Opening Pandora’s Box Again

The sixties hang heavy in the air here. There’s the small shopping center down on the corner with a Starbucks and a multiplex and a trendy fitness gym and a Trader Joe’s – where Schwab’s Drug Store once stood, where Lana Turner, in her tight sweater, wasn’t really discovered – and there at the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights, at the foot of Laurel Canyon, there’s a bus stop, a little island of brutal concrete with no shade at all, where there was once a little ramshackle club, Pandora’s Box. Actually it was more of a coffee house, but on November 12, 1966, that’s where the somewhat famous riots on the Sunset Strip began. It was the sixties. The local merchants wanted all the long-hair dope-smoking hippie types to just go away – they simply hung around too much, looking strange, driving the paying customers away. So the police obliged, and it didn’t go well.

Perhaps they shouldn’t have started at Pandora’s Box. That somehow made it all about the new sixties music and the new counterculture then developing – Peter Fonda, who would later make that Easy Rider movie with Dennis Hopper, was arrested there that night – and rioting spread west and soon the whole Strip was in chaos. It took a few days for everything to settle down.

Probably no one else in the country heard about these riots – it was a local matter, really – but Buffalo Springfield got a new song out of it. That was For What It’s Worth – recorded a few weeks later, on December 5, 1966. Steven Stills and Neil Young lived just up the hill in Laurel Canyon at the time and had been there, and soon enough all the radio stations in the country were playing that song – “There’s battle lines being drawn / Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong” and “A thousand people in the street / Singing songs and carrying signs / Mostly say, hooray for our side…”

That was a big hit, and even if no one knew what event Buffalo Springfield was singing about, specifically, they got the general idea. People are always fussing and fighting and not listening to each other, while screaming at each other, and there’ll soon be a riot, or sometimes a war. That’s just how we are.

It was a sixties thing. The year before, 1965, it was Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction – perhaps the most pretentious protest song from those odd days. It was imitation Bob Dylan and was offered to The Byrds – but they rejected it. Pretentious posturing just isn’t cool, so McGuire himself recorded it for Dunhill and made a big hit out of it – the world is coming to an end because our leaders are fools, and everyone is blind, and we’re all going to die, and there’s not a damned thing anyone can do about it. There is no hope – the lyrics were apocalyptic – but there was a lot of money to be made there. People were in a bad mood and liked the message. Everyone was lying. Only the singer (and anyone who bought the record) could see how oblivious everyone else was, even if everything listed was actually rather obvious and serious people had been working on those putative “issues” all along. A few months later, in response, that Green Beret medic, Sergeant Barry Sadler, released the hyper-patriotic Ballad of the Green Berets – and more followed. That was the answer. America, love it or leave it, and years later, after Barry McGuire suddenly got all evangelical and born again, he refused to perform his one big hit song from long ago. Jesus will fix everything. There’s no need to worry. There never was. Sorry about that.

Then the sixties ended. Only aging baby boomers remember those songs, and those times, but those times are back. Donald Trump opened Pandora’s Box. Hooray for our side. There will be riots:

Donald Trump will tell his supporters not to riot if he’s denied the Republican presidential nomination, but he suggested it could happen anyway.

ABC News host George Stephanopoulos had to ask three times to get Trump to say he’d tell his supporters not to riot if he’s denied the nomination at the Republican National Convention this summer.

“I would certainly tell them that, but, you know, look, these people are – are fervent,” Trump said.

“I don’t want to see riots. I don’t want to see problems,” Trump continued. “But, you know, you have – you have millions of people who we’re talking about, George, millions of additional people have gone. You know, I’ve gotten more than 2 million votes more than anybody else, 2 million votes, more than anybody else.”

Trump first said there could be riots if someone else gets the nomination last week. “I think you’d have riots,” he said. “I think you’d have riots. I’m representing a tremendous, many, many millions of people.”

Trump had already said there could be riots if someone else gets the nomination. He used his Sunday morning to reiterate that threat, which isn’t a threat. He predicts. He doesn’t threaten, but there was this:

Donald Trump was given repeated opportunities during an interview on Sunday to condemn his apparent supporter who punched and kicked a protester who was being escorted out of a rally in Tucson, Arizona. He did not take them. The front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that “we don’t condone violence” but strongly suggested demonstrators deserve at least some of the blame when they get punched and kicked.

In a video posted by a student who went to the rally, the protester – who was wearing an American flag shirt and had a sign that read “Trump is Bad for America” – was being led out of the room when a member of the crowd reached out, grabbed his sign, and began to punch and kick him. The aggressor was quickly put in handcuffs and led out of the rally as well.

Separately, another protester wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood was also led out of the rally. Trump said he could understand why tempers flared considering what that protester was wearing.

He tried to have it both ways:

Trump: These people are very disruptive people, George.

Stephanopoulos: But does that excuse…

Trump: These are not innocent lambs.

Stephanopoulos: …punching and kicking a protester?

Trump: Well, you know, he was wearing – he or his partner was wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. This happened to be an African American man who was very – a person at the rally, who was very, very incensed at the fact that somebody, a protester, would be wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit.

Stephanopoulos: So you’re not going to condemn the protester who kicked and punched that person?

Trump: We don’t condone violence and I say it. And we have very little violence, very, very little violence at the rallies.

Stephanopoulos: So you’re blaming the protesters, not the person who actually punched and kicked the protester?

Trump: No, I’m, I’m saying this. These are professional agitators and I think that somebody should say that when a road is blocked going into the event so that people have to wait sometimes hours to get in, I think that’s very fair and there should be blame there, too.

Is it or is it not okay to beat the crap out of protesters? On May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine. Was there blame on both sides that day? Demonstrators made people angry that day – and almost every day back then. Was shooting them dead understandable? Who knows what Trump is saying here?

And the other issue:

Trump also came out in defense of his campaign manager, staunchly denying that he grabbed a protester at a rally in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday. A brief video posted online by a CBS News reporter appears to pretty clearly show how Corey Lewandowski aggressively pulled a protester by his collar during the event. Another man who appears to be private security for Trump also appears to pull at the protester’s collar.

Trump and his campaign, however, insist the video doesn’t show what it pretty clearly shows. Lewandowski “didn’t touch” the protester, Trump told Stephanopoulos. “Well, the video does show …” Stephanopoulos begins to say, before Trump interrupts him: “That was somebody else pulling them …” And then the Republican front-runner even went on to celebrate his campaign manager’s actions: “I give him credit for having spirit. He wanted them to take down those horrible profanity-laced signs.”

The incident comes a little more than a week after reporter Michelle Fields accused Lewandowski of forcefully grabbing her and pulling her away from Trump as she was trying to ask the candidate a question.

She’s suing him. Her employer, Breitbart News, fired her, presumably for making Trump look bad. Their senior staff resigned in protest – Breitbart had become no more than Trump News – and now there’s chaos in the conservative media – no one knows whose side to take. Trump did it again. He opened another Pandora’s Box. All the evils came flying out. We must be on the eve of destruction.

On the other hand, now that Rick Scott has endorsed Donald Trump – now that Marco Rubio has dropped out and as Florida’s governor he doesn’t have to pretend that kid was any good at all – it might be useful to look back at 2009:

Since members of Congress have been returning home to their districts for the August recess, a consortium of industry-backed right-wing groups have been planning ambushes to harass Democrats for supporting health care reform. ThinkProgress obtained a leaked memo from a volunteer with Tea Party Patriots, a website sponsored by lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks that details how members should be disrupting town halls and “rattling” Democratic members of Congress.

Last night, Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) and Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH) were apparently the latest victims of this strategy. Kagen, whose town hall was targeted by the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, was “repeatedly disrupted” by “incomprehensible” shrieks and shouts from angry conservatives. …

Greg Sargent reports that Rick Scott, the disgraced hospital executive bankrolling the anti-health reform group Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, is now joining the effort to disrupt health care town halls.

He seems to be at it again:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott suggested disgruntled Donald Trump supporters might be justified in rioting if the Republican Party chooses another presidential nominee – but he refused to say whether those upheavals would be violent. The GOP presidential frontrunner said Wednesday that his supporters could take to the streets if he’s passed over as the nominee at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

“I think we will win before getting to the convention,” Trump told CNN. “But I can tell you, if we didn’t and if we’re 20 votes short or if we’re 100 short and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400 because we’re way ahead of everybody, I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically, I think you would have riots. I think you would have riots.”

Scott, who has come out in support of Trump following his win Tuesday in Florida’s primary, appeared Thursday on “Fox and Friends” to discuss his endorsement and the possibility of mob violence.

“Clearly the voters are frustrated with party leaders, they don’t trust party leaders right now, so Trump is either going to end up with a majority or pretty close to it, so if we go to the convention and he doesn’t get the nomination, I think the voters are going to be pretty frustrated, and I think it will impact our ability to win in November,” Scott said.

He knows how to make this happen. He just has to dust off the old plans, and Frank Rich suggests we all retire the notion that Donald Trump is hijacking someone else’s party:

In mid-July of 2015, a month after Donald Trump announced his presidential run, I joined a gaggle of political junkies in a clubby bar four blocks from the White House to hear a legendary campaign strategist expound on the race ahead. Our guest’s long résumé included service to Mitt Romney and two generations of Bushes. Not speaking for attribution, and not having signed on to any 2016 campaign, he could talk freely. The nomination was Jeb Bush’s to lose, he said. Scott Walker, the union-busting Wisconsin governor then considered something of a favorite, had no chance because he was just “too stupid.” And Trump? Please! Trump represented every ugly element that was dragging down the GOP in presidential elections. But our guy wasn’t fazed. The good thing about Trump, he said, is that he would finally “gather together all the people we want to lose” and march them off the Republican reservation – though to what location remained undisclosed.

That same week, I was at a similar gathering with John McCain, then in a mild fury that Trump had just appeared with the nativist Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio at a weekend rally in Phoenix. McCain worried that by activating “the crazies” – the same crazies, it politely went unmentioned, that he helped legitimize by putting Sarah Palin on his ticket in 2008 – Trump could jeopardize both the GOP in general and McCain’s own incumbency if challenged in a primary. The senator soon said the same in public, and not long after that, Trump retaliated by mocking his wartime bravery with the memorable insult “I like people who weren’t captured.”

And that, you may recall, was the end of Trump.

It wasn’t, and they couldn’t cause his end:

The Establishment’s feckless effort to derail Trump has, if anything, sparked a pro-Trump backlash among the GOP’s base and, even more perversely, had the unintended consequence of boosting the far-right Ted Cruz, another authoritarian bomb-thrower who is hated by the Establishment as much as, if not more than, Trump is. (Not even Trump has called McConnell “a liar,” which Cruz did on the Senate floor.) The elites now find themselves trapped in a lose-lose-cul-de-sac. Should they defeat Trump on a second or third ballot at a contested convention and install a regent more to their liking such as Ryan or John Kasich – or even try to do so – they will sow chaos, not reestablish order. In the Cleveland ’16 replay of Chicago ’68, enraged Trump and Cruz delegates, stoked by Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Matt Drudge, et al., will go mano a mano with the party hierarchy inside the hall to the delectation of television viewers while Black Lives Matter demonstrators storm the gates outside.

That’ll be fun – the sixties again – but the “establishment” is to blame here and stuck here:

While it’s become a commonplace to characterize Trump’s blitzkrieg of the GOP as either a takeover or a hijacking, it is in reality the Establishment that is trying to hijack the party from those who actually do hold power: its own voters. The anti-Establishment insurgencies of Trump, Cruz, and Ben Carson collectively won the votes of more than 60 percent of the Republican-primary electorate from sea to shining sea both before and after the opposition thinned. If you crunch the candidates’ vote percentages in the five states that voted on March 15, after Carson’s exit, you’ll find that Trump and Cruz walked away with an average aggregate total of 67 percent. The next morning, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, the leading Establishment voice of anti-Trump conservatism, saw hope in Kasich’s “impressive” victory in Ohio and Trump’s failure to break 50 percent in any state. It failed to note that Kasich also fell short of 50 percent in the state where he is the popular sitting governor, or that his continuing presence in the race perpetuates Trump’s ability to divide and conquer.

It’s debatable who or what can be called the Republican Establishment at this point. Presumably it includes the party’s leadership on the Hill and in the Republican National Committee; its former presidents, presidential nominees, top-tier officeholders, and their extended political networks; hedge-fund and corporate one-percenters typified by Paul Singer, Kenneth Langone, and the Koch brothers, mostly based in the Northeast, who write the biggest campaign checks; and the conservative commentators who hold forth on the op-ed pages of the country’s major newspapers, conservative media outlets like Fox News, and conservative journals like National Review, which devoted an entire issue to its contributors’ “Dump Trump” diatribes well after his runaway train of a campaign had already left the station.

Once you get past the hyperventilation that Trump will destroy democracy, wreck the GOP, and make America unsafe, you’ll see that the objections of Trump’s Establishment critics have several common threads. Trump is a vulgarian (true). He has no fixed ideology or coherent policy portfolio (true). He repeatedly and brazenly makes things up (true). He wantonly changes his views (true). He is not recognizable as “a real Republican” (false).

That’s the problem:

It’s the members of the Establishment who have a tenuous hold on the term “real Republican.” Their center-right presidential candidates of choice (Jeb Bush, Chris Christie) were soundly rejected, and their further-right candidates (Rubio and Kasich) fared little better. The Republican-primary voters embracing Trump and Cruz have every right to say that they are the real Republicans, and after Cleveland, they could even claim to be the de facto new Establishment, if they believe in such a thing. The old center-right has not held in the GOP. Last fall, some 73 percent of Republicans told Pew that they support building a border wall, Trump’s signature campaign issue. A Washington Post–ABC News poll, published March 9, showed that Hillary Clinton would whip Trump, 50 to 41 percent, but that 75 percent of Republicans would vote for Trump. While it is constantly and accurately said that “millions of Republicans will never vote for Trump,” those millions are unambiguously in the party’s minority.

Someone needs to face the facts:

The so-called battle for the “soul” of the Republican Party is a battle over power, not ideology. Trump has convinced millions of Americans that he will take away the power from the pinheads on high and return it to people below who feel (not wrongly) that they’ve gotten a raw deal. It’s the classic populist pitch, and it will not end well for those who invest their faith in Trump. He cares about no one but himself and would reward his own class with extravagant tax cuts like any Republican president. But the elites, who represent the problem, have lost any standing that might allow them to pretend to be part of the solution.

They have no standing with these people:

When the Census Bureau asks Americans about their ancestors, some respondents don’t give a standard answer like “English” or “German.” Instead, they simply answer “American.”

The places with high concentrations of these self-described Americans turn out to be the places Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has performed the strongest.

This connection and others emerged in an analysis of the geography of Trumpism. To see what conditions prime a place to support Mr. Trump for the presidency, we compared hundreds of demographic and economic variables from census data, along with results from past elections, with this year’s results in the 23 states that have held primaries and caucuses. We examined what factors predict a high level of Trump support relative to the total number of registered voters.

The analysis shows that Trump counties are places where white identity mixes with long-simmering economic dysfunctions.

Yes, the New York Times is thorough:

The places where Trump has done well cut across many of the usual fault lines of American politics – North and South, liberal and conservative, rural and suburban. One element common to a significant share of his supporters is that they have largely missed the generation-long transition of the United States away from manufacturing and into a diverse, information-driven economy deeply intertwined with the rest of the world.

“It’s a nonurban, blue-collar and now apparently quite angry population,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “They’re not people who have moved around a lot, and things have been changing away from them, but they live in areas that feel stagnant in a lot of ways.”

Now add this:

Mr. Trump also has healthy shares of support from the affluent and the well-educated – that point should not be lost. But in the places where support for him runs the strongest, the proportion of the white population that didn’t finish high school is relatively high. So is the proportion of working-age adults who neither have a job nor are looking for one. The third-strongest correlation among hundreds of variables tested: the preponderance of mobile homes.

These folks hated those college hippies in the sixties, probably for the college part, but as David Masciotra notes, now they have a hero:

Many conservatives, and even some kindhearted liberals, might object to the conclusions one can draw from the data as stereotyping, but the empirical evidence leaves little choice. Donald Trump’s supporters confirm the stereotype against them. The candidate himself even acknowledged the veracity of the caricature of his “movement” when he made the odd and condescending claim, “I love the poorly educated.” His affection for illiteracy and ignorance did not extend to himself or any of his children, all of whom have degrees from some of the best universities in the world.

The low-educated, low-income counties of Trump’s America also receive large sums of public assistance. Social Security fraud – seeking disability payments for minor injuries or conditions – is so rampant that attorneys have created a cottage industry out of offering to secure services for clients willing to pay a one-time fee for longtime subsidy.

But Trump knows how to get to them:

Widespread poverty throughout the heartland and Southern United States is a lamentable social problem, but even in the best economic conditions, and under the friendliest government policies, the career options for high school dropouts will forever remain few and poor. Rather than accepting some “personal responsibility” – a favorite conservative concept – for their low standard of living and destructive lifestyle, the wrongly romanticized white working class is flocking to a candidate who allows them to blame other people for their problems. Their poor health is not the result of a pack a day habit and fatty diet, just as their financial misery has nothing to do with their rejection of education. It is all because of those damn Mexicans coming up from the border, the Chinese villains overseas, or the Muslim immigrant illegally occupying the Oval Office.

Never mind that illegal immigrants comprise a mere 3.5 percent of the population, and that most of them are concentrated in six states, a “big, beautiful wall” will cure all the ills of a high school dropout no longer applying for jobs.

This is the odd wave that Trump is riding:

While it is far from perfect, the truth is that the American economy is doing rather well. Unemployment has dropped in half since the black Muslim became president, the housing market has begun to come back, gas prices are significantly lower, GDP rates are decent, and the United States has experienced 72 consecutive months of private sector job growth.

The failure of the recovery to penetrate the lives of high school dropouts who have stopped filling out job applications is not evidence that the “American dream is dead” or that “America is going to hell,” as Trump often puts it with characteristically inspirational rhetoric.

He is able to make his gullible supporters believe him, however, and that is all that really matters to his campaign. Never in the history of American politics has a candidate been so far apart from his constituency. Donald Trump is an Ivy League-educated, billionaire real estate developer living in Manhattan with his supermodel wife. His lifestyle is a distant fantasy to his voters, and it seems unlikely that, in any other context, Trump would ever share a room with any of them. He is running a con.

“I love the poorly educated” makes sense, because the ability to see through the sophisticated bullshit of confidence men is one benefit, among many, of a good education.

David Masciotra is ragging on the dumb-as-dirt hyper-conservative trailer park trash just like college hippies used to do in the sixties, when the trailer trash got angry at that and voted for Richard Nixon, who told them they were the “silent majority” – as does Trump. A presidential historian says another Kent State is coming – just like old times. “And tell me over and over and over and over again, my friend, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.” Even the old songs make sense again, for what it’s worth.

At least Pandora’s Box is gone. The riots won’t be here on the Sunset Strip this time.

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.
This entry was posted in Donald Trump, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Opening Pandora’s Box Again

  1. thomas the dooter says:

    For me as a foreigner, and apart from the simple horror of contemplating a President Trump, the main concern is what happens if Trump doesn’t get elected or is ‘done’ out of the republican nomination. He has aroused a real sense of discontent – alienation if I remember my sociology right – amongst a large section of the population which isn’t going to disappear after the election. The parallels with Europe in the 1920s and 1930s are relevant (if not overdone) and the worrying thing for anyone is the presence of an alienated section of the people who unlike those in Europe have access to all sorts of weaponry and, I shouldn’t wonder, the motivation to use it. Add in the utter irresponsibility of the elected Republican legislators with the consequential paralysis of the federal government and a very concerning picture emerges. Why it makes the EU seem a model of effective governance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s