Fighting the Right

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:

[https://publish.dvlabs.com/democracynow/360/dn2016-0721.mp4?start=4548&end=5065]

PFAW

Trump: "I alone can fix this."

Trump's convention speech was, at its core, a naked attempt to con voters with fear.
PFAW

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.


 

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House GOP Follows Orlando Tragedy with a License to Discriminate

On July 12, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, an odious anti-LGBT bill that would redefine and hijack the Constitution’s protection of religious liberty.
PFAW

We the People versus Donald Trump

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Donald Trump is an unhinged con man who regularly fans the flames of racism, sexism and xenophobia. Yet disturbingly, he has become the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States. Part of what appears to be bolstering the support he does have is his supposed business success and his claim to be insulated from special interest pressure by “self-funding” his campaign. But these claims, like so many others, are egregiously misleading. Whether it’s the predatory scheme known as Trump University, or his recent slew of fundraising events catering to wealthy donors, it’s clearer with each passing day that much of Trump’s support is built on manipulation and outright deceit.

Trump’s claims about not being beholden to rich donors was understandably appealing to an electorate that’s tired of an out-of-balance political system that shuts out the voices of everyday Americans. Throughout the Republican primary, Trump repeatedly lambasted his opponents for being in the pockets of wealthy donors. When Sheldon Adelson was considering supporting Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, Trump tweeted that Adelson wanted to support Rubio so he could make him into “his perfect little puppet.” But Trump’s actions don’t live up to his rhetoric.

Trump has made raising money from wealthy interests a top priority in recent weeks. As noted in a recent Bloomberg report, last week in New York City a cabal of hedge fund managers and private equity executives held a joint fundraiser for Trump and the RNC, at a price of $50,000 per person, with the hosts paying $250,000 per couple. Trump also recently held a fundraiser at the former residence of the late Senator Barry Goldwater, with attendees shelling out thousands of dollars per seat. Apparently Trump and the donors he was wooing didn’t mind that Goldwater’s widow said the senator himself would be appalled by Trump’s candidacy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump’s campaign is expressing support for a super PAC founded by billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer. The super PAC – called Make America Number 1 – is reportedly soliciting contributions from a who’s who of conservative mega-donors, including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged to spend $100 million backing Trump.

Trump is also using this campaign to line the pockets of his own companies. A significant amount of the money that the Trump campaign has spent so far has gone to companies owned by Trump himself. In fact, according to Fortune magazine, an estimated 10 percent of total campaign expenditures thus far have gone to companies that bear his name. That doesn’t include expenditures billed to his estate, Mar-a-Lago, or his private plane, which has its own holding company.

What’s more, Trump has used deceitful, disingenuous and predatory business practices to further enrich himself at the expense of anyone and everyone else. Hundreds of former employees and contractors allege that they still haven’t been paid for work done for companies controlled by Trump, and literally thousands of lawsuits have been filed against him. One high profile example is a class-action suit regarding Trump University. Former employees of Trump University, an institution which never had accreditation, have testified in saying that they essentially “engaged in a methodical, Systematic Series of misrepresentations” designed to separate people from their money. This case is one of many that show Donald Trump for who he really is: a fraud who regularly exploits people for personal gain.

Donald Trump is a dangerous con man of epic proportions, taking money from – and profiting off of – the same special interests he has railed against. He is running on a business record rife with misconduct and malicious practices. The American people cannot afford to sit this one out – there is simply too much at stake. Trump must be taken down by the greatest political force ever known: “We the People.”    

PFAW

Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisers Revolt

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign hit a snag on Monday, after several prominent endorsers made statements suggesting his fitness to hold the highest office in our country would be undercut by his own personal behaviors and failings.*

It began with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who previously stated he had no qualms with Donald Trump “appointing people to the Supreme Court,” lamenting that “the true tragedy in this case is the collapse of the [future-]president’s moral authority.”

Referring to the presumptive Republican nominee’s penchant for wildly gesticulating his hands while telling falsehoods, the Judiciary Committee chairman stated that “he undermined himself when he wagged his finger and lied to the nation on national TV.”

Prominent conservative Christian activists quickly echoed these sentiments. Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, who released videos arguing that conservative Christians should support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as early as March, now states he is “a tyrant; he's a monster.” This is in part based on the fact that the presumptive GOP nominee has at least twice violated his marriage vows.

Members of Trump’s newly formed Evangelical Executive Advisory Board also began to revolt against their chosen candidate.

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson proclaimed “character DOES matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it.”

He went on to state:

I just don’t understand it. Why aren’t parents more concerned about what their children are hearing about the president[ial candidate’s] behavior? Are moms and dads not embarrassed by what is occurring? At any given time, 40 percent of the nation’s children list the president of the United States as the person they most admire. What are they learning from [Mr. Trump]? What have we taught our boys about respecting women? What have our little girls learned about men? How can we estimate the impact of this scandal on future generations?

Dobson was not alone. Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, expressed regret over his endorsement of twice-divorced Donald Trump, bemoaning the ease with which marriages can dissolve in the United States. “Do we really want to make it easier for a man to discard the wife of his youth than it is for him to fire his secretary?” he asked.

He went on to state, “Republicans, unlike Democrats, have very systematically adopted a standard of family values and moral uplift."

Jerry Falwell Jr., another member of Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory group, simply referred reporters to Liberty University’s code of conduct. Despite several occasions when Trump spoke at the school, its code prohibits “sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman.”

Trump has previously bragged about his sexual conquests on the Howard Stern Show.  

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment on his rejection by evangelical leaders, primarily because I never asked.

*Obviously this is parody. All of the quotes are real but represent statements made about other political leaders or codes of conduct relating to individuals not named Donald Trump.

PFAW

House Democrats #HoldTheFloor in #NoBillNoBreak Action on Guns

Rep Israel just announced that House Democrats, who have been sitting in for almost 24 hours now, are expected to come back together on the floor at 12:30 pm for closing speeches. Watch on C-SPAN or check out one of the members' live feeds. Click for more from USA Today.
PFAW

PFAW Launches “Donald Trump’s Year of Hate” Campaign with Dolores Huerta and Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado

On Wednesday, People For the American Way marked the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign through launching a new campaign, “Donald Trump’s Year of Hate.” Yesterday’s event, which was cohosted by CASA in Action (Virginia), featured six speakers, including actress and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, civil rights leader and PFAW board member Dolores Huerta, former Arlington County Board Member and Virginia community leader J. Walter Tejada, Virginia State Delegate Alfonso Lopez, CASA in Action’s advocacy and elections specialist Luis Aguilar, and PFAW’s own Lizet Ocampo, who serves as director of Latinos Vote! and manager of political campaigns.

The six speakers discussed how Donald Trump’s candidacy has directly harmed people of color in the United States, particularly Latinos. The bilingual event addressed the negative impact of Trump’s candidacy, the dangers of a Trump presidency, and the need to mobilize the Latino vote in local, state, and national elections. 

The first speaker was actress and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who spoke about how Donald Trump humiliated and belittled her when she was just a teenager. Trump referred to her as “Ms. Housekeeping,” in reference to her Venezuelan accent and heritage. Machado said that Donald Trump’s disrespect has compelled her to become an American citizen in order to vote against him. She closed by urging other Latinos living in the United States to vote against Trump and become citizens if they aren’t already.

Following Machado, civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and PFAW board member, some of the many reasons why Donald Trump is “unfit to be president.” She cited examples of Trump’s racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia. She then urged the Latino community to vote against him, saying:

“We can’t let Donald Trump be president, and I know that we won’t. We won’t because we will get out to vote against him, we will talk with our friends and our families and make sure they go out to vote against him as well… We have the power of the vote, and that can overcome the hate that Donald Trump spews day after day after day.” 

Arlington community leader J. Walter Tejada and Virginia’s only Latino state lawmaker, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington), both called out the hateful rhetoric used by Donald Trump and the divisive nature of his campaign. Lopez stated that the tactics used by Trump are “not worthy of America, not worthy of our heritage, and definitely not worthy of Virginia.” Both Tejada and Lopez stressed the importance of the Latino vote in Virginia, with Tejada pointing out that “the road to the White House goes through the Latino vote,” and Lopez saying, “as Virginia goes, so goes the nation. And as Latinos vote in Virginia, so goes Virginia.” They both closed by urging Latinos in Virginia to register to vote and vote in November in order to protect their communities and protect Latinos everywhere from the negative impact of a Trump presidency.

PFAW’s Lizet Ocampo and CASA in Action’s Luis Aguilar both echoed the same sentiments: a Donald Trump presidency represents a very real danger for women, people of color, and immigrants, especially Latinos. Ocampo said, “Trump is the most hateful, anti-immigrant presidential candidate that any of us have ever seen. His hate harms every one of us and goes against the American values of welcoming immigrants and celebrating diversity.” They both ended their remarks by restating their commitment to mobilizing voters and combating the hateful ideology of Donald Trump. 

To mark the campaign launch anniversary, PFAW has also released a Spanish language ad in eight key target states. The ad, which is running on TV and online, highlights just some of the ways Trump's divisive rhetoric and policies hurt Latino communities, and urges people to stand -- and vote -- against Trump's hate. 

PFAW

Donald Trump Cozies Up to Anti-LGBT Activists

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Donald Trump has been called “the most pro-gay Republican nominee ever,” but he hardly deserves that reputation.

He has sharply criticized the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling and pledged to appoint judges “as close to Scalia as you could find,” referring to the late justice known for his broadsides against gay people and the “homosexual agenda.”
Not only would Trump radically reshape the judiciary, where many key LGBT issues are decided, but he has also vowed to sign anti-LGBT activists’ top legislative priority, the misnamed First Amendment Defense Act, which would give legal approval to discrimination against LGBT people, and gave his blessing to Kentucky clerk Kim Davis’ attempt to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
And that’s not to mention the fact that his attacks on women, Latinos and immigrants are also attacks on many LGBT people.

Despite his “LGBT-friendly“ reputation, Trump has cozied up to some of the country’s most extreme Religious Right leaders.

Frank Amedia, a pastor who serves as Trump’s “liaison for Christian policy,” describes HIV/AIDS as “a disease that comes because of unnatural sex.” Trump’s frequent campaign surrogate Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist preacher, has blasted gays for living a “filthy,” “miserable” and “perverse” “lifestyle” that he says encourages child abuse and the coming of the Antichrist.

One of Trump’s top advisers, Ben Carson, made waves during his unsuccessful presidential bid with his bizarreludicrous and offensive diatribes against gay rights.
Trump has also partnered with Harlem’s notorious “stone homos“ pastor James David Manning and far-right radio show host Alex Jones, who thinks the LGBT rights movement is a “suicide cult” bent on the destruction of humanity.

Tomorrow, the business mogul is scheduled to speak at the Road to the Majority summit in Washington, D.C., an event sponsored by two anti-LGBT groups, the Faith and Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition was founded by Ralph Reed, who got his start in politics when his mentor Pat Robertson recruited him to lead the Christian Coalition in the late 1980s. (Robertson, incidentally, is another anti-LGBT leader who has been courted by Trump.)

Reed started the FFC in 2009, a few years after he lost his own campaign to become the lieutenant governor of his native Georgia, in part thanks to reports that emerged during the election implicating him in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. It turned out that Reed had taken money from casino and lottery interests, including those with ties to Abramoff, to help his consulting firm’s conservative Christian clients wage anti-gambling campaigns that just so happened to block the funders’ potential competitors from entering the market.

Despite the scandal, Reed eventually found a way to return to his old passion of opposing LGBT equality, demanding that the government withdraw an arts grant for repairing the Washington National Cathedral because the Episcopal Church performs weddings for same-sex couples and attacking the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as “a dagger aimed at the heart of religious freedom.”

Concerned Women for America, for its part, is so hostile to LGBT rights that it even opposes the Violence Against Women Act because it includes protections for LGBT victims of abuse and attacked Obama for daring to criticize a Ugandan law that imprisons gay people with up to life terms.

Along with Trump, the upcoming conference will feature Religious Right activists like Jim Garlow, Tony Perkins, Matt Barber and Jason and David Benham, who have allderided gay rights as Satanic.

Later this month, Trump is set to attend an event with many of these same activists, in addition to Cindy Jacobs, a self-proclaimed prophet who believes the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell led to the freak death of birds, and Rick Scarborough, who once suggested filing a “class action lawsuit” against homosexuality and said he was willing to burn to death while fighting marriage equality.

While Trump may focus his stump speeches on building a border wall and torturing prisoners of war, his promise to appoint far-right judges to the bench and his attempts to win the support of radical anti-LGBT activists should give no comfort to those who hope a President Trump might advance LGBT rights.

PFAW

Budget Bills Provide Another #DoYourJob Moment For GOP Congress

PFAW will continue to stand strong with the more than 100 groups insisting on no riders in spending legislation.
PFAW

PFAW Hosts Telebriefing on Donald Trump as the Presumptive GOP Nominee

On Thursday, little over a week after Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee for president, PFAW hosted a member telebriefing to examine the dangers of a GOP nominee who unapologetically stands for bigotry, xenophobia, and sexism – and who has surrounded himself with some of the most extreme voices of the Right.

On the call, Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery noted that white supremacists have been “electrified” by Trump’s rhetoric, many of whom have “come out of the woodwork” to speak out in support of Trump, from releasing robocalls to encouraging others to volunteer for him. Montgomery noted that the damage Trump’s campaign has done by energizing white supremacists could outlast his campaign, and emphasized that we have to be persistent in holding Trump accountable for his ties to extremism.

Senior Research Analyst Brian Tashman discussed how Trump has chosen to associate himself with far-right figures from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pundit Ann Coulter, noting that he is mainstreaming ideas that were once considered fringe by elevating the profiles of these figures. This week PFAW released a new report on Trump’s ties with some of those figures, which you can read here: “Trump’s Team: The Bigoted, Unhinged Conspiracy Theorists Benefiting from Donald Trump’s Campaign.” On the call, Tashman called his courting of conspiracy theorists “one of the most troubling aspects of Trump’s campaign.”

You can listen to the full telebriefing below.

PFAW

One Thing Trump’s Not Flip-Flopping About: His Supreme Court Would ‘Unpass’ Roe

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

On almost any given issue, Donald Trump has taken contradictory positions: He has said he wants to lower, raise and abolish the federal minimum wage, cut and raise taxes on the wealthy, completely pay off the national debt and default on the debt. And those are just a few of his most recent flip-flops.

As he’s done on nearly every policy question, Trump has shifted his stance several times on abortion rights: Labeling himself “pro-choice,” then “pro-life”; calling for “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions, then saying he opposes any such a punishment; insisting that abortion laws should be left the way they are now, then saying abortion laws must be changed.

But if Trump has been consistent on one thing, it has been that he intends to appoint judges to the federal bench who will further conservative causes, including the cause of overturning Roe v. Wade.

In a meeting with televangelist Pat Robertson in February, Trump vowed to appoint “pro-life,” “very conservative” justices in the mold of Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia, whom he called “a perfect representative” of the kind of judges he’d nominate. Most recently, he told Bill O’Reilly that he’d like to see his judicial appointees overturn Roe.

Trump vowed to only nominate Supreme Court justices from a list of recommendationsdrafted by the Heritage Foundation, the right-wing group led by former Sen. Jim DeMint, a zealous opponent of abortion rights.

Trump himself has said that Roe created a “culture of death“ in America, and told Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network that he wants to see the decision “unpassed.”

And that’s coming from the candidate who doesn’t seem to understand the basic legal issue behind the Roe decision or even how the judicial system works.

Indeed, anti-choice groups are confident that Trump will appoint judges who will uphold anti-abortion state laws, such as the recent rash of state laws intended to regulate abortion providers out of existence, and ultimately overturn Roe, which will open the floodgates to states banning abortion outright.

He has hit the campaign trail with outspoken abortion rights opponents like Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter and Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor who oncereferred to 9/11 as God’s punishment for legal abortion. Mark Burns, a pastor who frequently opens for Trump at campaign events, has attacked abortion rights as “the genocide of black people.”

The presumptive GOP nominee has also pledged to sign bills that ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and defund Planned Parenthood unless the organization stops providing abortion care.

While there may be many ambiguities about Trump’s other political positions, he has not equivocated on his promise to appoint ultraconservative jurists to the bench, including the Supreme Court justices who, if given the chance, could overturn Roe.

PFAW

Trump Is Lifting the Profile of Conspiracy Theorists Who Blame School Shootings on the Government, Claim Starbucks Puts Ebola Semen in Coffee

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Conspiracy theories aren’t incidental to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, they’re one of its driving forces.

The presumptive GOP nominee attacked his former rival Ted Cruz by baselessly connecting his father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, citing the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer. He brought up debunked claims about the 9/11 attacks to justify his call for the U.S. to commit war crimes by intentionally killing innocent civilians. He has stoked anti-Muslim sentiment by repeating boguschain-email-inspired stories about Muslim-Americans celebrating 9/11 and a U.S. general using bullets drenched in pigs’ blood to — in Trump’s telling, rightly — massacre Muslim detainees.

And let’s not forget that Trump has for years been attacking President Obama bysuggesting that he is a Muslim usurper who was born outside of the U.S. and had a Hawaii state employee killed as part of an effort to cover up his real birthplace. On top of that, he kicked off his presidential campaign by tarring Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and later tweeted a fabricated, racist meme about black crime rates from a neo-Nazi website.

Polling shows that Trump supporters are disproportionately likely to believe in conspiracy theories, including ones about vaccines and climate science that have been championed by the candidate himself.

It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that Trump has courted the support of some of the country’s most extreme and, frankly, bizarre conspiracy theorists.

A new report from People For the American Way, “Trump’s Team: The Bigoted, Unhinged Conspiracy Theorists Benefiting From Donald Trump’s Campaign,” takes a look at six radical pundits and preachers whose profiles the Trump campaign has elevated by inviting them to interview or campaign with the candidate.

This group of supporters includes pastors like Carl Gallups, who has promoted the disgusting claim that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged by government agents and that the parents whose children died were actually actors, and Robert Jeffress, who believes that gay people use “brainwashing techniques“ to advance their “miserable lifestyle“ and will “pave the way“ for the Antichrist.

Another pastor who has been courted by Trump, James David Manning, has received widespread notoriety for his beliefs that “Obama has released the homo demons on the black man“ and that Starbucks injects “semen from sodomites” into their lattes in order to spread Ebola.

Trump has shared the stage with all three at campaign events and has actively sought their endorsements.

He has also boasted about receiving the support of pundits Ann Coulter and Michael Savage, two far-right extremists who have taken credit for the candidate’s draconian anti-immigrant stance and harsh rhetoric that demonizes immigrants as “killers” and “rapists.”

And, probably most disturbingly, Trump has embraced Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist broadcaster known for regularly screaming about false flag attacks, chemtrails, alien overlords and homosexuality-inducing juice boxes. Trump, nonetheless, cited Jones’ conspiracy theory outlet to defend his debunked claim that Muslim-Americans in New Jersey partied during the 9/11 attacks.

Not only has Trump appeared on Jones’ show to praise the unhinged radio host’s “amazing“ reputation and spread his own conspiracy theories, but his close confidant Roger Stone has also become a frequent guest on Jones’ program and is collaborating with Jones on an effort to intimidate Republican convention delegates who won’t vote for Trump. In the project that they are calling “Days of Rage,” Jones and Stone plan to hold rallies at the hotels where delegates are staying to stop them from “stealing” the nomination from the business mogul.

Jones and his ilk not only now have a presidential candidate from a major party who reflects and reinforces their paranoid and bigoted worldview. They also now benefit from a direct line to the leader of the GOP, who is happy to elevate their profiles and ideas.

PFAW

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Never Forget Necessitates Never Trump

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Today, on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), we pledge to never forget the genocide of 12 million people, based on their religion, ethnicity, sexuality, and other factors. We do this so that we always remember that it is the duty of each and every one of us to fight genocide, anti-Semitism, and bigotry in every form that we see it.

This week, Donald Trump cemented his place as Republican presidential nominee. More than any other year, I’m cognizant today of my responsibility to speak up against the hatred that Donald Trump espouses day after day.

On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, ‘Never Forget’ necessitates ‘Never Trump.’

The unhinged bigotry of Trump requires Jewish Americans -- and all Americans -- to speak up. Trump has been perfectly clear with his pledge that as president -- in fact, within the first 100 days of his presidency -- he’ll ban Muslims from entering the country. He kicked off his campaign describing Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” When a Trump supporter punched an African American protester at one of Trump’s rallies, saying, “next time we see him, we might have to kill him,” Trump said that the protester “obviously loves the country” and that Trump would pay the protester’s legal fees.

Trump legitimizes and raises up the profile of the white nationalist movement in the United States. He at first refused to disavow support from former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. Yesterday, Duke celebrated Donald Trump’s place as leader of the Republican Party, stating, “Even though Trump is not explicitly talking about European-Americans, he is implicitly talking about the interests of European-Americans,” and “Jewish supremacists who control our country are the real problem and the reason why America is not great.” And Trump says he “doesn’t have a message to [his] fans” who have been sending death threats to Jewish reporter Julia Ioffe, who wrote a profile for GQ on Melania Trump.

When we see this, how can we do anything but speak out? It’s this type of rhetoric that has escalated to genocide in the past. I hope we can put partisan politics aside, and agree that no person hoping to be the next president of the United States should promote racist policies or use xenophobic rhetoric.

It should deeply trouble all Americans that Donald Trump is empowering white nationalists across the country and basing his campaign on demonizing people based on their race and religion. We’re at a pivotal moment in our country. Republican or Democrat, we have an obligation to speak up against the bigotry of Trump. As we pledge on Holocaust Remembrance Day to never forget, we must commit to Never Trump as well.

PFAW

Hey Trump, I Checked My Voter Registration

Donald Trump’s unbridled xenophobia should’ve disqualified him from the presidency long ago, yet he’s now the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. His horrific comments against immigrants, women, and so many others started on Day One of his presidential campaign and they haven’t let up.

While many of us have been appalled by Donald Trump’s egregious anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric and policies, we may not have gotten around to checking that our voter registration is all set so we know we’re ready to vote on Election Day. I myself had not checked my voter registration, so I went to my Secretary of State’s website and put in my information to check that everything was up to date and ready to go. It took just a few seconds.

Have you checked your registration? Below are the links for your state. Let Trump and the Republican Party know that no candidate can go after our community and win our vote. Latino voters have the power to decide who wins elections, from the local level to the White House, and we will vote against the hate of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

Check your voter registration here (these links take you directly to the right page):

 

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas

Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina

North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

PFAW

Ted Cruz Hopes To Save Presidential Campaign With Attacks On LGBT People

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Last month, Ted Cruz delivered a warning to the Republican Jewish Coalition: If the GOP nominates Donald Trump for president, the general election will be a “bloodbath.”

The Texas senator assured the group that he is not the right-wing firebrand he has been made out to be. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that “Cruz said social issues devolve to the states and suggested he would not seek to impose his views as a president.”

“Nobody wants to elect a hectoring scold,” he said.

However, this more moderate and toned-down version of Ted Cruz didn’t last very long, as just days later he launched new attacks against transgender people, smearing them as likely sexual predators. In a television ad, Cruz’s campaign attacked Trump and Hillary Clinton for “letting transgender men go in little girls’ bathrooms”; on the campaign trail, he suggested that his daughters may be assaulted by transgender women.

Cruz then said that he doesn’t think transgender people should be let into public restrooms at all, instead saying that they should only be allowed to go to the bathroom at home.

Such attacks shouldn’t be surprising, considering that Cruz has spent his entire presidential campaign courting the support of radical anti-LGBT activists.

Cruz’s campaign is stacked with anti-gay leaders like Gordon Klingenschmitt, a Colorado state lawmaker who also happens to be an anti-LGBT exorcist who believes that gay people “should be discriminated against”; Gary Glenn, a Michigan lawmaker who wants to outlaw homosexuality; and North Carolina activists Flip Benham and Ron Baity, who have crashed gay couples’ weddings and likened gay people to “maggots,”respectively.

Two people with roles in Cruz’s campaign, Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, have defended Uganda’s “kill-the-gays” bill. Cruz even gladly made a campaign ad with “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, who said at one Cruz campaign event that Americans should “rid the earth” of gay marriage supporters.

He promised a group of anti-LGBT activists that if he is elected president, “we will not use the federal government to enforce [the] lawless decision [on same-sex marriage].” Speaking with conservative pundits, he warned that marriage equality will destroy the freedom of speech and denounced what he called the gay “jihad“ on freedom.

Then there was Cruz’s attendance at a “religious liberties” conference in Iowa last year that was hosted by radical anti-LGBT pastor Kevin Swanson, who used the forum to promote the death penalty for homosexuality, rail against the Harry Potter books for supposedly turning kids gay, and promise that if his son were ever to marry another man he would show up to the wedding covered in cow manure

Even after having been warned about Swanson’s views on national TV, Cruz attended the event and participated in an onstage interview with Swanson, where he lavished praise on Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who tried to block her office from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples by citing “God’s authority,” and called the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling “fundamentally illegitimate.” The candidate eventually — after much criticism — said that he regretted his appearance at the conference and falsely claimed to have immediately denounced Swanson upon learning about his views.

Despite Cruz’s attempt to reposition himself as the more reasonable alternative to Trump, his anti-LGBT record is one more example of his blatant extremism.

PFAW

It Doesn’t Matter If Donald Trump Is ‘Disciplined’

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

It turns out that the boisterous and bigoted Donald Trump we’ve known for the last few years has just been acting a part. According to the frontrunner’s chief strategist Paul Manafort, Trump is simply “projecting an image“ and once Americans get to know the real Donald Trump, they’ll love him: “The negatives will come down, the image is going to change.”

What a relief!

Some pundits, it seems, were willing to play along with Manafort’s claim that Trump is shedding his outrageous persona, citing a single speech that he delivered immediately following his victory in the New York primary as proof that “Donald Trump 2.0” is “markedly more disciplined, gentler and more appealing than the version of Trump we’ve seen for much of the last year.”

Howard Kurtz of Fox News raved that “the disciplined Donald” was a “changed candidate” who has scrubbed the insults and started “acting more presidential. “

In reality, the only thing that was substantively different about Trump’s New York speech was that he referred to his chief opponent as “Senator Cruz” instead of “Lyin’ Ted.”

That’s it.

But before anybody had a chance to give him a medal for this brave reformation, Trump returned to using his “Lyin’ Ted” moniker in his subsequent speeches and Twitter broadsides. The much-heralded new, disciplined and thoughtful Donald Trump didn’t even last a day.

He even mocked reports of his supposed “presidential” transformation, a transformation we’ve been hearing about since well into last year.

The standards for Trump are so low that he was even hailed for acting “more presidential” simply for using a teleprompter in a speech.

There seems to be no expectation that Trump will have any knowledge of world events, answer basis questions or hold consistent positions. Instead, he wins praise simply for not insulting someone.

Today Trump will deliver a speech at the Mayflower Hotel as part of a series of speeches intended to show “a more sober and serious presidential candidate,” who so far has mostly received attention for his uninformed rants and almost daily policy shifts.

But Trump changing his style won’t make the substance of what he says any less terrifying. After all, his main foreign policy objectives include committing war crimes and accelerating nuclear proliferation.

Appearances in “formal settings” won’t change the fact that Trump’s speeches are so replete with falsehoods that some reporters covering him have admitted that they have all but given up on fact-checking them.

Trump seems to relish in repeating mistruths, like his claim about Muslims partying in New Jersey on 9/11 or a U.S. general who he said rightly massacred Muslim prisoners with bullets covered in pig’s blood. Both are fallacious stories that gained popularity in the online rumor mill. Not that that matters to Trump, who said of the dubious massacre: “It’s an amazing story. It shows toughness, it shows toughness. A true story. The press will say, ‘Well it was a rumor.’ It’s not a rumor, it’s a true story.”

His bizarre birther conspiracy theories, disparaging remarks about POWs and criticism of vaccines have largely faded from the limelight as Trump finds new outrageous things to say each week.

No other candidate for president would ever be able to get away with the amount of falsehoods, unhinged diatribes and sleaze pushed on a daily basis by Trump.

And simply saying that it was all an act doesn’t make Trump a new man or any less scary of a possible future president.

###

PFAW

Strengthening Public Education in the Face of Relentless Assaults

Hundreds of teachers, parents, students, school board members and other public education advocates gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 16 and 17  for “And Justice for All: Strengthening Public Education for Each Child,” the third annual conference sponsored by the Network for Public Education and its political advocacy affiliate NPE Action.

The mission of the Network for Public Education is to “protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students.” It was founded by education historian and author Diane Ravitch as a way to mobilize supporters of public education in opposition to powerful forces that promote privatization and other “reforms” that undermine public education as a core democratic institution.

Rev. William Barber, who heads the North Carolina NAACP and has because a hero to progressive advocates for his inspirational leadership of the Moral Mondays movement, gave a rousing opening keynote before heading to Washington, D.C. to take part in the Democracy Awakening. Barber said public schools are “where we learn to be a public” and develop a “common civic identity.” But, he said, “racism always gets in the way of us meeting the noble goals of public education.”

“We’ve seen this before,” Barber said of attacks on public education combined with tax cuts for the wealthy. He recounted the history of resistance to Brown v. Board of Education and racial redistricting of school districts, noting that schools are re-segregating in high poverty areas today faster than they did in the 1970s.  He said school reforms that contribute to separate and unequal school systems are “giving in to the vision of Plessy v. Ferguson.”

Among the more than 45 panels and workshops was a conversation with two members of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, State Sen. Dwight Bullard from south Florida, and County Commissioner Jessica Holmes from Wake County, North Carolina, with PFAW Director of Outreach and Partner Engagement Diallo Brooks acting as moderator.

Bullard, the only classroom teacher in the state legislature, said that bad education policies are moving through the legislature for a variety of reasons: some of his fellow legislators are naïve about education policy and some have family and financial ties to charter school operations.  Bullard said that even though the state government has expanded so-called school choice provisions, the “house of cards is falling apart” when it comes to overzealous testing that harms students’ education. He said dissatisfaction with the overuse of high-stakes testing offers opportunities for coalition building, noting that a recent press conference included liberal legislators, members of the teachers union, and Tea Party activists.

Holmes said that she is a first generation college student attributing her success to “amazing, wonderful public school teachers.” She described herself as a reluctant politician, but urged other participants to consider becoming policymakers as a way to make a real difference.  In a state that ranks near the bottom of the scale for teacher pay, she said, she worked to win approval for the largest education budget in her county’s history, while also developing support for early childhood development. Meanwhile, at the state level, millions in tax dollars were diverted to unaccountable private schools through vouchers.  

The panelists said that supporters of public education must respond to the amount of money and political influence wielded by privatization advocates with on-the-ground organizing that can provide public officials with both incentive and cover to do the right thing.

Another topic of conversation was the damage caused by the explosion of high-stakes testing and the diversion of educational time and resources to test taking. Speakers argued that testing should be used to identify areas of needed improvement for students, not as simplistic evaluation tools that label students and schools as failing. The “test and punish” approach has set up teachers and schools to be declared failures by implementing high-stakes tests without resources and professional development.

Another keynoter, Seattle teacher and blogger Jesse Hagopian, noted that when Washington state declined to tie teacher evaluation to student test scores, former Education Secretary Arne Duncan revoked a waiver from unrealistic standards under the No Child Left Behind Act. As a result, nearly every school in the state, including some of its best, was classified as “failing.” School officials sent parents a letter required by the federal government informing them that their school was now classified as failing, but included a cover letter explaining that NCLB was “regressive and punitive” and that the designation was bogus.

Among other topics covered at the conference:

  • alternatives to increasing privatization and of public school systems, including proven community schools approaches that use schools as a vehicle for addressing broader community needs;
  • the impact of charter schools’ disproportionate use of suspensions and other “zero-tolerance” policies against students of color;
  • the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council in promoting right-wing attacks on public education in state legislatures.  North Carolina’s Tom Tillis was ALEC “Legislator of the Year” before the Koch brothers helped finance his successful campaign for the U.S. Senate;
  • the growing movement among educators to resist high-stakes tests and an opt-out movement among parents and students.

A number of speakers denounced HB2, the recently enacted North Carolina law that overturned Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance – and banned localities from passing their own protections against discrimination as well as living wage ordinances.

People For the American Way Foundation board member Bertis Downs is also a member of NPE’s board of directors, said the conference was a “big success” in bringing together advocates from around the country to meet and compare notes with fellow activists. Downs praised the quality of the presentations and the fact that many of the workshops and all of the keynote speeches were livestreamed and are being archived online at www.schoolhouselive.org.

 

PFAW

Donald Trump’s Pyramid Scheme for America

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

For a man who constantly brags about his success, Donald Trump sure does like to play the victim. In his latest round of self-pity, the billionaire mogul has decried the delegate-allocation system in Colorado, where his rival, Ted Cruz, won the Republican presidential primary contest in a landslide. 

Trump’s campaign is built around earned media and stadium-sized rallies, and never established the “ground game” critical to win states like Colorado, where delegates are elected by state convention attendees. Predictably, his spokeswoman Katrina Pierson called the process “rigged” and a “pyramid scheme.”

While “pyramid scheme” may be an odd way to describe Colorado’s delegate system, the word accurately reflects many of Trump’s campaign promises.

Trump the businessman knows a little something about pyramid schemes. 

He has endorsed, and in some cases put his name on, companies accused of operating like pyramid schemes, where the first people who sign up reap almost all of the benefits, while the vast majority of people, often lured to buy in with assurances of making huge sums of money, are left in the dust.

The Washington Post reported that one such multilevel marketing company, the Trump Network, “often gave the impression of a partnership that was certain to lift thousands of people into prosperity.” In reality, the alternative-medicine sales company had dismal outcomes and left many people feeling scammed and deceived.

Trump’s pitch for the group sounds like one of his stump speeches, promising to save the American dream from the destructive work of the greedy. 

“Americans need a new plan, they need a new dream,” he said while pitching the company in 2009. “The Trump Network wants to give millions of people a renewed hope and with an exciting plan to opt out of the recession. Let’s get out of this recession right now with cutting edge health and wellness formulas.”

In his campaign addresses, Trump likes to remark that “the American Dream is dead - but if I win, I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before.” Add a bit about “health and wellness” and you have a Trump Network infomercial. 

In 2009, Trump boasted that the Trump Network had sparked “unbelievable enthusiasm” and was “a phenomena” that was “going to be really amazing, really amazing.” But the group was selling discredited and suspect treatments and ended up as one of his many business failures.

His work with the company resembles his time on the campaign trail, where he pretends to fight the corrupt political process and financial system while making vague, ambitious promises of national and personal redemption.

He tells supporters that we “are going to start winning again and we’re going to win so much, you are going to be so happy, we are going to make America so great again, maybe greater than ever before.” Trump will not only make you rich, he says, but he will even “get rid of your depression.”

But like in any pyramid scheme, with Trump’s proposals, the ones at the very top will benefit while everyone else loses out.

Under Trump’s massive $12 trillion tax plan, “the top 1 percent of Americans will receive an average tax break of $227,000 per year while the bottom 20 percent will receive an average tax cut of only $250,” according to Citizens for Tax Justice, which found that “the majority of Trump’s tax cut would go to the top five percent of taxpayers.” 

But the biggest winners of Trump’s tax cut won’t be the top five percent. They won’t even be the top one percent.

“[T]he benefits would be overwhelmingly skewed to the highest-income taxpayers, with those in the top 0.1 percent (who make $3.7 million or more) getting an average tax cut of more than $1.3 million,” says Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center.

Forget about Voodoo Economics. This is Pyramid Scheme Economics.

The supposedly populist candidate also promises to pay off the entire $19 trillion national debt in just eight years — “very easy” — but one estimate found that his huge tax cut for the rich alone will grow the debt by almost 80 percent

Just fulfilling his pledge to balance the budget would be mathematically impossibleunder the proposal he has laid out to do so.

Trump’s plan, if ever implemented, would wreck the economy. And that is not even counting the human and economic costs of his massive deportation scheme.

On the campaign trail, Trump is marketing his candidacy the same way he pitched his bogus health business: I am going to save the American Dream and make us rich.

But like any pyramid scheme, it is bound to fail, and take many people down with it.

PFAW

Who’s Driving The GOP’s Supreme Court Blockade?

Almost immediately after the news broke of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month, Republican senators started vowing to block the nomination of whomever President Obama appoints to succeed the conservative jurist. They were egged on in this kneejerk obstructionism by outside conservative groups who quickly circled the wagons in an effort to shut down any Supreme Court confirmation process.

Now, a few key conservative groups are leading the effort to pressure Republican senators to stay in line and to make it politically difficult for vulnerable Democrats to cooperate in a confirmation process. These groups have unified around a message that “the American people should decide” who the next Supreme Court justice is by waiting until the next president can nominate him or her — never mind that Americans did decide who they wanted picking Supreme Court justices when they reelected Obama in 2012.

This “let the people decide” message belies the true goals of the groups pushing it — not some idealistic belief in good governance, but an effort to shape a Supreme Court that favors business interests at the expense of workers and consumers and that helps to turn back the clock on women, LGBT people  and religious minorities.

A new report from People For the American Way looks at four of the conservative groups driving this strategy, outlining their history and their goals for the federal judiciary. It includes:

  • The Judicial Crisis Network was founded during the George W. Bush administration as the Judicial Confirmation Network with the goal of pushing through the nominations and confirmations of far-right judges to the federal bench.
  • The American Center for Law & Justice, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, often acts as a legal arm for the Religious Right’s attempts to deny liberties to LGBT people, Muslim Americans and others.
  • The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action have become forces for obstructionism as they pressure Republicans to abandon any attempt at bipartisan cooperation or simple governance.
  • The Family Research Council is working to turn back the clock on social advances for women, LGBT people and religious minorities — something that it hopes a friendly Supreme Court will accelerate.

Read the full report here.

PFAW