. Trump shares Joseph McCarthy’s cruelty and reckless disregard for others and for the truth. So the question must be asked of Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders who have refused to leave Trump’s side: Have you left no sense of decency?

And we as Americans should ask ourselves, is there decency enough left among people of good will to reject Trump and Trumpism, and begin to recover an honest discourse, grounded in facts and shared values, about the future of our country?


DNC & RNC: Facts vs. Feelings

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

As millions of Americans tuned into the national conventions of the Democrats last week and Republicans the week before, the tone and substance between the two parties could not have been more different. During his weekly satirical news show, comedian John Oliver put the contrasting frames used by the political left and right in perspective while commenting on the Republican National Convention.

“It was a four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over facts,” said Oliver.

It doesn’t take an especially sensitive person to see that fear is a common theme in Republican messaging, particularly this election cycle. Whether it’s lies about Mexican immigrants or smears about Muslim Americans, fear is consistently used as part of the core Republican message. Donald Trump, perhaps the worst offender of this in modern history, has presented himself as the sole solution to all problems - real and perceived - faced by the United States, without explaining how he would actually solve them.      

It’s not uncommon for the fear and insecurity stoked by Republicans to conflict with facts. For instance, in his RNC commentary, Oliver included a news clip from an interview with former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The segment does an excellent job of highlighting how in the world of Republican rhetoric, feelings often get conflated with facts. In the clip Gingrich says “the average American, I bet you this morning, does not think that crime is down, does not think they are safer.” He presents his statement as a fact, which may be technically true in terms of feelings, but in reality, people are actually safer. For that matter, crime rates have been steadily dropping across the board since the 1990s, with few exceptions.   

Compared to the Democratic National Convention, the difference could not be more clear. The message of the event was largely rooted in empirical facts, citing job growth and other quantifiable factors to show the progress that has been made over the past eight years with Obama in the White House. But it was also a message of enduring hope. In her speech accepting the democratic nomination for president of the United States, Hillary Clinton quoted the famous line from Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, “the only thing to fear is fear itself,” presenting a stark contrast to the paranoid and divisive rhetoric of her opponent.

Clinton’s campaign slogan, “Stronger Together,” invokes unity, collaboration and creating common purpose in order to make a “more perfect union.” Indeed, many of our nation’s greatest advances in history have come about through people coming together to find common ground, working as one with a shared sense of optimism. When voters go to the polls in November to cast their ballots, they will be faced with a choice of historic proportions: take a radical step to the right, deepening divisions and elevating hateful rhetoric, or continue along the path exemplified by the American ideals of diversity and inclusivity.



New Guard of Progressive Elected Officials Represented On Stage at DNC

Something the planners of the Democratic National Convention seem to be getting very right is the selection of top-notch speakers, which include some of the strongest progressive voices in national politics and reflect the ever-increasing diversity of America. Communities of color, the LGBT community, disabled and Native communities, and young people are all represented.

Activist leaders and various everyday heroes are taking the stage to speak simultaneously to the vast diversity of American experiences and the common needs and values, hopes and desires, that unify us as one people.

Included in the impressive list of speakers are several dynamic young elected leaders, and among them, some very familiar faces to the People For family. And we could not be prouder.       

Mayor Andrew Gillum

Andrew Gillum, 37, is the mayor of Tallahassee, Florida. He has repeatedly set the example for unapologetic progressive leadership, and was included in Huffington Post’s “50 Young Progressive Activists Who Are Changing America.” He is the youngest person to ever be elected to the Tallahassee City Commission, assuming that office at the age of 23.

Andrew is the national Director of Youth Leadership Programs for PFAW’s affiliate, People For the American Way Foundation (PFAW Foundation).

US Rep. Joaquin Castro

Joaquin Castro, 41, uses his strong progressive voice to superbly represent the people of Texas’s 20th District in the US Congress.

Both Joaquin and his twin brother Julian -- the current US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, former mayor of San Antonio, and keynote speaker of the 2012 Democratic convention -- were charter members of PFAW Foundation’s nonpartisan Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network, which works to nurture the leadership abilities and provide a supportive nationwide network to America’s young progressive elected officials.

Colorado Rep. Crisanta Duran

Crisanta Duran, 35, is the Majority Leader of the Colorado House of Representatives and one of America’s boldest progressive champions in such an influential state-level leadership position.

Crisanta is also an active member of PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network.

This is just a small sampling of the growing number of young progressive champions running for and winning elected office at every level around the country.

Be on the lookout for live or recorded speeches from all of these excellent young leaders, and you will no doubt find inspiration and hope about the future of our movement.

We will try to obtain video clips after the speeches to embed in this post as updates. So stay tuned!

Update 1: Mayor Andrew Gillum's 2016 DNC speech:


PFAW's Peter Montgomery Discusses the Trump-Pence Ticket and the RNC on Democracy Now!

Last week People For the American Way Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery was in Cleveland, Ohio, covering this year’s Republican National Convention for Right Wing Watch.

On Thursday, he joined Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! to discuss Donald Trump’s selection of Governor Mike Pence as his running mate, the Religious Right’s response to this choice, and Montgomery’s recent piece in Right Wing Watch entitled, “How Would Religious Right Respond to Pence as VP?” Montgomery told Goodman:

“I think he [Trump] probably chose Mike Pence because Mike Pence is close to both the Koch brothers’ political network and to the Religious Right. And those are two hugely important parts of the Republican infrastructure that have not been uniformly excited about Trump.”

While on the program, Montgomery also detailed some instances of hate speech and intolerance that he observed in Cleveland, including misogynistic rhetoric about Hillary Clinton, attacks on Black Lives Matter activists, and attacks on immigrants. “It’s really been a disturbing show,” Montgomery said.

You can watch the full interview here:



Trump: "I alone can fix this."

Trump's campaign is trying desperately to con voters with fear.

Pew Report: With GOP Presidents, We Get Fewer Judges of Color

It's important to have a federal judiciary that looks like America, bringing varied life experiences to the bench.

GOP's Record-Breaking SCOTUS Obstruction

GOP senators don't seem to care about the damage their record-breaking obstruction of Merrick Garland does to the country. But perhaps self-interest will move them.

At Committee Meeting, PFAW & Allies Urge Senators to #DoYourJob

Thursday, July 14, marked the 120th day since Chief Judge Merrick Garland was nominated to the Supreme Court. July 14 was also the Senate Judiciary Committee’s final markup before the August recess. In order to highlight Republican senators’ irresponsible obstruction on  judicial vacancies, People For the American Way staff members attended and stood in solidarity with activists from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Americans United for Change at the markup.

We wore buttons that read “#DoYourJob” and some advocates silently held signs when the meeting concluded. Our presence put additional pressure on Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley and his Republican colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee to give Garland fair consideration and to fill the growing number of other judicial vacancies.

On the agenda for the markup meeting were four judicial nominees: Jennifer Puhl, Don Coggins, David Nye, and Kathleen Sweet. Puhl, Coggins, and Nye were unanimously approved by the committee on a voice vote, but they join a long list of nearly 20 other nominees who are still waiting for consideration from the full Senate. They are unlikely to receive a vote before the fall.

During the committee proceedings, ranking member Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) gave voice to our frustrations, and the frustrations of so many Americans, by directly addressing the rising number of judicial vacancies across the United States and the failure of Republican senators to fulfill their job requirements by adequately processing judicial nominees:

“The sharply rising number of judicial vacancies across the country is the direct consequence of Republican leadership neglecting the Senate’s duty to ensure the federal judiciary can function. When Senate Republicans took over the majority last year, there were 43 judicial vacancies, 12 of which were emergency vacancies. Because of the Republicans’ refusal to do their jobs, vacancies have nearly doubled to 83, and emergency vacancies have nearly tripled to 30.”

Astoundingly, at the last markup session before the congressional recess, and 120 days since Merrick Garland’s nomination, Sen. Chuck Grassley did not even speak about the most pressing judicial vacancy: the open ninth seat on the Supreme Court. Sen. Leahy, however, did, saying:

"Republicans are failing our justice system and the American people by continuing their unprecedented blockade of Chief Justice Merrick Garland’s nomination for the Supreme Court.”

We agree with Sen. Leahy and so many Americans. The American people deserve a fully-functioning judicial system, including a Supreme Court with nine justices. Republican Senators’ refusal to adequately process judicial nominees is disgraceful. Tell Sen. Grassley to stop playing politics with our justice system, and tell GOP senators to do their jobs. 


Beyond the plagiarism: 9 more important stories from Day 1 of the convention

By now, it’s likely that you’ve seen the reports that last night’s featured speaker Melania Trump, in a move that would seem typical of her husband, PLAGIARIZED Michelle Obama, from the First Lady’s convention speech in 2008.

But while the media today remains distracted by Mrs. Trump’s ironic theft of a Michelle Obama passage about family and community values, it’s vitally important that we try to keep some attention on the truly shocking and frightening -- things that happened yesterday both on- and off-stage at the convention.

Here’s a quick recap of some of the other biggest stories from Day 1 of the GOP Convention.

Anti-Trump delegates attempted a brief but chaotic revolt on the floor of the convention hall -- seemingly more as a show than an actual attempt to seek a different nominee.

The protest, while offering a bit of early drama, was quickly scuttled by Trump loyalists, giving us the day’s first concrete demonstration of the GOP now being, definitively, the Party of Donald Trump -- but just the first example of many.

One of the more high profile offsite events of the day was the “America First Unity Rally,” hosted by unhinged radio conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a hate radio talker who has been embraced by Trump, and Trump adviser and legendary political dirty trickster Roger Stone. PFAW’s Right Wing Watch was on the ground to cover the event, which definitely did not shy away from inflammatory speakers or topics.

During one of the many media discussions with Republican leaders from the convention hall, Rep. Steve King of Iowa -- one of the GOP’s loudest xenophobic voices -- defended the politics of racial resentment that is driving much of Trump’s movement by insisting that white people have contributed more to civilization than “any other subgroup of people.”

Then it was time for the evening program of speakers…

Grieving family members of people who lost their lives in Benghazi and to crimes involving undocumented immigrants were trotted out as sympathetic and relatable figures to rally viewers against the people the GOP says are responsible for all of those tragedies: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and all 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the US.

Scott Baio and Antonio Sabato, Jr. were among the first “celebrities” to take the stage and speak on behalf of their friend Donald Trump. They both gave subsequent interviews in which the former defended his posting of a meme referring to Hillary Clinton as a “cunt” and the latter said he "absolutely" believes President Obama is a Muslim.

An anti-government extremist sheriff gave a taunting speech in which he called Black Lives Matter “anarchy” and celebrated the latest acquittal of one of the Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray as a victory over “malicious prosecution.”

Republicans like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani gave characteristically bombastic speeches.

Then, Donald Trump took the stage -- to Queen’s We Are the Champions, a song that the band’s guitarist Brian May was outraged to hear Trump was using on the campaign trail before he specifically asked Trump not to use it months ago. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that Queen’s singer, Freddie Mercury, was a gay man who died of AIDS, and Donald Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, once advocated that money for HIV/AIDS care be reallocated to groups conducting gay conversion therapy (something that is also, incidentally, promoted in this year’s official Republican Party Platform).

During one of the evening’s earlier speeches, Donald Trump had called into Fox News to bash his former primary rival Gov. John Kasich and claim credit for the idea of holding the Republican Convention in Ohio -- a demonstrable outright lie.

It’s going to be an interesting week.

Continue to check PFAW’s Right Wing Watch at rightwingwatch.org for ongoing convention coverage.


Will you donate to help PFAW fight -- and defeat -- the Far Right?




A Big Week for #Democracy4All

We reached a major milestone in the House and also made progress in the Senate.

Far Right Co-opts Tragedy To Promote Hate, Again

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post

Last week, in which the police shootings of two African American men were followed by the assassination of five police officers guarding a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, was wrenching. Sadly, in this atmosphere of mourning, anger and grief, too many on the far right have done what they do best: co-opt tragedy to promote hatred and fear. These are more than just a few absurd and cringe-worthy comments; instead, they represent a line of thinking that has elevated many right-wing politicians who wield significant power in this country.

After the Dallas shootings, Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman turned radio host from Illinois, tweeted: “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.” He later tried to claim that he wasn’t calling for violence against the president. Ted Nugent, a board member of the National Rifle Association, said that President Obama “wants a racewar [sic].”

Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor of Texas and, probably not coincidentally, a former conservative talk radio personality, blamed the innocent bystanders at the Dallas attack, saying that they were “hypocrites” for running from gunfire while relying on the police to protect them. His point seems to have been that the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t want police protecting communities, which is clearly not true.

Rush Limbaugh called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist group,” as did right-wing authorBrad Thor. One conservative commentator called Black Lives Matter “the new KKK.” The ever-perceptive Sarah Palin said that the social justice movement is promoting “the antithesis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s message” by saying that “one race matters more than another.” Mike Huckabee said that the real movement should be “Male Lives Matter.”

Others fell back to their standard talking points, no matter how irrelevant. Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim activist who advised Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign,claimed that Black Lives Matter was working with “Islamic supremacists” to foment revolution. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a great favorite of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, claimed that liberal philanthropist George Soros engineered the whole thing in order to start a race war. Conservative activist Jesse Lee Peterson said it was all a plot to distract from Hillary Clinton’s emails. The Oath Keepers, an anti-government group, called for the formation of citizen militias.

These aren’t just fringe activists and media personalities; as much as we’d like to ignore them, we can’t afford to. Their cynical exploitation of bigotry and fear has already caused too much damage in our country. This is the same media swamp that has for years promoted the idea that white people in America are the real victims of racial prejudice, the same people who have spent more than seven years claiming that the first African-American president is an outsider impostor who possibly even lied about his heritage to earn his seat. Is it any surprise that the right-wing media was ready to demonize Black Lives Matter when it emerged and to claim that the movement’s critiques are illegitimate? Is it any wonder that they were ready to blame a gruesome crime against police officers on the president’s concern for racial justice?

It doesn’t have to be this way. In the wake of last week’s tragedies, some conservativesapproached the national conversation with genuine attempts to speak honestly and thoughtfully about race in America. We might not always agree, but if we can speak with open minds, that’s a good start.

Indeed, as much as the right-wing media would like us to think it, the tragedies of last week weren’t about taking sides in a political debate or a “race war.” You can believe that Black lives matter and see the weight that disparities in policing have on people of color and, at the same time, grieve and be angry at the mass murder of police officers who were trying to protect a peaceful protest. Millions of Americans feel both. Let’s not allow the right-wing swamp to skew these tragedies to promote bigotry and fear.


Senate GOP Keeping Court Vacancies Open So Trump Can Transform America’s Judiciary

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

The Constitution sets up an independent judiciary as the third branch of government, intended to protect people’s rights and to serve as a check on the power of the other two branches. Our nation’s charter tasks the president and the Senate with the job of selecting and vetting the people who would serve on those courts.  President Obama has been doing his duty by nominating qualified women and men to serve as judges at all levels of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court.

But the GOP-controlled Senate is not living up to its constitutional responsibilities. While this has always been harmful to America, it is even more so with Donald Trump the presumed presidential nominee of his party.

Mitch McConnell and his party have slow-walked or outright blocked so many nominees that the number of circuit and district court vacancies has risen from 40 when they took over the Senate to 80 today. (There are also several vacancies for the Court of International Trade and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.) In that same time, the number of vacancies formally designated as judicial emergencies has skyrocketed from 12 to 29. The Senate has not been allowed to vote on nominees who were thoroughly vetted and approved months ago by the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support.

Yesterday, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin went to the floor to draw attention to the problem. She noted that while the Senate GOP’s blockade of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland has been in the headlines, that has not been the case with the obstruction of lower court nominees.

She focused particularly on Seventh Circuit nominee Donald Schott, who not only has Democrat Baldwin’s support, but also that of his other home-state senator, Republican Ron Johnson.  Schott would fill the nation’s longest circuit court vacancy, which has been open for well over six years.  Since the Supreme Court takes so few cases, the Seventh Circuit is usually the last word on the meaning of the Constitution and federal laws for millions of people in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, and every day that goes by with that vacancy open hurts everyone in those states.  Schott earned strong bipartisan support from the Judiciary Committee, which advanced his nomination to the full Senate four weeks ago.  Baldwin noted that Schott also has the support of a bipartisan group of former Wisconsin Bar presidents.  Saying that “the people of Wisconsin and our neighbors in Illinois and Indiana deserve a fully functioning appeals court,” Baldwin urged McConnell to finally allow votes on Schott and on all of the judicial nominees who have cleared the Judiciary Committee.  Many of them have been waiting for more than half a year for a floor vote, with several having been approved by the Judiciary Committee last year.

But Republicans are fighting to keep vacancies open for as long as possible so that they will be filled by a President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump, who wants to make it easier for the government to punish media sources whose reporting he disagrees with.

Donald Trump, who has said that Latinos cannot serve effectively as unbiased judges.

Donald Trump, who would ban certain people from entering the country based on their religion.

Donald Trump, who has demeaned and humiliated women at every opportunity.

Donald Trump, who has used hate groups’ blatantly anti-Semitic imagery in his campaign.

Donald Trump, who has said he is considering firing all Muslim TSA agents.

With serious discussion among scholars, political figures, and Americans across the political spectrum on whether Trump’s extreme views amount to fascism, we need a strong, effective, and independent federal judiciary more than ever. Yet Senate Republicans are pulling out the stops to allow Donald Trump to move quickly to dramatically transform our judiciary from the Supreme Court on down.

The Senate GOP is abdicating their constitutional and moral responsibility to the American people and to our democracy.