The State of the Race about Race

Some things are inevitable. After eight years of America enduring a black president – who has been frustratingly moderate and thoughtful and gracious, and has had the gall not to produce one useful sexual or financial or politic scandal at all – and now likely to be followed by our first woman president, who will give orders to men, of all things – white men, who have run America from the beginning, want their country back. Add to that the other galling thing – whites will soon slip to minority status in America. There will be no majority of any kind. Donald Trump was inevitable.

Of course he won the Republican nomination. That’s our conservative party, and conservatism is about holding onto what worked in the past that shouldn’t be discarded, and Trump burst upon the political scene as the driving force in birtherism. Obama was not born here, he couldn’t have been – the idea of a black president just seemed wrong. That didn’t work. Trump’s effort to get Obama’s college records released, to prove Obama was an awful student who only got into Harvard Law School because he was black, probably denying admissions to some smarter white guy, also went nowhere – but a lot of white folks appreciated the effort. That set Trump on his way. That may be why Trump won the nomination. This race was always going to be about race.

That couldn’t be. Americans are better than that, so there were innumerable analyses about how this race was really about economics, about the angry people left behind by globalization and the most severe income inequality we’ve seen since the twenties, or ever. This couldn’t be about race, but Josh Marshall, in a long item analyzing the economic data and all the polling data and opinion surveys, just doesn’t see that:

One of the best and most frequently cited arguments against those who see Trumpism as driven by economic insecurity and globalization is: if that’s the case, why does he get basically no support outside of the white community since non-whites are at least as economically stressed as whites and in most cases far more so? The best rebuttal is that if you’re pushing a politics about globalization and declining economic opportunity which scapegoats non-whites as the source of the problem, of course you’re not going to get a lot of traction with the people you’re scapegoating.

All true enough. But if you look at the language of Trumpism you see repeated references to getting stuff back, reclamation, anger. This is a politics of loss and grievance. The appeal of an extreme dominance politics is particular to those who feel they’ve lost power and who feel increasingly marginal to the direction of the country as a whole. There’s a strong theme of Trumpite rhetoric that is about revenge. Put that all together and I think the driving factor is the erosion of white dominance in American life. African-Americans, Hispanics and other rising racial and ethnic minority groups may have grievances or demands for greater inclusion, dignity and respect in American life. But pretty much by definition they’re not looking to reclaim something that was taken from them or something they’ve lost.

Americans aren’t better than that, but the politics of loss and grievance will only get you so far in a general election. Everyone gets to vote. The new voting restrictions and voter-ID laws in the thirty-three states where Republicans control both the legislature and the governorship can make it damned hard for African-Americans, Hispanics and other rising racial and ethnic minority groups to vote, but they cannot make it impossible. And as for women, who overwhelmingly despise Trump, it seems unlikely that Congress would be able to pass a temporary suspension of the Nineteenth Amendment before November. They wouldn’t dare try. Women will vote too. We are likely to get a woman “boss” for the first time. White dominance in American life took a big hit with Obama. White male dominance will take big hit with Hillary Clinton – but at least she’s white.

The only answer to this is outreach to these folks who are undermining the way things should be – as they always were – to make them see that it is in their best interest to vote to keep white males in power. That, however, is a tricky business and that can get awkward:

Hours after Donald Trump used the fatal shooting of Dwyane Wade’s cousin to declare he’d win African American voters, Trump offered up his prayers.

Just hours after NBA star Wade publicly confirmed that his cousin had been tragically killed in crossfire while walking her baby in a stroller through a Chicago neighborhood, Trump tweeted Saturday that the death was “just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!”

Immediately, Trump was met with backlash as many questioned whether Trump’s week of African-American outreach had fully come off the rails.

In the afternoon, Trump offered his condolences – “My condolences to Dwyane Wade and his family, on the loss of Nykea Aldridge. They are in my thoughts and prayers.”

Wade is a major NBA star, and a smart and modest man, in grief. Trump blew this one:

Donald Trump’s compassionate and sincere outreach to black voters seems to have failed with at least one of them: Academy Award-winning actor, producer, and director Don Cheadle. Cheadle, who won a Best Picture Oscar for producing Crash and was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in Hotel Rwanda, was incensed at Trump’s wildly offensive response to the death of NBA star Dwyane Wade’s cousin, which, according to Trump, was “just what I have been saying,” whatever that means. Cheadle responded to the tweet by calling the new face of the Republican Party “truly a POS.” [That would be “piece of shit” of course.] Cheadle may have moved beyond insults into the realm of Secret Service investigations in his next tweet, however, encouraging Trump to “die in a grease fire.”

So much for outreach – forget that now – but Trump has bigger worries:

The ex-wife of Donald Trump’s new campaign chief executive Steve Bannon claims Bannon made anti-Semitic comments while the couple fought over which private school to send their daughters to nearly a decade ago.

The allegations – which came to light amid scrutiny over the appointment of Breitbart News head Bannon to Trump campaign CEO – were made in a sworn declaration by the ex-wife in a 2007 court filing.

The court declaration was filed in the midst of a contentious divorce battle between them that lasted 10 years. The divorce was initiated in 1997, but disagreements over schooling choices for the couple’s twin girls brought them back to court a decade later.

Women wary of Trump are not going to like this, because this woman hid:

A police report regarding an alleged 1996 domestic violence incident obtained by Politico late Thursday and confirmed by NBC News, in which the ex-wife claimed Bannon attacked her.

Bannon was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. Court documents show that about six months later, the case was dismissed after prosecutors said they could not find his wife.

Asked about the old charges, Bannon’s personal spokeswoman, Alexandra Preate, noted they had been dismissed…

Police say the report was made available to Politico by mistake.

The damage was done anyway, because the report contained a bit about the Archer School for Girls out here in Los Angeles:

The ex-wife claimed Bannon “went on to say the biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend. He said that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”

Bannon is a bit of a white nationalist, and now Trump’s main man, although the reports of voter fraud – he’s registered to vote in Florida, where he doesn’t live, at an address that’s a vacant house – seem more a case of tax avoidance that anything sinister. Rich folks often claim their primary residence is in a state with no income tax. No one checks these things. That’s tax fraud, not voter fraud.

This called for damage control:

The Hillary Clinton campaign has been turning up the heat on new Donald Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon. In an ad aired last week, the Clinton campaign uses KKK imagery to tie Bannon and the Alt-Right to white nationalist neo-Nazis. In a speech in Reno, Nevada on Thursday, Clinton accused Trump of giving a megaphone to a “paranoid fringe steeped in racial resentment.”

On Sunday, Donald Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway responded to Clinton’s accusations during an appearance on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. Asked whether Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News, is the right man to be leading Trump’s campaign, Conway diminished his role and asserted her own leadership.

“The new CEO of the campaign – I guess he’s your boss – is Steve Bannon, who’s the head of Breitbart News,” Wallace said. “This is the man Trump chose to run his campaign?”

Conway replied: “Well he chose me to manage his campaign, and I report directly to him. But I will say this – the idea that Hillary Clinton, who’s been in public life for 30 years, gives a speech this week, Chris, about – it was totally content-free, policy-free address about consultants, is just remarkable to me. I understand Hillary’s campaign is now a hot mess.”

She has it backwards – no one seems to be in charge of the Trump campaign – so there’s no fixing this by reversing things, although, as Amber Phillips notes, one can try:

Appearing on ABC television’s “This Week” on Sunday, Donald Trump adviser Chris Christie was put in a tough position: Explain why it makes sense for Trump to call Hillary Clinton a “bigot.”

Instead, when host Martha Raddatz asked the New Jersey governor whether he agrees with Trump that Clinton is a “bigot,” Christie launched into a kind of non sequitur that politicians and elementary schoolchildren are particularly good at: He said Clinton “started” it. His full comment:

“I’ll tell you this, this type of discourse in the campaign is just unwarranted. But it was started by Ms. Clinton. Ms. Clinton has started the idea of calling Donald Trump those types of names. And the fact is that, once you are the person – and Ms. Clinton is the person who injected this type of commentary into this race – once you inject that type of commentary into this race, you can’t then sit back and start complaining about it.”

In other words, Clinton brought this upon herself by first attacking Trump on the issue of race.

In other words, the Trump campaign has reached out to minorities, wonderfully, and Clinton is the real bigot here, and she didn’t like it when we pointed out the obvious. We love these folks. She hates them. Everyone knows this. She should have kept her damned mouth shut. Now she has to suffer the consequences.

Got that? Didn’t think so, but the real test is to win the Hispanic vote, or at least enough of it to change things in November, while promising to deport eleven million Hispanics immediately after big that win in November. The key is to do that humanely. Explain how to do that humanely and these folks will vote for Trump.

That’s the other race problem, and they’re working on that:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced he’ll be making a speech on illegal immigration on Wednesday in Arizona, after a week of speculation that he might be softening his hardline promise to deport 11 million people living in the United States illegally.

The speech, posted in a Tweet late Sunday, was initially set for last week in Colorado, but was pushed back as Trump and his team wrestled over the details of what he would propose. There has been debate within his campaign about immigrants who haven’t committed crimes beyond their immigration offenses.

Yes, what do you do with the good folks? That’s been the problem:

The candidate’s shifting stance hasn’t made it easy for top supporters and advisers, from his running mate on down, to defend him or explain some campaign positions. Across the Sunday news shows, a parade of Trump stand-ins, led by vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, couldn’t say whether Trump was sticking with or changing a central promise to use a “deportation force” to expel immigrants here illegally. And they didn’t bother defending his initial response Saturday to the killing of a mother as she walked her baby on a Chicago street.

Questioned on whether leaving key details on immigration policy unclear so late in the election is a problem, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus demurred: “I just don’t speak for Donald Trump.”

This was a bit of a mess:

Surrogates speak for and back up their presidential nominee. But Team Trump’s struggled to do so even as they stayed tightly together on the details they know: Trump will issue more details on the immigration plan soon, the policy will be humane, and despite his clear wavering, he’s been “consistent” on the issue. Any discussion of inconsistencies or potentially unpresidential tweeting, Pence and others suggested, reflected media focus on the wrong issue.

Asked whether the “deportation force” proposal Trump laid out in November is still in place, Pence replied: “Well, what you heard him describe there, in his usual plainspoken, American way, was a mechanism, not a policy.”

Added Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway: “The softening is more approach than policy” adding that on immigration, Trump “wants to find a fair and humane way.”

An army of armed citizen volunteers busting down doors all across America and rounding up folks and putting them in boxcars heading south is a mechanism, not a policy, or an approach, not a policy. Who knew? But some things are policy:

The Indiana governor, Conway and other surrogates said the main tenets of Trump’s immigration plan still will include building a wall along the southern U.S. border and making Mexico pay for it, no path to status adjustment or citizenship for people here illegally and stronger border enforcement. Pence also did not answer whether the campaign believes, as Trump has said, that children born to people who are in the U.S. illegally are not U.S. citizens. That, he said, “is a subject for the future.”

No, that has to be answered now:

Native-born children of immigrants, even those living illegally in the U.S., have been automatically considered American citizens since the adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868.

Do we change the constitution, or suspend it? And there are other issues:

Trump has focused lately on deporting people who are in the U.S. illegally and who have committed crimes. But who Trump considers a criminal remained unclear Sunday.

Trump in recent days has suggested he might be “softening” on the deportation force and that he might be open to allowing at least some immigrants in the country illegally to stay, as long as they pay taxes.

But by Thursday, he was ruling out any kind of legal status – “unless they leave the country and come back,” he told CNN.

But they broke the law, the current immigration law – by law they’re forbidden reentry, many forever. Do we change that? And the other issue hangs fire:

The campaign continues to press for the African-American vote, as well. Late Sunday, the nation’s only African-American owned and operated national Christian television network announced its president and CEO, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson would interview the Republican nominee in Detroit on Sept. 3.

His surrogates on Sunday refused to comment on Trump’s reaction to the fatal shooting of NBA star Dwyane Wade’s cousin Friday, as she pushed her baby in a stroller in Chicago…

Asked whether the initial tweet was presidential or appropriate, GOP officials and campaign advisers instead talked about reducing crime or said they were pleased Trump followed up with a tweet of condolence and empathy.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the media “focus on process instead of the message.” He said the killing of someone pushing a stroller “is unacceptable in an American city” and that “the level of violence in Chicago is unacceptable.”

In short, don’t pay attention to what Trump said. Surrogates for presidential candidates usually don’t say that sort of thing, but Greg Sargent listened to Anderson Cooper interviewing Trump on the immigration stuff and listens to what Trump said:

In reality, Trump made his position on immigration perfectly clear. It’s this: All the 11 million undocumented immigrants still remain targets for deportation. We’ll go after the worst ones first, because I recognize that not all of them are full blown criminals – I have a tremendously big heart, believe me – but we will probably have to target the rest for removal later. And there is no meaningful path to legal status for any of them.

That’s it, all of it:

The most important claim Trump made is that under his plan, “there is no path to legalization, unless they leave the country and come back.” This is widely – and rightly – being interpreted as confirmation that Trump will offer no path to legal status for the 11 million that doesn’t require them to leave the country first.

But Trump actually went further than that. Many have speculated that Trump left an opening to create a process by which undocumented immigrants (“the good ones,” anyway) can leave and come back via an expedited path to legal status.

But Trump actually said, in a tacit way, that this will not happen. He said – repeatedly – that his plan would be carried out under “existing law.” He said: “We’re going to go with the laws that are existing.” If this is true, then Trump has foreclosed the option of an expedited path to legal status for those who leave the country, because the creation of such a path would require a change in the law.

The law here is clear:

“Under existing law, undocumented immigrants who leave the U.S. are barred for returning for up to 10 years, and in some cases, permanently,” immigration lawyer David Leopold tells me. “The notion that they can leave and come back is meaningless without a legislative overhaul.”

Trump basically confirmed this himself. He said: “If somebody wants to go the legalization route, what they’ll do is they’ll go, leave the country, hopefully come back in. And then we can talk.” In other words, no path to legal status until you leave and come back, but we won’t even discuss that until you’ve left and returned.

Thus, under Trump’s plan (which is subject to change) there is no meaningful path to legal status at all. That’s because for many undocumented immigrants, leaving the country for long periods of time could mean uprooted families, moving out of homes, and abandoning jobs and communities, making it prohibitive, Leopold argues. “People won’t do it,” he says.

And then there are those deportations:

Trump said repeatedly that “the bad ones” will be deported first. In so doing, Trump confirmed again that the enforcement priorities Obama has implemented for the last five years are correct. But, crucially, Trump made it clear that the rest remain targets…

Asked whether the rest will be deported, Trump replied: “We’re going to see what happens once we strengthen up our border.” And when Cooper said that “the vast majority of those 11 million are not criminals,” Trump replied: “We don’t know that. We’re going to find out who they are.”

Translation: The good ones remain targets for deportation, though I’m not saying for sure whether I’ll deport them. That’s a slight shift from mass deportations, but it’s nothing like what Obama and Hillary Clinton – or even some Republicans – wants. They favor taking their removal completely off the table, for the sake of the national interest, to rationalize enforcement resources and because they are more than simply criminals. They are currently contributing to American life, and their emigration was born of morally complex circumstances – they were trying to better their lives and their families’ future prospects – and this is in keeping with American history and values.

There no way how to explain how to do any of this humanely so folks will vote for Trump:

Trump’s rhetoric right now reflects a search for a magic formula. He wants to reassure suburban white swing voters – who essentially favor mass assimilation because they see most undocumented immigrants as largely making a positive contribution – that he isn’t proposing to cruelly ship out millions, which would be costly and disruptive to families and communities. So he says, don’t worry, we’re only starting with the bad ones, and the status of the good ones may be subject to negotiation later. In other words, he compassionately recognizes that many of them are good people – they’re not all merely criminals. But he also wants to reassure the hardliners, so he indicates that they all are still subject to removal, which is code for indicating that he is not making mass assimilation the goal.

In the end, though, Trump’s actual position, for now at least, is defined by the latter. The prospective goal is not mass assimilation. It is shrinkage and removal – beyond just the “bad ones.” There is no straddle that works. There is no magic formula here.

There’s no magic formula when the politics of loss and grievance are at the core of your campaign. If the erosion of white male dominance in American life drives all policy then outreach is inherently absurd – that sort of thing makes no sense at all. And that is what this election is about. Americans are not better than that, at least some are not better than that.


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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