White nationalism in Trump administration: The real threat to democracy

August 10, 2017 10:57 AM CDT BY JOHN BACHTELL

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice Department would begin investigating “intentional race-based discrimination,” the only surprise was the degree of brazenness.

Taken together with a spate of other Trump Administration announcements, its aim is crystal clear: to bull-rush through an unpopular agenda, ensure authoritarian rule, and consolidate a permanent governing constituency based on white nationalism.

The Trump policies, despite their populist mask, are hugely unpopular and face unprecedented resistance. Nevertheless, the Trump administration is forging ahead with an extreme right-wing agenda to radically undo environmental, worker, and civil rights protections and curtail freedom of the press.

These assaults are being implemented behind a fog of lies and a flurry of executive orders and agency and department policy changes. They include radically reforming immigration, both legal and illegal, imposing a Muslim ban (even though it’s not called that), returning to the “war on drugs” and mass incarceration, unshackling law enforcement, carrying out widespread voter suppression, undoing efforts to address systemic racial and gender discrimination, and reversing LGBTQ rights.

Trump is governing as he campaigned. He and his confederates are determined to deeply divide the American people and consolidate a block of white nationalist and social conservative support on the basis of racial and religious resentments, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, and fear.

A white supremacist, alt-right fascist gang

The Trump administration cabinet is the wealthiest and most right-wing in history. They are busy eliminating the Obama legacy of environmental, worker, and civil rights protections.

But the core of white supremacists with fascist alt-right ties in the Oval Office and Justice Department are driving social policy: Attorney General Jeff Sessions and presidential advisors Stephen K. Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, et al.

As editor of Breitbart News, Bannon met and worked with Sessions and his then assistant Miller. Sessions was the leading voice in the U.S Senate for anti-immigrant restrictions.

During those battles, they discovered their shared outlook and later found common cause in Trump, whom they saw as a vessel for their ideas.

“Trump is a blunt instrument for us,” Bannon told Vanity Fair.

Their anti-immigrant obsession is connected to the much broader belief that sees changing racial demographics—the rising number of people of color and immigrant residents—as the chief internal threat to the country. According to trends, the United States will have a majority people of color population by the year 2050.

They see this as a threat to white patriarchic domination of the U.S. economy, politics, and culture. For them, these shifts are a danger to the very viability of the GOP.

Cultural and social mores are also shifting. A new role for women and the LGBTQ community is emerging. All are shaping a new multiracial, multinational, multi-gender identity, multicultural, multilingual democracy.

And these breathtaking changes are taking place over the span of just a few decades. Since 1965, the immigrant population has grown from 9.6 million to 45 million, accounting for 55 percent of U.S. population growth. Between 1980 and 2008, the foreign-born Latino population grew four-fold from 4.2 million to 17.8 million.

These demographic, cultural, and social changes (and the pace at which they are occurring) against a backdrop of economic uncertainty are unsettling to many whites. A significant portion of the Trump vote is a reactionagainst the new multiracial, multicultural society that was embodied in the Obama coalition.

Sessions and Bannon see the Trump administration as the last chance to reverse this. The grand scheme is to slow down, halt, and reverse the demographic and cultural shifts taking place while driving a wedge among the multiracial working class and people. They aim to permanently entrench white nationalist rule.

As The Daily Beast described it, “They also believe that if they can get forty percent of the vote, they can continue to forge the shape of this new historical cycle for the duration. This is Bannon’s plan—to use the Electoral College to maintain the office (with the help of gerrymandering and voter suppression as well, and buttressed by the nationalist messages that traffic in confusion, fear, and paranoia). They believe that if they can get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the non-white vote, which they presume to get by restoring the pre-globalist economy, they can rule for forty years.”

It is part of their vision for an even bigger pan-global European-Christian axis, embodied in the notion of an apocalyptic “clash of civilizations” between the Christian and Muslim worlds.

The grand scheme is to slow down, halt, and reverse the demographic and cultural shifts taking place while driving a wedge among the multiracial working class and people.

This fantasy is being brought to life through several policies:

First, the administration seeks to promote racial resentments among millions of white people. This is the meaning of the attacks on affirmative action going on under the cover of “investigations into race-based discrimination” against whites. The aim is to create “white nationalist” identity of a group being aggrieved economically, socially, and culturally.

Second, the Trump administration seeks the removal of 11 million undocumented immigrants. But they realize it is too expensive, the logistics too difficult and legalities too daunting for government to deport everyone, so the goal is “self-deportation.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is carrying this out by using tactics that spread terror among undocumented immigrant communities.

The administration aims to isolate and stoke hatred for immigrant communities by convincing the American people that undocumented immigrants are involved in widespread, violent, and heinous crimes. They seek to eliminate opposition to deportation by threatening to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities.

Third, Trump’s government is out to cut legal immigration by up to half through a radical restriction of documented immigrants from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while keeping the flow from Europe.

The administration and its Congressional allies are cleverly posing this as a matter of both documented and undocumented immigrants taking the jobs and lowering the wages of US workers, despite the lack of any evidence of such.

Fourth, there is a sustained effort to restrict the immigration of Muslims. They are achieving this by stoking fear and hatred of Muslims, by equating Islam with terrorism, and by promoting the big lie that Muslims are conspiring to impose Sharia law.

Fifth, Trump and company are seeking to resurrect the failed and fraudulent war on drugs which was responsible for the mass incarceration of millions—mainly African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. The administration is whipping up fear with the “alternative fact” that crime is skyrocketing, especially in African-American communities.

They have no serious measures to address the sources of gun violence in cities like Chicago other than greater repression. “Law and order” is needed, the administration declares, which requires unshackling the police. The administration is not only turning a blind eye to police brutality in communities of color; Trump encouraged it in recent speech to police.

The Justice Department is dropping consent decrees against police departments over racism and police brutality, and the administration hopes to build a mass right-wing base within law enforcement agencies.

Sixth, there is a massive voter suppression effort underway. The ground is being prepared by the Trump-created election integrity commission for a purge of millions of African American, Latino, young, and low-income voters who tend to vote Democratic. It is based on the lie that voter fraud is rampant and that millions of undocumented workers even voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The expanded mass incarceration and criminalization of African Americans will also result in mass voter disenfranchisement.

Miller and Bannon are key advocates of the clash of civilizations view within the administration. | Evan Vucci / AP

Lies, lies, and more lies

The Trump lies blend seamlessly with the vast propagation of deceptions and bizarre conspiracy theories from right-wing media, the network of social conservative groups, the NRA, and fundamentalist Christian Evangelicals and Catholics bombarding millions of people around the clock.

Millions of Trump supporters believe these lies in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Despite all the corruption, conflicts of interest, and collusion with Russia to interfere in the U.S. elections, 83 percent of GOP voters have a stubbornly favorable opinion of Trump.

The outright lies, promotion of perceived white nationalist grievances, scapegoating of racial and religious minorities, and homophobia—combined with the erosion of democratic norms—is the bitter concoction from which authoritarianism and fascism brew. It must be resisted at every turn and defeated decisively through the broadest, most diverse unity possible.

Via People’s World

Lessons for 2018 from the Ossoff campaign in Georgia

August 1, 2017 9:20 AM CDT BY JOHN BACHTELL

The string of Democratic Party losses in special elections this past spring brought to the surface tactical disagreements within the party and the broader progressive movements.

Most of these debates center on the question of what is the best way to oust the Republican right-wing majority in the 2018 mid-term elections and advance a progressive agenda. Going even further, some progressives argue the time is now ripe to oust corporate Democrats and take over the Democratic Party altogether, or even to split and form a new third party.

The 2018 elections are pivotal. The nation faces a Trump and GOP-induced constitutional crisis. Nothing less than the defense of democracy and halting the drift toward authoritarianism is at stake.

Victory requires the most flexible tactics and broadest unity and cooperation to engage tens of millions of voters. Neither left nor center within and outside the Democratic Party can do this alone. Furthermore, any split from the Democratic Party at this moment would be disastrous for the entire resistance.

Democrats need 24 seats to re-claim a House majority. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is targeting 79 GOP-controlled districts to flip, many of which Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

The Koch Brothers will spend $400 million protecting the GOP majority. This is a sober reminder of the titanic battle ahead.

Over-performance or failure?

Despite the recent special election defeats, Democratic candidates either outperformed Trump’s margin of victory or the last GOP vote in their particular congressional districts.

Had the Democratic Party poured resources into races in Kansas, Montana, and South Carolina in support of its adopted 50-state strategy, would the Democratic challenger have won? That’s a fair question.

In the case of Jon Ossoff’s loss to Republican Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, there wereenough resources and ground troops to win. What’s being debated in this case is Ossoff’s program and messaging, particular his reluctance to endorse a single-payer health care system.

Some faulted the Democratic Party establishment and Ossoff himself, arguing he was a corporate Democrat who campaigned on a vague appeal. Instead, the claim goes, a progressive platform of single-payer healthcare, free education, and taxing the rich was needed to inspire turnout – and is also what’s required to prevail in 2018.

It’s not enough to be against Trump. Acknowledging the criticism and affirming the need for a clear alternative to the GOP agenda, Democrats began unrolling a “Better Deal” for America. The program calls for creating millions of jobs through a massive infrastructure plan, a $15 minimum wage and job training, and includes single-payer among the solutions for the health care crisis.

Factors in the loss

Georgia’s 6th Congressional District was purposely gerrymandered to be a reliably conservative GOP district and elected Republicans to Congress for 40 years. In 2016, former Rep. Tom Price won by 22 percent, although Trump beat Clinton by just 1 percent.

Less than six months later, Ossoff lost by 4 percent, winning approximately 10 percent of GOP voters while taking a majority of the independent vote.

The GOP enjoys a deep voter allegiance in the 6th District. Handel won on many of the same appeals Trump exploited in 2016: fear, racial resentment, xenophobia, and Islamophobia.

Ossoff was characterized as an outsider with support from Hollywood elites. (Although he grew up there, Ossoff did live outside the district at the time of the election.)

He was tied to House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who, like Hillary Clinton, has been demonized with misogynistic attacks. References to Pelosi’s San Francisco district were coded appeals to homophobia.

Since Ossoff is Jewish, you have to wonder how much anti-Semitism might also have played a role.

New voter suppression laws in Georgia clearly impacted turnout. Civil rights groups have filed at least seven lawsuits against state and local officials to contest them.

Dee Hunter, director of the Civil Rights Center, believes Ossoff would have won outright in the first round had it not been for voter suppression.

Investigative journalist Greg Palast reported the New Georgia Project registered 86,000 new voters. But 40,000 of these fresh registrants magically “vanished” somewhere at the Board of Elections, including many in the Georgia 6th.

Given all this, it is remarkable Ossoff came so close to winning.

Even though he lost, the character of the Ossoff campaign’s base of support is worth noting. It was a broad and diverse coalition of women, African Americans, Asians, Latinos, youth, and labor, including new activists outraged by the election of Trump. Ossoff took 40 percent of the white vote.

The Democratic establishment had for all intents abandoned the district since 1979. Conceding the Georgia 6th and other districts like it to the GOP proved to be a huge mistake.

An electoral infrastructure is now being built largely from scratch in the district. It will take time to re-engage and educate voters, especially those who feel their voice doesn’t matter. Even with 12,000 ground troops and a record amount of money, less than half (48 percent) of voters went to the polls.

Referring to the work of Democratic women organized into a group called Pave It Blue, state Sen. Nan Orrock characterizes the “prolonged, months-long battle of trying to flip the 6th” as “laying the groundwork” to turn the whole state blue in the future.

Colors of change in Georgia

The 6th District and Georgia as a whole are changing, but not overnight. A big influx of African-American, Latino, and Asian residents is creating new alliances and shifting politics.

The efforts of groups like Pave It Blue are focused on painstakingly building multi-racial unity, diverse networks, and a grassroots ground operation to expand the electorate and challenge the influence of right-wing ideas.

This is being combined with a struggle against gerrymandering and voter suppression.

The emergence of this new multi-racial democratic movement statewide is driving changes in the state legislature and opens the possibility of electing Stacey Abrams as governor in 2018. If elected, Abrams would be the nation’s first African-American woman governor.

The 6th District special election was a snapshot of this process. Although Ossoff stood on the progressive side of the political spectrum, he moderated his message to assemble a winning coalition.

The Nation writes, “These women, and their male allies (in the campaign), don’t understand why the Ossoff race has been framed by some critics as the campaign of a corporate Democrat powered by party elites.” Indivisible co-founder Amy Nosek, who was a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016, said, “Jon [Ossoff] is reaching out to everyone, and we need that here.” Continuing, she said, “There’s no way the 6th District is ready for a Bernie right now. I think of Jon as a pragmatic progressive, and that’s what we need.”

Democratic candidate for 6th congressional district Jon Ossoff, left, concedes to Republican Karen Handel while joined by his fiancee Alisha Kramer at his election night party in Atlanta, June 20. | David Goldman / AP

The implications of the Ossoff race are clear for the 2018 elections: One size doesn’t fit all, and politics are in flux.

The balance of political forces has to be carefully measured in each district. In some places, candidates will have no problem openly advocating for single-payer, free college tuition, and taxing the rich. In others, it will be more difficult – especially in those districts gerrymandered for GOP candidates. Here, putting together winning electoral coalitions may mean including moderate Republicans.

Single-payer and 2018

Some progressives harshly criticized Ossoff for not openly supporting single-payer legislation. Without question, it’s the only long-term solution to the health care crisis.

Ossoff felt he couldn’t push single-payer, though, because of the nature of the broad coalition he was building, which included disaffected GOP voters.

But things are changing. Obamacare created a paradigm shift, and now a majority of Americans think government has the responsibility to ensure health care for all.

Simultaneously, there is growing consensus in the Democratic Party for single-payer. Yet differences remain over how to get to single-payer and what the relationship would be between it and established insurance plans negotiated by unions. Public sentiment is changing rapidly, but single payer doesn’t yet enjoy majority support. Therefore, a candidate’s position on single-payer can’t be a litmus test as to whether they deserve support.

Trump announced his intention to go all out to bolster GOP congressional majorities in 2018 to repeal Obamacare, a great, yet limited achievement of the working class and progressive movements. The battle lines have been drawn.

It will require flexible tactics to win in districts like the Georgia 6th. Unity and cooperation are needed to block Obamacare’s repeal, prevent its sabotage, and demand a public option as the next step in reform.

At the same time, independent grassroots movements and coalitions – beginning with the labor movement – must be built. This includes convincing a majority of voters that single-payer is the only viable, long-term solution to the health care crisis.

Potential for progressive advance

There is general unity on the need for a 50-state strategy among the diverse forces making up the Democratic Party coalition. Moveon.org and other groups joined the DNC in the “Resistance Summer” project in Arizona, Massachusetts, Michigan, Kansas and South Dakota.

A key aspect of the resistance to Trump and the GOP is the unbroken unity of congressional Democrats and their interaction with the mass upsurge.

Central to this development is a temporary multi-class alliance whose main purpose is to defeat the right. Along with cooperation, however, there are always going to be contradictions, antagonisms, and internal struggles in such an alliance. That is a given.

But moderate and establishment forces within the Democratic Party are not static. They are responding to the left, the mass upsurge, and changing public opinion, even if that response is at times halting and inconsistent. This was evident in the platform adopted at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, widely considered the most progressive ever of any major party.

New opportunities are opening up for progressive politics despite the immense dangers and daunting challenges that characterize the current period. Broad and flexible tactics, if pursued, have the possibility of halting the assault on democracy, defeating the right, and advancing a progressive agenda all at the same time.

Via People’s World