Fighting Mass Incarceration Under Trump: New Strategies, New Alliance

By James Kilgore

Yusef Shakur is a Detroit community organizer who spent several years in Michigan state prisons. “The prison-industrial complex has found the right person to feed it,” he said in response to the election results. “Trump is of the same cloth as Reagan, Bush and Nixon,” Shakur added, “I expect the worst in terms of patterns of repression.”

Among those working to end mass incarceration, Shakur’s perspectives are not unique. The Obama administration often provided wiggle room for reformers to occasionally win changes in policy. In New York and several other states, reforms yielded considerable drops in prison populations. Now any sense of a predictable shift toward reform is gone. A neo-fascist commander-in-chief is  unleashing his chain of repressive measures. His collection of reactionary cabinet ministers assures us the iron fist is the new reality,

New Policy Directions

Historian and Harvard African American Studies Professor Elizabeth Hinton contends that Trump will attempt to highlight crime problems to shift attention away from structural economic issues. As a chronicler of the rise of mass incarceration during the Nixon and Reagan years in her From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime, she says Trump’s “rhetoric is very familiar” in promoting “a sense of chaos.”

Already Trump has targeted rollbacks of advances made under Obama. Policing will be one major focus. Over the years, resistance against state violence, largely sparked by the Movement for Black Lives, made enormous strides in changing popular consciousness about policing. As prominent scholar, activist and prison abolitionist Ruth Wilson Gilmore told Truthout, “We can expect more power to police, more police and fewer protections against violations of the constitution concerning criminalization.” The new administration’s main objectives may include not only bolstering the power of the police, but thwarting further development of the Movement for Black Lives and other social movements.

A second key area for rollbacks is reform legislation and policy changes, particularly sentencing reforms to roll back the racialized War on Drugs. The fate of this reform agenda remains unclear. A number of prominent ultra-conservatives, including the Koch brothers and ardent Trump backer Newt Gingrich, remain committed to criminal justice reform initiatives in the fiscal conservative vein. They may gain some influence. In any case, the new White House will usher in a much-reduced role for the progressive criminal justice-oriented think tanks that wielded considerable influence within the Obama administration.

The Wall

Trump has moved quickly on his immigration vision, waiting only a few days after inauguration to sign an executive order to build the infamous “Wall.” His immigration agenda also has deep ties to his desires to expand the role of private prisons. While private prisons remain small shareholders in the state and federal carceral market, they control over 60% of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds. If Trump wants to undertake massive deportations, the feds will need extra places to hold people who are being sent across the border. Private providers stand ready to fill the gap.

Ultimately, conservative intentions to reduce prison numbers may fit nicely with plans by the GEO Group and CCA to bolster their operations in “community corrections.” In recent years both companies have invested in user-funded post-release operations like day reporting centers, compulsory anger management classes and drug treatment programs, The GEO Group also owns BI, the nation’s largest provider of electronic monitors.

Finding Strategic Interventions

Responding to Trump’s agenda on mass incarceration requires action on two levels. First, there is a need to find areas where intervention can be effective. In terms of addressing immediate election results, an obvious priority is contesting the disenfranchisement of some 6.1 million people, especially those with felony convictions.

Beyond that, several possibilities appear. A starting point is recognizing that the criminal legal system is not a monolith totally under federal control. There are 50 state corrections departments and over 3,000 county jails. The laws and policies that govern these jurisdictions are made at the level of state legislature, county board or city council. While the feds control some funding flows to local law enforcement, the justice system is mostly financed via state and local taxes. As Ruthie Gilmore told Truthout, we need to set our sights on “local specificity” and recognize differentiation across the system. This means acknowledging differing realities both between and within states.

While developing local plans of action is crucial, many activists also advocate broadening the scope of the movement against mass incarceration. Elizabeth Hinton emphasizes the need to form “new alliances and coalitions on the ground.” She notes that opposition to Trump has “galvanized new groups of people” who can be drawn into action. New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander, a long-time advocate of the need for a social movement to end mass incarceration, now argues that such a movement needs to be “multi-racial” and “multi-ethnic.”

Moreover, while most agree on the need for a coming together, the form of such solidarity may not ultimately be a single organization. Mariame Kaba, who played a key role in Chicago’s organizing against police torture,  cautions against false visions of one big tent: “What you need in particular moments are strategic alliances … that address the particular need or the particular thing you’re fighting.”

Moving Into Action

In Portland, Oregon, activists focused attention on the financial backers of differing systems of oppression. They targeted Wells Fargo Bank, not only for its support for private prisons but because of the bank’s role in financing the corporations involved in building the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Gilmore echoes the solidarity approach of those involved in the sanctuary movement and efforts to isolate banks.  She says this is a way of acknowledging that we “are clearly part of a bigger struggle.” She also adds that “internationalism is a must.”

Real News Network producer Eddie Conway agrees. Conway, a former political prisoner who spent over 43 years in prison on a fabricated murder charge, believes that the repressive actions of Trump will not only intensify policing but will also slash public benefits. This, he contends, will force people to develop counter-institutions as a mechanism of survival. However, he fears the coming of Trump will eliminate any chances of release for current political prisoners, and notes that “today’s organizers are looking at the prospect of becoming political prisoners in the future.”

Despite his concerns, Conway has not abandoned hope. He told this author the “seeds of a new movement are there.” He went on to urge activists to abandon notions of “American exceptionalism” and learn from the experiences of other countries that have endured regimes of repression and austerity. Conway draws inspiration from the food networks in Greece, the cooperative system in Spain, and the mineworkers in South Africa.

In Conway’s view, solidarity must undergird all our efforts. “Anti-fracking has direct relations to Black Lives Matter, immigration and gender rights,“ he said. These issues and movements “are not yet connected but they need to be … the only way is to develop alternative institutions,” he added.

Yusef Shakur agrees that such a change in mindset is essential for the long-term. We have been “functioning like the struggle was a forty-yard dash when it is a marathon,” he said. “It is time to build a critical mass movement … organizations need a unified voice to dismantle the system of white patriarchy.”

James Kilgore is an activist, researcher and writer based in Urbana. He is the author of Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time (New Press, 2015). He is active in local social movements such as Build Programs, Not Jails and FirstFollowers. He can be contacted at waazn1@gmail.com or @waazn1 on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in African American, Justice, Policing, Prisoners, Trump | Comments Off on Fighting Mass Incarceration Under Trump: New Strategies, New Alliance

Executive Dis-order?

We begin with what has largely been absent in the calls for immigrant rights: we sit on occupied land as a result of removal policies and/or genocide of Native Americans.
In a dramatic surge that sent shockwaves through immigrant communities and their allies, hundreds of people have been rounded up and caged in cities like Atlanta, Austin, Charlottee, New York, across Southern California, and other cities across the country and including Urbana. Many of these individuals will likely be banished to their homelands according to attorneys and activists groups. The raids occurred following a series of executive orders by the Trump administration, celebrated by white supremacists groups, white nationalist and the alt–or neo-racist–right, and target those who lack the protections of full-rights bearing citizenship.

Grossly Islamophobic executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” bans immigrants and refugees immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for 90 days. It also bars entry to all refugees from anywhere in the world for 120 days, and places an indefinite ban on refugees from war-torn Syria, although much of it has been stymied in the courts. No terrorist acts on US soil have ever been committed on US soils by citizens from these countries, while those from other mid-Eastern countries, where the president holds significant business interests, have been committed from the bar. But, rather than calling for a “better” list, it should be noted that far more loss of life has occurred in the US due to home-grown US terrorists, particularly right wing zealotry. “Protecting the Nation” also holds other language prioritizing religious-based persecution, requiring interviews for all visa holders, requiring publication of terrorist acts committed by aliens and flagrantly xenophobic calls for “contributions to the national interest,” “violent ideologies,” “engage in bigotry,” or “oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation. According to a review by the CATO Institute, “including those murdered in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11), the chance of an American perishing in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil that was committed by a foreigner over the 41-year period studied here is 1 in 3.6 million per year. The hazard posed by foreigners who entered on different visa categories varies considerably. For instance, the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year while the chance of being murdered in an attack committed by an illegal immigrant is an astronomical 1 in 10.9 billion per year.”

Trump made a series of ill-founded and flagrantly Islamophobic accussations about Muslims, a religion of some 1.5 billion people in the world, throughout his presidential campaign. This order eerily recalls the Chinese Exclusions Acts, which lasted 60 years between 1882 and 1943, in the animus it displays toward an entire group, but also because much of the legal basis of Chinese Exclusion still stand.

Grossly xenophobic executive order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States”, is as pernicious. It draws on the Obama’s administrations deep infrastructure of detention and deportation. But, this order accelerates it dramatically. It holds deep ramifications for our community. Some of its most draconian provisions include the defunding of Sanctuary cities of which Urbana is one, and the reinstatement of “Secure Communities,” a government program that obligates local law enforcement to collaborate with federal immigration officers and which local community groups stalled years ago. “Enhancing Public Safety” also involves the exclusions of those lacking the privilege of citizenship in the United States from federal privacy laws, an establishment of an Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens, as well as the reporting and documenting of “quarterly reports studying the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States.” Also alarming is passages in the order that call for the prioritization for removal of those noncitizens who lack the privilege of citizenship and who have been convicted or charged with any criminal offense, engaged in “engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency,” have received public benefits, or in the judgment of an officer pose a risk to public safety or national security. This executive order effectively imposes a whole new intensity of uncertainty and fear for noncitizens in the United States, particularly when placed alongside a third executive order that builds a wall between the United States and Mexico and ramps up border security measures, including the addition of 10,000 new immigration agents and 5,000 customs and border patrol agents.

These hostilities toward immigrants and refugee registered in these orders coincide with news that Julie Kircher former officer of FAIR, which has been characterized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is advising the Border Patrol. Moreover, Kellyannye Conway, one of Trump’s chief spokespeople, also worked with FAIR. It coincides with the news that Trumps base was overwhelmingly, white, male, and evidently okay with mocking the disabled and “pussy-grabbing.”

But there’s also been another surge: a surge of mobilizations and solidarities across the United States. Locally distinct groups are organizing and mobilizing to respond to this new political scenario. Sanctuary has become mobilized in important discussions and initiated in cities and campuses across the country, including Champaign-Urbana. Student, faculty, staff, at the UIUC campus and members from the Champaign-Urbana community are carving up spaces to make sure the university can provide a space to think about current issues critically, to provide also safe spaces for immigrant, Muslim, women, queer, where the community at large can seek refuge. Organizations like Champaign Urbana Immigration Forum are doing critical interventions by educating the community at large about the important contributions of immigrants to this community at large. Further, they are undertaking the important task of imparting Know Your Rights workshops for the local community among other tasks. Many local churches of all denominations and the local Mosque are holding community gatherings in solidarity of local refugees and immigrant families. School districts have been key in the dissemination of information and resources for the immigrant communities and educators and staff have been key in providing spaces to think and organize around immigration issues.

In short, the anti-immigrant hostilities that Trump has deployed remind us of how questions of injustice cut across race, class, sex and gender differences. Organizations including the local chapter Black Lives Matters mobilize as well to educate, organize, and provide safe spaces to think about our current moment. Carol Ammons, our state representative, is speaking on the intersections of the Drug War on the criminalization of Black and Latino communities, as we write this article. The Women’s March on January 21 and the NoDAPL demands that we recognize and wrestle with our distinct, deep, histories of oppression, racialization and colonization so we can then work across differences.

Gilberto Rosas and Korinta Maldonado
Caracol Autonomous Collective Urbana-Champaign
Sanctuary for the People

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Des-Ordenes Presidenciales?

Comenzamos con lo que en gran medida ha estado ausente en los llamados por los derechos de los inmigrantes: estamos asentados en tierras ocupadas como resultado de políticas de remoción y / o genocidio de los pueblos Nativo Americanos.

En un aumento dramático que envió ondas de choque a través de las comunidades de inmigrantes y sus aliados, cientos de personas han sido detenidas en ciudades como Atlanta, Austin, Charlottee, Nueva York, a lo largo del sur de California y otras ciudades del país incluyendo Urbana. De acuerdo a grupos de abogados y activistas muchas de estas personas probablemente serán retornadas a sus lugares de origen. Las incursiones de ICE ocurrieron siguiendo una serie de órdenes ejecutivas de la administración Trump, celebradas por grupos de supremacistas blancos y la derecha alt – o neo-racista – y están dirigidas a aquellos que carecen de las protecciones que la ciudadanía ofrece.

La colosalmente islamofóbica orden ejecutiva “Protegiendo a la Nación de la Entrada de Terroristas Extranjeros a la Nación” prohíbe a los inmigrantes y refugiados inmigrantes de Irak, Irán, Libia, Somalia, Sudán, Siria y Yemen – la entrada durante 90 días con el objetivo de proteger a la nación de la entrada terroristas extranjeros a los Estados Unidos. También impide la entrada refugiados en general durante 120 días, y prohíbe la entrada indefinida de los refugiados de Siria devastada por la guerra entre otras medidas bastante ofensivas, aunque gran parte de esta prohibición ha sido bloqueada en los tribunales. Cabe subrayar que nunca se han cometido actos terroristas en suelo estadounidense por ciudadanos de estos países, mientras que ciudadanos de otros países del Medio Oriente, donde el presidente tiene importantes intereses empresariales, si han cometidos actos terroristas. Pero, en lugar de pedir una  revisión o una “mejor” lista, hay que recordar que en los Estados Unidos se han perdido muchas más vidas por los terroristas estadounidenses, engendrados “en casa”, en particular los fanáticos de la derecha. De acuerdo a la revisión histórica el Instituto CATO señala que, “incluyendo a los asesinados en los ataques terroristas del 11 de septiembre de 2001 (9/11), la probabilidad de que un estadounidense muera en un ataque terrorista en territorio estadounidense cometido por un extranjero –dentro del periodo de 41años estudiado aquí- es 1 en 3.6 millones por año. El riesgo que suponen los extranjeros que entraron en diferentes categorías de visas varía considerablemente. Por ejemplo, la posibilidad de que un estadounidense sea asesinado en un atentado terrorista causado por un refugiado es de 1 en 3.64 billones por año, mientras que la posibilidad de ser asesinado en un ataque cometido por un inmigrante “ilegal” es astronómicamente diferente, 1 en 10.900 billones por año “.

Trump hizo una serie de acusaciones infundadas y flagrantemente islamofóbicas acerca de los musulmanes, una religión de unos 1.500 millones de personas en el mundo, a lo largo de su campaña presidencial. Esta orden recuerda el Acta de Exclusiones de China, que duró 60 años entre 1882 y 1943, en siniestramente muestra el desprecio hacia un grupo entero, pero también porque gran parte de la base legal de Acta de Exclusión china todavía se mantiene.

La segunda orden executiva explícitamente xenofóbica, “Mejorando la seguridad pública en el interior de los Estados Unidos”, es igual de peligrosa. Se basa en la infraestructura de detención y deportación echada andar por la administración de Obama sin embargo, esta orden acelera dramáticamente el proceso. Las ramificaciones para nuestra comunidad son profundas. Algunas de sus disposiciones más draconianas incluyen: el desmantelamiento de las ciudades Santuario, de las cuales Urbana es una; el restablecimiento de Comunidades Seguras, un programa que obliga a las fuerzas policiales locales a colaborar con las autoridades migratorias y que grupos comunitarios locales interrumpieron hace años.  “Mejorando la seguridad pública” también dicta que aquellos que carecen del privilegio de ciudadanía serán excluidos de las leyes federales de privacidad; establece una Oficina para las Víctimas de Crímenes Cometidos por los Extranjeros Removibles; y finalmente, pide que se creen y presenten “informes trimestrales sobre los efectos de la victimización por los extranjeros criminales presentes en los Estados Unidos”. También son alarmantes ciertos pasajes en la orden que llaman a priorizar la remoción de las personas que 1) no tienen el privilegio de la ciudadanía y que han sido condenados o acusados ​​de cualquier delito, 2) que estén involucrados en el “fraude o tergiversación de su identidad deliberada con relación a cualquier asunto oficial o solicitud ante una agencia gubernamental, 3) personas que “han recibido beneficios públicos, y 4) personas que a juicio de un oficial suponen un riesgo para la seguridad pública o la seguridad nacional. Esta orden ejecutiva impone una nueva ola de incertidumbre y temor a los no ciudadanos en los Estados Unidos, particularmente junto a una tercera orden ejecutiva que ordena la construcción de un muro entre Estados Unidos y México y aumenta de las medidas de seguridad fronteriza, incluyendo la adición de 10.000 nuevos agentes de inmigración y 5.000 agentes de aduanas y patrullas fronterizas.

Estas hostilidades hacia los inmigrantes y refugiados en estas órdenes coinciden con noticias de que Julie Kircher ex oficial de FAIR, grupo que ha sido caracterizado como un grupo de odio por el Southern Poverty Law Center, asesora a la Patrulla Fronteriza. Además, Kellyannye Conway, una de los principales portavoces de Trump, también trabajó con FAIR. Coincide con la noticia de que la base de Trump es abrumadoramente, blanca, masculina, y evidentemente está de acuerdo con burlarse de los discapacitados y con hombres “agarra-coños.”

Pero también ha habido otra oleada igual de fuerte: una oleada de movilizaciones y solidaridades en todo EU. Distintos grupos locales se están organizando y movilizando para responder a este nuevo escenario político. Organizaciones bajo la lógica de Santuario se han movilizado e iniciado importantes discusiones en ciudades y campus de todo el país, incluyendo Champaign-Urbana. Estudiantes, profesores, personal de UIUC y miembros de la comunidad de Champaign-Urbana están movilizándose para asegurarse de que la universidad pueda proporcionar un espacio para pensar críticamente sobre temas actuales y proporcionar también espacios seguros para inmigrantes, musulmanas, Queer, y la comunidad en general. Organizaciones como Champaign Urbana Immigration Forum están haciendo intervenciones críticas educando a la comunidad local sobre las importantes contribuciones de los inmigrantes. Además, están llevando a cabo la importante tarea de impartir talleres sobre los derechos de los inmigrantes, entre otras muchas tareas. Iglesias de todas las denominaciones y la mezquita local están celebrando reuniones comunitarias en solidaridad de refugiados y familias de inmigrantes. Los distritos escolares han sido claves en la difusión de información y recursos para la comunidad inmigrante. Los educadores y el personal han sido claves en proporcionar espacios para pensar y organizarse en torno a temas de inmigración. No estamos solos. No están solos.

En pocas palabras, las hostilidades antiinmigrantes que Trump ha desplegado nos recuerdan cómo las cuestiones de injusticia intersectan y afectan las distintas comunidades del área y de la nación. Organizaciones incluyendo la delegación local Black Lives Matters (Las Vidas negras Importan), con su liderazgo queer, también se movilizan para educar, organizar y proporcionar espacios seguros para pensar en nuestro momento actual. Carol Ammons, nuestra representante estatal, habla en una marcha mientras escribimos este artículo sobre como la Guerra Contra las Drogas afecta y criminaliza las distintas comunidades de color de Estados Unidos. La Marcha de Mujeres el 21 de enero y el movimiento por Nativo Americanos en contra el oleoducto en North Dakota (NoDAPL) exige que reconozcamos nuestras distintas y profundas historias de opresión, racialización y colonización para entonces poder iniciar un trabajo colectivo.

Gilberto Rosas and Korinta Maldonado
Caracol Autónomo Urbana-Champaign
Santuario Para el Pueblo

 

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Trump and the Resurgence of Antisemitism

I composed the following reflections-in-progress in the first week after the election in order to address the sudden prominence of antisemitism in mainstream American politics. Unfortunately, nothing that has happened since then leads me to think that these tentative thoughts have lost their relevance:

I have to admit I’m genuinely shocked by the extensive use of antisemitic—and even Nazi—rhetoric and insinuation by Trump, his advisors, and his supporters as part of their racist arsenal, and by the prominent place that antisemites (e.g. Steve Bannon) are going to have in the Trump administration. I don’t feel personally threatened (yet)—as I know members of other groups targeted by Trump have already been—but I am worried about what these indications foreshadow about the political movement that is taking power. Besides being a reason for grave concern—together with all the other frightening dimensions of Trump’s campaign and what it has unleashed and will unleash in the coming months and years—I believe there are at least two dimensions of these manifestations of antisemitism that are worth considering in more depth as we respond to the new regime.

First, I think we need to understand why antisemitism has so prominently joined other forms of hatred and prejudice in the current moment. My intuition and hypothesis is that the prominence of antisemitism may be key to understanding—and synthesizing—the argument that has been circulating about whether Trump’s victory has more to do with race or class (or gender). Among the forms of racism, antisemitism has often represented a kind of short-circuit between questions of race and questions of economics. Following a suggestion from Nikhil Singh, I returned to an interview by the social theorist Moishe Postone, where he has this to say about antisemitism:

“Anti-Semitism differs from most other essentializing forms of discourse, such as racism, by virtue of its apparently antihegemonic, antiglobal character. At its heart is the notion of the Jews as constituting a powerful, secret, international conspiracy. I regard it as a fetishized form of anticapitalism. Anti-Semitism misrecognizes the abstract domination of capital—which subjects people to abstract mysterious forces they cannot perceive, much less control—as the domination of international Jewry” (South Atlantic Quarterly, Spring 2009, p. 326).

It is via antisemitism, in other words, that dominant forms of racism and hatred can come to take on an allegedly anti-establishment, anti-elitist valence and become a mobilizing force among those who are—or feel themselves to be—victims of a global order out of their control: it is the “socialism of fools,” in August Bebel’s memorable phrase. There is also a strong gender dimension to antisemitism that is probably relevant to the forms of nationalist and nativist masculinity that are circulating prominently right now.

Second, although this is a frightening moment in so many ways, I think the forthrightness of the Trump movement’s antisemitism represents a wake-up call that we need to take as an opportunity for political mobilization. In the US (and elsewhere) in recent years, the relation of antisemitism to other forms of racism has been a sticking point in progressive mobilization (especially, but not only on college campuses), largely because of controversies having to do with Israel (controversies that obviously will not go away any time soon). But the proximity of the Trump movement’s antisemitism to its virulent anti-black, anti-brown, and anti-immigrant racism as well as its homophobia and sexism creates the opportunity to extend solidarities and create new coalitions. There is nothing easy or inevitable about these solidarities and coalitions, but I believe we have no choice other than undertaking the effort to create them—and I believe the current context provides fertile ground for their cultivation.

My second hypothesis is thus that attempts to mobilize against the Trump movement will be more successful when they include a strong analysis of and opposition to antisemitism. Principled opposition to antisemitism can be an important element (among many others) in the creation of a new left movement that takes back the critique of elites and of capital from the reactionary forces that have successfully mobilized it in the various global populist movements.

As I have been thinking about these issues, the well-known passage from Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks came to mind, in which he talks about the relationship between antisemitism and anti-black racism:

“At first thought it may seem strange that the anti-Semite’s outlook should be related to that of the Negro-phobe. It was my philosophy professor, a native of the Antilles, who recalled the fact to me one day: ‘Whenever you hear anyone abuse the Jews, pay attention, because he is talking about you.’ And I found that he was universally right—by which I meant that I was answerable in my body in my heart for what was done to my brother. Later I realized that he meant, quite simply, an anti-Semite is inevitably anti-Negro.”

This analysis is no doubt too straightforward in downplaying the contradictions and prejudices harbored even by minority groups, but I am tempted to suggest that in our current state there is a message here for everyone about the intersecting nature of today’s struggles. Those of us who are Jewish—or concerned about questions of antisemitism—may also want to think about reversing Fanon’s teacher’s dictum in the light of recent events:

“Whenever you hear anyone abuse [black people, immigrants, queers, etc.], pay attention, because he is talking about you.”

January 4, 2017

Originally posted November 15, 2016 at https://www.facebook.com/michael.rothberg.9/posts/1813132032241195

Michael Rothberg teaches English and Comparative Literature, and Holocaust studies at UCLA. He taught 2001-2016 at UIUC. As head of the English department and executive committee member of the Program in Jewish Culture and Society, he was a staunch supporter of Steven Salaita’s bid for a job at UIUC.

Posted in 2016 election, Antisemitism, Israel/Palestine, Politics, Politics, Trump | Comments Off on Trump and the Resurgence of Antisemitism

A Very Rude Awakening

“Faruq Nelson is an attorney in solo practice. He has been an active member of the local mosque for nearly 25 years.”

 

Like almost everyone I know, I could not imagine that Donald Trump would win the presidential election. Could Americans really choose as our leader someone so obviously unsuited to the position? Someone who casually threatens the destruction of even his mildest critics and who daily declares his deep and abiding enmity to every value for which our society purports to stand? It was inconceivable.

That is not to say that I was looking forward to a Hillary Clinton presidency. I could not bring myself to support her, not after the way that she had colluded in the Bush invasion of Iraq to advance her own political ambitions. But I was resigned to the prospect. I went to bed on Election Night, with results still too close to call, in the expectation that the next day would bring news that Clinton had pulled out a win by the narrowest of margins. She would finally have what she had craved for so desperately long—but, of course, under such circumstances that progressives and minorities could not consider her bound to fulfill any of the promises made to win their support.

I had a very rude awakening, to say the least. For weeks, I could not bring myself to write the words “President” and “Trump” in juxtaposition. I struggle to do so even now. I held on to the slim hope that the Electoral College might perform its duty to ensure, in the words of James Madison, “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications,” and that the contest would be thrown into the House of Representatives. The choice there certainly would not have fallen to anyone of my liking, but at least it would not have been to someone who could well bring about the end of the American experiment itself.

Now I must collect my wits and recall what the Qur’an reminds us: “Perhaps you hate a thing while it is a benefit for you, and perhaps you love a thing while it is a harm for you. God knows, and you know not.”

The election of Donald Trump prompts deep misgiving in me as a Muslim and as an American. It is truly disheartening to see my country succumb to the rhetoric of fear and hatred that Trump has leveraged to gain the presidency for himself. And as distressing as I find the prospect of a Trump administration and of all three branches of the federal government under the sway of the worst elements in the Republican Party, I can only imagine the trepidation of those whose minority status is much more obvious than mine. But the Qur’an teaches: “Do people think that they will be left alone because they say ‘we believe’ and will not be tested? We have certainly tried those before them, and God will surely make evident those who are truthful and He will surely make evident those who are liars.”

Prophet Muhammad (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) taught that whoever sees an injustice must then resist it with his hand; and if unable to do so with his hand then with his tongue; and if unable to do so with his tongue then at least must resist it in his heart, though that is the slightest of faith. The challenges that lie ahead in the coming years present to us all the opportunity to reach out to one another in solidarity. Even if we cannot always mount effective resistance to injustice by word and deed, we must still avoid the temptation to accept the oppression of others as the normal state of affairs.

I find it difficult to imagine how our nation and indeed our very planet can survive a Trump presidency. But, God willing, survive and even thrive we shall: “For surely with every hardship comes relief, indeed with hardship comes relief. So when you are relieved strive on to please your Lord.”

Posted in 2016 election, Human Rights, Justice, Trump | Comments Off on A Very Rude Awakening

Police Terror To Increase Under Trump

In less than two months since the election of Donald Trump there has been a surge in violent islamophobic and xenophobic attacks in this country. While the rhetoric, actions and entire campaign of Trump has prompted conversations amongst scholars, activists and folks on the political left it is important to remember that Trump represents not only himself, but, rather symbolizes the reemergence of white nationalism within the U.S. Empire. White nationalism is an ideological framework that centers the white heterosexual identity as inherently valuable in a national context while simultaneously positioning various ethnic, racial, sexual and gender identities as “other” and thus inferior. Trump’s rise to the U.S. presidency highlights the desire of white U.S. Americans to be “great again.” For the president-elect and his supporters, great is an active restructuring of a nation that champions political and social white supremacy while dismantling any legislative gains that have been made in the daily lived conditions of oppressed people in this country. In a nation where Trump spews racist, sexist and xenophobic remarks that have emboldened large groups of people to attack the most marginalized among us, what happens to our Black and Latino/a family? Unfortunately, for the marginalized in this country an answer to these questions was delivered by the Fraternal Order of Police earlier this month.

The Fraternal Order of Police is the nation’s largest police union with approximately 330,000 members. The Fraternal Order is implicated in the murders of Black and brown people.  The Fraternal Order uses adamant legal defense to protect its members who kill people who resist their domination. This defense can be seen in 2014 when Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old Black man from Brooklyn, was murdered by police. Peter Liang, the cop who killed Gurley, called his union rep before the ambulance to tend to Akai. A local example can also be cited now as we witness the Fraternal Order’s support of Champaign ex-cop Matt Rush. Rush has recently tried to regain his position after a career filled with physical attacks on Black folks, resulting in lawsuits of approximately $300,000. Dave Blanchette, the Fraternal Order of Police spokesman, recently remarked that the decision to fire Rush last year was uncalled for, and that Rush should return to his job.  In this nation, the police act as a force of repression, physical harm and power in communities of color, specifically Black neighborhoods. This year alone the blood of gunned-down victims of state-sanctioned police violence such as Philando Castile, Korryn Gains and Alton Sterling is still flowing in the street. The Fraternal Order serves as an agency of protection for these killers in uniforms. Policing poor Black and brown neighborhoods is done with an approach that is inherently punitive.

An example of this type of policing is the Fraternal Order’s policy plan for a Trump administration. Located on the Fraternal Order of Police website is a list of policies that it would like to see implemented during Trump’s first 100 days as president. Days after it was initially posted the document was edited to include a statement that attempted to shift the purpose of the policy from the political agenda of the union to a statement of what its members and supporters should expect from a Trump presidency. Regardless of the determined reasoning for the document its content is disturbing and violent in nature. The fifteen-point policy plan by the Fraternal Order of Police focuses largely on anti-Black and anti-immigration policies and actions.

The policy plan targets Black folks as well as strengthening the militarization and power of local state police. The policy calls for U.S. attorneys to seek the death penalty in federal cases involving the murder of police. Another point pushes for Trump to reverse or amend the ban on racial profiling used by law enforcement, and calls for the rescission of Executive Order 13688. This executive order was implemented last year and it restricts local police from obtaining military-grade weapons and vehicles such as armored vehicles, specialized firearms and ammunition, explosives and riot equipment. During the time of the Movement for Black Lives we have seen an increase of righteous social rebellions from Ferguson to St. Paul. Recently, more Black folks have taken to the streets to actively resist social, political and economic suffering at the hands of the state. The anti-Black points in this plan are a reactionary attempt to hinder the progress of political actions taken by Black folks. It is also a repressive response to the demands of revolutionary change and calls of freedom by Black folks. In order to solidify the anti-Black agenda presented in the document, it calls for the reversal of “friendly” U.S.-Cuban relations until “cop killers” harbored there are returned to the U.S. This is a direct attack on the Black freedom fighter Assata Shakur, who has been in Cuba since her escape from an unjust prison sentence in 1979.

The Fraternal Order of Police policy is also anti-immigration. Much like Trump, the Fraternal Order attempts to use immigrants as scapegoats for the economic crisis that capitalism, corporate greed and deregulation of labor has wrought upon this country. The policy plan calls for a restriction of all federal aid and grant funds to sanctuary cities, the end of deferred action for immigrant children arriving in the country (DACA), as well as the increased use of federal databases to identify and deport undocumented people. The immigration policy in this document is essentially proposing an increase of surveillance and social control of immigrants and their families. If DACA is repealed there will be no protection for many children who enter the county and it will mean the continual destruction and displacement of countless immigrant families. The plan also calls for the removal of funding for cities that stand with immigrant folks to limit the financial support that is available for them. The Fraternal Order of Police is using policy as a fear tactic to constrict the daily movement of immigrants in this country.

The Fraternal Order’s policy extends the hate and bigotry that is a mainstay of this country and furthers the criminalization and monitoring of Black folks and immigrants. If it is not resisted by the people, it could strengthen the already colossal power wielded by the Fraternal Order of Police. The policy should be seen as an open display of violent, dehumanizing and deadly action toward historically and presently oppressed populations. Advocates of revolutionary change must remain steadfast in the condemnation of policies such as these. The political left must also continue to challenge the legitimacy of not only police, but the Fraternal Order as well. As the nation prepares for the inevitable repression from a Trump presidency there must be solidarity among the political left and social movements that champion Black and immigrant struggles. We must organize against mutual threats against our lives and create collective momentum in combating reactionary responses to our calls for justice such as the Fraternal Order of Police policy plan.

Kadeem Fuller is a Local Black Lives Matter CU organizer. He is also a UIUC graduate student committed to Black liberation and the universal right of human dignity across the world. Kadeem is researching prison abolition as a theory of Black liberation.

 

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Foreign Relations, Domestic Security, and the Trump Era

The foreign policy outlook for the near future is bleak, but not just because of the incoming Trump administration’s proposals. Trump’s public statements about rolling back U.S. investments in “soft” issues like human rights or economic development, abandoning multilateral obligations on trade and arms control, and returning the US to the position of global military and economic dominance it last enjoyed in the Eisenhower era certainly attract attention—as they seem designed to do—but putting Trump in the spotlight here ignores the wave that Trump is riding. Trump didn’t fabricate a new American stance toward the world; he simply seized on a vision that has been building for at least the last fifteen years in the U.S. This is the vision of the world that predicated Bush’s responses to 9/11, that constrained Obama’s choices overseas, and that would have severely derailed a Clinton administration as well, had she won.  Trump’s vision of the world is in keeping with a wider American vision of the world that fifteen years of war has created. And the danger of this vision is not only in how it handicaps our relations with the world, but how it also handicaps our relations with each other.

The Militarization of American Relations.

After fifteen years of “the Long War,” it’s hardly a surprise that the military’s role in U.S. foreign relations has virtually eclipsed the traditional lead agency of U.S. foreign affairs, the State Department. Financially the military has always dwarfed the funds provided to the State Department, but in the last decade congressional appropriations have also included language shifting legal oversight and authority of new programs to the Defense Department. The May 2016 Congressional Research Service report by Nina Serafino (available at  https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R44444.pdf) reviews the history of this legal relationship and the ways in which post 9/11 programs are reshaping the hierarchy of American foreign relations. Operating foreign relations as if we are on a war footing has become the new normal.

It’s tempting to blame the military for elbowing its way into a central role in U.S. foreign relations, but, that’s simplistic and not even a development many in the military covet. The military became the default agency tasked with “fixing” the world outside not because this was a task it pursued, but because Americans want to believe in simple solutions for complex situations. Invasions of pesky opponents, military aid dropped in to arenas of complex strife, counterterrorism training for partner militaries with appalling human rights records, judicially obscure drone strikes…it’s not the first time the U.S. has used shady tactics, but in the past the government had the decency to keep them covert. Now these efforts raise not even an eyebrow from the American public. There is an unquestioned assumption that the world is violent and requires violent tactics.

This militarization has distorted other international initiatives. If you want to raise financial or political support for maternal health promotion, financial transparency, fishing regulations, etc., you stand a greatly improved chance if you can find a link to the War on Terror. In the short run this strategy may win you funding and save the lives of some fish, but in the long run it builds into the expansion of the Long War vision of the world. It silences other arguments about how to build a more secure future for all of us on the planet and places funding decisions, and sometimes even legal authority, for a vast array of endeavors in the hands of those who specialize in military affairs, not fish. Rosa Brooks’ 2016 book How Everything became War and the Military became Everything examines the expansion of the military mission into non-traditional roles like the campaign against Ebola. Yes, it’s great that the U.S. military recognizes the role that health, poverty, and corruption play in instability, but do we really want to fold all of our relations with the world into a single counterterrorism narrative operated through a single institution? Our government was founded on a division of authorities and voices for a reason, and we are surrendering that institutional genius in fetishizing and funding only the military options in these debates.

The Militarization of Domestic Relations?  

If Americans are unconcerned about the militarization of foreign policy (and they seem largely unconcerned), perhaps they might become concerned about the way those same perspectives are affecting domestic policy. The Watson Institute at Brown University notes that the Homeland Security reforms after 9/11 constituted the largest reorganization of government departments, budgets, and priorities since WWII, but attracted little public debate (http://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/economic/budget/dhs). Early concern with civil liberties infringements has since morphed into greater concern with preserving the right to bear arms—another reflection of militarization. And the price tag for Homeland Security is another sacred cow. In towns across the U.S. proposals for raising property taxes for school construction generate intense public discussion, but money to upgrade the ability of local first responders to respond to possible terrorism is received without comment. Federal money may appear as a grant to small communities, but it means money not spent on other needs, like erosion control or infrastructure improvements. Money for the militarization of our communities is received as if it is beyond debate, but it represents a choice in priorities that is seldom challenged.

The obsession with dangers on the home front has also led to the rise of private security services, concealed carry laws and gated communities, which have eerie parallels to American responses to dangers abroad.   It lumps all threats in a category of danger that cannot be analyzed, only eradicated, and will probably be as spectacularly unsuccessful in reducing crime as the War on Terror has been at reducing terrorism. This militarization of daily life might be the most dangerous legacy of the War on Terror.

The Cult of Militarization

Americans, not Trump, created the cult of militarization over the past fifteen years because it allowed them to avoid hard truths about the world. Yes, it would have been hard work to pursue a legal case against Bin Laden, to continue the sanctions against Saddam Hussein (considered successful by UN weapon inspectors) and to build the legal networks needed to pursue rather than incinerate terrorists, but these methods require the support of the American population for a Long War for International Legal Norms. We were more comfortable with the satisfaction of a military strike. It’s easy to visualize the dangers militants pose, but much harder to visualize the price we paid for flouting the fragile and emerging norms of international law with assassinations, renditions or invasions.

This isn’t a problem that emerged with the incoming Trump administration. This has been coming for years because Americans, in saddling the military with the task of fixing an inconvenient world, and then declaring the same military sacrosanct, have eliminated the possibility of serious public dialogue on how best to achieve a secure future. This path is not only failing to achieve foreign security, but distorting our domestic life as well. We need to reverse this creeping militarization and restore the multiple voices and perspectives that we will need to live in this complex world.

Posted in 2016 election, International, military, Trump | Comments Off on Foreign Relations, Domestic Security, and the Trump Era

National African American Parent Involvement Day Event in Rantoul

Announcement Blurb

National African American Parent Involvement Day is a nation-wide celebration that typically occurs on the second Monday in February. This year, Eater Junior High will be hosting an event for all parents and families to celebrate NAAPID.

Monday, February 13th from 5:30-7pm
400 E. Wabash, Rantoul IL 61866

The program, titled “It Starts With You,” will include student performances and guest speakers. A dinner will follow the presentation. All families and friends of Eater Junior High are welcome to attend the second annual event!

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Surprise!

URBANA- In the midst of a crisis of confidence, The Fraternal Order of Police received a shot in the arm from the recent selection of Donald Trump as President. Trump has dusted off Richard Nixon’s 1968 “law and order” mantra (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VTEW1BPnek) to seduce paranoid white people that dark heathens have to be dealt with.“We have to bring back law and order,” Trump bellowed at the first debate, citing Chicago as a place where we’ve lost it. Trump believes African Americans and hispanics live in inner-city “hell.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j3KXg0b7UY)

Trump believes New York City’s crime fighting techniques under Mayor Giuliani in the ’90s serves as the best model for where we need to go with law enforcement in this decade. Trump believes we should bring back stop-and-frisk.

When confronted by the fact stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional, Trump blamed an activist “against-police-judge” for the ruling, and said “…the argument is we have to take the guns away from these people that have them, and that they are bad people that shouldn’t have ’em. These are felons, these are people that are bad people.”

Trump describes inner-city life as a constant dodge of bullets while walking down the street. In Trump’s mind, there have been 4000 shooting deaths this year in Chicago alone. (There have been over 600 so far this year.)

Trump believes we need more police on the streets.

A Trump presidency could make additional military hardware available to local police departments.
A Trump presidency could allocate federal tax dollars to support the salaries of more police officers.
A Trump presidency could select Supreme Court Justices that would rule in favor of an officer’s right to use force, and conduct surveillance and searches without probable cause.
A Trump presidency could enlarge The Drug War as a means to confiscate weapons from “bad people.”
A Trump presidency could expand Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to spread a wider net for illegal immigrants with criminal records.
A Trump presidency could expand capacity of federal and state prisons.

Our local police departments are carefully quiet as to how they secure more tools, supplies and funding from our governments. It’s safe to say our local law enforcement officials never saw a tax dollar they didn’t like to spend. One of the largest portions of our municipal and county budgets are allocated for law enforcement.

On top of the handsome salaries, medical and insurance benefits, and the unlimited shopping sprees for guns, cars, and buildings, local law enforcers are more than happy to accept free goodies from the Pentagon and adopt a more militaristic approach to policing.

Our sheriff has already purchased a drone (http://www.smilepolitely.com/opinion/why_would_the_champaign_county_sheriff_need_a_drone/) and was given a mine-resistant armor-protected military tank (http://www.smilepolitely.com/culture/new_mrap_soon_to_be_rolling_down_the_streets_of_c_u/).
All four local police departments in the cities of Urbana and Champaign and The University of Illinois acquired surplus military assault rifles (http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2014-09-21/asset-area-law-enforcement-military-gear-has-its-critics-too.html).  All four local police departments have coordinated a massive security camera system for the U of I campus (http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2016-06-21/champaign-considers-ui-request-more-surveillance-cameras.html).

Trump’s “law and order” promise is a dog whistle to White America that under a Trump presidency, the United States government will rescue the inner cities from lawlessness by force.

Will this philosophy contaminate Champaign-Urbana?

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Testimonies of Immigrants Who Have Traveled to CU

These testimonies were provided by the C-U Immigration Forum, a local organization made up of immigrants, students, clergy, service providers, labor union representatives, residents and community organizations that are concerned with the plight of immigrants in Champaign County.

Jesus
It took me about two months to get here. Maybe more. I was traveling with a coyote but then he gave me to a different one and then he gave me to a different one and some more.

There are no jobs in Guatemala. We (my family) didn’t have good jobs and we didn’t have a house. I started working when I was 12. I couldn’t go to school because I had to work. I worked in ‘la siembra’ picking up beans, corn, and coffee. I worked very hard but hardly got any money.

If I can stay here I’m going to work very hard and fight to have and be something good in life. I want to study more. I like my school. It is my favorite place because there are people here who care about me, my teachers ask me how I am doing and help me if I need help. I eat breakfast and lunch here. I don’t think I would have anything to eat if I didn’t come to school.

Maria
My husband came to the U.S. first. It took me two years to decide to come here to join him. I didn’t want to leave my house and my family. My mother cried for two days when I told her I was leaving. I don’t remember if I cried. Maybe I did but I don’t remember. I was really scared.

Before coming here we really tried to make things work in Mexico. We worked very hard but we hardly had enough money to feed our kids. It was painful to see my kids hungry and not have anything to give them.

My husband paid someone to bring us across the border. When we got to the river I was trying to hold on to my two kids but the water kept going up as we walked through. One of the men in the group offered to help and sat my son in his shoulders. I was holding my daughter very tight. The water was freezing and the only light was from the moon. I could feel my daughter trembling or maybe it was my own body trembling… I don’t know. The current was strong and I felt like it was trying to pull my daughter away from me. I walked one step and the water pushed me back. I started to think that we were all going to drown there.

Life here has been good. It’s been 18 years since that day when I cross the border with my kids. We have a small business, we have a home, and my kids are safe and happy.

We are good people but it seems like under the immigration laws we are still not good enough.

Juan
We recently bought a house. It is a small house but it will be ours eventually. I had always wanted a house for my family but I was afraid. Living here without documents is very scary. I am always afraid that immigration is going to find us. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about that. We don’t talk about it but we are always afraid. However, recently I decided to buy the house. My younger kids are citizens. If I ever get deported they will stay here and I want to make sure they have a place to live. If I get deported I will be thinking about them playing in the yard in this house I bought for them. I’ll be in Mexico but I’ll try to be happy because at least I gave them a place to grow, be safe, and happy.

Edgar (12 years old)
There was a loud knock at the door. I was getting ready for school. One of my brothers opened the door and two men got inside the house yelling. I was in the kitchen and didn’t know what to do. I thought they were robbing us. My mom screamed. One of them asked my mom about my dad. She didn’t say anything and the men asked her if she spoke English. The man turned to us and asked us if Miguel was in the house. None of us said anything.

The men asked us to sit in the floor and be quiet. They went inside calling my dad’s name. I would never forget my dad’s face when they walked him outside. My mom was crying asking them what they were doing. She kept talking to them but they didn’t even look at her. I thought maybe they were not paying attention because she was speaking Spanish. My brother asked them why they were in our house and they just asked him to be quiet.

My dad asked them if he could say goodbye. His hands were tied in his back. We were all crying. My mom looked desperate. I couldn’t speak. I grabbed my little sister and hugged her because she looked really afraid. There were other men in the car where they put my dad. We didn’t go to school that day. I asked my mom why they took my dad. She said it was immigration.

Ester
I spent many days on top of the train in Mexico. It is very hard to get on the train when it is moving so I didn’t want to get down. I was really scared. My hands hurt so much because I was always trying to hold tight. I always felt alone. There were a lot of people on the train but not a lot of women so I felt very alone and scared.

Luis
It took me six weeks to travel from Honduras to the US border. I did most of the travel on top of the train. I had to hold on so tight on the train that I had deep cuts in my hands and fingers. The day I got to the border I went to see the Rio Bravo at night. Everyone said it was better to cross the river at night. It was so dark that I couldn’t see my hands. The moonlight was shining in the water and it looked beautiful and peaceful.

 

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Letter to My French Friends

How could this have happened in the U.S.?

The reasons are complex, some peculiar to the U.S. and some that are common to both the U.S. and Europe. The most significant one, that applies as well to Europe as here, is the economic situation. There is very high unemployment, especially among younger people and the marginalized. In France, overall unemployment is higher than in the U.S.. That being said, the true unemployment rate in the U.S. is much higher than the official figures. In both the U.S. and France, there is a tendency among many to blame immigrants and minorities for it. They are also often seen as sapping the country in terms of social services that particularly strain local units of government.

External entities are also held responsible. In the U.S. it is trade pacts like NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) that encourage employers to chase after low-wage industrial workers abroad (even though there are plenty of low-wage service workers in the U.S.). In Europe, it is the European Union which is seen as an unaccountable, undemocratic arrangement that forces austerity policies upon the individual countries to the detriment of the general population, and to the advantage of the upper, capitalist classes. All of these factors produce high emotions of fear and anger, of ultranationalism and the attribution of otherness to minorities and immigrants, and to despair with the status quo and the hope that Far Right parties, usually with charismatic leaders, can save people from the calamity that they feel they are living.

Another interesting dimension to this is religion. In Poland and in the Slavic countries of Eastern Europe, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches respectively are playing a major role in supporting right-wing politics. In France, a conservative Catholic bloc has been manifesting itself in the conservative Republican Party, and can be seen in the programs of former President Nicolas Sarkosy and in the present Republican presidential candidacy of Francois Fillon. Gay marriage, abortion, and even secularism in public institutions, especially the schools, which have been a mainstay of French republicanism, have newly become major issues in the mainstream of French politics. This resembles, on a smaller scale, Trump’s appeal to the white evangelical voters in the American South and Mid-West. The big issue for them is who will be appointed to the Supreme Court and be voting on civil rights issues for women, minorities, and the LGBT population. The European Right, in both Western and Eastern Europe, has taken up the battle over cultural and social issues (the culture wars) that the American Right has engaged in for a long time and that Trump has been playing so effectively.

But there are other variables that accounted for Trump’s victory that are not so easily comparable to what is happening in Europe recently. The first is the Electoral College.If Trump and Clinton had been French, Clinton would have won because she had a sizeable lead in the popular vote, almost three million more votes than Trump.

Aside from this, there was the difference between the two candidates themselves. Clinton was clearly the more politically experienced and qualified. She discussed policy issues in a serious way. And she would have been the first woman president, following the first African American president. That was both a plus and a minus. A plus for those who valued diversity in political life, a negative to those who despised “identity politics.”

Even some on the Left felt that she should have devoted more time to addressing the serious economic plight of many Americans than to stressing the breaking of the glass ceiling imposed by males. While this is not necessarily an either/or, many Democrats who supported Bernie Sanders in the primary felt that Clinton did not come across as sincerely attentive to the economic plight of so many people where industry had disappeared. Fairly or not, the association that was made between her and her husband’s support of NAFTA, and her hesitation in coming out against Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, made her unpopular both on the Left and on the populist Right. Her vote for the Iraq War and other more hawkish positions also alienated progressives on the Left and noninterventionists on the Right. Her use of a personal server for public business when she was Secretary of State came back to haunt her. And her closeness to Wall Street when she was the Senator from New York, and refusal to release the content of speeches she gave to investment bankers for large fees, did not help her on either wing of the political spectrum.

Trump, on the other hand, has had no political experience which could be held against him. His business dealings were marred by frequent bankruptcies, by refusal to pay for services provided by contractors, by a constant stream of threats and lawsuits against people and institutions. He broke tradition by being the first presidential candidate to refuse to release his tax returns. Instead of seriously discussing policy issues, he offered a series of ad libs to please his crowd. He vilified all of his opponents in both the primary and the general elections. He referred to Clinton as “crooked Hillary” who should be criminally prosecuted. He refused to say that he would accept the result of the election. He degraded women, Mexicans and Moslems. He even ridiculed the physical gestures of a paralyzed reporter who asked a question at a press conference.

Our next president has bragged about molesting women and been accused by a number of women of doing so. He has encouraged violence against protestors at his rallies. He has defended the use of torture. Since the election, he has appointed to be his attorney General Senator Sessions, who has spoken favorably of the Ku Klux Klan and opposed civil rights legislation. His special adviser, with an office in the White House, will be Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart, a Far Right “news” outlet that has diffused racist and anti-Semitic material, and which intends to establish an office in Paris. His national security advisor is going to be former Lt. General Michael Flynn, who has spread abusive scurrilous stories about Clinton on social media. His Trump-employed son went so far as to send out messages contending that Hillary Clinton was involved with child sex rings.

In Europe, you have had your Le Pens and your Berlusconi, whose sexual vulgarity equals Trumps. The former were established party leaders. Trump has captured a party. What he has behind him are largely the economically hard-hit, who are willing to forgive his sins in the hope that he will be their salvation, and white supremacists who see him as their vindication and leader. Trump is an actor who has created politics as a one-man spectacle, combining Mussolini’s oratorical style and facial gestures with a skilled use of Twitter, which the cable news media has retransmitted instantaneously to the public.

Indeed, the closer historical analogy to the spectacular Trump are the Nazis, who used the technology of radio to mobilize the masses in their living rooms, vilified and crushed political opponents, dehumanized ethnic and religious groups, and repeated lie after lie with the assurance that their followers would believe them and that establishment politicians and business leaders would be afraid to confront them. It is precisely this complex of factors that foreshadowed the first totalitarian state in Western Europe in the late 1930s, which began with an electoral victory and which too few took seriously enough until it was too late.

I say to my French friends, please do not be taken in the way we Americans have been.

 

 

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