The Tweeter

Things are getting strange out there. Everyone running for president is out there shaking hands and making speeches, and granting interviews to every cable news show that will have them, and doing radio interviews in small markets with obscure and eccentric hosts, and doing their best in the periodic party debates. Donald Trump is doing some of that – the speeches and the interviews – he kind of wings it at the debates – but he’s actually running a Twitter-based campaign. It’s more immediate, it’s almost stream-of-consciousness, and it seems more personal, perhaps because the Tweets seem impulsive – and that makes all the other candidates seem calculating and perhaps a bit slow. They cannot keep up. He’s in real-time and they’re not. He gives America his immediate reaction. They think about things, chat with their advisers, do a bit of poll-testing, and then react in a way that offends the most people the least. They’re filtered. He’s not. He’s real. They’re not.

This has worked brilliantly for him, and he doesn’t have to shake hands. He has a thing about germs – “A self-confessed germaphobe, Trump doesn’t even like to push a ground floor elevator button because it’s been tapped by so many people.” Imagine how he feels about kissing babies – he doesn’t even willingly shake hands – but the “personal touch” is necessary in politics.

Twitter solves that problem. Twitter is incredibly personal, without the germs. What Donald Trump thinks, as he thinks it, he tweets. Whatever catches his eye he retweets – Hey, look at this! Cool!

Do that ten or twenty times a day and you really get to know the guy. It’s all impulse – but that can come back and bite you in the ass. That just happened – Donald Trump just retweeted a Photoshopped image of Jeb Bush as a scruffy homeless man holding up a cardboard “Vote Trump” sign in front of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. This was a lame joke that amused Trump – Jeb was a total loser who would vote for Donald Trump anyway – but Trump didn’t notice the source – @WhiteGenocideTM – which was a bit odd.

Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC did some digging:

Recent tweets and retweets from the account include anti-Semitic imagery, quotes from Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels and tweets deriding Martin Luther King Jr. The profile also listed a link to a website promoting a biographical documentary of Adolf Hitler, including a section that casts doubt on whether the Holocaust actually occurred.

The Twitter handle had hinted at something like that, but this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened. Sarlin notes that Trump retweeted a graphic in November that made the claim that 81 percent of white murder victims are killed by black people – actually, 82 percent of white people murdered in 2014 were killed by other whites. That graphic was first posted on Twitter by a user whose avatar was a swastika.

Oops. Trump claimed he doesn’t have time to check the details of everything he sees. How was he to know that this fellow had reversed the data, much less that he was a neo-Nazi? He just found the stats interesting, wouldn’t you? This time, with the “homeless” Jeb Bush, he liked that Photoshopped image. It made him laugh. He passed it along. So he didn’t notice the source? What’s the big deal?

Perhaps this isn’t a big deal. From this it would be hard to argue that Donald Trump is a stone-cold neo-Nazi anti-Semitic white-supremacist racist. He’s just impulsive and careless. That’s what makes him more “real” to voters – the term is “authentic” of course – but that impulsive carelessness can lead to dark places:

Republican presidential contender Donald Trump may see all press as good press, but a new pro-Trump robocalling campaign with ties to a white supremacist group is putting that strategy to the test.

The call features a statement by Jared Taylor, an active spokesperson for the Council of Conservative Citizens, which was cited by Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof as inspiration for the mass murder he committed in June.

In the call, Taylor says: “I urge you to vote for Donald Trump because he is the one candidate who points out that we should accept immigrants who are good for America. We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.” The call ends with a statement clarifying that it is not authorized by Trump.

The robocalling campaign targets voters in Iowa, where Trump is running a close race with fellow Republican primary candidate Ted Cruz.

Yes, the calls were not authorized by Trump, and he says he’s no white supremacist – but he always adds that Americans are angry. They’ll do what they do. He understands that, everyone should understand that, and he has proclaimed himself “the least racist person on earth” – so he’s not responsible for any of this. He’s impulsive and enthusiastic. That’s what people love about him. He has no idea where this racist crap is coming from.

Maybe it runs in the family:

Woody Guthrie, folk singer supreme, is known for the magisterial portraits he painted of Dust Bowl America and his sweeping indictments of social injustice. What’s not there in the beautiful imagery of his song “This Land Is Your Land” – the ribbon of highway, the endless skyway, the diamond deserts – is right there in the slogan often affixed to his guitar: “This machine kills fascists.”

But artists who traffic in grand themes are also allowed to get specific. In one of the strangest stories yet to emerge from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, it appears that, more than half a century ago, Woody Guthrie penned lyrics condemning the candidate’s father, Fred Trump, for racism.

“Donald did inherit his father’s racism, and was probably actively coached in his father’s racism and worked with his father to perpetuate it,” argued Will Kaufman, the professor of American literature and culture at Britain’s University of Central Lancashire who unearthed the scoop, said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post. “He picked up the mantle and ran with it with his father at his side. That’s why people are interested in this I think.”

That’s a stretch, but here are the lyrics about the Trump housing project back then:

I suppose
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
Racial Hate
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project

Did the multimillionaire real estate magnate teach his son, the multibillionaire real estate magnate, how to keep the riff-raff out? That seems unlikely – all you need to buy a nice two-bedroom at Trump Tower is five or ten million dollars up front, cash. You can be black. Hell, you can be plaid. This is a bullshit story, or it isn’t. David Boaz, the executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, has written this:

Today I join some 20 other writers in making the case against Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. The venerable National Review, founded by William F. Buckley, Jr., assembled a group of diverse critics to argue that Trump is not a conservative, not an advocate of limited government, but rather (as the editorial asserts) “a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.”

And one big problem is this:

Not since George Wallace has there been a presidential candidate who made racial and religious scapegoating so central to his campaign. Trump launched his campaign talking about Mexican rapists and has gone on to rant about mass deportation, bans on Muslim immigration, shutting down mosques, and building a wall around America. America is an exceptional nation in large part because we’ve aspired to rise above such prejudices and guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone.

The other big problem is this:

Equally troubling is his idea of the presidency – his promise that he’s the guy, the man on a white horse, who can ride into Washington, fire the stupid people, hire the best people, and fix everything. He doesn’t talk about policy or working with Congress. He’s effectively vowing to be an American Mussolini, concentrating power in the Trump White House and governing by fiat. It’s a vision to make the last 16 years of executive abuse of power seem modest.

And then there was the Twitter storm:

The National Review symposium was posted last night at 10 p.m., and I took note of it on Facebook and Twitter. It drew a lot of reaction. And I must say, I was surprised by how many of the responses, especially on Twitter, were openly racist and anti-Semitic.

Why was David Boaz surprised? This was a long time coming. Donald Trump was inevitable. Ronald Brownstein of The National Journal has been focusing on American demographics and how and why they’re breaking things. In September of 2013 he wrote Bad Bet: Why Republicans Can’t Win with Whites Alone – Obama had easily won reelection with the smallest share of white voters of any presidential candidate in history. That was odd, and ominous:

Few decisions may carry greater consequences for the Republican Party in 2016 than how it interprets these facts. The key question facing the GOP is whether Obama’s 2012 performance represents a structural Democratic decline among whites that could deepen even further in the years ahead – or a floor from which the next Democratic nominee is likely to improve.

In recent months, a chorus of conservative analysts has bet on the first option. They insist that Republicans, by improving both turnout and already gaping margins among whites, can recapture the White House in 2016 without reformulating their agenda to attract more minority voters – most prominently by passing immigration reform legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for those here illegally.

On the other side is an array of Republican strategists who view minority outreach and immigration reform as critical to restoring the party’s competitiveness – and consider it suicidal for the GOP to bet its future on the prospect that it can squeeze even larger advantages out of the diminishing pool of white voters. Karl Rove, the chief strategist for George W. Bush’s two presidential victories, has noted that relying entirely on whites would soon require Republicans to regularly match the towering advantage Reagan recorded among them when he lost only a single state in his 1984 reelection. “It’s unreasonable to expect Republicans to routinely pull numbers that last occurred in a 49 state sweep,” Rove said at the Aspen Ideas Festival this summer.

Heather Parton comments:

As much as the establishment may have wanted them to vote for a young Hispanic senator or an elder statesman married to a Mexican American in the hopes of boosting their share of the Latino vote, they are having none of it. In fact, the front-runner of the party for six months now is a man whose candidacy has made it abundantly clear that many Republicans loathe and despise foreigners and ethnic and racial minorities. They’re going with the 1984 strategy.

As this campaign has unfolded, Brownstein’s been looking at both parties’ coalitions to try to suss out what’s really driving the delusional impulse among the rank and file to circle the wagons. Looking through the crosstabs of various polls he has found that the Trump vote is a very specific subset of Republican voters: working class whites without a college education, even those who identify as evangelicals.

Brownstein now has the data on that and Parton adds that it’s possible that a lot of these white conservative working class types identify as evangelical as much for tribal reasons as religious commitment, and cites studies that show something odd – church attendance among this group has fallen dramatically over the past four decades:

Monthly church attendance by moderately educated whites – defined as those with high school diplomas and maybe some college – has declined to 37 percent from 50 percent, according to the study co-authored by sociologists W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia and Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University. Church attendance by the least educated whites – defined as those lacking high school diplomas – fell to 23 percent from 38 percent.

“My assumption going into this research was that Middle America was more religious and conservative than more educated America,” said Wilcox, in an interview with MSNBC. “But what is surprising about this is that, when it comes to religion as well as marriage, we find that the college-educated are more conventional in their lifestyle than Middle Americans.”

Parton:

This would explain why so many Trump voters don’t care about his “New York values.” And they agree wholeheartedly with The Donald about the root cause of the problem: immigrants, Muslims, racial minorities and elites who “don’t know what the hell they’re doing.”

Brownstein explains that leads to the idea of a lost paradise of conservative values and culture:

Today, the two parties represent not only different sections of the country, but also, in effect, different editions of the country. Along many key measures, the Republican coalition mirrors what all of American society looked like decades ago. Across those same measures, the Democratic coalition represents what America might become in decades ahead. The parties’ ever escalating conflict represents not only an ideological and partisan stalemate. It also encapsulates our collective failure to find common cause between what America has been, and what it is becoming.

The two different Americas embodied by the parties are outlined by race.

Parton:

Of course they are. He points out that in 2012 whites accounted for 90 percent of the GOP primary and general election vote and the last time whites were 90 percent of the country was in 1960. Those were good times for white men, for sure. For everyone else, not so much. Today people of color equal just over 37 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans and are on track to be a majority in the next 15 years.

White Christians (whether sincere or not) make up 69 percent of Republicans. There haven’t been that many white Christians in America since 1984, the year they ran the table with 49 states and which Karl Rove pointed out they have to repeat if they fail to attract anything but white voters. They represent just 46 percent of the population these days.

Brownstein sees what’s happening:

Republicans represent a coalition of restoration centered on the groups most unsettled by the changes (primarily older, non­college, rural, and religiously devout whites). Democrats mobilize a coalition of transform­a­tion that revolves around the heavily urbanized groups (millennials, people of color, and college-educated, single, and secular whites, especially women) most comfortable with these trends.

Parton also sees what’s happening, and why we have Donald Trump:

Nobody is telling these Republicans they can’t be married or Christian or own guns. But they are having to share the culture with people who don’t have those same values and they don’t like it. The ones who like it least are obviously the Trump voters, those non-college educated, less devout white people who are mad as hell about all this. They want action – deportations, walls, closed borders, law and order. They want to make American white again.

And now they have Donald Trump, endlessly tweeting whatever occurs to him, and a bit careless about its racist implications. That’s fine with them. They can run with that, but Parton notes that there’s no way to make America white again:

These demographic changes are irrevocable and the social progress that’s been made is not going backwards. We are not going back to 1960 or 1984 or 1997. But that does not mean that the cultural traditions and values that conservatives hold dear will disappear. As Brownstein says, “At its best, the U.S. has always reformulated both its public policies and social mores to refresh its oldest traditions with its contemporary realities.”

But it looks as though we’re in for a bumpy ride. The way the parties are divided means that for the moment, neither is able to build an enduring dominant governing faction and the Republicans are so lost in their nostalgia for the old days that they cannot compromise or cooperate.

There are only two alternatives:

Until the diverse Democratic Party achieves majority status or the Republicans accept the future and realize that tolerance for differences among their fellow citizens does not mean they must give up their own values, this battle is going to continue.

This battle is going to continue and Donald Trump will tweet every moment of it, and forward other random tweets he finds amusing, in his impulsive and careless but not quite racist way, and somehow seem the engaged “real” person in all this. White American won’t be coming back, but he’ll keep tweeting. Tweets? Where’s Woody Guthrie when you need him? Someone needs to actually get real here.

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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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