The Flowers of Trumpism: In Illinois, The Far-Right Comes Grabbling From The Ground

 

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Pictured: Illinois!

On Friday, word started getting around Twitter and various Illinois blogs that Jeanne Ives, Republican challenger to Bruce Rauner, had released a strange, offense ad titled “Benedict Rauner.” In it, she was supposed to discuss how Rauner “sold out” his constituents by pandering to the worst people in Illinois: feminists, immigrants, LGBTQ.

It actually seemed sort of impossible, and indeed, on the venerable Capitol Fax blog, commenters couldn’t quite believe it. It seemed like a joke. I sort of didn’t even pay attention to it, since it seemed ridiculous.

Well, come Saturday, as I was watching my Butler Bulldogs play DePaul (in the manner one watches a cat toy with a mouse), the commercial came on. I honestly goggled gape-jawed while watching. It was the most vile ad I’ve ever seen in the state.

I don’t want to link to it, but the cast is above. In it, these people thank Bruce Rauner for a litany of sins. As least offensive, you have the rich tycoon thanking Rauner for bailing out Exelon, the energy giant. We can all get behind the anti-fatcat message, I suppose.

But you also have the pussy-hatted frump-chic girl thanking Rauner for “making Illinois taxpayers pay for my abortion.” You have the black CTU representative thanking Rauner for giving Chicago teachers everything they wanted. You have the bandanna criminal thanking Rauner for allowing Chicago to be a sanctuary city. That they cast a white guy showed, for once, a modicum of common sense, but the message was clearly there.

And for the cream of the crop, you have the transgendered representative, which in the pinched world of Ives and her supporters, is an ugly man in an ill-fitting dress, stubble and chest hair given places of prominence, thanking Bruce Rauner for letting “people like me use the women’s bathroom.”

The level of outrage here scrapes the sky. Every single one of these was designed to inflame the Breitbart base. Transgendered are tranny pervs, all teachers are black and want handouts, all undocumented immigrants are gangster thugs, all feminists are abortion-loving lesbians (don’t ask for logical or biological consistency).

The Democratic candidates for governor united as one to condemn it, and after a few hesitations, the Illinois GOP did as well. Bruce Rauner took a bit too long to do so; when asked, he immediately pivoted to repeating “Mike Madigan” like an incantation. But everyone is pretty outraged.

Ives? She doesn’t seem to understand the fuss. In a talk yesterday, which Eric Zorn, who does god’s own work in the state, transcribed, she gave some boilerplate dissonance about “respecting everyone in God’s image”, even if she disagrees with them, but is sad that people who disagree with her are all up in arms. It was standard maddening dishonesty. It was the Q&A that got good.

When asked again about the ad, she replied:

“The fact that you saw a visual representation of the policies he put in place is maybe considered offensive. I don’t understand that. That’s exactly the fat-cat Exelon guy, that’s exactly who you bailed out. Hello!  The teacher from CPS, that’s whose pension you just bailed out. The transgender man, that’s exactly what, typically, a transgender man looks like  (groans in the audience). Sir, with all due respect, I’ve had them show up at my door, so …”

It’s just what they look like. That’s the teacher! That’s the fatcat! (the fatcat is good inoculation against bigotry, in theory.) That’s typically what a transgender man looks like. And she knows! They’ve showed up at her door. I guess, selling cookies?

Look, this is all clearly dishonest. The ad was designed to appeal to the hard right, who feel sold out by Bruce Rauner, because while he is doing everything in his power to destroy unions, crush workers, and turn Illinois into Wisconsin, he isn’t quite there.

For one thing, he isn’t powerful enough to do it to the extent they want (see for example the outrage that teachers are getting the pensions they were promised, which is apparently a capital crime). For another, he sometimes, whether for political or personal reasons, he isn’t the culture warrior they demand. He isn’t, at the end, a total bigot.

This isn’t enough for some people. Ives wouldn’t have a shot if Rauner weren’t such a bumbling clod and a terrible politician, but she saw an opening, and she took it. She’s now being backed by Breitbart, as Natasha Korecki pointed out in her morning playbook, and is being funded by the right-wing Uihlein family, out of Lake Forest. They were last seen backing Roy Moore, propelling him to a primary win over Luther Strange. He was backed not in spite of being a theocratic bigot and hateful know-nothing, but because of it. And he lost the general not because of that, but because he likes them young.

In any other year, Ives would have been a fringe candidate, like when Alan Keyes ran against Obama in 2004. Rauner is hard-right, an absolute plutocrat’s plutocrat. Sure, he’s not great at it, but he is giving these people most of what they want, economically. But it isn’t enough. His cloddish nature gives them an opening, but it isn’t just that.

It’s that there is something wild and unburied here. From the race riots of Cairo to the entrenched bigotry of Chicago, Illinois has never been a truly progressive state. With our Great Lakes to Deep South length, and the tension between farm and city, and the tensions in a huge, racially-mixed industrial city, there have always been elements of ugly in out politics.

In my lifetime at least, these have been progressively buried. The Council Wars of the 80s are now unthinkable, and Alan Keyes was a joke. Culture warriors don’t win.

But Donald Trump has stirred something nasty and cruel, an secret serum, a potion that incantates buried corpses from the ground. They are stirring because they feel strengthen. They feel powerful. They feel that it is their time. Trump may be unpopular, but he is still a hero to the worst.

I’ve been shielded from that in Illinois, and maybe that is why the ad was so breathtaking. Maybe people in other states saw that and shrugged; another day in America. But that it can break into this bubble, is being proudly played during Saturday morning basketball, shows to me the far-reaching damage that Trump’s dark magic is doing to America.

(And yes, the Nazi getting the GOP nomination for Congress is pretty bad, but that’s more a product of the Republicans not putting up a challenger in a heavily-gerrymandered district. But while their offense at gerrymandering is adorable, one also has to ask: why does the Nazi identify as a Republican?)

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North Korea, White Nationalism, and Reality TV: The Key To the Fake King

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Look, I’m sorry, I love this image.

In Deadspin today, Burneko talks about why he doesn’t think Trump is a real ideological Nazi or Confederate or even an actual white supremacist. I sort of disagree, but this is a solid point.

Honestly, even his white supremacism is a second-order thing, an artifact of the coincidence that he, himself, is white, and cannot tolerate less than personal supremacy. He likes the things in the world that gratify him, and those things happen to be good for preserving the power of white people, men in particular, literally any of whom he’d run over with a combine harvester in a moment if it got the New York Times to treat him like a True New York Big Shot.

There’s a lot to that, I think, especially about how he’d uncaringly destroy the people who for whatever reason adore him. He has no problem crushing the people closest to him, his advisors and staff and defenders. Indeed, he likes cruelty, probably because it reminds him that, despite being a mush-headed coward, he still has unearned power.

He clearly doesn’t care about any of his voters. As Burneko puts it, ““Nazi” and “Republican” and “fork” and “war” and “hello”: For Donald Trump these are just noises you make with your mouth. You make the ones that get people to look at you; if they also smile, fine, but if their eyes widen in shock or horror or disgust, that’s fine too, so long as they don’t look away.” I do think he’s a pretty old-school Queens/Staten Island racist, but he played it up more to get the people cheering. He’s a wrestling heel and a reality show savant (that’s not a compliment). He knows how to gin up conflict for the cheap seats.

Indeed, that’s confirmed by a post late yesterday in the Times.

The president’s top advisers described themselves as stunned, despondent and numb. Several said they were unable to see how Mr. Trump’s presidency would recover, and others expressed doubts about his capacity to do the job.

In contrast, the president told close aides that he felt liberated by his news conference. Aides said he seemed to bask afterward in his remarks, and viewed them as the latest retort to the political establishment that he sees as trying to tame his impulses.

First off, people who are stunned: you’re idiots. This is who he has always been. It isn’t like he somehow became a different man over the 200 days of his Presidency. Everyone knew this was exactly how it would go, so don’t act surprised. When Gary Cohn resigns because his conscience was rocked, don’t treat him as a hero. He’s a goddamn dope if he ever thought differently.

But it’s the last line that’s key. The political establishment is trying to “tame his impulses”, and that’s why he feels great. It doesn’t matter what he said, it doesn’t matter how divisive it was, it doesn’t matter that he broke up his precious CEO conclaves or emboldened Nazis or hurt his chances of passing policies. He was able to be Trump.

That’s what it is all about. That’s what it has always been about. He wants to be the swaggering anti-PC cowboy he envisioned back in his old draft-dodging days, and wants to be seen as the big man who tells it like it is because he’s the only one smart enough to know that George Washington owned slaves, and because all he really wants is attention.

The key to this is his reality show days, which are the main reason he is now President, as terrible an indictment of the United States as that is. On his show, he pretended to be the titan of business and the guy in charge, deciding on the fates of supplicants depending on if they pleased him or not. In reality, producers decided who came and went. At least, according to Clay Aiken, but come on: does Trump seem like the guy who makes real decisions?

He doesn’t. He just likes the trappings of power and fame. A perfect example of this was the North Korea showdown. Trump blustered and blathered, but the DoD played it straight, and Nikki Haley did her job, and we didn’t move to DefCon 1 or anything. Indeed, Trump’s statements seemed outside the process. He was the fake President.

The problem is that he is still the real President, and he made the situation more tense, and could have made it catastrophic. On TV, he could pretend to be the boss and say stupid shit, and it didn’t matter. But here, all you have is people trying to do their jobs under a guy who has no concern for protocol or the right way to do things, because they constrain Trump from being “Trump”.  He doesn’t know anything, doesn’t make actual decisions, doesn’t care to handle things, but wants to be seen as the boss. Wants to be seen as the swaggering tough. And that’s enormously dangerous.

When he adopts the language of white nationalism because he likes to be seen as anti-PC, it is dangerous. When he threatens North Korea because he likes to be seen as bold, it is dangerous. When he is willing to say anything because he can’t stand being anything other than his own stupid caricature, it is dangerous.

The entire Donald Trump candidacy and presidency has been about serving this empty ego. It’s about propping up his fraud. Maybe that’s the only way to get through to his most stubborn supporters. Just keep pointing out that at no way, in no form, has this ever been about them. It never will be.

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.

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.

Trump on Paris: Equal Parts Racism, Terrible Government, And Maddening Idiocy

 

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More like the “Arch De Jim Doesn’t Want To Go To Paris Anymore!”

 

I feel that for everyone, there is one Trump habit or event that sticks in your craw more than others, something that seems minor (in the grand scheme of Trump horrors), but that, to you, just wraps everything up in a disgusting, pulsating meat-bow. For me, it’s France. Or, more specifically, what he has to say about Paris, which comes up every time he’s talking about “terror”. He did so in his CPAC speech.

Take a look at what happened in Sweden. I love Sweden. Great country, great people, I love Sweden. They understand I’m right. The people there understand I’m right. Take a look at what’s happening in Sweden. Take a look at what’s happened in Germany. Take a look at what’s happened in France. Take a look at Nice and Paris.

I have a friend, he’s a very, very substantial guy, he loves the city of lights. He loves Paris. For years, every year during the summer he would go to Paris. It was automatic. With his wife and his family. Hadn’t seen him in a while. And I said, Jim, let me ask you a question, how’s Paris doing? Paris? I don’t go there anymore. Paris is no longer Paris. That was four years, four, five years, hasn’t gone there. He wouldn’t miss it for anything. Now he doesn’t even think in terms of going there.

Now. There’s actually a lot going on here. For one thing, it is weird and terrible to try to paint an ally (as France most certainly is) as a dystopian hellhole, and one that it isn’t safe to go to. That’s just being really bad at government. It’s considerably worse than criticizing a particular policy. Saying “Paris is no longer Paris” is attacking an ally on a fundamental, even existential level. French President Hollande is rightfully upset. Part of running the government, and being the face of the country, is getting along with allies and not going out of your way to needlessly insult. Trump is very bad at this job!

But let’s go a little deeper. The whole “Paris is no longer Paris” thing isn’t just about terrorism. Indeed, it’s more straight-up racism. The example here is from “Four, five years ago”, before Hebdo, before Nice, before the Bataclan. There’s a chance that Trump is just riffing and fudging the years, but he’s told this story many times. It isn’t that it is violent. It’s that there are immigrants there. Non-French.

And it is true that while before the wave of jihad violence France, and Paris, were trying to deal with poor immigrants who were not able to assimilate into society. It’s very complex, partly because France, unlike America (traditionally), had very strict requirements about what it meant to be “French”, and there wasn’t much of an attempt to change that, or to help newcomers from different cultures. They were immediately given up on and marginalized. One of the reasons the immigrant experience in America has worked so well, despite its flaws, is that the culture is flexible enough that it changes with new arrivals, and doesn’t try to change them (much).

So when Trump talks about his friend Jim not wanting to go to Paris because it is no longer Paris, he’s just updating and incorporating an older story into a narrative of terrorism. But the story is that Paris is no longer purely white, and that the non-whites would like some rights, and the right to be visible. The heart of it is pure racism; the conflation of religious bigotry with fears about terrorism are at the heart of the white supra-nationalist campaign. It would be subtly very smart, if I thought it was intentional.

I’m not sure it is, though, because of what bothers me the most: that the President of the United States of America, when discussing transnational terrorism, seems to base most of his thinking off a vague anecdote about a buddy of his named Jim.

This is enraging. It makes me so mad I can barely sit still. It’s not even the policy-basing part. It’s that he thinks this means something. He thinks it is interesting and important that a guy named Jim–a substantial guy–doesn’t like to go to Paris, and he always used to. Something’s going on!

Think about it. Imagine you got into a conversation in a bar and someone said, well, let me tell you about terrorism: here’s an incredibly boring story about a guy’s vacation history. You’d nod, and think, well, ok, that doesn’t mean anything. This guy just has a few vague, mostly racist assumptions, a second-person anecdote, and not much else. It would be a bad conversation in a bar, the faintly-lunatic ramblings of a know-nothing blowhard who seems like he’s more interested in impressing you by being friends with a substantial guy who can go to Paris whenever he wants than on actually talking about the issue.

Now imagine a Presidential candidate uses that anecdote as something meaningful. Now imagine the President keeps using it. What the hell? You have access to every bit of intelligence the country produces, and you want to talk about Jim?

I mean, maybe this is why he is “relatable”, because he talks like a normal guy. That’s backward in and of itself; his “normal guy” talk is so sweaty in its desperate lust for your admiration and filled with brags about the powerful people he knows that it should render itself as more out of touch than Romney, but we’re in the upside down, so who knows?

And maybe this is smart. Maybe it is a not-too-subtle dogwhistle about the mongrol hordes in Europe, and how they are coming over here if we don’t do anything. Maybe he knows exactly what he is doing, if just instinctively.

But let us not forget that the President is a man so deeply incurious about the world, and so vastly unlearned, that he bases his ideas on cable news crawls and other people’s idiot stories. That’s where we are.