Navigating the New American Century

Access Hollywood and TMZ have it all wrong. Not everything happens here in Hollywood. Drive west on Sunset Boulevard and the Sunset Strip turns into Beverly Hills and then into Bel Air – and somewhere in there you pass the top end of the UCLA campus at that curve that Jan and Dean called Dead Man’s Curve – and eventually you’ll end up in Malibu. But about halfway there you’ll pass over the 405 – six lanes in each direction as it heads over the hill into the Valley where the Valley Girls live – and on your right there’s a fancy hotel embedded in the hillside. That’s the old Bel-Air Summit Hotel, actually in Brentwood on that side of the freeway. That’s now the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel, one of the ultra-high-end hotels of Efrem Harkham – Los Angeles’ own Sheldon Adelson, an Orthodox right-wing Likud kind of guy, worth billions. He fixed up the old hotel. And while nothing much is happening here in Hollywood on this Friday night, this particular Friday night Donald Trump is at the Luxe – because there really are entertainment industry conservatives:

The Friends of Abe [as in Abe Lincoln] group, founded a decade ago by Hollywood actors including Gary Sinise and Clint Eastwood, holds monthly gatherings that feature Republican speakers. This election cycle the group has hosted several GOP presidential hopefuls such as Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee. The events are private and not publicly advertised.

Nothing is private in Hollywood:

Hours before Trump’s arrival in Brentwood, protesters began packing the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Church Lane, holding American flags and “Dump Donald Trump” signs. They yelled anti-Trump chants through megaphones in Spanish and English as some drivers of passing cars honked in support.

By 7 p.m., the crowd had swelled to more than 120. Organizers with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles brought Trump piñatas stuffed with trash – symbolizing, they said, the mogul’s inflammatory rhetoric calling Latino immigrants drug dealers and rapists.

Hilda Ramirez, a West Los Angeles resident, said Trump should keep his mouth shut. “When you open your mouth, a mess spills out…. You talk nothing but trash. Don’t back Donald Trump!” she yelled through a megaphone.

Joshua Gonzalez, a 21-year-old Calabasas resident holding a sign depicting Trump in a pink wig, said he came to the protest to send a message that Californians won’t put up with “his out-of-control antics.”

He said Trump was hurting the Republican Party, which might otherwise appeal to conservative Latinos who believe in education and hard work. …

But about 20 feet away, about 40 Trump supporters gathered, many wearing red, white and blue and carrying signs reading, “Trump Tells the Truth.” A man in a megaphone yelled, “Viva Donald Trump!”

This did not go well:

At times protesters and supporters got in each other’s faces. One man jabbed his “Trump for President” sign at protesters as a woman yelled back, “Racist!” and “Trump isn’t welcome here!” Protest organizers and a security officer tried to keep the sides apart.

This did not go well, but it’s just a taste of things to come:

According to Trump’s campaign, he was to meet privately Friday with several opponents of illegal immigration, including Lupe Moreno, who has been a leader in the pro-border control Minuteman Project…

The Minuteman Project is that vigilante organization – they carry guns and harass anyone who looks Hispanic – they say they’ll shoot anyone who looks like they shouldn’t be here. Think George Zimmerman, and this is only the beginning:

On Saturday, Trump is expected to call for stricter immigration enforcement at a rally in Phoenix with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for his harsh policies targeting immigrants. The event has created such a buzz that it will be held at the Phoenix Convention Center, Trump’s campaign said late Thursday.

And now the Republican Party has a problem:

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) called on the Maricopa County Republican Party not to host Trump.

“Donald Trump’s views are coarse, ill-informed and inaccurate, and they are not representative of the Republican Party,” Flake said in a statement. “As an elected Republican official, I’m disappointed the county party would host a speaker that so damages the party’s image.”

Still, some leaders of the local GOP have said they will welcome the real-estate mogul.

“In Maricopa County we believe deeply in Reagan’s 11th commandment that ‘Thou shall not speak ill of any other Republican,'” the party said in a statement. “It is disappointing when our Republican leaders do not share that same commitment to party unity and teamwork.”

It’s not that simple, as Beth Ethier explains:

There is no more natural a companion for Trump in the state of Arizona than Arpaio, whose county web page calls him America’s Toughest Sheriff. Arpaio has used his office to harass Latinos so egregiously in the name of immigration enforcement that a panel of judges gave his department its own federal monitor and the Department of Justice no longer allows him to detain suspected illegal immigrants on its behalf.

While Trump and Arpaio will have a lot to talk about on the subject of border security, their overlapping views aren’t limited to the country’s southern boundary: Trump is a long-time supporter of Arpaio’s search for evidence that Barack Obama’s family faked his Hawaiian birth and he is therefore not really president. Just in case anyone thought Trump had backed off of that, he reinforced his skepticism over Obama’s citizenship in a CNN interview on Thursday.

Trump’s birtherism was reportedly one of the reasons Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake found it distasteful that the Maricopa County Republicans were hosting Saturday’s rally.

Good luck with that:

Flake’s opposition aside, Arizona is full of pro-Trump Republicans, including former governor Jan Brewer, who presided over the passage of the state’s notorious SB 1070 immigration law. Brewer said this week that Trump is “telling it like it really, truly is” on the issue of immigration. Maybe Trump will even find time to meet state attorney general Mark Brnovich, branded by the Arizona Republic’s editorial board as Arizona’s Donald Trump for his tone-deaf fight against court rulings granting driver’s licenses and in-state tuition to undocumented “dreamers.”

Trump’s trip to Arizona caps off a busy week in which the candidate threatened to sue two high-profile chefs who pulled out of commitments to open restaurants in his new hotel, which will be just down the street from the White House. The Washington Post also found this week that a number of potentially undocumented employees were working on renovations at the new hotel. In spite of the controversy about Trump’s positions on immigration, which has not died down since the inflammatory statements about Mexicans made during his campaign launch, he maintains that he will win the Latino vote on his way to the presidency in 2016. A YouGov national poll released on Friday put him in first place among GOP hopefuls for the first time.

Things are coming to a head, and the Los Angeles Times’ David Horsey tries to sort it all out:

The party establishment thinks that Trump is a big problem and that the sooner he implodes, the better it will be for them. But when and if that happens, they will still be stuck with the millions of voters in the Republican base who may not want Trump to be the party’s nominee but who subscribe to his outlandish ideas.

Republican officials are appalled that Trump has provoked outrage among Latinos, just when they were trying to soft-pedal the immigration issue and find ways to reach out to Latino voters. They know they will never elect another president if they fail to make inroads into that rising sector of the electorate, but, now that Trump has jumped to the top of a couple of polls in primary states, Latinos will conclude that a big reason he moved to the head of the pack of candidates is that a lot of Republicans agree with the harsh things he is saying about immigrants. …

Birthers, of course, love him because, during the 2012 election, he joined their paranoid tribe by expressing serious doubts about President Obama’s true birthplace. Many tea-party partisans admire Trump, not only because they are in harmony with him on many issues, but because his angry, “the-country-is-going-to-hell” diatribes match their own ill temper. And then there are all those Republican millionaires and billionaires who may like Trump simply because he is one of them and is not embarrassed to brag about it.

Both Jeff Flake and Jeb Bush may say Trump is not a real Republican, but Jeb in particular is wrong:

This is not the GOP of Jeb’s father and grandfather; the sober, business-oriented Northeast and Midwestern Republicanism of the mid-20th century. This is a party filled with resentful white Southerners and leave-me-alone Western libertarians. It is a party energized by ranting partisans on talk radio and Fox News. Bush knows this as well as anyone and surely is aware that his muted personal style and his somewhat nuanced conservatism are seen as suspect among these sharply ideological elements of the party. His biggest challenge is to prove himself to the militant base without pulling a Mitt Romney and permanently damaging his appeal to moderate voters in the general election.

But the problem is not Jeb’s alone, even if Trump will probably fade:

After he exits, though, Republicans will still be left with an identity crisis. They want to appeal to Latinos, but they are the party of immigrant bashers. They want to appeal to black voters, but they are the chosen party of those who cling to the Confederate flag. They want to appeal to working Americans, but they are the party that protects billionaires at every opportunity. They want to show they can govern, but they are a party filled with politicians who hate government.

The Republican Party’s biggest Trump problem is that he embodies the spirit of the party all too well.

Many are now saying that, but another way to look at it is that the country has changed out from under these folks. America is now a whole lot browner and blacker than it ever was, and we have patriotic Muslims and a surge in patriotic Americans who don’t give a hoot about organized religion – or religion at all – and the nation is certainly a whole lot gayer, or gay-friendly. Republicans are notoriously morose. Now they’re even more morose.

Things weren’t supposed to be this way, but this is the second disappointment. At the turn of the century, the folks of the Project for the New American Century began their great project. We were the sole remaining superpower – because our system worked – and every pesky nation in the world would turn into a Jeffersonian democracy with a free-market capitalist economy, as they came to their senses. That was just a fact – and if they didn’t come to their senses we’d make them into nations just like us, by force. We’d start with Iraq. Everyone would see how that changed everything for the Iraqis and nation after nation in the Middle East would then decide to become a Little America.

There’d be an Arab Spring – and there was – but there was no New American Century. There was even more chaos and death. Things weren’t supposed to be this way and Dick Cheney is still grumbling about that – it must be Obama’s fault – and Donald Trump is Dick Cheney. It must be Obama’s fault. Things weren’t supposed to be this way – but they are. The cultural New American Century is a disappointment too.

The problem for Republicans, now, is how to navigate the actual New American Century. That’s tricky. About the time that Donald Trump’s private jetliner was landing at LAX the Civil War actually ended:

It took just a few minutes, simultaneously somber and festive, to put a bookend on the Confederate flag’s 54-year run at the South Carolina Capitol grounds. A crowd of hundreds erupted in cheers, and sang a farewell refrain more associated with sports arenas, as uniformed highway patrol officers lowered the flag from a pole next to a soldiers’ monument shortly after 10 a.m. ET Friday. “Hey, hey, hey, goodbye!” the voices sang.

It was a move stemming from years of deep-rooted controversy over the banner that gained steam after last month’s massacre of nine black churchgoers in Charleston. “Finally we can breathe, we can sigh, we can cheer,” said former state Rep. Bakari Sellers, one of the onlookers. “This is why Rosa sat and Martin marched, so that we can have events like this.”

A white man from Greenwood, South Carolina, held a U.S. flag as he looked on. He said it was time for the Confederate flag to come down. “I have respect for the people that honor that as their heritage, but it’s been used in other ways,” the man, who didn’t give his name, told CNN. “It’s symbolic of a lot of things that are negative and a lot of things that are part of the dark part of our country’s history.”

And their Republican governor made it happen:

Anyone searching for a compelling visual testimony to the brutal absurdity of the American South’s racial obsessions surely need look no further than the photo of little Nikki Haley, born Nimrata Nikki Randahawa, on the stage of the annual Miss Wee Bamberg (South Carolina) pageant. In the wake of school desegregation, it had become the practice to crown both a white and a black winner. Haley and her sister had introduced an unforeseen element of racial ambiguity that left pageant officials fearful that neither the white or black parents in the audience would accept the two little brown-skinned daughters of an immigrant Sikh couple in their racial category. The wrapped package with a deflated beach ball in her hands is what she later called their “disqualification” prize. Surely no one in attendance that night, save perhaps the little girl herself, could imagine that some three decades later, Bamberg would boast signs welcoming motorists to the “Home of Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina.”

Yeah, she’s a Republican, although some object:

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter said on Tuesday night that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) is unqualified to deal with her state’s use of the Confederate flag because she’s an “immigrant.”

“I’d really like to like Nikki Haley since she is a Republican, but on the other hand, she’s an immigrant and does not understand America’s history,” Coulter told host Kennedy on her Fox Business show Tuesday evening.

And meanwhile, in Washington:

The dispute in Congress over the Confederate flag threatened on Friday to upend House Republican plans to move forward on routine spending legislation, amid concerns that Democrats could hijack the bills to debate the flag.

House Republican aides said that a bill covering general government operations tentatively set for consideration next week would not be considered, after all. That followed an embarrassing incident on Thursday: Republicans had to pull a different bill when conservative Southern members revolted against a last-minute amendment to block display of the flag at federal cemeteries.

“It was a fast fuse, and I don’t think very many people realized how it would play out,” Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Friday of the incident. Now, he said, “there’s a number of options that are being considered” for moving forward.

These guys are having hard time with the New American Century, and Salon’s Joan Walsh explains the dynamics:

How did it end that way, when earlier this week Boehner seemed to be playing the statesman? He told reporters he supported the flag’s removal, and Tuesday night House Democrats introduced an amendment to a spending bill that would take down the flag from federal property and ban its sale or display at national parks or cemeteries, which passed unanimously. When white Southern GOP members belatedly figured out what happened, as is often the case, they rebelled. Then Boehner, unbelievably, canceled a vote on the appropriations bill that contained the flag provision. “I do not want this to become some political football,” he declared.

And party leaders wonder why they have a Donald Trump-sized problem with race.

Once Southern members figured out what happened, Rep. Ken Calvert offered an amendment to allow the flag to be displayed at federal cemeteries and sold in gift shops. Boehner managed to table that when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi outplayed him, introducing a privileged resolution instructing the speaker to “remove any State flag containing any portion of the Confederate battle flag, other than a flag displayed by the office of a Member of the House, from any area within the House wing of the Capitol or any House office building, and shall donate any such flag to the Library of Congress.”

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy pushed to table that, too, by sending it to committee, and he was backed by every Republican member but one, Rep. Curt Clawson of Florida.

Pelosi blasted House leadership for trying to avoid political exposure: the sight of Republican members voting to protect the flag on the same day South Carolina decided to take it down. “They were more afraid of what those 100 members of Congress might come to the floor and say in defense of the Calvert amendment,” she said.

That’s a bit complicated, but it comes down to this:

Boehner presumably had the votes to defeat the Calvert amendment (if not pass Pelosi’s), since the entire Democratic caucus would have backed it. Still, he couldn’t completely spare his party the embarrassment it deserves. Southern members were happy to talk to reporters about why they wanted the flag preserved at national cemeteries.

“When you’re putting a flag on someone’s grave, to me it’s a little different from being racist. It’s more of a memorial,” Georgia’s Lynn Westmoreland told the New York Times. “You can’t make an excuse for things that happened, but the majority of people that actually died in the Civil War on the Confederate side did not own slaves. These were people that were fighting for their states. I don’t think they had even any thoughts about slavery.”

Walsh is not impressed:

Of course that’s exactly the mendacious Civil War revisionism the anti-flag movement seeks to refute. When a Times reporter asked if Westmoreland could see the perspective of Georgia civil rights hero, Rep. John Lewis, the self-pitying Republican answered, unbelievably, “I guess the question is, ‘Does he understand where I’m coming from?'”

Lewis had his skull fractured on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge marching for voting rights 50 years ago, but Westmoreland is the one who deserves understanding?

It’s a new century. Check the calendar:

House Democrats like Lewis made sure the country knows what’s at stake with the flag. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries was widely shown making the passionate case against it. “What exactly is the tradition the Confederate battle flag is meant to represent?” he asked on the House floor. “Is it slavery, rape, kidnapping, genocide, treason, or all of the above?”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest saw the shameful event as just another example of the House GOP’s attempt to harness racial resentment for political gain. “These are the same House Republicans who voted for a party leader who once described himself as ‘David Duke without the baggage,’ he said, talking about House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. These are the same congressional Republicans who have declined to criticize the race-baiting rhetoric of a leading Republican presidential candidate.”

That’s why it’s hard not to enjoy the spectacle of the shameless Trump humiliating the GOP with his non-stop hateful rhetoric.

Trump is in the wrong century. The Republican Party is. Brian Beutler puts it this way:

Republicans have been engaged in a quiet and unresolved debate amongst themselves over which of the following three strategic courses to pursue:

1) Making genuine, substantive concessions to minority voters.

2) Making symbolic and rhetorical concessions to minority voters, without making significant changes to the GOP’s substantive agenda.

3) Making no concessions to minority voters whatsoever, in the hope of increasing the GOP’s already sizeable margins among white voters.

Two developments in the past month – the mass killing of black worshippers by a white supremacist at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, and the launch of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign – have thrown into stark relief how badly option one lost out to options two and three.

This will not go well:

The view that there are enough aggrieved white voters in the country to elect a GOP president no longer dominates Republican strategic thought as it once did, and it will probably shrink further over time, as changing demographics make it less and less tenable politically.

But in this election, with this primary field, it could win the day one more time. What it lacks in broad appeal it makes up for in its ability to lend Republican policy arguments internal coherence. The range of issues that both affect minorities and demand substantive concessions from Republicans is growing, and that will make efforts to smooth the sharp edges of conservative policy with gentler rhetoric more tortured as time goes on. In the long run, the only real option is for the GOP to change party dogma on issues like voting rights or immigration or social spending.

But for now, the notion propounded by Trump and Cruz and others, is that the Republican Party doesn’t need to go to any trouble at all.

Perhaps not, but sooner or later they will discover they’re in a New American Century, and it’s not the one they expected. They’ll have to learn to navigate this one, just like the other one that wasn’t what they expected either. The rest of us, however, may not wait for them to figure out the actual world around them.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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