CPAC: “Victimhood” and “Paranoia”

CPAC

The Republican Party is now the party of victimhood, paranoia, and fear.  Sadly, much of its support comes from evangelical Christians–people who are commanded to “fear not.”  There is no hope.  There is no humility.  There is a lot of nostalgia, but very little history.

Over at The Nation, John Knepfl writes about CPAC‘s “red hot rage.”  Here is a taste:

Trump repeatedly warned the crowd that if Democrats were elected they would repeal the Second Amendment, and at one point asked the attendees to cheer if they preferred the Second Amendment or tax cuts. It was a bizarre moment, one of many, but suffice to say the Second Amendment received very loud support. That defensive posture in the midst of a seeming sea change in the gun-control debate was not a coincidence, and a clear sign that the CPAC doesn’t see itself as responsible for the prevalence of mass shootings.

What makes the rancor especially absurd is that not only is the Republican Party in charge of the Executive Branch and both chambers of Congress, but, by all honest accounts, the Trump administration is succeeding in implementing a hyperconservative agenda. CPAC favorites Ted Cruz and Shapiro acknowledged that they had no substantive disagreements with Trump. Nevertheless, the entire event was defined primarily by victimhood and paranoia. The enemies are everywhere: Democrats, socialists, college professors, regulators, black athletes, reporters, “fake news,” the FBI. “They try like hell, they can’t stand what we’ve done,” Trump said ominously.

Read the entire piece here.

Should Conservatives Abandon the GOP and Vote for a “Straight Democratic Ticket?”

 

Republican U.S. presidential candidates Carson and Trump talk during a break at the second official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley

Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes think that they should.  Here is their recent piece in The Atlantic:

We have both spent our professional careers strenuously avoiding partisanship in our writing and thinking. We have both done work that is, in different ways, ideologically eclectic, and that has—over a long period of time—cast us as not merely nonpartisans but antipartisans. Temperamentally, we agree with the late Christopher Hitchens: Partisanship makes you stupid. We are the kind of voters who political scientists say barely exist—true independents who scour candidates’ records in order to base our votes on individual merit, not party brand.

This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity. The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him. In a two-party system, nonpartisanship works only if both parties are consistent democratic actors. If one of them is not predictably so, the space for nonpartisans evaporates. We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to do as Toren Beasley did: vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).

Of course, lots of people vote a straight ticket. Some do so because they are partisan. Others do so because of a particular policy position: Many pro-lifers, for example, will not vote for Democrats, even pro-life Democrats, because they see the Democratic Party as institutionally committed to the slaughter of babies.

We’re proposing something different. We’re suggesting that in today’s situation, people should vote a straight Democratic ticket even if they are not partisan, and despite their policy views. They should vote against Republicans in a spirit that is, if you will, prepartisan and prepolitical. Their attitude should be: The rule of law is a threshold value in American politics, and a party that endangers this value disqualifies itself, period. In other words, under certain peculiar and deeply regrettable circumstances, sophisticated, independent-minded voters need to act as if they were dumb-ass partisans.

Read the rest here.

 

Beinart: Will the GOP Stand-Up to Roy Moore’s Anti-Muslim Prejudice?

Roy Moore,Patricia Jones

The Republican nominee for Jeff Sessions’s vacated Alabama Senate seat is a Christian nationalist who appears to see Muslim-Americans as second-class citizens.  Writing at The Atlantic, Peter Beinart wonders why Moore’s fellow Republicans are not condemning his views.  Here is a taste of his piece:

In his hostility to Islam, and his belief that American Muslims should not be allowed to serve in office, Moore stands firmly in the tradition of Cain, Bachmann, Carson and Trump. In 2006, when Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison swore his oath of office on a Koran, Moore comparedit to taking an “oath on Mein Kampf” in 1943, and said Ellison should not be seated in Congress. This July, he called Islam a “false religion.” In August, he said, “There are communities under Sharia law right now in our country. Up in Illinois. Christian communities.” He later acknowledged that he had no idea if that was true. (It isn’t.)

What’s new isn’t what Moore has said. It’s the way leading Republicans have responded. There has been virtually no criticism at all. When CNN asked Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson how he felt about Moore’s claim that Barack Obama was a Muslim, Johnson responded merely that, “no two people agree 100% of the time.” When asked by the Toronto Star about claims that Moore was anti-Muslim, the Chairman of the Russell County, Alabama, Republican Party replied, “I’m anti-Muslim too.” (He later explained that, “I don’t have any problems with anybody’s religion as long as it’s Christian.”) When Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel declared in an interview on Fox News that, “the voters did the right thing,” Moore’s anti-Muslim comments didn’t even come up. In the age of Donald Trump, most Republican politicians are now too afraid to condemn anti-Muslim bigotry. And increasingly, journalists no longer expect them to.

And where are the court evangelicals?  Why aren’t they speaking out against Moore?  I assume they are too busy petitioning Donald Trump for more religious liberty legislation.

John Danforth Pulls No Punches in Condemning Trump

John_danforthThe former GOP Senator and ordained Episcopal priest tells us what he really thinks about the POTUS in a Washington Post op-ed titled “Trump is exactly what Republicans are not.”

A taste:

Now comes Trump, who is exactly what Republicans are not, who is exactly what we have opposed in our 160-year history. We are the party of the Union, and he is the most divisive president in our history. There hasn’t been a more divisive person in national politics since George Wallace.

It isn’t a matter of occasional asides, or indiscreet slips of the tongue uttered at unguarded moments. Trump is always eager to tell people that they don’t belong here, whether it’s Mexicans, Muslims, transgender people or another group. His message is, “You are not one of us,” the opposite of “e pluribus unum.” And when he has the opportunity to unite Americans, to inspire us, to call out the most hateful among us, the KKK and the neo-Nazis, he refuses.

To my fellow Republicans: We cannot allow Donald Trump to redefine the Republican Party. That is what he is doing, as long as we give the impression by our silence that his words are our words and his actions are our actions. We cannot allow that impression to go unchallenged.

As has been true since our beginning, we Republicans are the party of Lincoln, the party of the Union. We believe in our founding principle. We are proud of our illustrious history. We believe that we are an essential part of present-day American politics. Our country needs a responsibly conservative party. But our party has been corrupted by this hateful man, and it is now in peril.

In honor of our past and in belief in our future, for the sake of our party and our nation, we Republicans must disassociate ourselves from Trump by expressing our opposition to his divisive tactics and by clearly and strongly insisting that he does not represent what it means to be a Republican.

Read the entire piece here.

 

This Irresponsible Historical Thinking Has to Stop!

Read Jennifer Kerns‘s recent piece on politics and Charlottesville at The Washington Examiner.  Kerns is a GOP communications strategist who has worked for the California Republican Party and Fox News.

Here is a taste:

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, an awful lot of awful things have been said about Republicans and race relations.

However, the Left’s accusations of racism couldn’t be further from the truth that has played out in the halls of Congress over the last 150 years.

It is shocking that as talk of statues and historical racism is being bandied about, no one has mentioned the Democrats’ utterly shameful treatment of African Americans throughout history.

Over the last 100 years, Republicans have stood up for African Americans while Democrats not only stood on the sidelines, but in fact served as obstructionists to civil liberties.

Here are at least 12 examples in which Democrats voted against African Americans, and Republicans voted to free them:

Democrats voted against every piece of civil rights legislation in Congress from 1866 to 1966 – a whopping 100 years. That is a dismal record for today’s Democrats who would like you to believe that history has been on their side on this issue.

It hasn’t.

Democrats voted to keep Africans Americans in slavery, opposing the 13th Amendment which officially freed the slaves. Only four Democrats voted for it.

Republicans also passed the 14th Amendment which granted slaves U.S. citizenship; Democrats voted against it.

Republicans also passed the 15th Amendment which gave slaves the right to vote. Not a single one of the 56 Democrats in Congress voted for it.

Shame on them.

Furthermore, Republicans passed all of the Civil Rights laws of the 1860s — including the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Reconstruction Act of 1867 following the Civil War.

And it goes on

I thought we were done with this kind of stuff after CNN fired Jeffrey Lord.

As any of my liberal or conservative students will tell you, one of the key components of historical thinking is change over time.  In the case of Kern’s article, let’s remember that political parties change over time.  They are not frozen in time, as she suggests.  The Democratic Party of the 19th century is not the Democratic Party of the 21st century.  The Republican Party of the 19th century is not the Republican Party of the 21st century. Things changed in the 20th century, particularly as each of these parties addressed the questions of race in America.  A political realignment took place.

The facts of Kern’s piece seem generally fine, (although I have not checked them thoroughly).  If they are accurate, they might make for a nice Wikipedia entry. But when you are trying to make the past speak to the present, as Kern does here, there are a set of historical thinking skills–such as change over time–that must be considered. Kern is not writing history here.  She is using the past irresponsibly to make a political point.

I think I will use this piece in my Introduction to History course this semester at Messiah College.

Want to learn more about historical thinking?  Try this. You can read it along with my students this semester.

Or watch this for starters:

 

 

 

The Ball Is In The GOP’s Court

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Let’s face it.  No one cares what the Democrats in Congress and elsewhere think right now.  That is because we all know that the Democrats condemn Trump’s refusal to distinguish white supremacists from those protesting against them.

But we should all care about what Republicans in Congress and elsewhere are saying. They are the only ones with the power to rebuke the POTUS.  This is not a political issue. Any Republican who fails to speak out strongly against Trump right now either shares his views on moral equivalency or is more concerned about politics than the moral state of the country they serve.  If there is another option I would like to know about it.

Here are some of the Republicans who have spoken out after Trump’s remarks on Tuesday.  Notice that only a few of them name the office of the POTUS by name.  I think that’s significant.

What the GOP in the House Did Yesterday

Just so we are clear, the American Health Care Act:

  • Takes health insurance away from at least 24 million Americans; that was the number the CBO estimated for a previous version of the bill, and the number for this one is probably higher.
  • Revokes the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which provided no-cost health coverage to millions of low-income Americans.
  • Turns Medicaid into a block grant, enabling states to kick otherwise-eligible people off their coverage and cut benefits if they so choose.
  • Slashes Medicaid overall by $880 billion over 10 years.
  • Removes the subsidies that the ACA provided to help middle-income people afford health insurance, replacing them with far more meager tax credits pegged not to people’s income but to their age. Poorer people would get less than they do now, while richer people would get more; even Bill Gates would get a tax credit.
  • Allows insurers to charge dramatically higher premiums to older patients. If you want a reliable company that can give you car insurance and many others visit One Sure Insurance for more info.
  • Allows insurers to impose yearly and lifetime caps on coverage, which were outlawed by the ACA. This also, it was revealed today, may threaten the coverage of the majority of non-elderly Americans who get insurance through their employers.
  • Allows states to seek waivers from the ACA’s requirement that insurance plans include essential benefits for things such as emergency services, hospitalization, mental health care, preventive care, maternity care, and substance abuse treatment.
  • Provides hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for families making over $250,000 a year.
  • Produces higher deductibles for patients.
  • Allows states to try to waive the ACA’s requirement that insurers must charge people the same rates regardless of their medical history. This effectively eviscerates the ban on denials for preexisting conditions, since insurers could charge you exorbitant premiums if you have a preexisting condition, effectively denying you coverage.
  • Shunts those with preexisting conditions into high-risk pools, which are absolutely the worst way to cover those patients; experience with them on the state level proves that they wind up underfunded, charge enormous premiums, provide inadequate benefits and can’t cover the population they’re meant for. Multiple analyses have shown that the money the bill provides for high-risk pools is laughably inadequate, which will inevitably leave huge numbers of the most vulnerable Americans without the ability to get insurance.
  • Brings back medical underwriting, meaning that just like in the bad old days, when you apply for insurance you’ll have to document every condition or ailment you’ve ever had.

This is from Paul Waldman’s piece in The Washington Post.  He wants to hold the GOP accountable.

After the bill passed, you can hear congressmen on the floor singing this:

Slacktivist is also ready for a fight.

Good to See Some GOP Lawmakers Defending the National Endowment for the Humanities

chroniclingamerica

“Chronicling America” is an NEH-sponsored program that digitizes U.S. newspapers

Michael Cooper and Sopan Deb’s piece at The New York Times calls attention to several GOP members of Congress who are willing to fight for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts after learning that government funding for both of these organizations were eliminated in Donald Trump’s recent budget proposal.

Here is a taste:

Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican who is the chairwoman of a crucial Senate appropriations panel that oversees the endowments, said in a statement, “I believe we can find a way to commit to fiscal responsibility while continuing to support the important benefits that N.E.A. and N.E.H. provide.”

Her backing, like that of some other Republicans, comes after years of federal funds have flowed to artists in her state. Since 1995, the endowment has sent more than $18 million in grants to Alaska — a state which, partly because of its small population, ranks near the top when it comes to arts grants per capita.

Two other Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, signed their names last month to a letter urging continued support for the endowments, which together get $300 million a year. A spokeswoman for Senator Capito, who is on the appropriations committee, said Friday that she would “advocate for her priorities, including funding for the arts and humanities, which are important to our economy and communities.”

Is Steve King Really on the Fringes of the GOP?

Was right-leaning political commentator Margaret Hoover correct earlier this evening on CNN when she described Steve King as part of the Republican Party’s lunatic fringe?

In case you have not heard, King, a congressman from Iowa,  has been making some rather racist comments of late.  (Get up to speed here with our earlier post placing King’s comments in some historical perspective).

If King is part of the white nationalist wing of the GOP, then Ted Cruz might be right there with him.  Let’s remember that King was influential in helping the Texas Senator and GOP presidential candidate win the Iowa primary last January.  In fact, Cruz made King the national co-chair for his campaign.

Here is Ted Cruz praising his good buddy:

I have yet to see a Cruz condemnation of King’s remarks.

Steinfels: “You Don’t Win over People By Calling Them Racists”

steinfelspeterCatholic writer Peter Steinfels reflects on the #ageoftrump in a recent piece at Commonweal, the magazine where his byline has appeared for over fifty years.  He has little patience for Donald Trump, the GOP, the  Democratic Party, and identity politics.

Here is a taste:

And that raises the much-bruited issue of identity politics. Clearly, the Democrats’ fixation on sheer diversity, a demographic checklist of age groups, income groups, and racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities, has proved a failure. But what is the problem—simply the emphasis on identities or the failure to connect with some identities (e.g., traditionalist, rural, working-class) in a convincing way? Perhaps the problem, to a disturbing degree, is the loss of identities, of identities, that is, with any genuine life-shaping character, any authentic culture, rather than identities based on skin color or admiration for a reality TV star and winner at casino economics? 

I would have thought that religion might provide that kind of identity, until I looked at the 81 percent white evangelical vote for Trump and the 60 percent white Catholic vote. My guess is that these churches and, by association, religion generally, will find themselves badly discredited by a Trump administration bearing gifts. The prolife and religious freedom movements, which I consider of major importance, may win a round or two in the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, with the mark of Trump stamped on their foreheads, they have virtually doomed themselves in the cultural contests essential to their goals.

I have not said anything about “whitelash.” I never believed for an instant, as I am sure Barack Obama never believed, that we had entered a “post-racial” era. I also don’t believe that we are returning to Jim Crow or that black bodies exist in constant danger of being mowed down by white authorities on the streets. But I have neither space nor ability to address with due gravity and precision what 2016 reveals about where the nation stands in regard to this, its deepest and most threatening wound. My only observation, practical but superficial, is that you don’t win over people by calling them racists.  

Read the entire piece here.  The last paragraph reminds me a lot of Niebuhr’s “spiritual discipline against resentment.”

HT: John Haas

Quote of the Day

From the editorial board of The New York Times:

The Carrier deal stands as an interesting argument against longstanding Republican economic orthodoxy.  In making the deal, Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence have embraced the idea that government does indeed have a role to play in the free market.  They intervened, and as a result, 800 people will keep their jobs.  If they applied the same interventionist approach to other labor issues–raising the minimum wage and expanding overtime pay come to mind–millions of working people might actually stand a chance.

Has Donald Trump Killed the Republican Party?

Trump can fix itHistorian Heather Cox Richardson, author of To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party, reflects historically on the significance of the Trump “Access Hollywood” tape and the fate of the GOP.

Here is a taste:

And so the release of the Access Hollywood tape was the turning point for many Republican men because it undercut their image of what their ideology meant all along. Trump wasn’t about respecting and defending the traditional family after all; he was a rich thug who felt entitled to grab whatever he wanted.

 

This has given an opening for establishment Republicans who recognize that Trump is a loose cannon to toss him overboard as they could not when he was simply taking their own narrative about minorities, working women, and organized workers to the extreme. In fact, House speaker Paul Ryan used this contradiction to try to shore up the movement conservative vision when he tweeted after the tape’s release: “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified.”

 

Ryan’s tweet, and Trump’s continued free fall, suggests that the movement conservative narrative may finally be dying. The release of the tape may force regular Republican voters to face the reality that the movement conservatives’ demonization of minorities, organized workers, and women who demanded equality was never really about protecting hardworking American families. It was about creating a ruling class whose members could commit crimes against less powerful Americans with impunity. And so the vulgar boasting of a criminal thug may finally force the GOP to confront the ugly fantasy that has dominated its politics for a generation, and shock American politics back to decency.

Read the entire piece here.

Jerry Falwell Jr., a College President, Defends Trump

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. during a campaign event in Sioux City Iowa

Here it is.  From Sarah Pulliam Bailey at The Washington Post.

Falwell Jr. says that the damaging Access Hollywood tape was actually leaked by members of the GOP establishment so that they could have an excuse to separate themselves from the Trump campaign.  This is certainly possible.  Unlikely, but possible.

Falwell Jr. claims that he knows this is true because he has “independent information” from sources that are “reliable.”  Then he says that he “can’t prove any of it, it’s my opinion.” Then he adds: “I’m just throwing it out there as a possibility…I don’t know for sure.”

Here is a taste of Bailey’s article:

“We’re never going to have a perfect candidate unless Jesus Christ is on the ballot,” he said. “I’ve got a wife and a daughter, and nobody wants to hear their women talked about in that manner.”

Falwell added: “It was just a horrible thing. He apologized. He was contrite about it.”

He said Trump did well by focusing on the issues during the debate.

“With $20 trillion in debt, we’re right on the edge of the abyss and if we don’t make some big changes, we’re going right down the hole,” Falwell told Cosby. “I don’t think the American people want this country to go down the toilet because Donald Trump made some dumb comments on a videotape 11 years ago.”

Falwell declined to name names, but he said he has independent information that Republican establishment members who reluctantly endorsed Trump released the tape to “slither out of the endorsements, and I think it backfired on them.”

“I think a lot of the establishment Republicans have been conspiring together for the last six weeks or more, and I think it’s all a plan,” he said, citing “sources I believe are reliable. It’s nothing I can prove. It wasn’t a coincidence it came out right before Trump was supposed to appear with [House Speaker] Paul Ryan at a rally and it conveniently gave Paul Ryan a way to disinvite Trump. I can’t prove any of it, it’s my opinion.”

“I’m just throwing it out there as a possibility,” Falwell said of whether GOP establishment figures were behind the leak. “I don’t know for sure.”

Read the entire piece here.

Let’s put aside the fact that Jerry Falwell Jr., an evangelical Christian, believes that Trump is truly contrite in his apology.  (A sincere and contrite “apology” is never followed by the word “but”).

Let’s put aside the fact that Falwell Jr. believes that a high national debt is the moral equivalent of Trump’s words about Nancy O’Dell and Arianne Zucker.

Instead let’s think about Jerry Falwell Jr.’s identity as a college president.   Falwell has suggested that the GOP leaked this tape.  When pushed, he claimed that this public accusation is based on little more than his own opinion.  Falwell admits that he has no evidence, yet he speaks with the authority of the president of the largest Christian university in the world.

Again, this conspiracy theory–true or not– is coming from a college president. Colleges and universities should be committed to evidence-based arguments.  I am pretty sure that the majority of faculty at Liberty University would never allow their students to get away with making an argument that is not supported by solid evidence. Could you imagine if I let one of my students make a case in support of this or that issue by saying “it is just my opinion” and “I can’t prove it.”

How can the president of an institution of higher education model such academic incompetence?  I am sure many Liberty University professors are cringing.

Is the Culture War Really Over?

frist-debate

The culture war is over, the liberals won, and the victory was so decisive that the Republican nominee for president doesn’t even try to deny it. He just talks about other things, and hardly anyone (least of all the very voters who once demanded that presidential aspirants demonstrate fealty to the religious right) notices or cares.

So says Damon Linker in a piece at the Week.

He concludes:

Trump called the religious right’s bluff, and no Republican running for president will again feel the need to make an appeal to the dwindling number of conservative religious voters.

None of which means that the issues wrapped up with the religious culture war have gone away entirely. Worries about an ongoing or looming assault on religious freedom persist among many social conservatives. And abortion remains a highly potent issue at the state level, with legislatures across the South and Midwest moving to restrict abortion rights (and the courts often blocking their efforts).

But at the national level — especially when it comes to presidential politics — the culture war is well and truly over.

Read the entire piece here.

Is the culture war over? I don’t think so.  Linker is certainly correct about the lack of religion in the Clinton-Trump race.  But let’s remember two things.

First, the Christian Right is still out there.  They are getting older, but they will be a significant factor in American politics for several more presidential elections.  Many are Trump supporters for decidedly religious reasons.  They believe Trump will deliver the Supreme Court.  They also have a long memories.  The Clintons were polarizing figures in the 1990s.  The Bill Clinton impeachment and Monica Lewinsky affair galvanized the Christian Right.  Those conservative evangelicals who remember the 1990s will follow their religious conscience and refuse to vote for Clinton.

Second, the Christian Right remains a strong force in the GOP.  In the 2016 primary season the Christian Right vote was divided between Cruz, Rubio, Carson and, to some degree, Kasich, Bush, Huckabee, and Santorum.  If all of the Christian Right voters rallied around one candidate Trump would have been defeated.

So let’s not write the culture wars off too quickly.  The cultural warriors will be back again.

“Our historical narcissism indicts us”

trump_nixon-800x430

Rick Perlstein, the author of several excellent (and big) books on American conservatism since the 1950s, is skeptical about the way his readers have turned to his work for historical analogies in this election cycle.

Here is a taste of his recent piece in The Baffler:

History does not repeat itself. “The country is disintegrating,” a friend of mine wrote on Facebook after the massacre of five policemen by black militant Micah Johnson in Dallas. But during most of the years I write about in Nixonland and its sequel covering 1973 through 1976, The Invisible Bridge, the Dallas shootings might have registered as little more than a ripple. On New Year’s Eve in 1972, a New Orleans television station received this message: “Africa greets you. On Dec. 31, 1972, aprx. 11 pm, the downtown New Orleans Police Department will be attacked. Reason—many, but the death of two innocent brothers will be avenged.” Its author was a twenty-three-year-old Navy veteran named Mark James Essex. (In the 1960s, the media had begun referring to killers using middle names, lest any random “James Ray” or “John Gacy” suffer unfairly from the association.) Essex shot three policemen to death, evading arrest. The story got hardly a line of national attention until the following week, when he began cutting down white people at random and held hundreds of officers at bay from a hotel rooftop. Finally, he was cornered and shot from a Marine helicopter on live TV, which also accidentally wounded nine more policemen. The New York Times only found space for that three days later.

Stories like these were routine in the 1970s. Three weeks later, four men identifying themselves as “servants of Allah” holed up in a Brooklyn sporting goods store with nine hostages. One cop died in two days of blazing gun battles before the hostages made a daring rooftop escape. The same week, Richard Nixon gave his second inaugural address, taking credit for quieting an era of “destructive conflict at home.” As usual, Nixon was lying, but this time not all that much. Incidents of Americans turning terrorist and killing other Americans had indeed ticked down a bit over the previous few years—even counting the rise of the Black Liberation Army, which specialized in ambushing police and killed five of them between 1971 and 1972.

In Nixon’s second term, however, they began ticking upward again. There were the “Zebra” murders from October 1973 through April 1974 in San Francisco, in which a group of Black Muslims killed at least fifteen Caucasians at random and wounded many others; other estimates hold them responsible for as many as seventy deaths. There was also the murder of Oakland’s black school superintendent by a new group called the Symbionese Liberation Army, who proceeded to seal their militant renown by kidnapping Patty Hearst in February 1974. Then, in May, after Hearst joined up with her revolutionary captors, law enforcement officials decimated their safe house with more than nine thousand rounds of live ammunition, killing six, also on live TV. Between 1972 and 1974 the FBI counted more than six thousand bombings or attempted bombings in the United States, with a combined death toll of ninety-one. In 1975 there were two presidential assassination attempts in one month.

Not to mention a little thing called Watergate. Or the discovery by Congressional investigators that the CIA had participated in plots to kill foreign leaders and spied on tens of thousands of innocent protesters, as well as the revelation that the FBI had tried to spur Martin Luther King Jr. to suicide. Or the humiliating collapse of South Vietnam, as the nation we had propped up with billions in treasure and 58,220 American lives was revealed to be little more than a Potemkin village.

And now? We’re drama queens. The week after Dallas, the host of the excellent public radio show The Takeaway, John Hockenberry, invoked the Manson murders: “America’s perilous dance with Helter Skelter . . . Individual feelings of fear and revenge do not ignite a race war—yet . . .” Yet.

There followed a news report about the civil war in South Sudan, one side loyal to the president, the other to the former vice president. Now that’s a disintegrating society. The Baffler is a print publication, and perhaps between this writing and its arrival in mailboxes we’ll start seeing, say, armed black militants in a major American city randomly killing scores of innocent white people, as in an earlier age—following which, I want to add, American society, no, did not disintegrate.

Our historical narcissism indicts us. Please don’t drag my name into it.

Perlstein adds:

The longing to assimilate the strange to the familiar is only human; who am I to hold myself aloof from it? But it’s just not a good way to study history, which when done right invites readers to tack between finding the familiar in the strange and the strange in the familiar. History roils. Its waves are cumulative, one rolling into another, amplifying their thunder. Or they become attenuated via energies pushing in orthogonal or opposite directions. Or they swirl into directionless eddies, with the ocean’s surface appearance as often as not obscuring grander currents just below.

It’s dispiritingly reminiscent of the consensus I sought to demythologize in Before the Storm that some see Trump only in the ways he is exceptional to the usual waves, currents, eddies of our history—except for that time Rick Perlstein writes about in his books, when Americans hated each other enough to kill each other. “How Did Our Politics Get So Harsh and Divisive? Blame 1968,” was how one recent rumination on the sixties-echo effect in the Trump movement got headlined in the Washington Post. Why not blame 1776, when the nation was born in blood and fire, brother fighting brother? Or 1787, when the Constitution repressed the contradictions between slave and free states, with all the core unresolved tensions slowly simmering until the nation had to be born again, from the blood of the better part of a million Americans slaughtering one another? “How Did Our Politics Become So Harsh and Divisive? Blame 1860.”

Heck, why not blame 1877, when an estimated one hundred people were killed in railroad strikes that involved some one hundred thousand people? Or the “Red Summer” of 1919, which set in motion race riots and lynchings, killing hundreds by 1921, when as many as three hundred died in the Tulsa riot alone? Or 1924, when it took the Democratic Party 103 convention ballots and sixteen days to settle whether the party would be represented by its pro– or anti–Ku Klux Klan factions, while tens of thousands of hooded Klansmen rallied across the river in New Jersey? Or 1945–46, when almost two million Americans went on strike? Or 1995, when a madman blew up a federal building and killed 168, including children in daycare? Why not start at the beginning and blame 1492, or the year the English settled in Massachusetts Bay?

Great stuff here on historical thinking, the uses of history, and historical analogies.  I may use this in my Intro to History course.

Georgia on Her Mind

georgia

Does Hillary Clinton have a chance to win Georgia in November?  Her husband, Bill Clinton, was the last Democrat to win it.  He did that in 1992.  At the moment Clinton and Donald Trump are running even in the state.

In yesterday’s New York Times, Joseph Crespino, a history professor at Emory University, puts a possible Clinton victory in some historical perspective.

Here is a taste:

Atlanta — Recent polls show something that has caught even the most optimistic liberals by surprise: Hillary Clinton is tied with Donald J. Trump in Georgia, catching up with him in South Carolina and generally showing strength in traditionally Republican parts of the South. It seems like the Democratic dream come true — demographic changes are turning Southern states purple.

But this story has less to do with the future than the past, and both parties run a risk in misreading it. Mr. Trump’s racially charged hard-right campaign reveals a fault line in Republican politics that dates from the very beginning of G.O.P. ascendancy in the South.

The Republican’s Southern Strategy is one of the most familiar stories in modern American history: Beginning in the 1960s, the party courted white racist voters who fled the Democratic Party because of its support for civil rights.

But things were never quite so simple. Yes, racial reaction fed G.O.P. gains in the 1960s and ’70s. And yes, Barry Goldwater called it “hunting where the ducks are.”

What did that mean? Goldwater’s detractors understood it to mean that he was going after Dixiecrats, the Southern Democrats who had abandoned the party in 1948 over civil rights. Goldwater, however, maintained that he was going after college-educated white collar professionals who were building the modern Southern economy.

That was the vision he described in his speech at the Georgia Republican Convention in May 1964. G.O.P. success in the South, he argued, stemmed from “the growth in business, the increase in per capita income and the rising confidence of the South in its own ability to expand industrially and commercially.” Southern Republicanism, he said, was based on “truly progressive elements.”

Read the rest here.

What’s the Matter With Kansas?

populist_party

Kansas Populists, circa 1892-93

Last night we noted that Hillary Clinton actually has a shot of winning GOP stronghold South Carolina in November.   Today we hear similar news from Kansas, a state that last voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 1964.

Here is a taste of Bryan Lowry’s piece at The Wichita Eagle:

The Sunflower State hasn’t gone for a Democrat in a presidential election since 1964, but the latest KSN News Poll has Clinton within 5 percentage points of Republican Donald Trump.

Trump leads Clinton 44 percent to 39 percent in the poll of 566 likely voters, which was conducted by SurveyUSA between Aug. 3 and 7. That’s compared to the 11-point lead Trump had over Clinton in KSN’s July poll and Mitt Romney’s 22-point victory in the state in 2012.

Libertarian Gary Johnson attracted support from 8 percent of respondents, and another 9 percent are undecided.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

The poll also shows that the bulk of Trump’s supporters in Kansas, 60 percent, say their vote is primarily a vote against Clinton, compared to 39 percent who say it is primarily a vote for the real estate mogul.

The overwhelming majority of Clinton’s supporters, 66 percent, say their vote is primarily a vote for the former U.S. secretary of state, compared to 31 percent who say their vote is primarily a vote against Trump.

Read the entire piece here.