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President Trump and the Republican Party have run the most racist national political campaign since the 1968 presidential bid of segregationist George Wallace. We shall soon see how much the country has changed in 50 years — and in what direction.
I grew up in the South under Jim Crow, so I’ve seen and heard this garbage before. Trump claims that Democrat Stacey Abrams, who happens to be African American, is “not qualified” to be governor of Georgia because of her “past.” What past? Her degrees from Spelman College, the University of Texas and Yale Law School? Her work as a tax attorney? Her service as minority leader of the Georgia state legislature?
In Florida, referring to another African American candidate, Trump has said that “Andrew Gillum is not equipped to be your governor. It’s not for him.” He has also, apropos of nothing, called Gillum “a stone-cold thief.” Gillum has a degree from Florida A&M University and has been mayor of Tallahassee since 2014.
Trump chooses his attack words carefully. “Not qualified” and “not equipped” are of a piece with the “low-I.Q.” jibe he uses when he tweets about Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) — smarmy and unsubtle suggestions that these accomplished black Americans are intrinsically inferior to whites. Implying that Abrams has a shady past and that Gillum is a thief echoes the old segregationists’ claim that black people simply cannot be trusted.
Will the blue wave overcome the red undertow? As this is written, votes are still being cast and yet to be counted. Yet, in many ways, the striking results are already in. Republicans have become the party of President Trump — a party that has decided they must lie about the core of their gospel. Democrats, with an establishment defined by resistance to Trump and defense of what was , are increasingly driven by a progressive activism that is forcing a far bolder agenda. The market fundamentalism that for so long dominated our politics is exhausted. Beneath the paranoid posturing, blatant lying, shameless xenophobia and racism with which Trump roils our debate, a political sea change has begun, more important than the results of this year’s blue wave or red undertow.
What is stunning about the Trump GOP is that it is not prepared to defend or even fess up to its core principles. Ever since Ronald Reagan, Republicans have championed a market fundamentalism, pumping for cutting taxes on the rich and corporations, purportedly to stimulate investment, and slashing social support to motivate the poor to work and balance the budget. They were the party of free trade, balanced budgets and small government. Not surprisingly, Trump and the Republican Congress made top-end tax cuts and repeal of the Affordable Care Act the centerpiece of their agenda. When repeal failed in the Senate, they pushed lawsuits to have the ACA declared unconstitutional and administrative measures to undermine its protections.
Yet, in the campaign, Trump and other Republicans found they could not defend either initiative. On tax cuts, they initially promised that they would benefit the middle class the most and pay for themselves. When it was clear no one was falling for the con, they chose simply to stop talking about it. Even with the economy humming, they no longer made the case that the rich need more money and the poor less.
With Election Day finally upon us, look to Arizona for the clearest test of President Trump’s tactical decision to mount a closing argument that stokes xenophobia, fear and racism.
That has often been a winning trifecta in Arizona, the state that gave us Sheriff Joe Arpaio and — until the Supreme Court in 2012 struck down some of its key provisions — the most draconian immigration law in the country.
This year, however, that calculus may change. Arizona could do something it has not done in three decades: Elect a Democrat to the U.S. Senate.
Two of its congresswomen, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally, are locked in a race that is too close to predict. Whoever wins will be the first female U.S. senator in the state’s history.
One big question now is whether Trump’s dire, racially fueled rhetoric about immigration will help or hurt his party in the state. Even Republicans here suggest they are perplexed by some of his more extreme statements, including his declaration that he plans to revoke birthright citizenship — a right most serious scholars say is written into the Constitution — by executive order.
Trump is no doubt revving up the Republican base, but he risks doing the same for those who oppose his policies, particularly suburban women and Latinos.
see Catherine Rampell: Four big-picture principles for making our democracy work better
Candidates should compete on ideas, not on how effectively they block their opponents’ voters from casting ballots.
Normally, in a democracy, this goes without saying. Yet it’s not so obvious in the United States anymore.
From Florida to North Dakota, elected officials seem to increasingly view elections not as a way to tabulate public preferences, but rather as a tool for forcing their own preferences upon the public.
They’ve done this by introducing hundreds of measures making it harder for citizens to vote, using as an excuse the imagined scourge of voter fraud. Such policies include restrictions on voter registration, cuts to early-voting hours, closed polling locations in minority neighborhoods and voter-roll purges.
In Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) is overseeing elections while simultaneously running for governor. He stalled 50,000 voter registrations, from black voters disproportionately, for discrepancies with other official records as small as a dropped hyphen in a name. He fought rules giving voters a way to appeal if a bureaucrat throws out their mail-in ballot because of a possible signature mismatch.
Then, two days before the election, with zero evidence, Kemp wildly accused Democrats of a “failed hacking attempt” of the state election system.
“This is some banana republic stuff,” says Richard L. Hasen, an elections expert and University of California at Irvine law professor.
In some cases, these actions may sway results. Certainly there are races where the number of people being blocked from voting this election cycle is larger than the entire margin of victory last time around.
But we should care about voter suppression or manipulation policies even if an election result is likely to be unanimous. Efforts to rig the system dilute confidence in the electoral process, and in government more broadly.
To that end, here are four big-picture principles — which should be nonpartisan — for making our democracy work better.
The attempted pipe-bomb attacks on a number of prominent Americans, followed by the horrific killings in Pittsburgh, have dominated the recent news. And for good reason: These homegrown attacks on Americans are devastating, and hark back to the darkest times in our nation’s history.
But even amid the cacophony of tragedy we face, we cannot afford to move past the murder of Post contributing columnist, U.S. resident and Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And the United States needs to respond — beyond simply enforcing a travel ban on those Saudis identified by their own government as having been involved.
A robust process for formulating that response would include considerable work by the Central Intelligence Agency.
In the early days of his first term, President George W. Bush told me that the CIA had two roles in serving him. The first, obvious to most people, was to uncover clandestine information the president needed to know to keep the nation secure.
The second — less obvious, but just as critical — was for the CIA to provide him with all the context and perspective that he needed to make informed foreign policy decisions.