Members of People For the American Way protested Monday outside of U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte’s Manchester district office following her announcement that she plans to write in vice presidential nominee Mike Pence instead of voting for Donald Trump, in light of his comments about sexually assaulting women. While it’s high time that Sen. Ayotte acknowledged just how unacceptable a Trump presidency would be, a vote for Pence would be a vote for far-right policies devastating for women and the LGBT community.
“Ayotte’s withdrawal of support for Trump has much more to do with politics than principle,” said Linds Jakows, New Hampshire Campaign Organizer with People For the American Way. “Support for Mike Pence’s agenda is little better—a man who has spent his career attempting to redefine rape, eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, and pass laws to legalize discrimination against LGBT people is also incredibly dangerous. A far better way for Ayotte to display the political independence she so often claims on the campaign trail would be to push obstructionists in her party to move forward on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.”
Pastors thrown in jail. Religious texts criminalized. Evangelism outlawed.
These are all events that Religious Right activists—inaccurately—predicted would happen during President Obama’s time in office. But sadly, these are acts that are all too common around the world.
Most recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stepped up his attacks on Christians who belong to denominations other than the Russian Orthodox Church, particularly Protestants, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Last month, Putin signed a law curtailing evangelism under the guise of combating “extremism,” a decision that is part of a broader trend of Putin’s government clamping down on dissidents, journalists, human rights activists and the LGBT community.
Even before this new law came into effect, religious minorities in Russia and Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine faced not only legal persecution but also violent attacks, including abductions and killings, from government-backed militias. Since the law was signed, state-sponsored attacks on religious minorities have only increased.
But none of this has stopped Putin’s American fans from singing his praises, even while they claim that President Obama has made the U.S. dangerous for Christians.
Donald Trump and Mike Pence have enthusiastically praised Putin as a brilliant and mighty trailblazer while at the same time accusing President Obama of hounding Christians at home. In fact, Trump has claimed that the U.S. government is specifically targeting him with a tax audit because he’s “a strong Christian.”
U.S.-based Religious Right leaders, many of whom are now supporting Trump, have similarly spent years praising the Russian president for supposedly championing Christianity and for leading an infamous crackdown on LGBT Russians.
Conservative religious leaders like Franklin Graham, Brian Brown and Bryan Fischerhave praised Putin for his attacks on LGBT rights. American LGBT rights opponents have descended on Russia in recent years to cheer on the government’s growing repression of sexual minorities, including laws curbing gay adoption and curtailing free speech that supports LGBT rights. Religious Right leaders have called Putin a “lion of Christianity,” “the moral leader of the world“ and the protector of “traditional Christianity.”
Televangelist Rick Joyner recently said that “there is much more freedom of religion in Russia than there is in America,” where “we no longer have freedom of speech,” and radio host Rick Wiles called Putin an instrument of God sent to punish “the United Gay States of America.”
In reality, Putin’s government has done the very thing that right-wing activists falsely accuse President Obama of doing: arresting Christians, threatening churches andpermitting Sharia law in majority-Muslim areas.
But it is Obama they falsely charge with being an enemy of religious liberty, and Putin they shower with praise in spite of his well-documented attacks on freedom.
The admiration for Putin from this segment of the Religious Right reveals an ugly reality behind their claims of religious oppression at the hands of the LGBT rights movement. For these activists, it seems, the persecution of LGBT people is actually more important than preserving true religious freedom, even when the welfare and freedoms of other Christians are at stake.
Much has already been written about the dangers that a Supreme Court with even one or two Donald Trump-appointed justices would pose to all our rights and liberties. Trump’s latest list of 10 more possible nominees makes that even clearer. In making his announcement last Friday, Trump proclaimed he was using the late Justice Antonin Scalia as a model for his picks, delighting the far Right. A quick look at these potential nominees’ records shows that they would in fact swing the court far to the right, maybe even further than Justice Scalia, on issues like the environment, voting rights, money in politics, consumer rights, gun violence, LGBT and reproductive rights and more. For the sake of all our rights and liberties, Trump cannot be given the opportunity to nominate Supreme Court justices.
Most of the attention so far has focused on Trump’s naming of Sen. Mike Lee as a potential Supreme Court nominee. Among his many other radical positions, Lee has denounced Supreme Court decisions upholding marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose, and has claimed that Social Security, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, minimum wage and child labor laws, and many more are unconstitutional. Although Lee has indicated he is satisfied with his current job, at least for now, the prospect of Lee on the court has excited the far Right.
The lesser-known candidates on Trump’s list are similarly alarming. Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady, who as a member of the House helped lead the fight to impeach President Clinton in the Senate, has been dubbed one of the Florida Court’s “Scalia-Thomas duo” because of far-right dissents he and one other conservative have written. These included one dissent that would have invalidated state restrictions on soliciting campaign contributions by state judges, and another that would have reversed a decision protecting vulnerable seniors from mandatory arbitration rules by nursing homes.
Another new Trump candidate, Neil Gorsuch of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, recently argued that the Supreme Court’s Chevron decision, under which courts defer to environmental and other agency interpretations of ambiguous laws and which even Justice Scalia had supported, is unconstitutional and should be overruled. Tim Tymkovich, another 10th Circuit judge on Trump’s new list, argued in a dissent that a federal regulation banning the carrying and storing of guns on U.S. Postal Service property should be partially struck down as unconstitutional.
The records of other state supreme court judges on Trump’s list are also disturbing. Georgia’s Keith Blackwell wrote in one case that homeowners injured by a plant’s release of hydrogen sulfide gas could not bring a class action against the plant, even though several lower courts said that they could. Iowa’s Edward Mansfield argued in one dissent that a fired employee should not be able to claim retaliatory discharge when she was fired by an assisted living facility for complaining about a supervisor forging state-mandated training documents. And Michigan’s Robert Young campaigned for re-election as a Tea Party candidate, appearing before Tea Party groups and securing their endorsements. His judicial record has been criticized as “partisan, wildly activist, rabidly pro-insurance, and anti-consumer.” For example, in one case he dissented from a decision that restored the basic rule, which he himself had helped strike down in an earlier case, that allows auto accident victims to sue for pain and suffering. And Young wrote one opinion upholding a requirement mandating photo ID at the polls, despite another judge’s contention that “history will judge us harshly” for the decision.
Perhaps the best summary of Trump’s new list was offered by Carrie Severino of the right-wing Judicial Crisis Network. Trump “continues to take unprecedented steps,” she proclaimed, to show that he would nominate people “like Scalia, Thomas, and Alito” to the Supreme Court. Severino and Trump are clearly hoping that this will shore up Trump’s support on the far Right. In fact, it has already helped secure Trump’s endorsement by former rival and right-wing Sen. Ted Cruz. But for all other Americans, the prospect of Trump nominees to the Supreme Court is truly frightening. This November, voters need to ensure that Donald Trump does not become President Trump.
Today, Donald Trump pretended to end a lie and, in the process, told more lies.
After years of being a leading proponent of the racist “birther” movement, ignoring all actual evidence in order to raise questions about the first African-American president’s legitimacy, Trump today declared that he no longer believes that President Obama was born overseas.
First, Trump promised the press that he would address the birther issue in a press conference at his new hotel in Washington this morning. Then he made them sit through a parade of fawning endorsers before finally spending 30 seconds addressing his birtherism. Trump at last told the truth that Obama “was born in the United States, period.” But he couldn’t help packaging this rare truth with more lies, ludicrously, unbelievably claiming: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.”
Trump claims he “finished” the birther myth by causing President Obama to publicly release his long-form birth certificate in 2011, but he himself continued to enthusiastically promote the myth for years afterward, saying as recently as this January that he would write a very successful (of course) book on his “own theory” about the president’s birth.
And even if Trump had stopped being a birther in 2011, that doesn’t mean he could take credit for “finishing” a myth that he himself had helped create. Obama would never have had to go as far as to make his long-form birth certificate public if Trump hadn’t helped create an alternative universe dominated by the lie that the president’s citizenship was in doubt.
In fact, this is a pattern that Trump has followed many times.
Take Hillary Clinton’s recent bout of pneumonia. A reasonable reading of Clinton’s situation would be this: Clinton, a woman who is used to working long hours in demanding jobs, got sick and decided to power through that illness in order to get her work done.
But Trump and his allies had spent months building an alternative universe in which Clinton was hiding some sort of mysterious infirmity. In Trump World, that meant that Clinton was hiding some deep dark secret illness for nefarious reasons. When Clinton fell ill, the press held her to the standards of Trump World rather than the real world, portraying her as secretive and shady for failing to announce to the world that she had caught a common illness.
Trump has done the same thing with his lies about having opposed the Iraq War and his lies about his constantly changing position on the issue of abortion. He tells whatever version of events he thinks will be convenient at the time and everyone, including his fellow candidates, are suddenly supposed to live in whatever new reality he’s created.
Trump pretended that a racist conspiracy theory was true when it would help him get attention and win the support of the GOP’s fringe. Now he’s pretending that his hands are clean and that it was his opponent who was dredging up racist myths for the past five years. Trump wants us to accept whatever convenient new reality he’s concocted at any given time. The media has to stop being played by his rules.
Countless articles have been written on Donald Trump’s relationship with the Religious Right, often by those who argue that his rise reveals the movement’s increasing irrelevance. After all, how could social conservatives ever get behind a thrice-married failed casino mogul who is more comfortable at the Playboy Mansion than at church? He has bragged that he has never asked God for forgiveness, insisted that Jesus Christ had a massive ego (in an interview with Playboy) and, in an episode that carries obvious symbolism, threw cash on the communion plate in an Iowa church.
It’s almost as if the Religious Right cares more about gaining political power than defending Christian teachings.
Trump is slated to make an appearance today at the Values Voter Summit, the annual Washington, D.C., convention organized by the Family Research Council that’s the marquis event on the Religious Right’s calendar. Trump’s appearance at the summit isn’t discordant; as his campaign has progressed, it has become clear why the movement has rallied behind him and why he has relied on its support.
Trump once told a crowd at a Christian university not to forgive their enemies but to “get even.” The leaders of today’s Religious Right have been preaching that message for years, treating politics as a no-holds-barred battle against opponents who they regard not just as people with different points of view, but as spiritual enemies.
For instance, Tony Perkins, the president of Family Research Council (FRC), has described supporters of LGBT rights as pawns of Satan.
Just as Trump championed the birther movement, arguing that President Obama is neither an American nor a Christian, Perkins has suggested that Obama is not a true Christian (and is most likely a Muslim) and raised questions about his birthplace. Obama supporters, according to Perkins, must repent for voting for him. One past Values Voter Summit speaker even told the crowd that Obama would shut down all of the country’s churches before leaving office.
Trump’s demagogic, hateful rhetoric has nothing on the Religious Right, whose leaders have been belittling and denigrating LGBT people, religious minorities and Christians who don’t agree with their right-wing political ideology for years.
It wasn’t surprising that most Religious Right leaders who talk a big game on religious liberty either stayed silent or were openly supportive when Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the country. A spokesman for the American Family Association, a cosponsor of the Values Voter Summit, had called for a Muslim ban long before Trump ever did.
While many evangelicals, along with Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants, have worked tirelessly to reform the country’s immigration system, conservative Religious Right groups like the FRC and the AFA have denounced immigration reform.
Trump and Religious Right groups have also joined together in portraying American Christians as a marginalized group under constant persecution thanks to the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits houses of worship and other nonprofits from explicitly endorsing candidates if they want to maintain their tax exempt status, and injustices like the “War on Christmas,” with Trump even claiming that he was personally a victim of anti-Christian persecution because he was subject to a routine IRS audit.
And above all, the movement’s leaders are thrilled that Trump has promised to give them the Supreme Court of their dreams, even letting conservative activists hand-pick his nominees.
The Religious Right, with its constant talk of the country’s imminent undoing by evil anti-American actors, promotion of conspiracy theories and patently hateful rhetoric, paved the way for Trump’s success in the GOP primaries. Now, Trump needs the movement to help put him over the top in November, and will be more than happy to further its agenda if he makes it into the White House.
At the Values Voter Summit, Trump will surely pander to the Religious Right. But he should also thank them.
The number of Republican elected officials criticizing Donald Trump and condemning his policies while pledging to vote for him has many people understandably scratching their heads, and it’s not hard to see why: politicians calling out the GOP nominee in one breath and then working to bring him and his agenda into power in the next utterly defies logic.
I’d like to propose a name for this odd species of politicians: Trumpublicans.
Trumpublicans: /trəmˈpəbləkən/ — n., pl. 1. Republicans who’ve endorsed or pledged to vote for Trump to win support from far-right voters. 2. Republicans who claim to oppose Trump’s hateful campaign, yet work to advance his candidacy and agenda (e.g. holding a Supreme Court seat open for him to fill.)
Examples of Trumpublicans abound. Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire has tried to separate herself from Trump, refusing to endorse him and saying that she would “stand up” to him. But she also says that she’s “glad to get his endorsement” and still plans to vote for him. Huh? Senator John McCain of Arizona is trying to toe the same line, at times criticizing Trump while repeatedly stating his commitment to vote for him. Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey says that Trump’s actions “give me great pause” but has still refused to disavow him.
There’s no more egregious example than the fight over the Supreme Court vacancy to show how each of these senators are already actively working to support Trump’s extremist agenda. They may express misgivings about Trump with their words, but with their actions, they are holding open the vacant Supreme Court seat so that it can be filled by him. They are going to extraordinary lengths—ignoring their constitutionally-defined responsibilities—to let the next Supreme Court justices be picked by Donald Trump, a man who says a judge can’t do his job because of his Mexican heritage.
Senators’ comments against Trump mean nothing when their actions and votes are still with him in all the ways that count. These senators are trying to have it both ways in a straddle to appeal to both voters with common sense and decency and those who are turned on by Trump’s hate.
Too many people have written off the Trumpublican phenomenon as being only about Trump as if he’s a one-time thing. “He’s coming out of left field,” the story goes. “He’s so out-there that he’s putting ‘moderate’ Republicans in a tough place.” But when it comes to his anti-Latino, anti-women, anti-just-about-everyone agenda, Trump’s not coming out of left field; he’s coming straight from home plate. He’s riding the sorry momentum that the Republican party has built for years.
After all, way before Trump, this is the party that has threatened to shut down the government over immigration reform and the funding of Planned Parenthood. The party of “self-deportation.” The party that wants to ban abortion. The party that now denies science and doesn’t believe in the president’s birthplace or religion. There is no question that Trump’s rhetoric is horrific, but don’t believe the myth that he is a wild aberration; in many ways, he is tapping into the very core of the Republican party that tragically for the country has become more and more extreme every year.
There’s a reason why the strong recommendations of the infamous 2012 GOP post-loss post-mortem couldn’t be heeded, and this was long before the idea of a Trump candidacy was a glimmer in any Republican eye.
This is no longer your granddaddy’s GOP. And it’s not going to be the “the party of Lincoln”—a description they love to throw around, no matter how increasingly inaccurate—again until people start to stand up to the likes of Donald Trump and to the base that so decisively elected him. It’s as simple as that. You can’t tell your children and grandchildren that you stood against a man who proposed banning all members of a religious group from the country, who smeared an entire community as rapists and criminals, who claimed a judge couldn’t do his job because of his heritage. No, Trumpublicans will have to tell them that even though they said Trump was in the wrong, they stood by him all the way.
Donald Trump will seemingly stop at nothing to try to get what he wants at the expense of everyone else.
At this point, in the public eye, Trump University is seen for what it was: a scam university used to pad Trump’s pockets by deceiving students. The school offered no real degree, it lied to students about the caliber of its professors and it systematically targeted potential students who Trump University employees knew would have to take on debt or empty their retirement savings in order to pay for it.
But even with universal condemnation, Trump University has suffered no legal repercussions for its con.
Now, though, Trump University is facing three lawsuits. One of these is a class action suit in California. Trump responded to the case in typical fashion: by launching racist, personal attacks. He baselessly attacked the federal judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, accusing him of not being able to preside over the case impartially simply because of his Mexican-American heritage.
It seems though that the racist attacks were only his backup plan. In at least two states, it appears that Trump acted before any charges reached the courts: Trump engaged in pay-to-play with attorneys general to get them to drop any possible actions against Trump University.
Here’s an excerpt from an interview that NPR’s Robert Siegel did with Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker about Texas’ decision not to prosecute Trump University:
Biesecker: Well, in Texas, public records obtained by the Associated Press show that there was a very robust investigation of Trump University and that lawyers in [then-Texas Attorney General Greg] Abbott's own Consumer Affairs Division proposed suing Trump and his associates for about $5.4 million in fines and restitution back to their alleged victims. The case files show that they spent more than a year investigating Trump University, had what they considered very strong evidence that Trump University had violated numerous state laws and was operating in the state without a license.
Ultimately, people above the Consumer Affairs Division decided not to take action. Abbott denies that he knew of his agency's investigation or that he decided to drop the suit. What AP has reported is that three years later when he ran for governor of Texas, Mr. Trump put forward two checks to his campaign totaling $35,000.
SIEGEL: You can't demonstrate a quid pro quo here that either in the Texas or the Florida case somebody said, you drop the case; I give you money.
BIESECKER: We can't, but the former deputy chief of consumer protection of Texas, a man named John Owens, stepped forward and was quoted in local media there saying that he believes the case was dropped for political considerations because Mr. Trump was a donor of Republican causes.
In Florida, it looks even worse. From that same interview:
BIESECKER: Well, in 2013, Pam Bondi - the attorney general's office was quoted by the Orlando Sentinel as saying they were reviewing New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's proposed lawsuit against Trump University to determine whether Florida should join that multi-state case. Four days after that appeared in the newspaper, Bondi's campaign account notes that it received a $25,000 check from the Trump Foundation, the family foundation of Donald Trump.
It was subsequently reported that Bondi herself may have been involved in soliciting the contribution, so it should be deeply troubling (but not all that surprising) that Bondi chose not to sue. These allegations were first reported earlier this summer. If all this wasn’t bad enough, this story is finally picking up steam because not only does it seem that Trump potentially bribed Bondi, he made the suspicious donation to Bondi’s campaign from the Trump Foundation.
That’s blatantly against the law. Nonprofit foundations, which are tax exempt, cannot in any way, shape, or form contribute to political candidates! This isn’t some murky situation where the law wasn’t clear—foundations are nonprofits, and they cannot engage in political campaign work, much less make a direct contribution. But as Trump has made clear time and time again, he doesn’t care what the rules are or who he hurts along the way, as long as he gets his way.
Trump had to pay a $2,500 penalty to the IRS because of the donation. This is far from the first time Trump has found himself in deep water over campaign contributions (as just one example, in the 1990s he spent $47,050 over the campaign contribution limit in just one year). With the allegations against Bondi and Abbott, and with renewed focus on the Trump Foundation’s payment to the Bondi campaign, this story won’t go away any time soon. But if there’s one silver lining, it’s that as more and more details emerge about the pay-to-play schemes and the fraudulent university, voters can hold Trump responsible in the polls, and judges can hold Trump responsible in the courts.
For years, the GOP has been moving away from its identity as a traditional center-right party and morphing into something that more resembles the populist fringe parties of Europe.
Donald Trump’s candidacy has all but completed this transformation. If anyone still had doubts, Trump’s hiring of Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon was the clearest sign yet that the Republican Party has become a vehicle for what in the U.S. is known as the ‘alt-right’ movement.
The alt-right thinks the mainstream conservative movement has been compromised by feminism, racial tolerance and “globalism,” and that only a reactionary, populist movement that speaks to the plight of white men can save America from political correctness and multiculturalism. The alt-right is drenched in racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and misogyny. But that didn’t stop Bannon from calling his outlet “the platform for the alt-right.”
While avowed white nationalists have always had a place in the conservative movement—most recently, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa proudly detailed his white supremacist views to a cable TV audience—Trump has thrown such forces into the mainstream.
Trump’s view of America as a weak, crime-ridden and chaotic place would resonate with any regular reader of Breitbart’s news coverage.
Breitbart News depicts an America where white people are under attack from the Obama administration, anti-Christian feminists and LGBT rights activists, African Americans who seek to discriminate against white people, Latino immigrants obsessed with rape and violence, and Muslim refugees who support terrorism.
The U.S. isn’t the only country experiencing a surge in the alt-right’s ideology. Anti-immigrant ethnic nationalists are on the rise in Europe, and European far-right leadersfrom France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen to the Dutch politician Geert Wilders have jumped aboard the Trump Train.
This is all good news to one of the European far-right’s most enthusiastic backers: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia under Putin’s leadership has been promoting ultraconservative political groups in Europe with the goal of weakening the EU and the liberalism, democracy and cultural pluralism that comes with it. The National Front, a French political party rooted in Holocaust denialism and anti-immigrant sentiment, is open about its financial links to Russian banks, and neo-fascist parties including Jobbik of Hungary, Vlaams Belang of Belgium and the Northern League of Italy likewise have Russian ties.
“As European far-right leaders openly voice their support for Moscow, it would be wise to remember that Putin’s Russia is not just another ‘meddling power’ lobbying for its interests,” writes Alina Polyakova. “It is a government hostile to the West and the value system—democracy, freedom of expression, political accountability—that it represents.”
The Syrian refugee crisis has presented a great opportunity for these far-right movements in Europe to spread their messages of xenophobia. Russia, whose bombing campaigns in Syria have ravaged the civilian population, has been happy to help promote the anti-refugee message. Russian state-sponsored media outlets haveenthusiastically fanned the flames of anti-refugee suspicion, bolstering the far-right’s criticism of how the EU and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have approached refugee resettlement.
The Russian government has also sponsored a global right-wing effort to portray the U.S. and Europe as victims of cultural rot due to homosexuality, abortion rights and secular government, and Russia as the protector and preserver of traditional Christian values. In 2014, major conservative groups from the U.S. and Europe convened at the Kremlin to praise the government’s crackdown on LGBT rights advocates whilelamenting the social liberalism in their home countries.
Trump, who aspires to be the Russian president’s “new best friend,” has praised Putinas “a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” and has seemed to side with Putin’s position on the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and shared in fueling doubts about the future of the EU and NATO. Trump’s campaign is stacked with officials with Russian ties and, at least according to his eldest son, his businesses have seen “a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Merkel, on the other hand, has been a frequent target of Trump’s attacks, and the GOP nominee has dubbed Clinton “America’s Angela Merkel.” (Just to show how far to the right the GOP has drifted, Merkel is the leader of Germany’s main center-right party).
Beyond his expressed support for Russian policies, Trump seeks to govern in the same illiberal, authoritarian manner that Putin has demonstrated, itching to dilute the freedom of the press and laws barring war crimes and human rights abuses and deport undocumented immigrants and refugees legally settled in the country. Like the Religious Right activists who have rallied behind Putin, Trump believes that Christians have been sidelined and marginalized in America, promising to return them to their rightful positions of power.
Such contempt for civil rights, diversity and democracy pervades the alt-right, which calls for a more “masculine,” racially chauvinist response to a society it sees as weak and rootless. One alt-right meme shows “President Trump” congratulating Putin, both decked out in military garb, “on retaking Constantinople.”
While Trump and the alt-right emerged without the help of the Russian government, Putin’s display of authoritarianism and aid to far-right movements have helped bring their ultraconservative designs into the political mainstream.
At Goldman Sachs, Steve Bannon’s job was to defend companies against hostile takeovers by junk bond raiders from Drexel Burnham and First Boston. This morning Bannon himself completed a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, when it was announced that he would move from his post as chairman of Breitbart.com to become CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Beyond its enthusiastic cheerleading for the GOP presidential nominee, Breitbart, since its namesake’s passing, has represented a formulation of conservatism identical to that which drove Trump’s campaign to victory in the Republican primary. While lacking the ideological consistency of most political movements, it is a blend of right-wing populism, Saul Alinsky’s tactics and Sun Tzu’s strategies. It is jingoistic, angry and anti-institutional.
For years the Republican Party used dog whistles to avoid accusations of racism. (The strategy was famously explained by former RNC Chair Lee Atwater.) The Trump/Breitbart ideology now unflinchingly promotes racism, while openly courting the support of bigots. Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro noted this in a post this morning that under Bannon’s leadership “Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist meme makers.”
It is a thin-skinned ideology, consistently positioning those who adhere to it as victims of the liberal media, progressive college professors (and even students), and institutional Republicans, that relies on a constant stream of conspiracies theories about government institutions out to get white conservatives.
Those who adopt the Trump/Breitbart ideology ignore any evidence that does not conform to their worldview and live their lives in a completely binary world. One is either a friend or an enemy with no in between. This means that even those who are ideological allies are targets for their enmity, including members of the political elite such as John Boehner and Paul Ryan, who, by not showing 100 percent fealty, have committed some crime against the movement. The movement’s enemies list also includes conservative media figures who don’t necessarily toe the line and former employees who are no longer viewed as loyal.
The Trump/Breitbart ideology is defined not by any coherent set of conservative beliefs but instead by rabid anti-liberalism. For the past eight years that has meant standing in opposition to the Obama administration, even when it took stances that more traditional conservatives would have been happy to adopt, and now translates into unquestioning opposition to the Clinton campaign.
Trump’s campaign has demonstrated the extent of the support for this anti-liberal ideology among Republican Party voters. Yet for the past few weeks, Trump’s poll numbers have flagged as promised resets, marked by teleprompter-driven policy speeches, are undercut, often in less than 24 hours, when the candidate’s often racist gaffes step on his own news cycle.
In July, the ousting of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowsky and the elevation of campaign chairman Paul Manafort signaled an attempt to bring Trump back into the Republican fold. This has clearly failed.
While Bannon’s elevation marks the completion of the takeover, it in fact began long ago.
For eight years, Fox News served as a megaphone, promoting anger among the base of the Republican Party. It promoted and fueled the Tea Party in the spring of 2009 and the angry town halls that members of Congress came home to that summer. These voters became a dominant force in the party, leading to Republican victories, most notably taking back the House of Representatives in 2010.
The rise of the Tea Party also led to embarrassments, such as the nomination of Christine “I’m not a witch“ O’Donnell, that year in the Delaware Senate race.
Looking back just 24 hours, yesterday’s New York Times report that former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes is now assisting the Trump campaign with debate prep is even less surprising.
Republicans who claim that Trump and Breitbart do not represent their movement now face a new reality: Warriors for an ideology they claim not to support are now on their way to gaining full control of the institutions of their party.
Steve Bannon, in business and politics, has shown himself to be a crafty merger artist. While arranging the sale of Castle Rock, in lieu of a fee he accepted the rights to several television shows, among them “Seinfeld,” which had not yet become the dominant cultural force of the 1990s, leading to an untold financial windfall.
Now, by force, he and Trump have taken over the Republican Party. They control their own media platform and have demonstrated influence over a base far larger than any other in the party. Most of all, Trump and Bannon are fighters, unafraid to get in the mud, and they are unlikely to surrender the institutions they now control without open warfare.
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.
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 others, undocumented 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.
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:
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.
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?
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.