The real meaning of “racist” birther birther conspiracy

Among other things largely drowned out in this amazing post debate week, is that twice during the debate, Hillary Clinton explicitly referred to Trump’s actions as “racist.”  (As they actually are, of course).  Jamelle Bouie has a great piece putting this in a far broader context and what it means for a Democratic politician to so openly accuse an opponent of racism for actions that are not overly racist.  Mostly, it means the Democratic party has changed a lot since Bill Clinton was running for president:

It’s no small thing to call birtherism a “racist lie” in front of the largest-ever debate audience. Presidential candidates slam opponents for almost everything under the sun. But not racism. Not because it isn’t present, but because it risks alienating white voters who aren’t comfortable with accusations of racial prejudice or racist intent. [emphases mine] But last week, facing an estimated 85 million viewers, Clinton did just that, in a way that wasn’t imaginable four years ago (when Barack Obama ran against Mitt Romney and his veiled racial appeals), eight years ago (when Sarah Palin fueled her nascent celebrity with raw white resentment), and certainly 30 years ago, when George H.W. Bush and the Republican Party stoked white fears of black crime for political gain, crushing Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis in the process.

What changed to make Clinton—a woman of profound political caution, the virtual avatar of modern-day Democratic centrism—willing to name racism when she sees it? To describe millions of voters as “deplorables” with racist and misogynistic views?  To call the things what they are, even if it alienates voters?

The answer is straightforward. Clinton may represent the middle way of Democratic politics, but that middle way is substantively and electorally different from the middle way of the 1990s, when her husband was in office. Clinton can talk openly about white racism because she doesn’t need the old Democratic electorate.

In the 1990s, Democrats needed white voters and struggled to pull them into the fold, in part because of the party’s liberalism and its strong identification with black Americans and black political interests…

Running in 1992, Clinton danced a two-step. He tied himself to black voters and black communities, winning huge support through deft use of cultural affinity. He emphasized his Southern heritage: Here was a poor boy from Arkansas who could relate, personally, to the lives of many black Americans. At the same time, however, Clinton made a direct play to the cultural anxieties and political resentments of those whites who’d abandoned Dukakis for Bush…

It was a politics indexed to white anxiety. The Democratic Party of Bill Clinton relied on voters who were unfriendly—even hostile—to racial liberalism. And it moved accordingly. Bolstered by the economy as well as these cultural moves, Clinton would claim the center of American politics, winning an easy re-election and eventually ending his term as one of the most popular presidents in recent memory, despite scandal and an impeachment attempt.

But that was then. Today, those voters—among them millions of working-class white men—are lost to the Democratic Party, in a shift that began under George W. Bush but accelerated under the presidency of Barack Obama. Democrats today win a smaller share of white voters—and the white workers in particular—than ever before. The home for those voters is in the GOP, under Trump, who turned a substantial majority with working-class whites into an overwhelming one, enough to win Ohio and Iowa and possibly other Midwestern states. But there’s been a backlash to this backlash. Trump’s success with working-class whites has come at the expense of the Republican Party’s historic advantage with college-educated and professional whites, who now favor Hillary Clinton. Increasingly, the Democratic electorate is shorn of those voters who are skeptical of racial and cultural liberalism or who vote on that skepticism.

Yep.  Of course, there’s more to the college/non-college split among white voters these days, but it is surprisingly well-captured in not exactly racism, but attitudes about race and culture.  And with the Republican Party’s embrace of Trump, this split seems likely to grow in the future.

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“Sending a message” by voting for Johnson or Stein

Love this post from Brian Beutler on “sending a message”

But if the popular vote is a good vehicle for a message, then we should ask: What’s the best message we can send with it?

One downside of the Tribune’s pox-on-both-houses argument is that if Johnson has a strong showing in November—say, 17 percent to Clinton’s 41 and Trump’s 40—that would send a message that a coin-toss between a fit and unfit candidate is an acceptable risk for the country. But the most important downside would be the opportunity cost of denying Trump the ass-kicking he deserves.

The Republican Party nominated an ignorant, bigoted, authoritarian candidate to be president of the United States. The best message that the country can send with the popular vote is that if you try to win the presidency by stoking race hatred and promising to degrade the Constitution, you will lose and lose badly—that a fascist does not have an even-odds chance of becoming the most powerful person in the world.

I’d argue this is a more critical and more responsive message than one that scolds Democrats for nominating a dynastic, uncharismatic standard-bearer. And it would be unmistakable, too. Just as nobody would really believe 17 percent of the country wants to elect a candidate who doesn’t know what Aleppo is, and can’t name a single foreign leader on the fly, nobody will treat a repudiation of Trumpism as a sudden groundswell of approval for Clinton…

If you believe this election is basically a lock, or you happen not to live in a battleground, and are thus flirting with the idea of abstaining or of voting for a third party, ask yourself if you want to live in a country that has established proof of concept for a more polished racist demagogue. Do you want children growing up in a country where white supremacy has been re-normalized? Where misogyny doesn’t disqualify men for high office? Where erratic ignorance is placed in the running for the world’s highest award? Or would you rather send a message that if a major party nominates a fascist to be president of the United States—someone whose very character threatens national and global stability—the overwhelming majority of the country will flock to the candidate standing between him and the White House, and he will be left with the deplorables. [emphasis mine]

That, you damn Millennials!  (Apologies to all you Millennials who know better 🙂 ).

Lest we forget

Trump’s awful last week regarding Miss Universe has been rapidly taken over by his awful this week on taxes.  But, let’s not forget just how awful Trump was before the taxes.  This piece from Ezra absolutely nails it:

he past six days proved Donald Trump is dangerously unfit for the presidency.

The problem isn’t that Trump is cruel, though he is. The problem isn’t that Trump is boorish, though he is. The problem isn’t that Trump is undisciplined, though he is.

The problem is that Trump is predictable and controllable.

Through most of this election, those would be the last two words anyone would associate with Donald J. Trump. His brand is impulsivity. The central fact of his political style is that staff can’t control his actions. Who else would launch a presidential campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and murderers? Who else would accuse an opponent’s father of being involved in JFK’s assassination? Who else would humiliate their running mate before introducing him? Who else would tweet schoolyard insults at his challengers and retweet white supremacists praising his virtues?

 Over the past six days, Hillary Clinton’s campaign revealed that this is a misreading of Donald Trump. His behavior, though unusual, is quite predictable — a fact the Clinton campaign proved by predicting it. His actions, though beyond the control of his allies, can be controlled by his enemies — a fact the Clinton campaign proved by controlling them.

So far, this has played out, within the safe space of a presidential campaign, as farce. If Trump were to win the White House, it would play out as tragedy…

“Check out sex tape and past,” tweeted the man who wants to be the next president of the United States of America at 5:30 am.

We’re now six days beyond the debate. And Trump is still finding new ways to spring and re-spring Clinton’s trap on himself. On Friday, he told the New York Times that, in response to the Clinton campaign bringing up Machado, he would begin attacking Hillary Clinton for being “married to the single greatest abuser of women in the history of politics” — thus launching the line of assault likeliest to engender sympathy for Hillary Clinton, and opening his checkered marital history to public scrutiny.

“She’s nasty, but I can be nastier than she ever can be,” is a thing Trump actually said, aloud, to reporters, in an interview meant to help his campaign…

What is extraordinary in all this is how enthusiastically Trump has taken the Clinton campaign’s bait, and how unconcerned he’s been with the fact that they meticulously planned all this in advance to damage him. It is almost not fair to call what the Clinton campaign created a trap. They publicly, explicitly, and warmly invited him to participate in their campaign strategy, and he accepted their invitation, because the satisfaction he receives from settling old scores and venting his rage is greater than the satisfaction he receives from leading in national opinion polls.

In the context of a presidential campaign, all this is amusing. It will make a wonderful chapter in the next edition of Game Change. But imagine that this wasn’t a presidential campaign. Imagine it was the Trump presidency. And imagine it wasn’t Hillary Clinton trying to bait Trump into attacking Alicia Machado, but ISIS trying to bait Trump into attacking Iraq, or Vladimir Putin trying to bait Trump into breaking with NATO, or Angela Merkel trying to bait Trump into isolating the United States before a key vote at the United Nations, or China trying to bait Trump into giving them an excuse to assert their claim over Taiwan…

Trump didn’t listen, or perhaps he didn’t care. He sprung the trap anyway. He is more passionate about proving his dominance and humiliating his perceived foes than about following his strategy. As unpredictable and uncontrollable as he is to his allies, he is exactly that predictable and controllable to his enemies, and to America’s enemies. [emphasis mine]

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