Rename Balbo Drive! Up with Ida! Down With Fascists!

 

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This woman stared unflinchingly at evil and made us all look with her.

 

Like most people in Chicago, I for years thought Balbo Drive, a short street on the south end of the Loop, running from Printers Row and intersecting with history at Grant Park, where hippies and cops clashed in the street in 68, and where, 40 years later, our first African-American President celebrated his election, was actually called Balboa Drive. That’s how I always pronounced it, and almost certainly spelled it. That is to say: I didn’t think about it at all.

Learning (or remembering) that it was actually called Balbo marked the end of my concern for the street, except for always consciously marking the lack of a Rocky-ifying “a” in the middle, in the same way I mentally make an “L” with my thumb when turning left or think about Alison Milnamow when spelling “their” (don’t ask). Even for someone as interested in Chicago history as I am, it seemed unimportant.

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Near historic Lou Malnati’s, apparently.

That changed in the last few years, when in the wake of the country finally realizing that honoring traitors and murderous racists was bad, people pointed out that the Balbo in question was, well, questionable.

During Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair, an Italian airman led a roundtrip flight of 24 seaplanes in formation for an unprecedented flight of its kind from Rome, Italy to Chicago, Illinois for the fair. In honor of the achievement, the Chicago mayor at the time, Edward Kelly, renamed the nearby three block long 7th street after the lead airman, Italo Balbo. During his time in the USA he also invited to lunch by President D. Roosevelt and received a warm welcome from Americans, particularly Italian-Americans as a shining example of Italian aviation. In fact, for a time, ‘Balbo’ became a common term to refer to a large formation of aircraft.

That might have been the end of it if the Italian government Balbo was representing at the time weren’t that of brutal Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Mussolini even donated an ancient Roman column to the city that exists to this day as another monument to the controversial Balbo. Before his aviation fame, Balbo helped institute Mussolini’s Fascist rule as a Blackshirt leader, a gang of Fascist thugs that intimidated and assaulted non-Fascists that stood in their way. He spent the rest of his life devoted to both Mussolini and Fascism. Many considered Balbo to be Mussolini’s heir before he was killed in 1940 by friendly fire.

Now don’t get me wrong: I love that there was a name of a large group of airplanes, and it was the childishly-syllabically pleasing “balbo”. It’s a balbo of planes! That’s fun! Less fun is fascism.

 

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Brutal thuggish dictator Mussolini is the guy on the left

 

But now comes a movement to rename this street after someone who is genuinely heroic, and who towers over American history: Ida B. Wells.

Balbo Drive would be renamed for Ida B. Wells, an iconic figure in the African-American community who led an anti-lynching crusade, under an aldermanic plan that is certain to stir controversy.

South Side Ald. Sophia King (4th) and downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) plan to launch the effort at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

They will introduce an ordinance to rename Balbo Drive in honor of Wells. If colleagues go along with the idea, it would be Chicago’s first permanent street renaming since 1968 and the first street in the Loop named after a woman and a person of color, according to King’s staff.

Wells was born a slave and died in Chicago, and lived a life of tireless and fearsome advocacy. She was an impossibly brave journalist, traveling at great risk throughout the south to document lynching, calling attention to this terrorist scourge, not letting America pretend that it had moved forward one inch. She called just as much attention to a barely-more-genteel form of racism in the north, particularly this violent and segregated city. She was a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, especially at the intersection of race.

In short, she made America look at itself. She was never comfortable, never safe. And she never stopped.

Thankfully, she seems to be having a bit of a moment. A movement to put a monument of her up in Bronzeville seems to be gaining steam. You can (and should!) donate to it, though it is a shame the city won’t just pay for it. If anyone deserves to be honored, it is Wells.

Now, there are a few counter-arguments. Maybe the most compelling one is that the Loop already has a street called Wells, and although the two wouldn’t intersect, or even really run near each other, that could be an issue. That one is named after William Wells, who was killed in the Battle of Fort Dearborn, a seminal moment in Chicago history, though one that is a tad bit more complex than the heroism on which we were weaned.

Still, Wells is too long to be renamed, and that’s a losing battle. I don’t think it would be that big a deal, since people would say “go to Ida B and Michigan!” There’s only three blocks to choose from. GPS might be the only obstacle here (and it is a substantial one.)

The other argument comes from (or will probably come from) the Italian-American community, which was upset last year when people wanted to remove the Mussolini monument, and there was talk of renaming Balbo to Fermi Drive.

Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian-Americans… joined Lou Rago, president of the Italian American Human Relations Foundation, in writing a letter to the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times defending Balbo’s honor.

They argued that Italo Balbo had unfairly become “residual shrapnel from the barrage of bullets the rest of the country is firing over what to do with the approximate 1,500 Confederate place names and other symbols in public spaces.”

They wondered why the memory of Balbo’s “remarkable accomplishments” was being “swept up into the national wave of removing the past.”

(Note: this is really cute wording. It’s the people opposed to Confederate monuments that are doing violence, and who are “removing the past.” That language isn’t exactly dissimilar to the actual Confederate symps. This is what we call a “tell”.)

“We want to be perfectly clear. Italo Balbo was an outspoken opponent of the Mussolini tilt towards Hitler and was not the enemy that many in the Chicago City Council are portraying he was,” they wrote.

“Despite being a general under Mussolini, when Balbo saw where Mussolini was going with his pro-German policies, he was horrified. He was one of the only fascists in Mussolini’s regime to openly oppose Italy’s anti-Jewish racial laws and Italy’s alliance with Germany.”

That’s good! Those are definitely good things toward which to be opposed. He wasn’t a total monster. Things he wasn’t opposed to, though, include: the invasion and destruction of Ethiopia, war in Europe, the crushing of dissent, internal concentration camps, the spread of fascism, being a fascist.

 

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This is him and Benito after “conquering” Ethiopia. The only good person in history to wear a cape like that is Lando.

Now, it is interesting of course, because in America in the 30s, being a fascist wasn’t a disqualifier. It wasn’t a catch-all term for “my political opponent”. Throughout the world, there was a genuine debate if fascism was the ideal form of politics. It was a legitmate political philosophy.

This was true whether it was the personalized authoritarianism of Hitler and Mussolini, the sort of corporatist state envisioned by James Burnham, or a unique American quasi-fascist managed democracy promoted by the likes of Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and for a time even John Kenneth Galbraith.

But here’s the thing: they were wrong. They were wrong about how the powerful should run roughshod over the weak. They were wrong about how rights should be subsumed to monetary interest and the dim horizons of national glory. They were wrong about the relationship of people to state, individuals to capital, and blood and soil to ideals.

In other words, they were wrong about everything Ida B. Wells was right about. We’re still fighting those battles, as quasi-fascist strongman nationalist rule is taking hold again around the world, and America is staring at a particularly dumbshow type of authoritarianism. That’s all the more reason to change the name. We’re fighting for what we believe to be good.

This isn’t erasing the past. It’s celebrating what America should be. It’s celebrating the best of us. It’s honoring the true forgotten past, and honoring someone who never let us forget our dark present. It might be a small street, but it would be a huge step forward.

 

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In Asking About Washington and Jefferson, Trump Stumbles Onto One Interesting Point

 

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“Great guy. Owned slaves. Doesn’t bother me. I’m more Presidential than him”

 

I don’t think there is much more to say about Trump’s raving belligerence, his hideous instincts, and his incoherent tirade against decency yesterday. As Pierce pointed out, he was a guy who was clearly angry about having to release a second statement on whether or not Nazis and racists are bad, and stewed about it for 24 hours, then let the world know how he really felt. To say it was un-Presidential is to pretend that this guy is a real President.

But he did inadvertently stumble onto a good point, albeit from the wrong direction and with the wrong intent. He brought up a normal right-wing Confederate talking point, bringing up the fact that many of the Founding Fathers were indeed slave owners.

“Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Mr. Trump said. “So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down.”…

“George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? …Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? OK, good. Are we going to take down his statue, because he was a major slave owner. Now we’re going to take down his statue. So you know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally — but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”

Obviously, the “there were a lot of good people carrying torches alongside the Nazis and white supremacists!” line that has people talking. But the Washington/Jefferson part is really interesting. This is a common sneer among the right, an unlettered attempt at logic, and, to them, an attempt to get us to consider how much we’re “changing” history.

There are a few obvious rebuttals here. The first is the easiest, which is: we’re not changing history, you dolt, we’re just not honoring terrible people anymore. The second is related, which is: sure, we have a complicated history, but maybe we’ll draw the line at honoring people who committed treason against the United States in order to defend slavery.

That one is worth unpacking. We can point out the obvious hypocrisy in the idea that the right wing is telling us that some Founding Fathers were bad, as an excuse for maybe worse behavior by CSA leaders. When the left points that out we hate America, remember. But I think we should actually happily accept those terms.

One of the worst parts of this country, and one of the wells from which a lot of contemporary poison is drawn, is Founding Father worship. We do tend to deify these man, and the end result is really pernicious.

For one thing, it has partly led to the contemporary cult of the Presidency. After all, of all the Founding Fathers who are worshipped, most were Presidents. Franklin is really the only non-President who is deified, until Hamilton the last couple of years. Men like Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine are more known than understood, and tend to get lumped together, even though they were remarkably different men with remarkably different ideas.

And that’s sort of the point. The Fathers were a fractious bunch with a hell of a lot of competing ideas, and barely worked out a compromise to set up the government. That’s a good thing. The problem is that their ideas, and indeed their lives, have been dipped in a sort of amber. The differences are smoothed out. And they are lumped together into a sort of cult.

Really, the fact that not capitalizing “founding fathers” looks sort of weird is a tell. They are almost gods, and that is really pernicious. It is literally undemocratic, and it has infected our politics. We parse the text of the 2nd Amendment to see if it is ok for you to carry a bazooka to a Nazi rally. We ask what the Fathers would have thought of internet pornography (Franklin: Thumbs up). We try to imagine what 18th-century farmers would have done today.

That’s really antithetical to their whole project. The people who created this country believed in common law and progress. They didn’t intend for their word to be Gospel. This isn’t just an argument against “originalism”, which is an obvious intellectual fraud, but against the whole idea that we should be beholden to a bunch of flawed dudes from 240 years ago.

And so maybe we should look at our history. Maybe we should say “Oh yeah- George Washington would have been super weirded out at civil rights, and just seeing an airplane would have fucking blown his heart up. Let’s not look at them as gods. In fact, let’s examine the whole history of this country, and not pretend it was uniquely moral. Let’s not pretend that the slavery was an aberration. Let’s not pretend that we didn’t literally wiped out hundreds of nations in order to colonize the continent. Let’s not pretend that the monuments to men like Lee weren’t to honor soldiers, and not put up by Jim Crow politicians to remind blacks of their place. Let’s not pretend about anything, and maybe we can fulfill the promise inherent in our creeds.”

This obviously isn’t what Trump meant. In his mind, and the mind of his Confederate-loving Nazi-humping Lowes-shopping patio-torch-wielding white supremacist jackass buddies, Washington isn’t bad because Lee is, but rather Lee should be fine because Washington is great, and they are both great because they are both white. So why question their greatness?

But just because that isn’t what our idiot President meant doesn’t mean we shouldn’t run with this in another direction. I argued yesterday morning that maybe Trump will inadvertently help tear down the cult of the Presidency. I didn’t know he’d do it that afternoon.

When the President Matters

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How many times over these last few horrible days have you heard a variation of the phrase “Donald Trump failed to act like the President when the nation needed it.” I’m guessing a lot. The POTUS faced universal and happily bipartisan outrage for his mealy-mouthed avoidance of the true nature of this weekend’s horror, for merely conjuring up vague images of violence and bigotry from “many sides”.

The condemnation was of course correct. This is a man who pulls out the knives for literally anything that displeases him, from Gold Star families to newscasters to suspected Islamic knife attacks in Turkey. For him to be vague was a deliberate choice.

What’s more, it isn’t like he has been reticent to plunge into matters of racial violence beforehand. Last year, after the horrifying and sickening murders of police officers in Dallas by Mich Johnson, Trump consistently repeated the lie that Black Lives Matters activists called for a moment of silence for the shooter.

There was literally no evidence of it. As far as I was ever able to tell, no one (not even O’Reilly, who also repeated this) ever even found like a stray comment on an obscure message board that could get conflated to BLM “calling” for a moment of silence. It was something that was just made up.

But that didn’t matter to Trump. So not only was he legitimately angry and sickened at the murders (as we all were), but he added to it an incredibly divisive and dangerous lie. Those are his instincts.

And then we saw his instincts again this weekend when he refused to condemn anything except vague violence. Yeah yeah, he gave a “firm” statement yesterday, but the damage was done. His white nationalist allies know whose side they are on, and they are emboldened because of it. They all know that yesterday’s statement was pro forma and forced.

There is a chance that their hands are forced. There’s a chance that Jeff Sessions, who grudgingly admitted that the car attack “met the legal standard” of terrorism, will have to crack down on white nationalist militias and gangs, because it is politically impossible not to. My guess is that not much will happen. My guess is that a conviction of the driver will be touted as a major win, and be used to say “get off our backs.”

This is why the President matters. His appointments and his priorities matter. Jeff Sessions matters. Trump’s de facto approval of white nationalism matters. His using the phrase “cherish our history” was a direct homage to the ostensible goals of the white nationalist movement, to protect Confederate monuments, because liberals are trying to erase white history, which is, of course, “our history”. He encourages them because his only political ideology above and beyond the cult of self is vague white nationalism.

But then, there’s that phrase: “when the country needed the President”. To me, that’s super pernicious, and it is shown to be so because of Trump. The country doesn’t need a father-confessor, and we shouldn’t pour our hopes and dreams into the Presidency. We shouldn’t have an elected public official be our moral guidance counselor.

That’s a problem we have had for generations, and it is dangerous. Sure, we’ve had some good compassionate people. Barack Obama was incredibly empathetic and eloquent, and could channel grief into something productive (like in his Charleston eulogy). George W. Bush wasn’t as eloquent, but was able to speak to the country in times of grief. Bill Clinton could do it well, but never seemed totally sincere; seemed more like a man in love with his voice. George HW Bush was distant and patrician and saw the Presidency as a job, not a calling. Reagan was a gifted storyteller.

And HW was the only one who served one term, because we have a need for the President to be the Boy Scout leader of the nation (that’s not the only reason he lost, of course). That need we have is sometimes filled when we have a Reagan or and Obama, but it clearly isn’t when we have Donald Trump, a paranoid racist tiny little man. Because then the opposite happens. We feel more adrift, and the worst get filled with even more passionate intensity.

But maybe that’s changing. Maybe that’ll be Trump’s one positive contribution to this country. No one even really expected Donald Trump to do the right thing. No one, I think, except pundits and other Green Room creatures, turned their lonely eyes to Washington. We know we can’t rely on him. We know we have to fight these bastards locally, city by city, message board by message board. Maybe breaking the feeling that the president has to be the best of us will make it matter less when we elect the worst of us.

 

The DOJ and “Affirmative Action”: Why Sessions Stays

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Donald Trump sucks to work for. He’s a ridiculous baby who demands a childish, movie-influenced version of loyalty that he thinks makes him a tough guy, but he squalls and blusters anytime someone is mean to him. He’s a blubbering dolt who loves humiliating people he has power over, and whose only commitment is to filling up his empty and endless vanity.  He can’t manage people, and is said to encourage conflict and backstabbing, not because it “brings out the best in people”, but because it creates the worst.

This was clear with how he treated Reince Priebus, calling him in to swat a fly, an example of deep cruelty only mitigated by the inarguable fact that Reince deserved to be humiliated. And it is clear with Jeff Sessions, who Trump routinely and publically humiliated for the crime of following the law.

So why does Sessions stay? Why doesn’t this respected former Senator hightail it out? It’s pretty obvious: so that he can enact the super-empowered racism that has been the driving force of his career.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.

The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

Yup. A lot of talk was how Sessions was gutting the DOJ’s civil rights department, that investigates discrimination, voter suppression, police brutality, and the impact of the endemic, even inherent, racism that runs through our country. But he isn’t entirely gutting it. He’s just turning it around to see how we can help white folks.

That’s the whole point of Sessions. Trump is clearly more famous, and more over-the-top, but Jeff Sessions has been the point man for white nationalism his entire career. It’s been his driving motivation and sole goal. His war on drugs is about locking up blacks.His assault on using science in criminal investigations is about making sure that prosecutors can lock up more people unencumbered by facts. His anti-immigration policies are about de-Mexicanizing America. His desire to suppress votes is about putting minorities back in their place. There isn’t a single policy that Sessions pushes that isn’t related to his white nationalist program.

That’s why he endorsed Trump early, and that’s why his endorsement mattered. It showed the other white nationalists that Trump was one of them, that it wasn’t just a game to him. That he meant what he said about Mexicans and about “law-and-order”.

That the pro-Trump media sided with Sessions in their spat says it all. Trump was upsetting the base, upsetting his core supporters by going after Sessions. And it certainly wasn’t because they were in favor of an independent investigation into collusion with Russia.

And brother, it certainly wasn’t because Jeff Sessions has made as the cornerstone of his career the alleviation of economic anxiety.

And that tells you all you need to know.

Utilities in Cairo Illinois: The Price of History

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Cairo Illinois, at the tip of the state where it flows into Kentucky, is where the Ohio and the Mississippi flow into each other, where two great river systems crashing their way through America join the east and the Midwest on the way to the Gulf. It a slow, languid area, more deep south than Midwest, a strange humid little pocket in a state dominated by farm concerns and the bulk of Chicago.

Cairo (pronounced Kay-Row) is far from Chicago, a northern Great Lakes city born of industry. Cairo is, and always has been, a river town, a transit point. It’s proximity to great shipping areas should make it wealthy, or at least well off. Or at the very least, alive. But Cairo isn’t. It is grasping and almost dead, with over 100 years of racial violence, mismanagement, and neglect having brought it low. It’s few thousand remaining residents are battered by greed, oversight, and disinterest.

And, because this is America, race. It has been tortured by the violence of our endemic, perhaps inherent, racism. And it remains that way. Race, and the long tendrils of history, have choked the life out of Cairo, leaving it a broken city, filled with paranoia and injustice. One symptom of that is incredibly high utility prices. This seems minor, or at least explicable, but understanding why is key to the whole thing.

If you want to understand this, you have to read this incredible series in The Southern Illinoisian by Molly Parker and Issac Smith. A 7-part series published this week titled “Why Are Electric Rates in Cairo So High?”, it seems like a simple question, or like a weird little quirky thing. But it isn’t. It is a complex and terrible story, and Parker and Smith truly dig into it, in some of the finest journalism I’ve read in a long time. It shows just how much history and modernity have conspired to make life in Cairo increasingly difficult.

You should really read it, but it comes down to simple math: the poorest people in the state are being charged the most for electricity.

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Sessions Ends Forensic Science Commission; Vows To Increase Wrongful Convictions

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“Science!” -Jeff Sessions, Presumably

Jeff Sessions, Attorney General and acting director of a Confederacy 2.0 Pre-enactment Society, has rarely made it obvious how far backwards he wants to take this country. I mean, it is obvious that in terms of criminal justice (which is to say, the mark of a civilized society), he wants to take it really far backwards. But how far back? And where? Is it 1960 Birmingham? 1840 Mississippi? 1970s New York? King Leopold’s Congo? England at the height of Social Darwinism?

How about all of the above, like a smoothie of racism and authoritarianism. He made it clear over the weekend that he intends to reinvigorate the “War on Drugs” that led to overwhelming incarceration rates, massive violence, and generations of black families torn apart (and which did literally nothing to wean this country off its overwhelming need for intoxicating substances).

This “war” melded domestically with the War on Terror, mingling to create hyper-militarized police forces that saw citizens as the enemy and acted as foreign occupiers. SWAT raids on no-knock warrants became the go-to means for every sheriff who suddenly saw himself a soldier. Tiny counties that see a handful of crimes a month had officers armed for Fallujah. It’s no wonder they stopped seeing themselves as public servants, and started acting like conquering vigilantes. And while rural meth dealers often saw the full weight of this nightmare, it was still directed largely toward minorities, a continuation of America’s historical legacy.

It isn’t universal, of course. Many police departments, especially in big cities, tried to find a way to balance the need for order with the genuine desire for community activism. Dallas was probably the most notable city in this regards, which is what made the murder of its police over the summer doubly tragic.

But the backlash to the killing was more than outrage and sorrow; it was a backlash against the very ideas that the Dallas police tried to represent. In that hot summer filled with racial hatred and mainstreamed revanchism, Donald Trump rose, promising with zero subtlety to take America backward in time. The racial text was crystal clear. And through the revolving cast of advisors, one man stood by him: Jeff Sessions, for whom one foot forward was an abnegation of tradition.

And now Jeff Sessions is using the power granted to him by the slave-state protecting wisdoms of the Electoral College to bring it all back home. His War on Drugs announcement was quickly followed by an announcement that he was ending the attempt to bring criminal justice up to speed with new scientific developments in the hopes of reducing wrongful convictions.

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday he is ending an Obama-era partnership with independent scientists that aimed to improve the reliability of forensic science, as longstanding concerns remain about the quality of such evidence in court cases.

The Justice Department will not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a panel of judges, defense attorneys, researchers and law enforcement officials that had been advising the attorney general on the use of scientific evidence in the criminal justice process. The department will instead appoint an in-house adviser and create an internal committee to study improvements to forensic analysis, Sessions said.

To be sure, the gussy it up with weasel mouthings, thanking the commission for their service, and saying that the cause of justice will be better-served if it is handled entirely by law enforcement officers. In a vacuum, you could see why that is trouble, since they are geared toward conviction and enforcement (it’s why generals aren’t always strategists). Even progressive law enforcement types lean toward “law and order”, by default.

This isn’t even close to neutral vacuum, though. You think Jeff Sessions’s appointments will skew liberal?

Of course not. The whole point of this is to reverse the progress that was made in overturning fake science and prosecution-friendly standards that led to tens of thousands of wrongful convictions. The commission was recommending changing procedures that allowed for dubious expertise, like bite marks, to serve as evidentiary proof.

The reasons for this are clear. Sessions wants to move us away from any haltering, faltering, and at times bipartisan movements we made toward true justice (the kind practiced by legions of decent cops, judges, DAs and public defenders), and back to the days where you could be convicted for looking funny, pushed on a chain gang because a sheriff doesn’t like you, beaten in black rooms because some mustache thinks you mouthed off.

The War on Drugs was a hideous failure. Jeff Sessions wants not just to bring it back, to  reverse any attempts to mitigate its excesses. And he wants to do this because it wasn’t a failure for the right people. Its cruel impact hurt black families the most, as well as Latino, and poor whites. And that’s exactly the point.

The backlash against progress is contained like a whirlwind in his little petite Grand Wizard frame. This is what November brought. This is justice in the era of Trump.

GOP’s Healthcare Blues Show Foot-Shooting Danger of Right Wing Propaganda

 

There might be symbolism here, but I’m not sure…

 

Even since Donald Trump won the electoral college, partly on the basis of the “white working class” and their economic anxieties, there have been a few types of articles written. The first was the most prevalent: centrist reporters asking why the media has forgotten the white working class, and how no one talks about them. There were approximately 58 million stories about these hidden folks.

Then, since the inauguration, those stories were overtaken by articles about how a lot of Trump voters are recognizing that they might have been sold a bill of goods, and that their health care is being taken away, and that everything they were promised about their lives getting better is a lie.

The third are thinkpieces where we on the left ask whether we should react to this with scorn, anger, pity, sympathy, or some combination.

The Times yesterday had a classic example of the 2nd type, talking about the “GOP Health Care Tightrope in the Midwest”.

DEFIANCE, Ohio — James Waltimire, a police officer on unpaid medical leave, has been going to the hospital in this small city twice a week for physical therapy after leg surgery, all of it paid for by Medicaid.

Mr. Waltimire, 54, was able to sign up for the government health insurance program last year because Ohio expanded it to cover more than 700,000 low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act. He voted for President Trump — in part because of Mr. Trump’s support for law enforcement — but is now worried about the Republican plan to effectively end the Medicaid expansion through legislation to repeal the health care law.

“Originally the president said he wasn’t going to do nothing to Medicaid,” Mr. Waltimire said the other day after a rehab session. “Now they say he wants to take $880 billion out of Medicaid. That’s going to affect a lot of people who can’t afford to get insurance.”

You read this, and your first instinct is to say, well…yeah. What the hell did you think? After all, Donald Trump is a Republican, and Republicans want to gut Medicaid. They want to take away your health insurance. That’s how it always is. How the hell did you not know this?

Then, of course, you are taken again with how breathtaking a liar Donald Trump is. He did say, over and over, that no one was gonna touch Medicaid, ok, and everyone would have health care and no one would pay for it. It was amazing, his sheer and unrelenting dishonesty, and you might feel bad for how a low-information voter might hear that and think it is possible. Because, after all, we’ve never had a politician lie like this before. There was not even an attempt to pay observance to the truth.

But then, on the other hand, you remember that it was Donald Trump. He’s been a public sleazebag for 40 years. If you’re a 54-yr-old and it somehow escaped your attention that he’s a crooked liar, that’s on you.

And then, of course, you see the heart of it: he was sucked into the lie because of “Mr. Trump’s support for law enforcement”, a piece of culture war bullshit that is barely coded racism. Because this wasn’t a race between Donald Trump and, I don’t know, Leonard Peltier or something. It’s not like Hillary didn’t support law enforcement. But she also believed that Black Lives Mattered.

That’s what his “support” came down to. The right wing decided that BLM, or really anyone who wanted to hold police accountable for murder or other violent abuses of power, were the enemy of society. This was very wrapped up in race, and in the idea that cops should be able to do whatever they wanted to the “right” people, you know the ones who deserve it. Trump made it very clear where he stood in this.

His outlandish and wildly unrealistic fairy tale lies were believed because people thought he was on their side. It’s not because he talked about jobs. Hillary talked way more about jobs, in a way more detailed manner. Part of the problem was the press clearly wasn’t interested in policy, just emails, so none of that got through. But another problem is that what Trump as saying got through loud and clear, because he got in the door speaking the right language.

Race and economics are incredibly interlinked in this country. It does a disservice to the truth to pretend they aren’t for fear of liberal condescension. Trump’s dishonest messages, the ones that will hurt the people who voted for him, got through because of the ones he, and the modern GOP, are deadly honest about.