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  • June 27, 2016
    Donald Trump and the 53-Inch Penis

    With their national convention in Cleveland now less than a month away, Congressional Republicans and many in their amen corner among the right-wing media are horrified by their party's 2016 presumptive nominee for President. As well they should be; Donald Trump may not just cost them the White House, but their Senate majority and potentially dozens of House seats as well.

    But if the GOP's best and brightest are panicked that over 13 million primary voters and the overwhelming majority of Republican delegates picked the racist and xenophobic snake oil salesman to top the ticket, they shouldn't be surprised. After all, tapping into white racial resentment has been an essential Republican political strategy for over 50 years. When torture goes unpunished, boasting about war crimes like "taking out" families of terrorists and "bombing the shit" out of ISIS-controlled towns produces applause lines. Despite the catastrophic economic performance of past Republican CEOs-turned-President (see Hoover, Herbert and Bush, George W.), conservatives continue to tout businessmen and their fantastical fiscal plans for the Oval Office. It's no surprise that when the tough-talking, small-fingered narcissist bragged about the size of his penis on national television, Republican primary voters didn't blink.

    As it turns out, Trump could have claimed that his phallus was at least four feet long. As a quick glance back shows, Republicans and their water carriers have essentially been doing the same thing throughout the Obama presidency.

    One episode provides clarity in the rise of the GOP's "post-truth" politics. As you may recall, on September 12, 2009, FreedomWorks and Fox News host Glenn Beck manufactured the "9/12 Rally" in Washington, DC. Citing the fire department, ABC News estimated the crowd to be as large as 70,000 Tea Partiers. But among the usual suspects within conservative media and the right-wing blogosphere, the Tea Baggers tried to put a different number in our faces. The real attendance figure, they crowed, was two million.

    Now, that would have been impressive, if it had been true. But as Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight explained in "Size Matters; So Do Lies":

    The way this false estimate came into being is relatively simple: Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, lied, claiming that ABC News had reported numbers of between 1.0 and 1.5 million when they never did anything of the sort. A few tweets later, the numbers had been exaggerated still further to 2 million. Kibbe wasn't "in error", as [Michelle] Malkin gently puts it. He lied. He did the equivalent of telling people that his penis is 53 inches long. [Emphasis mine.]

    Of course, Republicans began Viagrafying reality long before Barack Obama took the oath of office and haven't stopped since. (Alas, there was never a warning that in case of delusions lasting longer than four hours, conservatives should contact their doctors.)

    By the summer of 2008, the now-familiar pattern was already in place. Right-wing pundits like Lawrence Kudlow and Rush Limbaugh were issuing red alerts about the "Obama Bear Market" supposedly already underway. By that fall, as the Washington Post ("Anger Is Crowd's Overarching Emotion at McCain Rally") and CNN ("Rage Rising on the McCain Campaign Trail") reported, raged-filled Republican rallies were teetering on edge. As one nearly-foaming at the mouth GOPer put it:

    "I'm mad. I'm really mad. It's not the economy. It's the socialist taking over our country."

    And when that supposed socialist was sworn in as President Barack Hussein Obama in January 2009, that right-wing rage was repackaged as the tea party. And in a sign of media failures to come, virtually everything this manufactured movement claimed to believe was simply untrue.

    The Tea Party, after all, took its name after the rantings of CNBC regular Rick Santelli. In what he later called "the best five minutes of my life," Santelli on February 8, 2009 "decried government bailouts, called struggling homeowners 'losers' and speculated aloud that a new Tea Party might be needed." But there was no "cram-down" for the banks and no mortgage bailout for homeowners.

    But there were also no "death panels." Barack Obama wasn't born in Kenya and he isn't a Muslim. You can't demand to "keep government out of Medicare" because it is a government program. Republicans holding "Taxed Enough Already" signs were doubly deluded. By 2010, federal tax revenue as a percentage of the U.S. economy dropped to its lowest level since 1950. And with his 2009 stimulus program, President Obama didn't just deliver tax relief to 95 percent of working households: His was the largest two-year tax cut in American history. As a CBS poll found in February 2010:

    Of people who support the grassroots, "Tea Party" movement, only 2 percent think taxes have been decreased, 46 percent say taxes are the same, and a whopping 44 percent say they believe taxes have gone up.

    The story of the 2010 midterms that swept away the Democratic House majority was the triumph of delusion. It wasn't simply, as the New York Times asked in advance of the vote, "What if a president cut Americans' income taxes by $116 billion and nobody noticed?" Indeed, what if the House GOP budget plan used the same $760 billion in Medicare savings from Obamacare to give tax breaks to the rich and the Republicans, then campaigned by saying Democrats would kill the Medicare program the GOP itself intended to privatize? What if everything Republican voters said they knew about the Affordable Care Act was wrong? As NBC reported in August 2009:

    In our poll, 72% of self-identified FOX News viewers believe the health-care plan will give coverage to illegal immigrants, 79% of them say it will lead to a government takeover, 69% think that it will use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and 75% believe that it will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly.

    The answer to all of those "what if" scenarios was the biggest midterm rout since Republicans whited out LBJ's Great Society majority in 1966. And after seizing the House majority in 2012, the GOP wanted the Senate and the White House, too.

    The new GOP plan of conquest was much like the old one. Once again, the Republicans would combine far-right fury with another wave of tried and untrue talking points. No matter that Obamacare reduces the national debt and was not a "government takeover of health care." So what if decades of data showed that higher taxes on "job creators" do not hurt the economy and that the estate tax has little impact on small businesses and family farms. Big deal if the nonpartisan CBO and the overwhelming consensus of economists concluded the stimulus resulted in millions of additional jobs and a significant boost to American GDP? For that matter, who gives a hoot if the record shows that the U.S. economy almost always does better when a Democrat is in the White House? And who cares if Mitt Romney's shameless lie that Obama "made the economy worse" was thoroughly debunked throughout the campaign?

    For Republicans, this platform of deceit was a feature, not a bug. The GOP claims were not actually true, as Stephen Colbert once summed it up, but felt like they should be true. And for Jon Kyl, then the second-ranking Senate Republican revealed in 2011, that was all that mattered. After the Arizona senator was off by a factor of 30 when he declared on the Senate floor that abortion is "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does," Kyl's office released a statement explaining:

    "His remark was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, a[n] organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions." [Emphasis mine.]

    Mercifully, the pathologically dishonest Mitt Romney did not capture the White House. By Election Day 2012, his gymnastic flip-flops, chronic lying, and conveniently selective amnesia were summed up by terms like the "post-truth campaign" and the "Romney Uncertainty Principle." Steven Benen's series "Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity" reached Vol. 41 by the time voters went to the ballot box. And in a hint of things to come, Romney had not only accepted Donald Trump's endorsement in 2012, but mimicked his tactics by referring to President Obama as "extraordinarily foreign" and telling voters, "No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate."

    But in 2014, Democrats weren't so lucky. Despite the improving economy and the success of Obamacare in controlling health care costs and reducing the rolls of the uninsured, the GOP won big again. Democrats were wiped out in the states while Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell replaced Harry Reid as the new Senate Majority Leader.

    But it wasn't just dismal midterm turnout and the GOP's voter intensity advantage that won the day. Truth had lost.

    In September 2013, NBC Meet the Press host Chuck Todd inadvertently helped explain why. Correcting the GOP's Obamacare falsehoods, Todd lectured former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, was not the media's job:

    "But more importantly, it would be stuff that Republicans have successfully messaged against it. They don't repeat the other stuff because they haven't even heard the Democratic message. What I always love is people say, 'Well, it's you folks' fault in the media.' No, it's the President of the United States' fault for not selling it."

    Even more pathetic is that fact Chuck Todd himself knew better. As he wrote just two months earlier when the Ted Cruz-led campaign to defund the Affordable Care Act was heating up:

    Here's a thought exercise on this summer morning: Imagine that after the controversial Medicare prescription-drug legislation was passed into law in 2003, Democrats did everything they could to thwart one of George W. Bush's top domestic achievements. They launched Senate filibusters to block essential HHS appointees from administering the law; they warned the sports and entertainment industries from participating in any public service announcements to help seniors understand how the law works; and, after taking control of the House of Representatives in 2007, they used the power of the purse to prohibit any more federal funds from being used to implement the law. As it turns out, none of that happened.

    That's exactly right. It didn't happen. And it couldn't happen for three very simple reasons. For starters, when it comes to scorched-earth opposition, both sides don't do it. Republican obstructionism during the Obama presidency is simply unprecedented. Second, as the Pew Research Center found in 2014, conservatives unlike liberals tend to get their political news from a single source: Fox News. Last, conservatives suffer from (or depending on your viewpoint, benefit from) the "Hack Gap."

    For much of the decade, Jonathan Chait, Matthew Yglesias, Kevin Drum, Ed Kilgore, and others have discussed the importance of the "Hack Gap." As Drum explained it after the first Romney-Obama debate in 2012:

    Put simply, we liberals don't have enough hacks. Conservatives outscore us considerably in the number of bloggers/pundits/columnists/talking heads who are willing to cheerfully say whatever it takes to advance the party line, no matter how ridiculous it is.

    This past September, Brad Delong offered this elegant summary of liberal virtue and conservative vice. The Hack Gap, he wrote, is:

    [T]he willingness of conservative intellectuals to sacrifice their credibility by making transparently-false arguments to advance the interests of their political masters, and the lack of willingness of liberal intellectuals to do the same.

    That's why the battle between Clinton and Sanders supporters over his single-payer, "Medicare for All" replacement for Obamacare became so heated. It wasn't simply a question of governing philosophy, but of math. Liberal wonks (for example, here, here and here) contested assumptions about economic growth, potential savings and more to claim that Bernie's numbers did or didn't add up.

    The contrast with the Republican field in general and Donald Trump in particular couldn't be starker. As Ezra Klein put it in March:

    This week, it became clear that the Democratic Party will nominate Hillary Clinton -- a politician about as mainstream in her beliefs and methods as you will find in American politics. It also became clear that the Republican Party is overwhelmingly likely to nominate Donald Trump -- a man who is, by any measure, "ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of [his] political opposition."

    That difference makes all the difference when trying to identify his supporters. As Philip Klinkner summed it up in Vox earlier this month, "The easiest way to guess if someone supports Trump? Ask if Obama is a Muslim."

    That Barack Obama is a Muslim born outside the United States is a double lie. Yet they have been Donald Trump's go-to talking points for years. His claims about Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers, eliminating the national debt "over a period of eight years," not assuming another identity to act as his own spokesman, that his tax cut windfall for the wealthy will "cost me a fortune," self-funding his campaign and so much more are laughable on their face, As it turns out, of the 168 Trump statements evaluated by Politifact, 126 (or 72 percent) were rated Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire. Nevertheless, the sheer number and audacity of his lies, slanders and deceptions only deepen the ardor of his supporters, who see his refusal to correct the record as a sign of "strength."

    It's a sign of something, alright.

    Writing in the New York Times, Brendan Nyhan warned, "Don't assume Donald Trump's supporters believe all his words." Nyhan cited recent polling and political theory to argue that "many don't take his promises literally...If they discount those promises and instead gauge the likely effect of each candidate on the status quo, voters might in some cases choose a candidate whose preferred position is further from them." Daniel Drezner offered a different take on why the post-truth political era might be around for a while." Americans' almost total loss of trust in every institution outside of the military explains why "the marshaling of undisputed facts and evidence doesn't have quite the effect on public debate that it used to."

    But these theories don't account for the asymmetric production of and belief in, well, bullshit. Republicans are only too happy to be unencumbered by the dictates of the truth; their conservative supporters are more than content to accept their story-telling and myth-making. As Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein argued in their 2012 book, It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism:

    Let's just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

    It was almost five years ago when Paul Krugman rightly denounced Mitt Romney's campaign for what he labeled "post-truth politics." In May, MSNBC's Steve Benen presented a perfect example of what happens when the Republican "reality gap" persists over time. Despite the fact that unemployment has been halved (from around 10 to around five percent) and the Dow Jones has more than doubled (from around 7,900 to 17,800) during President Obama's tenure, a PPP poll found that GOP voters by large margins believe the opposite is true.

    There continues to be a lot of misinformation about what has happened during Obama's time in office. 43% of voters think the unemployment rate has increased while Obama has been President, to only 49% who correctly recognize that it has decreased. And 32% of voters think the stock market has gone down during the Obama administration, to only 52% who correctly recognize that it has gone up.

    In both cases Democrats and independents are correct in their understanding of how things have changed since Obama became President, but Republicans claim by a 64/27 spread that unemployment has increased and by a 57/27 spread that the stock market has gone down.

    Mercifully, there are indications that some among the American media are starting to call B.S. on Donald Trump's B.S. The turning point began when Trump turned his attention away from GOP primary voters to the general election against Hillary Clinton. In May when Trump resurrected the "bizarre and unfounded" conspiracy theories that the Clintons had their friend Vincent Foster murdered, CNN's Jake Tapper rejected the Donald's claims as "ridiculous and frankly shameful." (At ABC News back in September 2009, Tapper similarly denounced a Fox News ad that his and other networks failed to cover the 9/12 rally as "demonstrably untrue.") By June, CNN was using its on-air graphics to fact-check Trump's lies in real-time. And recent polling in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida shows that The Donald is paying a price for his racist lies targeting born-in-America judge Gonzalo Curiel.

    That doesn't mean Donald Trump will stop his pathological lying any time soon. Republican voters appear to have little problem with it. As for Trump himself, he boasted in his book The Art of the Deal:

    I play to people's fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.

    I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration -- and a very effective form of promotion.

    Which is why no one should be surprised if Donald Trump says he has a 53-inch penis. Of course, he doesn't have a massive dick; he is one.

    Perrspective 4:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    June 20, 2016
    Netanyahu Tries to Appropriate American Grief over Orlando for Israel

    A week after the slaughter of 49 people in The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, there is still much we don't know. Topping the list is Omar Mateen's motivation for his mass killing. The long-troubled 29 year old American son of Afghan immigrants hardly fits the mold of so-called "radicalization." Mateen's lack of religious commitment and his virulent (and possibly self-loathing) anti-gay fury don't neatly square with his pledge to the Islamic State at the very end of his life. Just what really happened in the dark nexus where religious zealotry, homophobia, mental illness and America's gun pathology converge remains a mystery.

    But this we do know. The highest officials in the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu government would have us believe Orlando is historically part of Greater Israel and The Pulse is its eternal capital. In Bibi's telling, Israel and the United States are fighting a common terrorist enemy.

    Just as he did during his campaign to sabotage the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran, the Likud leader used the nightclub carnage to manufacture the specter of a unified, global jihadist threat to Israel and the West. "Why did the terrorist murder them?" Bibi asked and answered on Facebook on June 15, "Because he was driven by a fanatical hatred. He targeted the LGBT community because he believed they were evil."

    This week's shooting wasn't merely an attack on the LGBT community. It was an attack on all of us, on our common values of freedom and diversity and choice.

    Radical Islamist terror makes no distinction between shades of infidel.

    This week it was gays in Orlando. A few days before that it was Jews in Tel Aviv. Before that it was music fans in Paris; Travelers in Brussels; Yazidis in Iraq; Community workers in San Bernardino; Christians and journalists in Syria.

    All of us are targets.

    Netanyahu was three days late to the party. On June 12, his former Ambassador to the United States Dr. Michael Oren took to Twitter to claim that America and Israel are fighting the same fight.

    Terror in Orlando is the same as terror in Tel Aviv. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims. Israel knows and shares their pain.

    But no matter how often the Israeli right repeats it, terror in Orlando isn't the same as terror in Tel Aviv, where Palestinian gunmen murdered four Israelis two weeks ago. Mayor Ron Huldai explained why:

    "We might be the only country in the world where another nation is under occupation without civil rights. You can't hold people in a situation of occupation and hope they'll reach the conclusion everything is alright."

    That's right. In the United States, the cases of isolated terrorists like the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston, the San Bernardino shooters and Omar Mateen in Orlando were sui generis. In each, the unique circumstances of the killers and their individual personal histories and pathologies have made drawing sweeping conclusions about past and future attacks difficult. The U.S. invasion of Iraq, by bringing Al Qaeda to the region and then the Islamic State into being, created an inspirational--if not aspirational--calling for these angry, alienated and disturbed "lone wolves."

    But for Israelis, terrorism has been a grim fact of life since the nation's founding. But since its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967, it has been the result of government policy as well. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians both in the territories and inside Israel have in their lifetimes been displaced from their homes. The dramatic expansion of West Bank settlements, Israel's dramatic lurch to the right and its perpetual occupation of the West Bank have been fueling simmering tensions and outbursts of violence for years. With no prospect for a peaceful, two-state solution in sight, stabbings, shootings and car attacks carried out by Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel have been on the rise for months.

    While the Netanyahu government seems more than willing to manage both the intermittent violence and its own growing international isolation, leaders of Israel's security services are not. As former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin put it during the 2014 Gaza war:

    The deterioration is first and foremost a result of the illusion that the government's inaction on every front can actually freeze the situation in place, the illusion that "price tag" is simply a few slogans on the wall and not pure racism, the illusion that everything can be solved with a little more force, the illusion that the Palestinians will accept everything that's done in the West Bank and won't respond despite the rage and frustration and the worsening economic situation, the illusion that the international community won't impose sanctions on us, that the Arab citizens of Israel won't take to the streets at the end of the day because of the lack of care for their problems, and that the Israeli public will continue submissively to accept the government's helplessness in dealing with the social gaps that its policies have created and are worsening, while corruption continues to poison everything good, and so on and so on.

    In the meantime, the Israeli campaign to equate U.S domestic terrorism with the ongoing dangers it faces continues unabated. Within hours of the Orlando bloodbath, Ambassador Oren was quoted on Twitter proclaiming, "If I were Trump, I'd emphasize the Muslim name, Omar Saddiqui Mateen. This changes race." (As the Times' Roger Cohen reported, Oren later claimed that "he said Trump would do this, not that he had recommended it." Of course, it was this time last year that Oren channeled Dinesh D'Souza by describing "How Obama opened his heart to the 'Muslim World'.") And in Israel Hayom, the pro-Netanyahu newspaper funded by GOP sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson, an article featured side-by-side pictures of Omar Mateen and Tel Aviv killer Neshat Melhem under the headline, "Chillingly similar." As 972 explained, Israel Hayom was doing double-duty by demonizing Israel's own Arab citizens while pretending it shares a common enemy with the United States. It doesn't, but that won't stop Bibi Netanyahu and his allies from appropriating Americans' grief over Orlando for their own purposes.

    Perrspective 9:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    June 14, 2016
    The GOP's Dance with the Devil

    This week, the GOP's best and brightest were shocked--SHOCKED!--to discover that the man who easily captured their party's presidential nomination is a racist.

    In the wake of Donald Trump's repeated attacks on Trump University case judge Gonzalo Curiel, Senator Lindsey Graham proclaimed, "This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy" and urged fellow Republicans to un-endorse the party's nominee. Endangered Illinois GOP Senator Mark Kirk, who previously proposed sending free contraceptives to Mexico to curb future illegal immigration from south of the border, quickly followed that advice, declaring "Donald Trump's belief that an American-born judge of Mexican descent is incapable of fairly presiding over his case is not only dead wrong, it is un-American." Last Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused three times to acknowledge Trump's was a "racist statement," only to conclude by Tuesday the remarks were "outrageous and unacceptable." For his part, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) acknowledged that Trump's slanders represented "the textbook definition of a racist comment" while stopping short of withdrawing his support.

    Of course, Speaker Ryan staged the same charade three months ago in response to Donald Trump's refusal to disavow the enthusiastic support of former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Grand Wizard, David Duke:

    "When I see something that runs counter to who we are as a party and as a country, I will speak up, so today I want to be very clear about something. If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on people's prejudices."

    But now as then, Speaker Ryan's own game was pathetically ridiculous, and not just because Ryan himself had decried lazy men "in our inner cities," the "takers" who are turning "the safety net into a hammock." As the historical record shows, preying on people's prejudices has been an essential Republican electoral strategy for over 50 years. From almost the moment the ink was dry on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Republican voters' coronation of Donald Trump, the Party of Lincoln has trafficked in casual race-baiting, incendiary racial rhetoric, zealous xenophobia and even Confederate idolatry to manufacture a terrified and furious GOP white majority, especially in the Solid South. And only now, as Donald Trump's demagoguery and demographic doom combine to imperil their status as a national party, have Republicans been confronted with the old proverb:

    "If you dance with the devil, remember it's he that calls the tune."

    To be sure, the devil's tune is a popular one for Donald Trump's faithful. As Philip Klinkner of Hamilton College recently summed up his research, "The easiest way to guess if someone supports Trump [over Clinton]? Ask if Obama is a Muslim."

    [M]oving from the least to the most resentful view of African Americans increases support for Trump by 44 points, those who think Obama is a Muslim (54 percent of all Republicans) are 24 points more favorable to Trump, and those who think the word "violent" describes Muslims extremely well are about 13 points more pro-Trump than those who think it doesn't describe them well at all.

    At his rallies, his lines about a ban of Muslims entering the United States, building a wall on the Mexican border, and rounding up and deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants draw the biggest applause. For his most ardent backers, Trump's toxic blend of racism and xenophobia is a feature, not a bug.

    If this all sounds vaguely familiar, it should. In its basic contours, the GOP have been capitalizing on the same politics of racial backlash and white resentment for over 50 years. That's when the great exodus of virulently racist southern conservatives from the Democratic Party and into the open arms of the Republican Party began in earnest.

    Now, FDR and especially Eleanor Roosevelt had been early supporters of expanded civil rights for African-Americans. It was his successor, Harry Truman, who integrated the United States military in the face of fierce opposition from the Dixiecrats. But in less than five years between 1961 and 1965, America witnessed the Freedom Riders and Freedom Summer, the March on Washington and the Kennedy administration's intervention to integrate the all-white University of Alabama. On June 11, 1963, President Kennedy used a nationally televised address to explain the essence of the civil rights struggle to the American people:

    We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

    The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?

    After Kennedy's assassination, President Lyndon Johnson used outpouring of grief and the growing support for the civil movement to ensure the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Civil Rights Act.

    To be sure, on civil rights national Democratic leaders had followed and not led. But among their voters in the South and the white working class, Democrats would pay a steep price for their belated championing of equality and social justice. LBJ knew this at the time, lamenting before the ink was dry on the Civil Rights Act in 1964:

    "There goes the South for a generation."

    As it has turned out, it has been two generations. While the nation's rapidly changing demographics give now Democrats some hope for the future in Florida, North Carolina and Texas, the South has been a Republican fortress ever since Johnson left the Oval Office.

    In just eight years, LBJ's 1964 landslide victory with 61 percent of the vote was completely reversed. In 1972, Richard Nixon won 60 percent of the popular vote and a staggering 520 electoral votes. "In the eight years in between," Richard Perlstein wrote in Nixonland, "the battle lines that define our culture and politics were forged in blood and fire." As Perlstein summed up the story behind the dynamic at work:

    It is the voter who, in 1964, pulled the lever for the Democrat for president because to do anything else, at least that particular Tuesday in November, seemed to court civilizational chaos, and who, eight years later, pulled the lever for the Republican for exactly the same reason.

    Even before candidate and President Nixon started executing Kevin Phillip's "Southern Strategy," Tricky Dick was already putting his formula of backlash politics to work in the 1966 midterms. Decades before the Tea Party and Fox News, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck warned about New Black Panthers, birth certificates, death panels and FEMA concentration camps from the nation's first African-American president (one they deemed a "racist" and an "angry black man" who "hates white people"), Richard Nixon hit the trail after the Watts Riots of 1965:

    He was campaigning in traditionally Republican districts where a Democratic congressman had won in 1964 on Lyndon Johnson's coattails, but was likely to be swept out in the conservative backlash.

    For instance, Iowa's first district. A five-term Republican, Fred Schwengel, was running to recover the seat he'd lost to a young political science professor from the Bronx named John Schmidhauser. One day, Representative Schmidhauser appeared at a farm bureau meeting, prepared for a grilling on the Democrats' agricultural policies. The questions, though, were all on rumors that Chicago's Negro rioters were about to engulf Iowa in waves, traveling, for some reason, "on motorcycles." The liberal political science professor was as vulnerable as a sapling...Now that farmers were afraid that Martin Luther King would send Negro biker gangs to rape their children, the Republican restoration seemed inevitable.

    In 1970, Nixon's henchman Kevin Phillips explained how it would all come to pass.

    "From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that... but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats."

    And to be sure, Phillips' "Negrophobes" and their elected enablers began making the Republican Party their home. Like his home state of Texas, Governor John Connally, the same man wounded in JFK's limousine in Dallas, switched parties, served as Nixon's Treasury Secretary and ran for the 1980 GOP presidential nomination. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act, others swapped blue for red as well. Before North Carolina's Jesse Helms switched over, South Carolina Senator and former Dixiecrat presidential nominee Strom Thurmond bolted over the Civil Rights Act. Thurmond's most famous contribution to America's national discourse came in 1948:

    ''All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, into our schools, our churches and our places of recreation and amusement."

    (During his presidency, George W. Bush would eulogize Jesse Helms as "an unwavering champion of those struggling for liberty" and praised the late Strom Thurmond for "the tremendous love he had for his constituents.")

    In 1972, a young Trent Lott similarly jumped ship. Thirty years later, Mississippi GOP Senator Lott praised Thurmond on the occasion of his 100th birthday:

    "I want to say this about my state: when Strom Thurmond ran for President, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

    The Council of Conservative Citizens, the successor to the dreaded White Citizens' Councils of Jim Crow days, couldn't agree more. Which is why Haley Barbour, who campaigned for governor of Mississippi wearing a lapel pin of the state's Confederate flag he vowed to maintain, was a fixture at the CCC's events. Lott, too, was a speaker in 1992 at an event of the Council of Conservative Citizens. Among its offerings in seething racial hatred is a "Wanted" poster of Abraham Lincoln. Lott also offered his rebel yell in the virulently neo-Confederate Southern Partisan, where in 1984 he called the Civil War "the War of Northern Aggression." (Former Missouri Senator and Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft went a step further, praising Southern Partisan for "defending Southern patriots like Lee, Jackson and Davis" and adding "We've all got to stand up and speak in this respect or else we'll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda.")

    To complete that conversion, candidate Ronald Reagan traveled to Philadelphia, Mississippi to kick-off his 1980 presidential campaign. There, where civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were slaughtered in 1964, Reagan declared "I believe in states' rights." Reagan, who had denounced the so-called "welfare queen," the "strapping young buck" and declared the 1965 Voting Rights Act "humiliated the South," soon had more company among southern conservatives in Republican ranks. In 1983, Texan Phil Gramm joined the GOP. Eleven years later, Alabama's Richard Shelby followed suit. It's no wonder that casual race-baiting long-discredited notions like states' rights, secession, and nullification are now standard fare on today's Republican menu.

    The GOP's dog whistle play list has only gotten longer in the age of Obama. As I've documented at great length elsewhere (see, for example, "The Neo-Confederate Sin" and "It's a Conservative Thing: You Wouldn't Understand"), Republicans have been playing the slavery card against gun control, the national debt, Obamacare, taxing the wealthy, marriage equality and just about every other public policy and societal trend they currently detest. Equally disturbing, GOP talking points routinely included recycled ante bellum paeans to states' rights, nullification and secession.

    And it began before Barack Obama even won the election of 2008. Throughout that summer and fall, Rush Limbaugh repeatedly described "this little boy" Senator Obama as a "Halfrican-American" and a "man-child."

    Even before the first vote was cast that November, today's tea party types were calling Sen. Obama a socialist Muslim and demanding his birth certificate at McCain-Palin rallies across America. Just take a look back at Alexandra Pelosi's documentary of the 2008 campaign, Right America: Feeling Wronged. Clips from
    Right America
    look no different from the "McCain-Palin Mob" or "Tea Baggers 2009." As one McCain supporter put it before the November 2008 election:

    "We all hate the same things."

    For more proof, look no further than the Washington Post's October 9, 2008 article, titled "Anger Is Crowd's Overarching Emotion at McCain Rally:"

    There were shouts of "Nobama" and "Socialist" at the mention of the Democratic presidential nominee. There were boos, middle fingers turned up and thumbs turned down as a media caravan moved through the crowd Thursday for a midday town hall gathering featuring John McCain and Sarah Palin.

    As CNN reported in another October 2008 article titled "Rage Rising on the McCain Campaign Trail," one nascent Tea Partier announced at a town hall:

    "I'm mad. I'm really mad. It's not the economy. It's the socialist taking over our country."

    In a telling moment early in the new President's tenure, South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson shouted "you lie" at the first African-American President during Obama's September 2009 health care speech to a joint session of Congress. (Obama wasn't lying; the Affordable Care Act did not and does not cover undocumented immigrants.) While many Americans responded with shock and scorn, others replied with millions in cash for Wilson's campaign coffers. One gun manufacturer commemorated the event by offering a receiver for the AR-15 rifle receiver featuring Wilson's words "you lie" etched into the anodized metal. That episode recalled another one involving one of Wilson's Palmetto State predecessors back in 1856, when admirers sent canes to South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks after he viciously caned abolitionist Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner in the Capitol. As one laudatory editorial back in Brooks' home state put it:

    "Meetings of approval and sanction will be held, not only in Mr. Brooks' district, but throughout the State at large, and a general and hearty response of approval will re-echo the words, 'Well done,' from Washington to the Rio Grande."

    In the fall of 2009, Daily Show host Jon Stewart had a simple message to the furious Tea Partiers inside Congress and out. Rightly noting that these foaming-at-the-mouth hardliners were wrong about almost every sound bite they regurgitated, Stewart warned, "I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing." And when they weren't actively misleading Americans on taxes, health care reform, the national debt and so much more, the GOP's leaders remained silent. Especially on Barack Obama's citizenship and religion.

    Consider, for example, Ryan's predecessor John Boehner (R-OH). In February 2011, the new Speaker of the House told NBC Meet the Press host David Gregory, "I believe that the president is a citizen. I believe the president is a Christian, I'll take him at his word." But when Gregory pushed him to accept the "responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance," Boehner repeatedly refused.

    David, it's not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people...Listen, the American people have the right to think what they want to think. I can't -- it's not my job to tell them.

    Boehner's right-hand man, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), used the same dodge to help fan the flames of the Fox News crowd. That January, Cantor told NBC's Gregory that he would not speak out against those "who think that his [Obama's] birth certificate is inauthentic."

    GREGORY: Will you call that what it is, which is crazy talk?

    CANTOR: [laughs] David, you know, a lot of that has been an issue sort of generated by not only the media but others in the country. Most Americans really are beyond that and they want us to focus--

    GREGORY: Is somebody who brings that up engaging in crazy talk?

    CANTOR: David I don't think it's nice to call anyone crazy, OK?

    While Cantor ultimately acknowledged, "I think the president is a citizen of the United States," the 2012 Republican nominee for President Mitt Romney casually played the Birther Card as well.

    As a quick backwards glance shows, it wasn't just Romney surrogates like John Sununu wishing "this president would learn how to be an American." On July 17, 2012, Mitt got in on the act, too, telling listeners that "his course is extraordinarily foreign." Two days later, Romney repeated the charge in response to the growing outcry about his mystery tax returns, shockingly low tax rate and private equity parasitism:

    "This idea of criticizing and attacking success, of demonizing those in all walks of life who have been successful, is so foreign to us we simply can't understand it." [Emphasis mine.]

    When Governor Romney wasn't accusing the President of the United States of being "extraordinarily foreign," he was providing aid and comfort to conservative fabulists claiming they could prove it. After all, Mitt Romney didn't just refuse to repudiate his Obama birth certificate fraud Donald Trump. Truth be damned, Romney suggested, instead arguing that cobbling together a majority--any majority--was what his candidacy was all about:

    "You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don't all agree with everything I believe in," Romney said. "But I need to get 50.1% or more and I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people."

    Among those "good people" were Romney's five sons, the same ones Mitt boasted in 2007 said "showing support for our nation" by "helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president." The Five Brothers also regurgitated the Birther lies vomited forth by the likes of Limbaugh, Trump and Romney campaign traveling companion Jerome Corsi. When Tagg Romney wasn't joking about "taking a swing" at President Obama, his brother Matt got laughs from New Hampshire Republicans when he brushed off requests for his father's secret tax returns this way:

    "I heard someone suggest the other day that as soon as President Obama releases his grades and birth certificate ...then maybe he'll do it."

    While he later apologized on Twitter ("my bad"), there was no need for Matt to say sorry to dad. After all, in August 2012 Mitt Romney himself told an audience in Michigan:

    "Now I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born," the GOP hopeful told the crowd. "Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born at Harper Hospital. No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate, they know that this is the place that we were born and raised." [Emphasis mine.]

    Those Michigan Republicans laughed and cheered. And within three years, they were doubtless lining up to behind Donald Trump. In May 2015, a PPP poll found that "Trump Supporters Think Obama is A Muslim Born in Another Country."

    A year later, little has changed. Donald's Trumpeteers still believe Barack Obama is a Muslim born in another country. Stoking the hot coals of their racial resentment in just a strategy for the Trump campaign; it IS the Trump campaign. And that is a big problem for Republican incumbents in Congress and the states trying to run away from the racism of Donald Trump. Outside of white men without a college degree, Trump is badly underperforming compared to Romney four years ago among almost every other demographic group. He's getting crushed by Hillary Clinton among highly educated white women, among Hispanics (65 to 18 percent) and among African-Americans (93 to 4 percent). When you dance with the devil, you can run but you can't hide.

    All of which leaves the Republicans three options before their convention in Cleveland. First, as Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) suggested, Trump has "two to three weeks" to fix his broken campaign. Alternately, others like Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) have hinted, the RNC could stage a coup in Cleveland in defiance of the 12.5 million primary voters and overwhelming majority of GOP delegates who supported Donald Trump. Or, as some conservatives are trying to do, rewrite American history since 1965. That is, they will simply pretend the Devil is a Democrat.

    Currently, CNN bomb-thrower and Trump water-carrier Jeffrey Lord is best associated with this historical whitewashing. After The Donald played dumb when endorsed by hibernating Klansman David Duke in March, Lord lectured his CNN colleague that the KKK killed people "to further the progressive agenda."

    "You don't hide and say that's not part of the base of the Democratic Party. That has been -- they were the military arm, the terrorist arm of the Democratic Party, according to historians. For God's sake, read your history...

    This whole attitude of dividing by race is still here. And this is how Democrats do the deal."

    For his part, Van Jones simply responded, "I don't care how they voted 50 years ago. I care about who they killed."

    Now, Jeffrey Lord is a buffoon whose on-air beatings by the entire CNN panel are becoming almost nightly occurrences. But he's far from alone among the conservative echo-chamber in insisting history ended in 1965. Led by former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese and former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell, the right-wing American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) unveiled its version of "The Truth about Jim Crow." Noting that "Democrats were in complete control of the South during the entire Jim Crow era, from 1877 through 1965," ACRU crowed:

    The public should come away understanding the three most important facts about Jim Crow: Jim Crow was Dehumanizing; Jim Crow was Deadly; and Jim Crow was Democratic.

    The National Review's John Fund was quick to echo that conservative talking point. Fund, who for years has waged a jihad against mythical voter fraud in order sell the GOP's draconian voter suppression schemes across the nation, wrote in 2014 that he was "Setting the Record Straight on Jim Crow":

    But the political enforcement of Jim Crow was entirely in Democratic hands. The Ku Klux Klan functioned as the paramilitary wing of the Democratic party, and it was used to drive Republicans out of the South after the Civil War. Before he took up the cause of civil rights as president, Lyndon Johnson acting as Senate majority leader blocked the GOP's 1956 civil-rights bill, and gutted Eisenhower's 1957 Civil Rights Act. Democratic senators filibustered the GOP's 1960 Civil Rights Act.

    "Is it fair," Fund snidely asks before answering himself, "to remind people of the awful historical antecedents that can lurk within a political party?"

    Of course it's fair. But because those "awful historical antecedents" were transferred lock, stock and two smoking barrels to the GOP two generations ago, it's largely irrelevant. And as it turns out, for convicted election finance fraudster Dinesh D'Souza, it's also a business model.

    Just in time for the party conventions in July, D'Souza will be release the successor to his ersatz documentary, "2016: Obama's America." In "Hillary's America," D'Souza promises to tell "the secret history of the Democratic Party." As he explained to Roots viewers on Twitter last week:

    The Democrats went from slavery to enslavement. #HIllarysAmerica #Roots

    As I responded on that night and on another other occasion:

    And so it goes. The GOP is trapped because their presidential nominee is only saying much more "bigly" what so many Republicans have been more calmly spitting up for over five decades. (Mark Kirk gave the game away when he complained that Trump's statements were "too racist and bigoted for me.") Yet Tim Scott, the South Carolina Senator who called Donald Trump's remarks "racially toxic," nevertheless maintains his endorsement. Maine's Susan Collins, who has yet to endorse The Donald, insisted this week that "He is the one who needs to start acting more presidential and articulate more clearly what a Trump presidency would look like." As Mitch McConnell fretted this week:

    "What we're trying to do is to get him to act & speak like a serious presidential candidate... it's time to quit attacking various people that you competed with, or various minority groups in the country, and get on message."

    And that message is, as Paul Ryan put it in March, "This party does not prey on people's prejudices. We appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln."

    Not anymore. The GOP long ago traded away civil rights, equal protection of the laws and honest Abe himself. The Democrats got equality and justice, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis; the GOP got the KKK, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, states' rights, nullification and secession. Now, the Republicans are the Party of Donald Trump.

    Because that's what happens when you dance with the devil.

    Perrspective 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

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