‘Democrats must nominate a white guy in 2020.’ Oh, really?

Why aren’t we hearing more in the media about presidential candidates (clockwise, from top left) Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Tulsi Gabbard? Could it be because they all lack a Y chromosome?

If you’re tired of reading about the endless debate of whether Joe Biden’s habit of physically demonstrating his affection is appropriate or the countless stories of how awesome it is that Pete Buttigieg learned Norwegian to read a book, you’re not alone.

If you’re thirsting for discussion of actual issues that affect the country and policies to address those issues, you may be in for a drought. Given the media’s track record on covering the 2020 Democratic race so far, we’re more likely to get an ocean of coverage about men.

The media loved the feel-good story of the record number of women running for office in 2018 — and winning. But it’s almost as if the nation’s newsrooms — still disproportionately white and male — figured that they had given women pats on the head, and now it was time to get back to concentrating on white male candidates, who (in too many of their opinions) are the only ones who have a real shot at beating Donald Trump next year. Likely because the women aren’t “likable” enough. And the more they push that line, the danger is that more voters might believe there’s no alternative.

The gushing coverage of Buttigieg (whom I like, don’t get me wrong) and the emphasis on what are being described as the B-Boys (Biden, Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, and now Buttigieg) is, in the words of Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post, a “self-fulfilling prophecy” (this was written before Buttigieg started receiving so much attention). This is especially true when the media concentrate on who’s ahead in the latest polling, even if it’s way too early for horse-race journalism:

Somehow, despite a remarkably diverse Democratic field — which includes a record number of women, a gay man and several people of color — the B-Boys (that is, Beto, Biden and Bernie) — were off and running.

The news media undoubtedly was part of the equation. With more than 18 months to go before the 2020 election, the love and attention was not being dished out in equal measure. …

When many Democratic voters put sheer electability (unseating President Trump) as the top priority, this media-driven momentum takes on even more power.

That’s potentially dangerous.

It would be a shame — and counterproductive — if premature judgments end up transforming all this diversity and talent into a shrugged-off bunch of also-rans.

I’ve got news for the media. Primary and caucus voters are going to decide this contest, not pundits.

If white guys are the best Democrats have to offer, why are there a record number of black women mayors currently serving in U.S. cities? Lori Lightfoot made history as the first black (and openly gay) woman to be elected as mayor of Chicago. Her opponent, Toni Preckwinkle, was another African-American woman, who, even though she lost, remains the second most powerful politician in the city as president of the Cook County Board and the Cook County Democratic Party. And although Chicago has a celebrated Democratic machine, it’s not exactly liberal and had nothing to do with delivering Lightfoot’s win.

This NPR story quoted the head of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University about the rise of African-American women, who remain Democrats’ most consistent and loyal voters:

But the rapid rise of black women mayors in large American cities is a sign that black women are making strides in an area where all women have long been absent, said Debbie Walsh, the center’s director.

“One of the challenges that we’ve seen over time for women, in general, is women in executive leadership,” Walsh said. “There’s an assumption that women in legislative positions, whether federal level, state level or even at the city level work well in committee, work well on councils. It fits for the stereotype for women.”

“Breaking that final glass ceiling of women as executives really opens up a world of possibilities. To be the person who is the final decider, the place where the buck stops, is something that we think voters may be more hesitant about,” Walsh continued.

A Politico piece saw sexism in coverage but also attributed the imbalance to voters who might fear another woman on the top ticket.

With an all-male cast of Democratic candidates soaking up most of the oxygen and posting better polling numbers, there is now more evidence to suggest that gender bias is a real problem for female candidates.

At the same time, other evidence suggests that female candidates may not be at a significant disadvantage in lower-level races. Indeed, Smith and Paul didn’t find significant evidence of gender bias in operation even in primary match-ups (though this result is highly limited, given they compared only the two aforementioned pairings). This finding coheres with the hopeful results we saw in the 2018 election, when an unprecedented number of female members of Congress were elected. But it also leaves open the question of how well women will fare when it comes to the highest profile race of all: the presidential election.

Why might presidential races be different? One plausible theory is that in seeking the Oval Office women are competing less for a service position and more for a position of perceived power and authority—indeed, virtually the most masculine-coded authority position imaginable.

How many times do we have to say it? Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump.

If local voters can elect so many black women as mayors, surely voters on the national scale can muster up the courage to vote for a woman as president. In Illinois alone, there are an eye-popping number of black women in office.

But pundits insist that we’ve got to nominate a white guy to beat Trump. Got it.

Just like all Democratic voters, black voters want a candidate with the best chance to beat Trump, as was described in a recent Washington Post story about the National Action Network convention, a group founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton. But there are contrasting arguments as to who that candidate might be.

“The old white guys have been in the political arena. They know what the job entails,” said Yvonne James, a 79-year-old New Yorker who carried a canvas bag at the convention with images of the Obamas and other “strong black men and women” stitched onto it. “So if it boils down to them or somebody who’s kind of new, let’s go with the experienced choice.” …

It’s been 15 years since Democrats last nominated a white man for president, choosing John F. Kerry, who would go on to lose to George W. Bush in 2004. With so many strong alternatives this time, some Democrats say, they aren’t keen on doing that in 2020.

“That’s the American norm; people vote for what they know. But the old, safe norm is what got Trump in there. I think it’s time to shake up things a little bit,” said Tiffany James, the 37-year-old head of NAN’s South Carolina branch. She arrived at the convention in a shirt that read “Black Women 2020” — promoting a push to put their agenda front and center.

On the plus side, CNN is giving every announced candidate his or her own town hall, publicizing them in advance, giving candidates plenty of time to answer questions, and reporting on them afterward, both on air and online. Most of the Democratic candidates are being interviewed on various MSNBC shows. Candidates are making their own calls on whether they’re willing to go on Fox News.

To counteract the Buttigieg-learned-Norwegian stories, Vogue came out with a piece listing hobbies, pets, and other human interest stories about women candidates. Elizabeth Warren was a star debater in high school, and her dog, Bailey, won a “poll” with Iowa caucus-goers. Kamala Harris cleaned test tubes in her scientist mother’s lab and mastered Indian cooking. Amy Klobuchar learned about Minnesota on bicycle rides with her dad and attended the University of Chicago Law School with former FBI Director James Comey, who described her as “annoyingly smart.” Kirsten Gillibrand interviewed the Dalai Lama, ran two marathons and plays on the congressional women’s softball team (remember when the media in 2012 obsessed about Paul Ryan and his workout routines?).

The coverage remains way too uneven. An opinion piece in the online magazine Dame lamented the unfairness of that fact:

So is it all that surprising then, that we see tremendous gaps in coverage between the growing pile of white male candidates and Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard — five female veteran lawmakers—contending for the Democratic nomination? …

When Beto O’Rourke says that he wings speeches and is “born” to lead in a race with numerous prepared, engaged women who had to fight sexism even after being elected to high office, who come to the table with policies they’ve sponsored and proposals at the ready, it is an ugly reminder of the work women have to do to be considered competent versus the unearned entitlement of men. …

The quality of media coverage of women seeking power, the speed with which men ignored, dismissed, and diminished women as voters and opponents, the ways we treat women’s bodies as public property — these were all issues raised in 2016. That we are still grappling with them again shows how deeply embedded misogyny is and how unserious we are about truly resolving it.

In January, a Glamour story celebrated the fact that multiple women in a presidential contest no longer seems out of the mainstream:

“This field of wildly qualified, incredibly impressive women is making the most consequential political race of our lifetime look and feel more like the reality we all aspire to — basic equality — and that is such a positive thing for the American public to be witnessing,” writes Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Now, if only the mainstream media saw it that way. Please — give women candidates as much overall coverage as certain men.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on April 14, 2019.

More women running — and winning elections — is the new normal

An awful lot of candidates were inspired by the Women’s Marches to run for office. How about in your community?

As exciting as it is to have multiple Democratic women running for president, it’s just as exciting when people you know and admire run for office — and win.

Three women I know recently won local elections—as a village trustee, as a member of a community college board of trustees, and as a local school board member. All are smart, progressive women who, like thousands of others around the country — were inspired to get involved in local politics after their deep disappointment in the 2016 election results.

After Hillary Clinton’s loss in the Electoral College — even though she beat Donald Trump by nearly 3 million votes — women got mad. And then they got energized.

Women turned out in record numbers to run for office at all levels. Emily’s List reported that, while only 910 women sought electoral help in 2016, some 42,000 women indicated an interest in running in 2018. A record number — 256 — won House and Senate primaries. Obviously, not all of them won in November, but there are now 127 women in Congress, a 15 percent increase from the last term and another record. And what was true in all modern U.S. elections also was true in 2018: Women vote in greater numbers than men, both in absolute totals and as a proportion of eligible voters.

Here are three women, none of whom had ever held elective office before, who decided to make a difference on their own. All are successful in their professional careers and wanted to expand their influence. They got involved in Women’s Marches, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense groups, and volunteer community organizations, but all saw openings where their interests and skills could serve a wider purpose.

All three launched grassroots campaigns, raising money on their own and enlisting friends as campaign volunteers. All three received endorsements from local newspapers, faculty organizations, and/or progressive groups. All three aimed their campaigns at each community’s local issues, whether those were financial concerns, environmental sustainability, affordable housing, racial equity, new ideas for educational excellence, or opening education to a more diverse population.

And all three of them won.

Susan Buchanan went to Congress to seek greater funding for graduate training in occupational health and safety.

The new village trustee. Susan Buchanan is a family physician specializing in occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she’s an associate professor. She has a master’s degree in public health and is also board-certified in preventive medicine. She currently serves as a commissioner on the local board of health in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb. From there, it was logical to take the step step to run for the Village Board.

“As a family doctor and researcher, I understand the importance of studying problems in depth while listening to and addressing the needs of my patients and communities I serve,” she said on her campaign website. “I will provide the same quality of care to our village’s residents. I will listen and do all I can to protect the health of our community — its economic, social, and environmental health—while ensuring the most vulnerable among us have a voice and receive the services they need to thrive.”

Buchanan received the most votes in a crowded field of 11 candidates. Although she was new to electoral politics, she has a long record of activism: She volunteered at the Chicago Community Health free clinic on Chicago’s West Side, treating Hispanic families, and is on the board of directors for the Chicago chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. She was also an election observer in El Salvador and a volunteer physician in Nicaragua.

One of her key issues in the race was environmental sustainability. “In the Chicago area, heat waves and rainfall are increasing. That means higher risk of heat illness and asthma attacks, flooding, mold overgrowth, and allergies. The Village of Oak Park government has an important role to play in combating the further degradation of our environment. Scientists tell us there are actions we can take at the local level to decrease our carbon footprint, and I support using evidence-based approaches to do as much as we possibly can as individuals and as a community.”

Suzanne Hoban

The new member of a community college board. Suzanne Hoban is the executive director of a health clinic in Woodstock, northwest of Chicago. With a master’s degree in public health, she founded the clinic over 20 years ago as the first charitable clinic in McHenry County. Her volunteer community involvement spurred her to serve the local community college, and she was just elected a member of the McHenry County College Board of Trustees.

Hoban is a board member of the Illinois Association of Free and Charitable Clinics and the Leadership of Greater McHenry County. She is also a member of the Senior Services Grant Commission of McHenry County. But it was her late father’s position as a community college teacher and administrator that inspired her to run for the college board of trustees.

“I grew up thinking that everyone understood the value of community colleges,” she said on her campaign website. “After all, in the early 1970s, my father’s doctoral thesis was on the incredible possibilities of this radically new concept of education for the entire community. He spent his career at Waubonsee Community College in various roles as dean, teacher, and administrator. The community college was a part of our family’s life every day. It was only as I grew older that I realized that many people have no concept of the role that community colleges can play in a community.”

Hoban’s answers in a campaign profile interview with The Daily Herald earned her that newspaper’s endorsement. “I believe a community college should be the hub of community learning — a campus where students can pursue associates degrees and professional or technical certificates; a resource that local businesses can tap into to enhance employee skills, and a place accessible to any community member who wants to learn something new — from painting to beekeeping.”

Emily Berry

The new school board member. Emily Berry is a former reporter who now works in corporate communications. She got involved as a PTO volunteer in her kids’ schools in the Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood. She first ran for the school board in 2017, only narrowly getting edged out by incumbents.

Berry already had been attending school board meetings as an interested parent and observer. Her school involvement propelled her to start a blog on local educational issues two years ago, one that has received a growing readership in the community. This time around, she was successful in her run for a seat on the Shorewood School Board. Her winning campaign slogan was (of course), “Pick Berry.”

“I am a proud Democrat and a strong believer in public education,” Berry said on her campaign website. “The time I’ve spent volunteering in our schools, attending board meetings, and researching in my free time has reinforced my strong support for public schools as the heart of our community. My support and care for our schools also means I am determined to see clearly where we can do better and where we may even be failing our students.”

Here’s an excerpt from a recent blog post dealing with racial equity. “Just a few months ago, our fall play was cancelled after objections to the racial slurs in the play. Suddenly systemic inequities that have been harming generations of black students in Shorewood were laid bare. … A survey and analysis of African-American students (commissioned long before the events in October) produced a series of evidence-based recommendations around how the district could start to better support non-white students. … I think it’s past time for the board to weave language around equity through board policy. … I just hope they move quickly past it and on to some more tangible changes, including and especially two things: first, asking administrators to take specific and targeted steps to hire more non-white teachers, staff, and administrators, and second, to ask teachers to look at ways to deliberately redesign their materials and teaching practice to be anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable.”

Maybe the issues in your community are different from the ones these three women faced. Perhaps your time, talents, and interests don’t lend themselves to a run for elective office, or maybe you’re better suited to a role as a campaign volunteer working a phone bank, writing campaign postcards, or knocking on doors (that’s certainly true for me).

Women in politics at the national level receive media coverage, even if there’s a severe imbalance in the over-coverage of male presidential candidates (that’s a whole other story).

But more and more women are stepping up at local as well as national levels. We need to support progressive women candidates and take them as seriously as we do those running for president.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on April 7, 2019.

Kill #Obamacare? Trump voters won’t care. But we will — in 2020

The ACA saved a lot of lives and delivered health insurance coverage to millions of Americans, but facts are inconvenient for Trump supporters.

No doubt you’ve heard about Donald Trump’s latest move in his series of vindictive acts against President Obama — a new attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Seemingly out of the blue, and against the advice of his own attorney general and Health and Human Services secretary, the Trump administration now says it will back a federal judge’s ruling on a lawsuit filed by 20 GOP-led states that the entire ACA is unconstitutional and should be thrown out. The announcement came in the form of a short letter from three Justice Department lawyers to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is now considering the case after a conservative, GOP-appointed judge in Texas made the original ruling in December 2018.

Never mind the fact that the ACA has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The votes of Trump’s two appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, would merely be trades for two justices who voted to kill the ACA and who are no longer on the court, the late Antonin Scalia and the retired Anthony Kennedy. There’s little reason to believe that Chief Justice John Roberts would change his vote if and when it reaches that stage again, even if the absence of the health insurance mandate changes the tax issue.

As many pundits and just about every Democrat has pointed out—gleefully—by putting ACA repeal back on the table, especially with no substitute, Trump has handed Democrats a winning issue in 2020. Guess that’s what happens when you go golfing and listen to Lindsey Graham, who apparently sold him on the idea at Mar-a-Lago.

The Donald Trump of March 2019 apparently has forgotten the words of the Donald Trump of two years earlier, who famously (and ignorantly) said, “No one knew health care could be so complicated.” Now he claims that “I understand health care now, especially, very well.”

Even worse, Trump is putting Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott in charge of his new “party of health care” effort. Because what could possibly go wrong when you put the former hospital system CEO who oversaw one of the biggest cases of Medicare fraud in history? The guy whose hospital system admitted to 14 felonies related to fraudulent billing and practices under his leadership, while he escaped with $300 million?

In another move that makes zero sense, Trump now says that the GOP will deliver a new mythical health care plan after the 2020 elections. Sure, because that’s what voters really want — their health insurance taken away without any idea how to replace it.

Better access to health care consistently polled as the No. 1 issue for Democratic voters in 2018, especially when it came to continued coverage of preexisting conditions. That was true across the board, and specifically in possible swing states such as Nevada and Florida. Health care ranked lower, however, with Republican voters, who are still stuck on immigration as their No. 1 concern.

In the never-ending series of ridiculous Trump tweets, Trump thinks he can make people believe that the GOP will now be “The Party of Healthcare!” To say this was a dumb political move on Trump’s part is putting it mildly, even as White House aides try to spin the move as a “branding exercise.”

But in the end, Trump voters won’t care. They’ll vote for him anyway.

Even as Trump went all in on ACA repeal, Democratic presidential hopefuls jumped on the opportunity to respond to the idiotic proposal. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, for instance, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on his All In show that the move “reminds so many of us why we’re Democrats.”

This tweet was from California Sen. Kamala Harris:

Potential candidates are touting varied proposals on Medicare for all vs. an optional Medicare buy-in. But the Democratic messaging after Trump’s new wacky move was simple: “Build on Obamacare with a public option.” Democrats are introducing a plan that would strengthen the ACA and expand health care.

Republicans were not happy about Trump’s move to reignite the Obamacare wars.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy failed in his attempt to talk Trump out of his potential political face-plant. As an anonymous GOP aide told The Washington Post:

“It’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard,” said a senior GOP aide, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “It is the equivalent of punching yourself in the face repeatedly.”

Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins said she “vehemently” disagrees with the Trump move to strike down all of the ACA. I suppose that’s one step above her usual stance of being “concerned,” even if that rarely translates into voting against Trump policies.

The best take might have been from satirist Andy Borowitz: “Shame on Donald Trump for trying to take away people’s ability to see a doctor. His life was saved by a podiatrist.”

Democrats often point out that Republican voters and Trump voters in particular often vote against their own self-interests. It doesn’t matter if it’s Trump’s trade war with China, which is hurting farmers and causing some to go bankrupt. Or how changes in EPA regulations on coal-burning plants would worsen air quality the most in the areas of the country where Trump received the most support. Or how Trump’s steel and auto tariffs hurt American car manufacturers, thus hurting the autoworkers who are losing jobs in places like Lordstown, Ohio. Or how GOP lawmakers in red states are working against Medicaid expansion, even when such expansion has been approved by voters.

Trump voters are all too willing to believe the Trumpian spiels about an immigrant invasion, how he has supposedly kept his campaign promises, how he’s the “greatest” and “most successful” president in history, and how the William Barr memo means he’s “totally exonerated” from any charges of collusion or obstruction of justice stemming from the Robert Mueller report. Yada yada yada. This list doesn’t even include the wall that Mexico isn’t paying for — and no, the wall hasn’t been started yet, despite the attempts at a “Finish the wall” rallying cry.

This chart, from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, demonstrates the partisan issue gulf in the run-up to the 2018 midterm election. Why worry about health care when there are immigrants to bash?

Most of all, what Trump voters care about is Trump. Trump’s approval rating is stuck in the low 40s and is unlikely to fluctuate much, but hard-core Trumpinistas are only too willing to wear red hats, scream, and wave signs at Trump rallies in those safely red districts where he did well in 2016.

Trump voters are baked in at this point. The only way to beat them is to turn out and vote in greater numbers, like we did in 2018.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on March 31, 2019.

Violent #WhiteSupremacy is nothing new, especially in America

Friends and families of the victims of the mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques try to find solace.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In a darker vein, the arc of bigotry and hatred is long, but it inevitably bends toward violence. And there’s no shortage of violence by right-wing terrorists these days.

The terrorist attack by a white supremacist against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which killed 50 people, is just the latest in a series of attacks by angry white bigots, whether they identify as neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists, anti-Semites, the alt-right, or whatever new label they’re claiming, even as Iowa Rep. Steve King (R, Bigotry) wonders how those terms became offensive. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the number of hate groups in the U.S. is at an all-time high of 1,020. The FBI saw a rise in the number of domestic terrorist arrests in late 2018. White supremacists committed the most extremist killings in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

We are horrified by white supremacists’ terrorist killings, such as the mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue in October 2018 that killed 11 worshipers. Or the June 2015 shooting in a prayer service at a Charleston, South Carolina, African-American church that killed nine people. Or the 2014 shooting deaths of three people at a Jewish Community Center and a Jewish retirement community in Overland Park, Kansas, where the gunman yelled, “Heil Hitler!” Or the 2012 shooting in a Sikh gurdwara in a Milwaukee suburb that killed six people. Or the 2008 shooting in a Knoxville, Tennessee, Unitarian church that killed two people, done by a man who described his hatred for African-Americans (along with Democrats and liberals) to police after his arrest.

As the New Zealand attack shows, the white supremacist movement is not limited to the U.S. One of the worst incidents was a 2011 terrorist attack in Norway in which an anti-immigrant extremist, Anders Breivik, killed 77 people through a bombing and a mass shooting. The New Zealand shooter’s “manifesto” listed the Norwegian perpetrator as an inspiration, as did the writings of a Maryland Coast Guard lieutenant who planned a mass attack but was arrested in February before carrying out his scheme. The term “going Breivik” is used by those in white supremacist circles to show a full commitment to the cause.

Racism has always existed and persisted in human history. In the U.S., the subjugation of Native Americans by killing them and taking their land and the institution of slavery itself are by definition violence by white supremacy.

The modern movement, however, really solidified after the Civil War.

An opinion piece by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in the online journal Think describes how the roots of modern white supremacy started as a backlash to Reconstruction. Every time there is progress, there is a reaction against that progress that pushes in the other direction. The most recent rise in white supremacy, first as a reaction to the election of Barack Obama but even more so after the election of Donald Trump, is more of the same.

Slavery is conquered at Appomattox, then followed by the evils of Jim Crow, which are conquered by King and the civil rights movement, followed by an era that leads to the first black president.

But this story, and the analogy of the long imperceptibly trending line of progress, is wrong. It does not allow for what is perhaps the most significant feature of the story of racial justice in America: backlash and backwards movement. And 50 years after King’s death, that’s the most brutal reality we must confront. …

What happened after Reconstruction was a concerted effort of white supremacist terrorism, violence and reaction that choked off equality and reasserted white rule in the South. The moral arc of the universe during that time didn’t just flatten, it actually bent in the other direction — and sharply so. …

That is the movement to preserve American racial hierarchy and white supremacy. It has gone by different names at different times, but it has not ceased to alter the trajectory of American history.

There are multiple examples of that trajectory in U.S. history. Here are just a few.

Lynchings in the 19th and 20th centuries. What can you call lynchings but white supremacist terrorism? The NAACP counts 4,743 lynchings between 1882 and 1968, admitting that the number is likely low. Of those lynched, 72.7 percent were black. The rest were white, and many of those were lynched for helping African-Americans or for committing other crimes, mostly in Western states. “Whites started lynching because they felt it was necessary to protect white women,” the NAACP says on its History of Lynching page. In addition:

Most of the lynchings that took place happened in the South. A big reason for this was the end of the Civil War. Once blacks were given their freedom, many people felt that the freed blacks were getting away with too much freedom and felt they needed to be controlled. Mississippi had the highest lynchings from 1882-1968 with 581. Georgia was second with 531, and Texas was third with 493. 79% of lynching happened in the South.

Madison Grant. The formal father of the white supremacy movement was a patrician New Yorker named Madison Grant. His 1916 book, The Passing of the Great Race, inspired Adolf Hitler’s Nazi movement as it used racist pseudoscience to “spread the doctrine of race purity all over the globe.” From an overview of that influence in The Atlantic:

Grant’s purportedly scientific argument that the exalted “Nordic” race that had founded America was in peril, and all of modern society’s accomplishments along with it, helped catalyze nativist legislators in Congress to pass comprehensive restrictionist immigration policies in the early 1920s. His book went on to become Adolf Hitler’s “bible,” as the führer wrote to tell him. Grant’s doctrine has since been rejuvenated and rebranded by his ideological descendants as “white genocide” (the term genocide hadn’t yet been coined in Grant’s day). In an introduction to the 2013 edition of another of Grant’s works, the white nationalist Richard Spencer warns that “one possible outcome of the ongoing demographic transformation is a thoroughly miscegenated, and thus homogeneous and ‘assimilated,’ nation, which would have little resemblance to the White America that came before it.”

Sovereign citizen movements. The term covers several right-wing, often white supremacist groups that reject federal authority. The Posse Comitatus Act, literally, “power of the county” in Latin, was passed in 1878 to prohibit the use of federal troops to enforce Reconstruction policies, specifically in Southern states. The act was amended in the 1980s to allow the government to use the military to fight drug trafficking but still limits the use of U.S. soldiers on American soil.

The Posse Comitatus movement was started in 1969 as a right-wing, antitax extremist group. It was founded by William Potter Gale, an anti-Semite and member of a Nazi-inspired organization called the Silver Shirts. Its proponents claimed to recognize only a county sheriff as a legitimate holder of government power. There were acts of anti-government resistance and violence throughout the country that resulted in the deaths of several members of law enforcement. Other such groups include the Montana Freemen, the Christian Identity movement, militia movements, and the “township” movement, which also recognized only small local groups as legitimate government.

“The key distinguishing characteristic of the sovereign citizen movement is its extreme anti-government ideology, couched in conspiratorial, pseudohistorical, pseudolegal and sometimes racist language,” according to an explanation by the Anti-Defamation League.

Oklahoma City bombing and The Turner Diaries. The 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City is remembered as an anti-government act by its two perpetrators, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols — and it was, as a continuance of the militia movement. But the two were strongly influenced by The Turner Diaries, a 1978 dystopian novel by William Luther Pierce, published under the pseudonym “Andrew Macdonald.” The plot of the book revolves around “a United States where non-white minorities have disarmed and oppressed white Americans, leading to an armed white nationalist revolution.” It is described in an Atlantic article as “crudely written and wildly racist.”

The Turner Diaries first made headlines when a violent white nationalist gang appropriated the name of The Order, following the tactical blueprint for terrorism in the book. Turner catapulted to national prominence when it was revealed to be a key inspiration for Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people using a truck bomb strikingly similar to one described in detail in the book. Since then, The Turner Diaries has inspired hate crimes and terrorism across the United States and in Europe in more than a dozen separate plots through the present day. …

While it would be a mistake to credit The Turner Diaries for the entirety of this transition in white nationalism, the novel demonstrated how to successfully leverage racial fears and resentments in the service of violence, without a call to a specific ideology, and the book remains widely influential today.

While Turner is rightly infamous for the violence it has inspired, most notably in Oklahoma City, its impact on the shape of white nationalism — and the movement’s current resurgence — is an equal part of its dark legacy.

There’s a long list of people pushing the hatred of white supremacy, on social media, on right-wing extremist websites, on YouTube videos, on right-wing radio. But when the language of a white supremacist killer half a world away is echoed by the president of the United States, we cannot — and must not — be silent.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on March 24, 2019.

Sorry, Trump: Coal is going down, renewables are headed up

Donald Trump can tout coal all he wants, but its use as an energy source is headed downward in this country.

Here’s more evidence that Donald Trump’s 2016 promises to bring back coal jobs were a sham: A new report from the Trump administration predicts that the amount of coal production in the U.S. will keep dropping in coming years, while the percentage of energy coming from renewable sources will keep growing.

In its monthly report labeled a short-term energy outlook, the U.S. Energy Information Administration cut its projected estimate of coal production in 2019 by 8 percent. In 2020, coal production is expected to drop a further 4.5 percent. “EIA expects declines in both steam coal and metallurgical coal (used in the steel-making process) exports in 2019 and in 2020,” the report said. U.S. coal production in 2019 is expected to be 694.9 million tons, the lowest production since 670.16 million tons were produced in 1978, according to a market insights report from Standard & Poor’s Global.

The percentage share of electricity generation in the U.S. from coal also is headed downward: from 27.4 percent in 2018 to projections of 24.7 percent in 2019 and 23.4 percent in 2020. The amount of electricity generated from coal was over 30 percent as recently as 2016.

At the same time, power generation from all renewable resources is expected to rise. “Wind, solar, and other nonhydropower renewables together provided about 10% of electricity generation in 2018. EIA expects they will provide 11% in 2019 and 13% in 2020,” the report said.

The biggest energy generator in the U.S. remains a fossil fuel — natural gas. As a matter of fact, fossil fuels still make up about two-thirds of all electricity generation in the U.S.

When comparing coal and renewables, the changes might be small, but at least they’re going in the right direction. Renewables are the fastest-growing source of electricity production in the U.S.

And all of this is far from enough to fight the effects of climate change.

A story from Think Progress on the EIA report pointed out the obvious problem with coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuel polluters:

Coal power is increasingly unprofitable in a world of cheap natural gas and rapidly dropping prices for renewable energy sources like solar and wind. …

The inescapable problem for coal was — and still is — economics, not politics. As one leading industry analyst explained last year, under Trump “the economics of coal have gotten worse.”

The ongoing price drops in wind and solar power mean that in many areas, building and running new renewables is now cheaper than just running old coal plants. And new renewables have actually become more affordable than new natural gas plants.

At least four major coal companies have declared bankruptcy in the past three years, although some merely used a Chapter 11 filing for restructuring purposes. The most recent, Westmoreland Coal Company, is the nation’s oldest coal firm. Its recent court-approved bankruptcy plan also allows it to restructure worker benefits.

According to a report by the Sierra Club, Westmoreland had more than $1 billion in debts, and many of its mines already were closing or being sold off. Of course, the effort to save the company wasn’t going to help currently employed or retired coal miners.

The irony is that even the mines that Westmoreland’s lenders are using the bankruptcy process to acquire will be worthless in a few years. The Rosebud and San Juan mines each sell coal to a single power-plant buyer, and each of those power plants has announced that it is shutting down. The Rosebud Mine provides coal to the Colstrip plant, which has announced that it will close two of its four units in 2022 and is widely expected to close the remaining units in 2027. The San Juan Generating Station, the sole purchaser of coal from the San Juan Mine, already closed two of its four units in 2017, and is on track to shut down completely in 2022.

Westmoreland’s bankruptcy further demonstrates that thermal coal production is no longer an economically viable or sustainable industry by highlighting the cruel measures the company is willing to take to minimize costs. In its filings, Westmoreland has described its obligations for employee health and safety, the environmental reclamation of its mines, and the restoration of polluted waterways as “burdensome regulations.” The company has now begun using the bankruptcy process to try to strip away those obligations. Specifically, it’s indicated its willingness to force renegotiation of collective bargaining agreements and pension and retiree health benefits. And it has announced its intention to default on its pension, healthcare, and black lung obligations.

We don’t expect much from the coal industry, but renewable energy is another story. While Trump’s misguided tariffs on solar cells and modules dampened growth in solar energy, even causing a slight decrease from 2017, there is still projected growth in years ahead: Fourteen percent growth is predicted in 2019 compared with 2018. And total photovoltaic capacity in the U.S. is projected to double in the next five years.

Those interested in tapping that growth better hurry: The solar investment tax credit, which allows businesses and homeowners to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from federal taxes, is slated to expire in 2021.

There’s also a tiny ray of hope in the EIA report about a projected drop in greenhouse gas emissions, but there’s reason to be skeptical.

After rising by 2.9% in 2018, EIA forecasts that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will decline by 1.6% in 2019 and by 0.5% in 2020. The 2018 increase largely reflected increased weather-related natural gas use because of additional heating needs during a colder winter and for higher electric generation to support more summer cooling use than in 2017. EIA expects emissions to fall in 2019 and in 2020 because of forecasted temperatures that will return to near normal and natural gas and renewables making up a higher share of electricity generation. Energy-related CO2 emissions are sensitive to changes in weather, economic growth, energy prices, and fuel mix.

It’s pretty disingenuous to make predictions about energy use, given that much of the country just went through bitter cold during a polar vortex, using a lot of natural gas to heat homes, and heat waves last summer, driving up the need for air conditioning. Although 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record, it only received that rank because the three prior years were even hotter. What’s to say we won’t hit record heat again in 2019?

Even if this drop in the bucket about a slight downturn in greenhouse gas emissions turns out to be true, it won’t make much difference in the long run. Not when we’ve got only a 12-year window to make the massive changes needed to limit global warming before it’s too late.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on March 17, 2019.

Students are leading a worldwide climate strike on March 15. Grown-ups, take note.

Greta Thunberg draws huge crowds everywhere she goes in her fight for climate action. The English translation of the Swedish words on her sign are “school strike for the climate.”

Greta Thunberg is launching the same kind of movement to fight climate change that the kids from Parkland, Florida, inspired against gun violence after a mass shooting at their high school. And she’s aiming to do it on a global scale on March 15, asking students around the world to join a school strike to demand real solutions on global warming.

That sounds like it would be worth cutting class for.

Thunberg is a 16-year-old Swedish political activist who is leading a worldwide youth movement on climate change. In the last year alone, she gave a TEDx talk on climate change in Stockholm, addressed two sessions of a United Nations Climate Change Conference, demanded reductions in CO2 emissions at a European Commission conference, and spoke truth to power at the World Economic Forum in Davos. To further prove her point, while many government and business leaders traveled to Switzerland on private jets, she took a 32-hour train ride, as she has insisted that her family give up flying to reduce their carbon footprint.

Thunberg was described in The Nation as the “international climate-change counterpart” to New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who introduced the Green New Deal resolution in Congress along with Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey. The story calls her a “charismatic young woman whose social-media savvy, moral clarity, and undaunted truth-telling have inspired throngs of admirers to take to the streets for a better world and call out the politicians, propagandists, and CEOs who are standing in the way.”

On March 15, tens of thousands of high-school and middle-school students in more than 30 countries plan to skip school to demand that politicians treat the global climate crisis as the emergency it is. Shakespeare made the Ides of March famous with his soothsayer’s warning in Julius Caesar, but ancient Romans actually saw it as a day for settling debts. What bigger debt is there than the theft of a livable future?

Thirty countries? The current total has grown to more than 90, and there’s time for more students to join. The highest involvement has been in Europe and Australia, but U.S. students are catching up. News for Kids reports that over 100 protests are planned across America, including in Alaska and Hawaii. Students in 30 states have vowed to join the climate strike. More than 30,000 students stood with Thunberg at a January strike in Belgium, and officials in several countries are already giving students a pass for cutting class. A Youth Climate Strike website shows the locations of U.S. climate strikes, and students can search for the one nearest to them.

I have a feeling that “tens of thousands” figure will turn out to be a vast understatement.

Thunberg first learned about climate change when she was 8 and had trouble understanding why the subject wasn’t the most important issue for everyone. She started her recent quest when she began camping out outside the Swedish Parliament, accusing lawmakers of failing to uphold commitments to reduce carbon emissions that were agreed to under the Paris climate accord. She missed classes for three weeks, attracting more and more attention to her cause until she settled on her Friday strike dates. From there, she stunned attendees in Davos by telling them that “our house is on fire.” As described in a story on Vox:

“I don’t want your hope,” she said in her Davos speech. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

Thunberg’s trademark is her hand-lettered sign with the words Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate). Although she isn’t yet a household name in the United States, in Europe, it’s another story. She travels from country to country, drawing huge crowds and inspiring students—many along with their families—to attend climate rallies every Friday. Her Facebook page has 266,000 likes. She has 236,000 followers on Twitter, and she often issues tweets in both English and Swedish with the hashtags #ClimateStrike, #Klimatstrejk, #FridaysForFuture, and #SchoolStrike4Future. She tweets and retweets action plans and news about climate science. FridaysForFuture lists events and lets interested parties register their own upcoming strikes. The U.S. contact email is USA@fridaysforfuture.org.

The best news is that Thunberg is getting adults to pay attention.

The extent of Thunberg’s influence is growing (remember, she’s just 16). The number of those planning to participate in the March 15 strike keeps growing, too, and now has reached six continents (alas, no penguins).

In her TEDx talk video, Thunberg describes herself as being “diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, OCD, and selective mutism. That basically means I only speak when I think it’s necessary. Now is one of those moments.”

Thunberg looks even younger than 16, with her short stature and ever-present long braids, but she speaks like an old soul, despairing of what the future will be like for her children and grandchildren. She has a thorough grasp of the details about climate change, describing the extent to which developed countries need to limit emissions and rattling off facts and figures about fossil fuel use. She exhorts students joining the March 15 strike to study the details of the Paris climate accord. And she has little use for those who tell her that she shouldn’t skip school for her strikes.

“Why should I be studying for the future, when the future will be no more? When no one is doing anything whatsoever to save that future? What is the point of learning facts in the school system when the most important facts given by the finest science of that same school system clearly means nothing to our politicians and our society? …  We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed.”

The Sunrise Movement, the U.S.-based youth climate action group pushing the Green New Deal, is on board with the climate strike. Leaders of the group have been preparing for the strike with nationwide conference calls. While the climate strike is bound to be huge in Europe, it will be interesting to see how widespread it is here.

A 13-year-old seventh grader from New York City is trying to make sure U.S. students will have an impact. Alexandria Villasenor has been taking her climate action fight to the United Nations headquarters every Friday, the same way her counterparts across the globe go on a climate strike each week. She was inspired by Thunberg’s speech to the U.N. Climate Conference, in which Thunberg said, “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes. … You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children.”

A Washington Post story profiled Villasenor, who is building a global following of her own. Each Friday she receives emails about how the climate strike is spreading to different countries around the world. As she told a British reporter, “My generation is really upset.” She says the deal struck at COP24, the U.N. climate meeting in December, was insufficient. “We’re not going to let them … hand us down a broken planet.”

Thunberg, Villasenor, and others like them across the globe aren’t messing around. Just as Thunberg was inspired by the student survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school and Villasenor was in turn inspired by Thunberg, they feed off each other’s energy and serve as inspirations to others to get involved. As the Post story said:

Adults who underestimate the movement do so at their own peril. Since late last year, strikes in European cities have regularly drawn tens of thousands of participants. More than 15,000 people showed up for a strike in Australia — even after their prime minister urged them to be “less activist.”

When a Belgian environment minister suggested that the growing protests were a “setup” this month, she was forced to resign. The following day, 20,000 young people were back in the streets of Brussels.

That day, Alexandria shared an image of a Dutch protest on Twitter, alongside the declaration, “It’s coming to America. You haven’t seen anything yet.”

Besides the March 15 climate strike, some U.S. students have a climate action project of their own. As told on 60 Minutes on March 3, a lawsuit filed on behalf of 21 students in 2015 charges that the U.S. government failed to protect them from the effects of climate change by continuing to allow the burning of fossil fuels. Few took Juliana v. United States seriously, but judges are allowing the case to go forward—the U.S. Supreme Court rejected two motions by the Trump administration to delay or dismiss the case. “Four years in, it is still very much alive, in part because the plaintiffs have amassed a body of evidence that will surprise even the skeptics and have forced the government to admit that the crisis is real,” Steve Kroft said on the show. Those representing the 21 students have 36,000 pages of evidence covering 50 years of inaction by U.S. officials.

It’s just one court case, and maybe just one missed day of school for many of those who will take part in the March 15 climate strike. But all of these “climate kids” are doing their best to save the world. As Parkland survivor David Hogg tweeted, “So when are we going to start walking out against climate change in the US? We live on planet Earth too.”

Originally posted on Daily Kos on March 10, 2019.

When politics and sports collide: Why I am no longer a Cubs fan


Joe Ricketts hoisted the Chicago Cubs’ World Series trophy at a 2016 victory parade. But his history of GOP activism, racism, and anti-Muslim bashing has turned me off to the team.

Fan loyalty is often passed down in families. If you grew up watching and going to baseball games with your parents, like I did, chances are you developed the same love for a team and consider yourself a lifelong fan.

But when it comes to the Chicago Cubs and me, it’s over. I no longer will bleed Cubbie blue.

We can accept the fact that most owners of professional sports teams tend to be conservatives. We likely don’t vote the same way, and we probably make donations to different political causes and candidates. We’re willing to pay too much for tickets, food and beverages at the ballpark, and official fan merchandise, especially if our team is winning. And we hate the way taxpayer dollars are used to build new stadiums for billionaires even as they claim that they hate big government.

If you love your team, you often turn a blind eye to what you loathe about the owners. When New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting a prostitute, Pats fans, still thrilled after another Super Bowl win, reacted with a basic, “Meh.”

But the latest news about the family that owns the Chicago Cubs is too much. Joe Ricketts’ hateful, anti-Muslim emails, recently unearthed and published, were disgusting. The plan to launch an exclusive Cubs TV channel in partnership with the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group in 2020, forcing fans to pay a higher cable bill to watch the team, was the last straw.

Joe Ricketts made his fortune as chairman of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. His family — mostly with his money — bought the Chicago Cubs in 2009. Joe Ricketts is not directly involved in running the team — that assignment goes to son Tom Ricketts, who is Cubs chairman. Three other Ricketts offspring — Pete, Todd, and Laura — are on the board and are co-owners of the team.

The politics of the Ricketts clan runs the gamut — patriarch Ricketts is a GOP mega-donor and staunch conservative. As for the Ricketts siblings: Pete Ricketts is the GOP governor of Nebraska. Todd Ricketts is finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and will oversee fundraising for Donald Trump’s reelection efforts. Tom Ricketts describes himself as a political moderate. Laura Ricketts, a board member of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Housing Opportunities for Women organization, is a liberal who was a top fundraising bundler for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. She also is the first openly gay owner of a Major League Baseball team.

Except for Laura and perhaps Tom, they’re an ultra-conservative bunch. They donated heavily in support of Scott Walker in 2016 until they switched to Trump, while Laura held fundraisers for Hillary Clinton.

In 2012, Joe Ricketts gained notoriety when news leaked that he was considering spending $10 million on a super PAC to run a stealth campaign against Obama that would feature the racially incendiary sermons by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the minister at a Chicago church Obama once attended. The plan was dropped once the word got out, but Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was so incensed that the negotiations for the city to pay for renovations at Wrigley Field died.

A personal note: NPR did a story on Joe Ricketts after that story broke in 2012, painting him as a small-government conservative who hated big government spending. The story even let Ricketts identify himself as an independent. I was so incensed I sent a letter to NPR that actually got read on the air:

Brian Naylor left out a crucial part in his story about Joe Ricketts and his super PAC formed to defame President Obama. Like many Republicans (independent, my eye), Ricketts claims to hate big government spending. Yet the first thing he did after buying the Chicago Cubs was to ask for money from the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago for tax breaks to renovate Wrigley Field. He hates government spending — except when it’s for HIM.

The Cubs broke my heart in 1969, 1984, and (especially) 2003. I am a lifelong Cubs fan and have gone to countless games throughout the years. But I will never set foot in Wrigley Field again. This jerk broke my heart in a way that was even worse than the Cubs bullpen.

That was the first major crack in my Cubs fandom. I did stay away, only going to games when friends visited from out of town and wanted to see a Cubs game. But the Cubs — and their legendary bad bullpen — were improving.

In 2016, the entire town (myself included) went crazy when the Cubs broke a 108-year drought and won the World Series. I was back in the fold, singing Steve Goodman’s “Go Cubs Go” at the end of every win. So what if they didn’t repeat? The Cubs were champs, and my parents were looking down and smiling.

Then came the emails by Joe Ricketts published on Splinter News. Many referred to a supposed video of Obama claiming to be Muslim. Others spewed misinformation about Sharia law and Islam in general, calling it a cult. There were racist jokes and conspiracy theories. All of it was the stuff that crazy uncles email after they hear it from Rush Limbaugh or on Fox News. “Go USA — kick their raghead asses,” said one email. It all went downhill from there.

Ricketts tried to undo the damage with a post on his personal site. “I deeply regret and apologize for some of the exchanges I had in my emails. Sometimes I received emails that I should have condemned. Other times I’ve said things that don’t reflect my value system. I strongly believe that bigoted ideas are wrong.”

Talk about too little and too late.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts tried to contain the damage. According to a report in USA Today:

His son, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, called the father’s emails “racially insensitive” and said “the language and views expressed in those emails have no place in our society.”

He also sought to distance his father, a longtime backer of conservative politicians, from the baseball franchise, one of baseball’s most valuable and iconic Major League teams.

“My father is not involved with the operation of the Chicago Cubs in any way,” Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “I am trusted with representing this organization and our fans with a respect for people from all backgrounds. These emails do not reflect the culture we’ve worked so hard to build at the Chicago Cubs since 2009.”

But Chicago’s Muslim community didn’t consider that enough.

Kamran Hussain, president of the city’s Muslim Community Center and 15-year season ticket holder, wrote a letter to the Ricketts family Tuesday in which he said the Cubs response had “fallen short and has the ring of PR or ‘damage control’ for most Muslims and others of good conscience in Chicago.” Hussain urged the Ricketts family to meet with Chicago Muslims to clear the air.

As bad as all this is, there’s also news that will hit fans in their wallets. The Ricketts will launch the Cubs’ new TV network, called the Marquee Sports Network, in 2020 in conjunction with Sinclair Broadcasting. It’s the end of seeing Cubs games for free, and how can there any doubt that Sinclair will try to put its conservative spin on the new channel?

We all know that owning a professional team is a business, and businesses are in it for the money. The Ricketts family jacked up ticket prices when they poured a ton of money into Wrigley Field renovation and expansion, battling the city all the way. The Cubs opposed the reelection of Tom Tunney, the alderman whose ward contains Wrigley Field and who has challenged their expansion plans. Too bad for them — he was just reelected.

Will any of this matter to a diehard Cubs fan? Likely not, said Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune:

The Cubs and the Ricketts family, which owns them, want a lot these days.

They want a new 44th Ward alderman because they want to be able to expand and profit from their Wrigleyville empire with fewer constraints.

They want people to shell out for a bigger monthly cable bill after this season because they want their own Cubs TV channel.

The Cubs also want people to believe they will fare better than last season’s one-and-done wild-card team without evidence they’ve significantly improved vis-a-vis their chief rivals.

Now they want people to ignore the racist jokes, fanciful conspiracy theories and out-and-out Islamophobia found in the emails of Joe Ricketts, the billionaire patriarch who bankrolled his family’s 2009 purchase of the ballclub.

They may not get what they want, the Rickettses and the Cubs, but one can’t help but suspect fans are unlikely to hold any of their requests against them in the long run.

That’s the thing about sports fans in general, and especially Cubs fans. The customers are loyal beyond reason. If losing didn’t shake them, what will?

Consider me shaken. Chicago Cubs, you are dead to me. At least until Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo lure me in again…

Originally posted on Daily Kos on March 3, 2019.

Trump’s legacy: Hate groups are at an all-time high

A neo-Nazi rally in Georgia in April 2018. The Southern Poverty Law Center report gives details on a continued growth of hate groups in the Trump era.

A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center tells us what we already suspected when we see and read news reports: There are a record number of hate groups in the United States, driven by both shifting demographics and Trumped-up fears of immigration.

The SPLC gives us the discouraging numbers both on its website and in its spring Intelligence Report:

  • The number of hate groups reached an all-time high of 1,020 in 2018.
  • The number was the fourth straight year of hate group growth, or 30 percent growth overall.
  • In  2018,  at  least  40  people  in  the  U.S.  and  Canada were killed by people either motivated by or attracted to far-right ideologies, embracing ideas and philosophies that are cornerstones of the alt-right. “Violence that has traditionally been in the shadows of racist extremism is increasingly taking to the streets,” the report said.
  • During the first few years of President Obama’s second term, hate crimes actually fell by 12 percent.
  • When Donald Trump announced that he was running for president and started his anti-immigrant rhetoric about “building a wall,” the number started rising again.
  • Hate crimes grew by 30 percent from 2014 to 2017 (2018 hate crime figures are not available yet from the FBI).

This report was released about the same time as the news about the arrest of a Coast Guard lieutenant and self-described white nationalist with a cache of weapons and ammunition in his Maryland apartment, along with a hit list of liberal politicians and journalists. The story about the planned mass killing as an act of domestic terrorism is shocking. It’s shocking but not surprising, given the rhetoric and influence coming from Trump and right-wing media.

Trump’s constant harping about “fake news” and various news outlets being “the enemy of the people” and his insistence that Democrats “don’t care about border security” can have real-world consequences. It was only last October that pipe bombs were sent to CNN, George Soros, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, among others.

The SPLC report quotes former U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford saying that Trump has “unearthed some demons.”

I’m sure we’ll hear that Christopher Paul Hasson, the Maryland would-be domestic terrorist who was arrested on illegal weapons and drug charges, likely has some serious mental health issues. But that doesn’t lessen the depravity of what he was trying to accomplish. From the report in The Washington Post:

Christopher Paul Hasson called for “focused violence” to “establish a white homeland” and dreamed of ways to “kill almost every last person on earth,” according to court records filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland. Though court documents do not detail a specific planned date for an attack, the government said he had been amassing supplies and weapons since at least 2017, developed a spreadsheet of targets that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and searched the Internet using phrases such as “best place in dc to see congress people” and “are supreme court justices protected.” …

Officials with the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland outlined Hasson’s alleged plans to spark chaos and destruction in court documents, describing a man obsessed with neo-fascist and neo-Nazi views.

“Please send me your violence that I may unleash it onto their heads,” Hasson wrote in a letter that prosecutors say was found in his email drafts. “Guide my hate to make a lasting impression on this world.”

Hasson’s hit list included Democratic presidential candidates, Democratic leaders, CNN and MSNBC journalists, and other Democratic lawmakers. Although he was part of the Coast Guard, he was also served in the Marines and the Army National Guard. So that’s scary right-wing influence in multiple parts of our armed services. How many more like him are out there?

There are a lot more like him, as detailed in the SPLC report. Among the other particulars:

  • The number of white nationalist groups surged by nearly 50 percent in 2018, from 100 groups to 148.
  • The previous high of 1,018 hate groups was in 2011. That growth was seen as a backlash against President Obama, but the number started to drop after his reelection.
  • Distribution of hate group flyers has reached an unprecedented level in the U.S. and spread farther than the usual target of college campuses.
  • Technology and social media have ramped up the spread of hateful rhetoric and online threats, and tech companies aren’t working hard enough to stop them.
  • The hate groups described include the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, racist skinheads, Christian identity groups, neo-Confederates, black nationalists, and anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and general hate groups. (Antisemitism sentiment is shared by several of these outfits.)

And even Trumpian rhetoric apparently isn’t enough for these haters.

That was the landscape of the radical right in 2018. In the U.S., white supremacist anger reached a fever pitch last year as hysteria over losing a white-majority nation to demographic change — and a presumed lack of political will to stop it — engulfed the movement. White supremacists getting pushed off mainstream web platforms, President Donald Trump’s willingness to pass a tax cut for the rich but failure to build a wall and a turn to the left in the midterm elections drove deep-seated fears of an accelerating, state- and Silicon Valley-orchestrated “white genocide.”

Even Trump’s opportunistic November attacks on a caravan of migrants moving slowly north through Mexico were seen as all talk and no action by the white supremacist and anti-immigrant movements. …

The midterms tended to validate hate groups’ fears for the future. Even more angering to hate groups were the dozens of women…elected to the new U.S. Congress, including two Muslims. For white supremacists, these newly elected officials symbolize the country’s changing demographics — the future that white supremacists loathe and fear.

There is speculation that the “all talk and no action” belief could cause some people, such as Robert Bowers, the gunman accused of killing 11 worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October, to act on their own, like the proverbial “lone wolf.” As Think Progress pointed out:

“I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered,” Bowers wrote on the far right social media Gab, just prior to the shooting, referencing a baseless conspiracy theory about billionaire and liberal philanthropist George Soros supposedly financing a caravan of immigrants headed to the U.S.-Mexico border. Soros is a frequent target of anti-Semites who claim he wields massive influence in progressive politics.

“Screw your optics, I’m going in,” Bowers wrote.

The Maryland Coast Guard terrorist suspect isn’t reported to be a member of any organized hate groups, and he seemed to be ready to act alone. “I never saw a reason for mass protest or wearing uniforms marching around provoking people with swastikas etc.,” he wrote. “I was and am a man of action you cannot change minds protesting like that.”

But Hasson drew inspiration from the writings (and the drug use and suggestions) of Anders Breivik, a right-wing extremist who was convicted of two 2011 terror attacks in Norway that killed 77 people. Hasson’s hit list of potential targets also echoed Trump’s language, such as calling Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren “poca Warren.”

The SPLC report echoes the conclusions of a January report from the Anti-Defamation League, which said right-wing extremists were responsible for 50 extremist-related murders in the U.S. in 2018. (The ADL report gives a higher number of deaths than the SPLC report). “Over the last decade, a total of 73.3 percent of all extremist-related fatalities can be linked to domestic right-wing extremists,” the ADL report said.

Summations about the SPLC report feature warnings and advice from two SPLC officials:

“The numbers tell a striking story – that this president is not simply a polarizing figure but a radicalizing one,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as presidents of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it – with both his rhetoric and his policies. In doing so, he’s given people across America the go-ahead to act on their worst instincts.” …

“Hate has frayed the social fabric of our country,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “Knitting it back together will take the efforts of all segments of our society – our families, our schools, our houses of worship, our civic organizations and the business community. Most of all, it will take leadership – political leadership – that inspires our country to live up to its highest values.”

As always, the SPLC includes a link to its interactive hate map so you can see where there’s “hate in your state.”

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Feb. 24, 2019.

2020 electorate will be more diverse than ever

Whether they differ by gender, age, ethnicity, or partisan leanings, next year’s voters will be more varied than ever before.

The growing number of Democrats running for president in 2020 are a diverse group of candidates. But they won’t be as diverse as the people voting for them.

According to projections from the Pew Research Center, a higher number of those who will cast votes for president next year will be younger than their counterparts in past presidential election years. There will be more eligible Latinx than African-American voters. And because of an increased number of naturalized citizens, one in ten voters will have been born outside the United States.

Nonwhites will account for a third of eligible voters — their largest share ever — driven by long-term increases among certain groups, especially Hispanics. At the same time, one-in-ten eligible voters will be members of Generation Z,  the Americans who will be between the ages 18 and 23 next year. That will occur as Millennials and all other older generations account for a smaller share of eligible voters than they did in 2016.

These projections from Pew — long considered the gold standard of polling research — are just that, based on demographic trends. But if the 2018 midterm election taught us anything, it taught us that conventional wisdom about certain voting habits and voting trends from past elections don’t necessarily apply anymore. The old polling models of who votes and in what numbers need a major overhaul.

Too bad pundits — and some candidates — haven’t learned that lesson.

It’s perfectly fine and even logical to look at traditional factors when trying to decide what voters are looking for in a 2020 presidential candidate. Although no one can predict who will show up on Election Day in 2020 (and who will cast ballots in the growing number of states with early and mail-in voting), exactly who those voters will be seems to be the most important factor of all.

The 50.3 percent voter turnout rate in 2018 hit a 50-year high for a midterm election, with 118 million certified votes. In 2014, turnout was 36.7 percent, the lowest turnout in 72 years. The 50-plus percent number is still lower than the average turnout in a modern presidential election, which usually ranges somewhere in the high 50th percentile — from 55.7 percent in 2004 to 61.6 percent in 2008.

Nevertheless, voter turnout in 2018 delivered some clues on new voting habits, and the voting shifts are worth noting. Voter registration surged in several states with key races, especially in the number of new young voters up to age 40. Much of that upsurge came after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, one year ago.

These factoids are from a compilation story by Bloomberg on voter numbers:

  • Voter turnout increased in House races across the country from 2014 to 2018. The vast majority shifted left.
  • Turnout from 2014 to 2018 increased in every district except two.
  • State election laws can influence turnout (see election results in Georgia, North Dakota, etc.).

Lots of factors can weigh on whether someone votes, but the biggest reason for high turnout in 2018 likely has more to do with the national political climate than local races and candidates.

“The obvious explanation is Donald Trump,” said Michael McDonald, associate professor of political science at the University of Florida who also runs the United States Election Project. “That really spurred an interest in politics—and whether you love him or hate him, you’re showing up to vote because you want to have your say.”

While it’s true that members of Trump’s base wanted to have their say, an even greater number of those who disapprove of Trump wanted to have their voices heard. We’ve seen these voting results reported many times since November 2018, but if you voted then, you probably will vote in 2020. According to another set of data from Pew Research about 2018:

  • The gender gap in voting preference is not new, but it is at least as wide as at any point over the past two decades.
  • Women college graduates stand out for their strong preference for the Democratic candidate.
  • Whites with less education — particularly men — supported the Republican.
  • Majorities of voters ages 18 to 29 (67%) and 30 to 44 (58%) favored the Democratic candidate.
  • Voters ages 45 and older were divided (50% Republican, 49% Democrat).

Probably the most important fact of all from Pew — because first-time voters are often given less weight in polling — “Among voters who said this was the first midterm in which they voted, 62% favored the Democrat and just 36% supported the Republican.”

So who will be the voters in 2020, and where will they come from? Here are more observations from Pew Research on the likely 2020 electorate and how they might vote:

  • Younger generations differ notably from older generations in their views on key social and political issues.
  • Nearly a quarter of the electorate (23%) will be 65 and older, reflecting not only the maturation of Baby Boomers but also increased life expectancy.
  • Baby Boomers and older generations, who will be 56 and older next year, are expected to account for fewer than four-in-ten eligible voters in 2020.
  • The changing racial and ethnic composition of the electorate likely has political implications in part because nonwhites have long been significantly more likely than whites to back Democratic candidates.

Probably the most interesting — and potentially most significant — projection from Pew:

Post-Millennials are on track to be more racially and ethnically diverse than their predecessors: In 2020, Gen Z eligible voters are expected to be 55% white and 45% nonwhite, including 21% Hispanic, 14% black, and 4% Asian or Pacific Islander. By comparison, the Boomer and older electorate is projected to be about three-quarters white (74%).

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com recently joined former Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee at a forum at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. Goolsbee, who teaches at U of C, and Silver, an alumnus, discussed predictions about 2016 and 2020. Silver still defends his 2016 work, since he said he gave Donald Trump a better chance of winning than other outlets. Yet for his 2020 predictions, he sees no reason to revamp his analytical model. “Not only do I think that adjustments are unnecessary, I think it’s the wrong thing to do,” Silver said. His current predictions are “even money” for a Trump reelection with a slight edge to California Sen. Kamala Harris to be the Democratic nominee. (Way to go out on a limb, there, Nate!) He further predicted a “messy election” and “trench warfare” in the Democratic primaries, despite the fact that most of the declared candidates enjoy collegial working relationships.

But after the 2018 election, how can anyone say that analytical models don’t need adjusting? The sheer number of women candidates and voters made up a very different electorate than past numbers would suggest. Almost every subgroup of women in CNN’s national exit polls moved towards Democrats, CNN reported days after the midterms. Those groups included white women, Latinas, white college-educated women, white non-college-educated women, Democratic women, and independent women. The percentage of black women voters — traditionally the most reliable Democratic voters of all — stayed about the same.

Maybe the Nate Silver of February 2019 should remember what the Nate Silver of November 2018 tweeted 10 days after the midterms (via a story from Vox):

As FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver pointed out, some 60 million people voted for Democrats in the House this year. That’s a big number, considering about 63 million people voted for Trump in 2016. …

Voters do appear to have been extra-engaged in 2018, and how that will translate over the next couple of years remains to be seen.

“Trump’s not going away in 2020,” McDonald said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see record turnout.”

Any candidate who takes any voter for granted as we approach 2020 might find himself or herself on the losing end of an election — if he or she is on the ballot at all. Pundits who predict that “this is what voters are looking for” (as Politico did in a “How to Choose the Most Electable Democrat in 2020” piece) might as well turn in their laptops.

When “crazy socialist” ideas such as Medicare for all, greatly increased taxes on the wealthy, an ambitious climate action plan like the Green New Deal, and common-sense gun laws such as universal background checks are getting high support from voters, all bets could be off.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Feb. 17, 2019.

Parkland one year later: We’re still #MSDStrong

Young people led the March for Our Lives rally last spring. They haven’t given up, and neither should we.

In one sense, one year after 17 people died in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, nothing has changed. Then again, so much has changed.

The students who survived the shooting became national leaders as they worked through their heartfelt pain and anger. They spoke with eloquence, honesty, and facts. They weren’t afraid to call out the National Rifle Association and lawmakers who refused to take action on gun violence, often speaking through tears in videos that quickly went viral.

As student David Hogg, who was then managing editor of the student TV station at Stoneman Douglas and who will head to Harvard in the fall, reminded everyone: These kids knew what they were talking about when it came to facts about guns and violence. MSD students in debate classes and on the debate team had researched and argued about gun control the previous fall, gathering information that served them perfectly in their media interviews and talks with legislators.

Those students built a movement — one that went beyond gun violence. They spent the summer criss-crossing the country, registering young people to vote. They went from March For Our Lives to the Vote For Our Lives movement.

Attendance surged at meetings of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that saw an additional 500,000 people sign up, donate, and volunteer. Those same volunteers in their recognizable red shirts flooded state legislative sessions all year, making sure lawmakers felt pressure to enact common-sense gun safety laws. They had successes and disappointments, but last year eight states passed “red-flag” laws, which allow police to confiscate guns from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. Other states raised the age of allowable gun purchases, and several retailers stopped selling assault-style weapons.

Moms Demand also backed candidates running on a gun safety platform — an unheard-of position in days when the NRA seemingly had unstoppable influence. Many of those candidates won, both in primaries and in the midterm elections in November 2018. Now those elected officials are aiming for common-sense gun safety laws at the state and national level.

There has been no national gun safety legislation in decades. Yet now that Democrats are in the majority in the House, the House Judiciary Committee passed a measure that would require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers within the U.S. While it likely won’t even be voted on in the Republican-led Senate, much less be signed by Donald Trump, it forces the gun safety conversation out into the open.

Support for common-sense gun laws surged after the Parkland shooting. While that initial support has somewhat subsided, backing for universal background checks is still supported by 92 percent of Americans. Given that the NRA has lost much of its influence, I wouldn’t like to be a GOP lawmaker trying to explain to a constituent a vote against universal background checks.

In the year since the Parkland shooting, there have been nearly 350 mass shootings in the United States, or an average of about one a day. In the six-plus years since 20 children and six adults died in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been nearly 2,000 mass shootings.

And lest we forget, in remembering the Marjory Stone Douglas High School victims, Valentine’s Day marks another anniversary of a school mass shooting:

When will it stop?

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