Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Lilly Workneh - This Election Has Completely Debunked The Myth Of A ‘Post Racial’ America // An American Tragedy By David Remnick

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, many assumed a “post-racial” America was upon us. They were fiercely wrong. People believed that the nation had somehow reconciled its racism by electing a black man into the White House. As it turned out, one man alone could not undo the countless systemic issues that have plagued a country built on slavery. 

During Obama’s last year in office, we saw just how deeply wrong the idea of this “post-racial” era was with the rise of the alt-right movement and the racist attacks that have unfolded as a result of Donald Trump’s campaign for president. Trump’s campaign has catered to right-wing and far-right voters who enthusiastically promote his racist dog-whistle pitch to “Make America Great Again.”
Since the start of his campaign, the Republican presidential nominee has rolled out proposals and delivered speeches that came with incredibly offensive messages about America’s most marginalized groups, including black people. White nationalists heard him loud and clear, and have become energized to rebrand white supremacy as a mainstream idea. Behold, the alt-right movement
The alt-right movement, as described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is a group of people who subscribe to a far-right ideology “at the core of which is a belief that ‘white identity’ is under attack through policies prioritizing multiculturalism, political correctness and social justice, and must be preserved, usually through white-identified online communities and physical ethno-states.”

The movement, which is made up of mostly disgruntled young white men, has become extremely vocal online over the course of Trump’s campaign. They have weaponized social media and identified new ways to attract interest among Trump supporters through their highly-active online presence and hate-filled hubs on the internet. Racism is the movement’s central premise; they are explicitly anti-semitic and reject christianity entirely.

Members praise the presidential candidate for creating a space to allow their hateful views to permeate current political discourse. He has provided white supremacists with a safety net and served as a catalyst for the rise in hate groups who are actively campaigning to help elect him into the White House. Just last month, the KKK’s newspaper printed a front-page endorsement of Trump, using his campaign slogan as the headline

Trump has tried to distance himself from hate groups. A Trump spokesperson previously told The Huffington Post that “Mr. Trump has repeatedly disavowed these groups and individuals, as well as their hateful rhetoric, which he strongly condemns, and will continue to do so.” However, the irony here is that Trump is guilty of spreading hateful and racist rhetoric himself. Throughout his campaign, Trump has repeatedly disrespected the black community by dismissing the reality of police brutality, condemning the Black Lives Matter movement and believing all African Americans live in crime-infested inner-cities. 

He has called Mexicans rapists, taken a tough stance on immigration and has pledged to ban all Muslims, repeatedly implying that they are all terrorists. His campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” is racist in and of itself, and white supremacists are enthusiastic about it because it signals to them that Trump also yearns for a time when being white meant being in control. 

Trump has shown, time and again, that he has absolutely no idea how to reckon with the present-day reality of race in America nor how to bridge the country’s racial divide. Trump serves as a beacon of hope to his core supporters. He coddles their ambitions to maintain America’s system of oppression and emboldens them in dangerous ways that have led to serious consequences. Just last week, a black church was burned and vandalized with graffiti that read “Vote Trump.” On Sunday, a black man was verbally attacked by a Trump supporter who called him a “n****r” and threatened to physically harm him. Black people have been pushed and shoved at Trump rallies and other people of color have been bullied online by Trump’s supporters.

Racist Trump fans are here to stay, and they have gained mainstream exposure at a frightening speed over the course of this election cycle.  In a recently-published piece by HuffPost Highline, reporter Luke O’Brien spoke with some of the most dangerous Trump supporters among the alt-right. He warned readers that “unconscionable racists will be a force in American politics well beyond November 8.”

“The movement has unleashed an ugly and volatile force into American politics,” O’Brien wrote. “It has proved that a small group of trolls can poison discourse with violent, racist rhetoric and help to elevate a candidate who entertains ideas like registering all Muslim Americans in a database. It has built the iconography, language and infrastructure for a millennial version of an old hate.” It is still unclear what will unfold in the months following election day, but one thing is immediately apparent: America has never functioned as a “post-racial” society, and it damn sure isn’t starting now. 


An American Tragedy By David Remnick
George Orwell, the most fearless of commentators, was right to point out that public opinion is no more innately wise than humans are innately kind. People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory. “The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion,” Orwell wrote in his essay Freedom of the Park. “The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President—a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit—and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.

There are, inevitably, miseries to come: an increasingly reactionary Supreme Court; an emboldened right-wing Congress; a President whose disdain for women and minorities, civil liberties and scientific fact, to say nothing of simple decency, has been repeatedly demonstrated. Trump is vulgarity unbounded, a knowledge-free national leader who will not only set markets tumbling but will strike fear into the hearts of the vulnerable, the weak, and, above all, the many varieties of Other whom he has so deeply insulted. The African-American Other. The Hispanic Other. The female Other. The Jewish and Muslim Other. The most hopeful way to look at this grievous event—and it’s a stretch—is that this election and the years to follow will be a test of the strength, or the fragility, of American institutions. It will be a test of our seriousness and resolve.

Early on Election Day, the polls held out cause for concern, but they provided sufficiently promising news for Democrats in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, and even Florida that there was every reason to think about celebrating the fulfillment of Seneca Falls, the election of the first woman to the White House. Potential victories in states like Georgia disappeared, little more than a week ago, with the F.B.I. director’s heedless and damaging letter to Congress about reopening his investigation and the reappearance of damaging buzzwords like “e-mails,” “Anthony Weiner,” and “fifteen-year-old girl.” But the odds were still with Hillary Clinton.

All along, Trump seemed like a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right. That he has prevailed, that he has won this election, is a crushing blow to the spirit; it is an event that will likely cast the country into a period of economic, political, and social uncertainty that we cannot yet imagine. That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering.

In the coming days, commentators will attempt to normalize this event. They will try to soothe their readers and viewers with thoughts about the “innate wisdom” and “essential decency” of the American people. They will downplay the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil. George Orwell, the most fearless of commentators, was right to point out that public opinion is no more innately wise than humans are innately kind. People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory. “The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion,” Orwell wrote in his essay “Freedom of the Park.” “The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”

Trump ran his campaign sensing the feeling of dispossession and anxiety among millions of voters—white voters, in the main. And many of those voters—not all, but many—followed Trump because they saw that this slick performer, once a relative cipher when it came to politics, a marginal self-promoting buffoon in the jokescape of eighties and nineties New York, was more than willing to assume their resentments, their fury, their sense of a new world that conspired against their interests.

That he was a billionaire of low repute did not dissuade them any more than pro-Brexit voters in Britain were dissuaded by the cynicism of Boris Johnson and so many others. The Democratic electorate might have taken comfort in the fact that the nation had recovered substantially, if unevenly, from the Great Recession in many ways—unemployment is down to 4.9 per cent—but it led them, it led us, to grossly underestimate reality. The Democratic electorate also believed that, with the election of an African-American President and the rise of marriage equality and other such markers, the culture wars were coming to a close. Trump began his campaign declaring Mexican immigrants to be “rapists”; he closed it with an anti-Semitic ad evoking “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”; his own behavior made a mockery of the dignity of women and women’s bodies. And, when criticized for any of it, he batted it all away as “political correctness.” 

Surely such a cruel and retrograde figure could succeed among some voters, but how could he win? Surely, Breitbart News, a site of vile conspiracies, could not become for millions a source of news and mainstream opinion. And yet Trump, who may have set out on his campaign merely as a branding exercise, sooner or later recognized that he could embody and manipulate these dark forces. The fact that “traditional” Republicans, from George H. W. Bush to Mitt Romney, announced their distaste for Trump only seemed to deepen his emotional support... read more:
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/an-american-tragedy-donald-trump

The Republic Repeals Itself By Andrew Sullivan
To see what is in front of one’s nose is a constant struggle: George Orwell 

Donald Trump is moving to the White House, and liberals put him there: Thomas Frank

see also
George Orwell: Freedom of the Park