My filmmaker friend and colleague Laurie Kash made this film of the Women's March in Washington DC, January 21, 2017. Full disclosure: I'm in it. Watch it anyway. It is a beautiful portrait of national and global resistance.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe the easily-disproved “alternative fact” that Trump's inauguration crowd in DC was not dwarfed by Obama's in 2008 or by the Women's March in 2017.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe that giving brown people less will give struggling white people more – while the rich boldly suck up even more of virtually everything.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe that going back to giving more power to for-profit health insurance companies will somehow, for the first time ever, give people more generous choices at lower prices.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe that you can gut government (e.g., freeze federal hiring) and wildly expand it (e.g., build a wall, prosecute women for abortion, enforce a ban on Muslims) at the same time.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe that suicide bombers and shooters are a greater danger to each of us than more poisonous air, water, and food.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe that virtually all of the reputable climate scientists in the world are scammers and that the handful of climate denial scammers are telling the truth.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe that a white serial bankrupter who stiffed contractors and ran a phony college is a better ally than a black president who lowered unemployment and favored a higher minimum wage.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to trust a notoriously greedy billionaire because he repeats the obvious truth that “the system is rigged,” even after he fills his cabinet with greedy billionaires and brazenly pursues policies that favor CEOs over everyone else.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to continue to cheer on the Trump regime’s increasingly brutal scapegoating (e.g., of women, Muslims, blacks, brown immigrants, and LGBT people) while Trump’s billionaire policies lay waste to the lives of working white people.
None of this is new. Dictators thrive on telling bald-faced lies to desperate people.
But what we don't know is: How many Trump followers will see through the con? How many of we Americans as a whole will actively risk being targeted, fired, jailed, or worse to protect our futures and that of our kids? And how many journalists will actually fight – and by that I mean put their careers and possibly their physical safety at risk – for what is provably true and morally non-negotiable?
I shot these videos at today's Women's March in DC. At the latest count more than 500,000 people marched in DC -- double the number that attended the Trump inauguration -- and more than 1 million marched globally.
In the United States, as in most other non-democracies, national politics is a moral sport of the wealthy.
The wealthy players fielded by America’s Red Team feel varying amounts of actual heartfelt care, ranging from the frigidly mercenary to the heatedly passionate, but are for the most part selfishly negative in their agenda. The wealthy players who take the field for the Blue Team are generally more empathic and positive. But both teams’ players perform in a steel-shielded arena where winning or losing may be ecstatic or hurt like hell, may earn roars or ridicule, but won’t affect their personal comfort or lifestyle or that of almost anyone they know.
American presidential and congressional politics, like the NFL or NBA or any other corporate-sponsored contest, is a cage match among fiercely-driven elite gladiators who, regardless of who wins or loses, will all leave the ring rich and surrounded by validators.
That is why Hillary Clinton and the Democrats lost in 2016. That is why mainstream media reporters and pundits have become irrelevant to what Americans feel and believe. Insulated by corporate cash, with its gilded chokehold on who gets to compete for national leadership, the Blue Team has confidently hogged the mainstream “progressive” mic while growing ever more more clueless about what its voters have to say and need to hear. And the Red Team has increasingly cornered itself with the clash between its lunch-bucket rhetoric and its robber baron policy.
So, with the official political podium and official media closed off to angry and hungry voters who have known for decades (for people of color, make that centuries) that this nation and its economy have been broken by its masters, where could people go for attention?
To Twitter. And Facebook. Where, unlike the ruling American news operations and political parties, it is still permissible to truthfully say, “The system is rigged.”
Problem is, competent and decent potential Blue Team leaders were either self-silenced on this built-in function of economic inequality (Clinton), or blocked within the party (Sanders). And Red Team leaders were happy to exploit anger but incapable of blaming the rich for anything. So the field was left wide open for a celebrity demagogue named Donald Trump to declare, with veracity, “The system is rigged” – while lying about everything else and steering white rage toward people of color, women, and Muslims. All while he and his henchmen exploited Twitter’s and Facebook’s vulnerability to fake news and false accusations.
So the kinder corporate Blue Team lost this election because it convinced itself that it understood working people while having barred them from the actual field of play since at least the Reagan years. And the meaner corporate Red Team lost its stature and what was left of its self-respect in its cave-in to Trump’s white faux-populist scam, but in so doing it rode the coattails of his audacity.
And now, with fascism in the wings, the callow wealthy Reds and the outraged wealthy Blues regroup on the field, with as little to lose in their actual lives as before.
But for those who stand to lose everything, the Red and Blue game is over.
It is accurate to say that West Virginia attorney JB Akers’ detailed blog, Trump Won and I Don't Understand Why You Don't Understand, is self-promoting for his law practice, uninformed about the diversity and depth of suffering in urban communities, and disingenuous about the continuing appeal of racism and misogyny to non-college-educated white men whose footholds of security and cultural authority have been shattered.
But it is also essential that you read Akers' explanation of why economically shipwrecked white men and women were willing to vote for a cretin like Trump in their desperate hope for some kind of overturning of the status quo.
It is time for our self-defeating bullshit to stop. Pissed-off progressives and people of color need to be smarter than to anoint Trump’s win as a simple expression of white male supremacy and brutality, although Trump used this toxic lure brilliantly in his fake populist pitch. Furious whites who have been left to starve by the Demopublican economy need to be smarter than to treat the Hillary Clinton platform as any real expression of the hungers of progressives and people of color, although the 2016 Clinton campaign aggressively posed its corporate-friendly political jingle as the voice of “change.”
We know better. White people without college educations know when they’ve been scammed for decades by a crew of Senator Silverhairs from both parties. Blacks, Latinos, and other voters of color know when a toothless “Stronger Together” slogan falls short of what it takes to make them surge to the polls to vote their interests.
To be sure, Clinton’s winning the popular vote and still losing the 2016 election has, once again, ripped the scar tissue off the national deformity of the Electoral College. Add to that James Comey’s coerced interference and the unfathomable capabilities of Vladimir Putin’s digital regime and we have an electoral outcome that meets no trustworthy standard.
But let’s not fool ourselves. Hillary Clinton lost what should have been a commanding advantage from the beginning because she and her party were afraid of what angry drowning people on all sides really wanted: a passionate, fearless rebuke of business as usual in the post-Reagan economic state. And Trump was able to dishonestly occupy that turf because the Democrats, in jettisoning Bernie Sanders, abandoned their last claim to it.
That is what happened. That is what we have to face in order to discern what we do next.
...Donald Trump takes offense with a tweet demanding an apology.
So, just to make sure we understand: President-Elect Trump believes that he and his surrogates are entitled to call Mexican immigrants "rapists," to call women "pigs" and "dogs" who you can "grab by the pussy," to claim that President Obama was not born in the United States, to advocate banning Muslims from the country, to insult a military Gold Star family and their self-sacrificing son on religious grounds, to mock disabled people, to validate white supremacists, to encourage violence at his rallies, to call the former secretary of state and his presidential opponent a "nasty woman," and to sneer "they don't look like Indians to me" at Native Americans who challenge his casino interests.
But an audience at a smash musical that touts diversity is not entitled to voice its displeasure at such wanton racism, sexism, and hatred.
To paraphrase that paragon of principle MittRomney, this is a textbook example of white male bully delusion. It's an affliction of those taught to inherit the 400-year-old self-image of captor and master: they can dish it out but they can't take it.
Ex-slaveholder, ex-master of women, and ex-majority over brown people are all positions with no future. In today's world they are guaranteed dead-end jobs. And I do mean dead: in the sense of an aging and shrinking white male-dominated demographic that can feel itself shriveling nationally and globally. Within decades its majority in America will be gone, replaced by a thriving predominance of brown people and of white people who are comfortable with difference.
One recent example that will jerk your head back is the testimony, on the seminal radio chronicle This American Life, of economically screwed white Americans who bitterly report, with no sense of historical irony whatsoever, their shock at feeling "their" country and communities occupied by differently-colored newcomers from overseas. Uh, has anybody here looked beyond the white experience to see how their feeling of dispossession is neither unique nor accurate?
But that's the problem with defined whiteness: its world starts and ends with itself. Trump is part of its end, its desperate death throes, its final mythology. The only remaining question is whether the rainbow of humanity as a whole can survive this deadly fiction.
After three debates and a hallucinatory succession of politically unsurvivable outrages, Donald Trump is still standing.
“Impossible” is a marker we blew past long ago. After a year of Trump’s gleefully insulting the economic intelligence of angry whites, spitting in the faces of people of color and women and Muslims, consorting with the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis, denying the continual catastrophe of climate change, pandering to the worst in foreign autocrats and domestic brown shirts, and magnifying at dizzying speed the reasons he cannot be trusted with house keys, let alone nuclear weapons, Trump has capped his wickedness with boasts (and 11 allegations so far) of sexual assault, “nasty woman” rasps at Hillary Clinton, and defiance of a popular vote before it even happens.
And yet, close to half of the electorate remains willing to vote him into the presidency. Pundits are aghast. Mainstream news outlets, for whom quote-without-question false equivalency has become a rote practice in reporting “both sides” of issues like politics and climate change, now dare to use the word “lie” to describe Trump’s fictional claims. Now, just days before the election, one can feel a rising mainstream hysteria on the airwaves, in print, and in overheard conversations: He will not die! How is this possible?
There is a very good reason, and it is one that corporate journalists and corporate-fed politicians continue to deny: America is broken, from the bone outward. And only Trump, an amoral opportunist, and Bernie Sanders, a progressive firebrand who the managers of corporate reason were unwilling to tolerate, have dared to mouth those words.
Let’s take the corporate journalists’ denial first. From The New York Times to CNN to NPR, until these final shell-shocked days the unspoken subtext of news stories has been, If we journalists simply put on display Trump’s daily outrageous claims, which are transparently untrue, citizens must surely see through them and reject them as antithetical to the truth and fairness of the American experiment. But this is a false assumption. Unlike prosperous national journalists who earnestly publish books and who vacation in inspiring places, the millions of white Americans who make up Trump’s base long ago gave up on any pretense of meritocracy in this country. They know that access to political office is bought with money. They know they are behind the eight ball on a slanted plane of play. They expect to be ceaselessly lied to. And they have learned well, at the punishing hands of global conglomerates and purchased politicians, that the only remaining game is a dirty one. Black and brown communities trapped in poverty, poor schools, and a pipeline to for-profit prisons? Too bad for them, and keep them away from us. Refugees fleeing the wreckage of a global post-neocolonial regime of cheap raw resources and wars of control? Wall them out. We have our own hell here. War-zone zealots whose remaining desperate sense of redemption is in wearing a bomb belt? Screw their reasons and don’t apologize for our methods. Bomb and torture them back to carbon. For uneducated white men – the core Trump electorate – the corporate media have been speaking Greek for decades.
Then there is the corporate political denial. As the longtime sole arbiter of what passes for progressivism in nationally “realistic” politics, the modern Democratic Party has – since the rise of Ronald Reagan and the Dems’ defensive descent into increasingly cruel corporatist platforms and policies (welfare reform, NAFTA, draconian sentencing laws, obscenely weakened oversight of banks, polluters, low-wage conglomerates and other public predators) – effectively erased the party’s credibility with suffering whites for whom the crumbs of white privilege have become starvation rations. Republicans have, since Nixon, peddled flavors of the “what’s good for rich people is good for white people” seduction. But today’s Democratic – and increasingly, Republican – Senator Silverhairs have become, to many whites amid the remaining shreds of a middle class, a bitter mockery of representation. Mainstream news correspondents may still dutifully repeat these professional politicians’ vacuous declarations as if they are newsworthy. But many ordinary working white Americans stopped listening years ago. It’s what Cornel West has accurately called the “niggerization” of American working people. We black folks and other people of color have borne it for centuries. Now, increasingly disenfranchised whites, feeling their own (decidedly race-softened but awful) version of the pain, are staging a political riot. (For a deeper understanding of how and why Trump profoundly appeals to white voters who are by far his moral superiors, go to The United States of Anxiety, a devastating podcast produced by The Nation and WNYC.)
That is why Trump can serially lie with impunity to his base about his disproven claims, boast about his evading taxes, contradict his nationalist rhetoric with his anti-American-worker hiring practices, and brag about sexually assaulting women – and still claim roars of approval from the very voters he betrays. This is neither nonsensical nor insane. It is a brutal, wicked consequence of corporate media and mainstream politics having abandoned the clear populist imperatives of our era. The error of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and their humanistic side of the corporate establishment is that for the past eight years they have left the defiantly progressive field wide open for any takers. They left it vacant, in fact, until Sanders proved it had clout. (Have you wondered, as I have, what the campaign would now look like if it were Democratic Socialist Bernie bellowing back at fake-rebel Trump in the three presidential debates?) Trump, the consummate opportunist, has filled the white blue-collar populist void with his brutal audacity and dishonesty. It doesn’t take much to swim upstream when the flow is so feeble.
So Hillary Clinton – who embraced energetic progressive rhetoric only after Sanders proved it might win – is now our last barrier between a bad political landscape with footholds for progress and an abyss plunging into unknown depths of depravity, repression, and potential nuclear and ecological ruin. She was far from my first choice. But I am one of many who will vote for her with fierce resolve.
For those who have failed to call out betrayal of progressivism over its decades-long cooptation by corporate expediency, the old adage still applies: you break it, you buy it. That shattered mess on the floor is what is left of the myth of white meritocracy preached since World War Two. White people left behind by the corporate version of white privilege need somewhere else to go. Trump is a temporary refuge. He may or may not lose the election. But either way, the tide of betrayed collective white ego he has loosed is not retreating. That dam is busted, and the flood plain will extend far beyond Election Day.
We can blame Trump, an amateur fascist, for cashing in on this with his come-on to a beached white electorate. Or we can ask, What happens when the enraged hungers of disenfranchised white people start to merge with the centuries-old hungers of black and brown ex-slaves and the desperation of those who now flee global poverty and slaughter?
This week I had a radio conversation about Trump, white fear, and fascism with psychologist and host Dr. Pamela Brewer on her MyNDTALK program. You can hear or download our one-hour conversation, "The Direction of This Election," at MyNDTALK, at WPFW-FM (as the April 4 MyNDTALK show), at PRX, on iTunes, and at SoundCloud.