What Happened To Republican Party? How Conservative Movement, White Resentments Impacted United States, Rick Perlstein Books Must-Reads

In 2008 I tried to understand, as best as I could, what drove the intense hatred during the presidential election from conservative Republicans toward Barack Obama.  For a very large segment of the nation, the nomination and then election of the first Black American to the Oval Office was uplifting, reminding all about the national ideals as our better angels secured another victory.

But as I read and heard the voices from the far-right it became apparent to me that a sizable segment of the conservative movement could not at all compute how the nation had elevated a Black person to the highest office in the land. The intensity of the conservative reaction to President Obama taking over the levers of power in the White House was the result of decades of social advancements and policy moves in the United States that had the right-wing feeling—in their minds—somehow marginalized.

Fast forward to 2015 and the words from Donald Trump during an ABC News phone interview stating he did not owe Senator John McCain an apology for saying on-stage in Iowa the previous day that the former Vietnam War POW “is not a war hero … I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”

Coming from the home of a WWII veteran, having worked for many years in various political activities, and having watched decades of elections come and go made me most certain, due to those words, that Trump’s campaign for the White House was over.  I wrote on this blog that “there is one thing that I feel most confident about and that is the fallout will take Donald Trump and flush him out of the presidential race”.

I could not imagine that all the sensibilities that had been wedded to the American mindset when it came to our politics would no longer apply.  I could not imagine that the conservative values about our military members would just evaporate when it came to POWs.  Boy, was I wrong!  (I do not believe I have been so wrong about anything so fundamental in our nation before or since.) 

So how does one explain what happened to the Republican Party and how did the conservative movement secure itself so strongly and willingly to racism, Trump’s Islamophobia, along with recent political attacks on transgender people, while embracing all-out conspiracy theories? 

Since Inauguration Day 2017 I have been on a quest to better understand what happened to the Republican Party and how it morphed into what we witness today. The need to know is important as what is happening directly impacts our democracy.

I expressed my purpose online and was steered by a Facebook friend to read the works of Rick Perlstein.  To know where we landed politically requires knowing how the conservative movement started. Before we can discuss the current claims that the 2020 presidential election was not ‘legitimate’, we need to traverse through the world of Nixon who unabashedly played on the resentments of white middle-class Americans.  We need to step back from the travel bans during Trump’s administration and examine the racial chords being struck in 1968 during a heated presidential season. And again in 1980.

To see forward, we must know from whence we came. As a lover of history and well-researched and powerfully written narratives, I believe these books are nothing short of masterful.  I have read two of the four, and today the first volume, Before the Storm landed on my front stoop.  I await the journey into the pages.

With awards aplenty and critical acclaim from all points of the political spectrum, Perlstein writes dense and vivid accounts of the decades in American politics that have greatly impacted our nation. I can attest that one only needs a love of history to turn the pages. 

President Barack Obama’s Grandmother Dies

This note today from President Obama.

“My family and I are mourning the loss of our beloved grandmother, Sarah Ogwel Onyango Obama, affectionately known to many as “Mama Sarah” but known to us as “Dani” or Granny. Born in the first quarter of the last century, in Nyanza Province, on the shores of Lake Victoria, she had no formal schooling, and in the ways of her tribe, she was married off to a much older man while only a teen. She would spend the rest of her life in the tiny village of Alego, in a small home built of mud-and thatch brick and without electricity or indoor plumbing. There she raised eight children, tended to her goats and chickens, grew an assortment of crops, and took what the family didn’t use to sell at the local open-air market.

Although not his birth mother, Granny would raise my father as her own, and it was in part thanks to her love and encouragement that he was able to defy the odds and do well enough in school to get a scholarship to attend an American university. When our family had difficulties, her homestead was a refuge for her children and grandchildren, and her presence was a constant, stabilizing force. When I first traveled to Kenya to learn more about my heritage and father, who had passed away by then, it was Granny who served as a bridge to the past, and it was her stories that helped fill a void in my heart.

During the course of her life, Granny would witness epochal changes taking place around the globe: world war, liberation movements, moon landings, and the advent of the computer age. She would live to fly on jets, receive visitors from around the world, and see one of her grandsons get elected to the United States presidency. And yet her essential spirit—strong, proud, hard-working, unimpressed with conventional marks of status and full of common sense and good humor—never changed.”

When Was Last Time President Monitored For Inciting Violence?

We have crossed so many red lines and been deposited so often into the basement in our country that nothing really surprises me anymore. But the news yesterday about a media company needing to review the material posted by a former president, so to make sure violent or insurrectionist material is not online, does make me again aware of how much worse we are due to Donald Trump.

YouTube will reinstate Trump’s channel once the “elevated risk of violence” has passed, the Google-owned video-sharing site said in a news release. YouTube first suspended Trump’s account on January 12th for one week due to concerns “about the ongoing potential for violence” in the wake of the Capitol riot six days earlier and later extended the restriction by one week. After that period elapsed, the company said on the 26th that it was again extending the suspension but offered no timetable for it to be lifted, leaving its status indefinite.

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton works on solving worldwide problems with his global initiatives.

YouTube will rely on a mix of indicators to assess the level of violence Trump may upload, including statements by government officials, the readiness level of law enforcement, and any violent rhetoric YouTube may observe on its own platform.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Carter, up until a few months ago, was still helping build homes with Habitat for Humanity.

I have argued repeatedly that we needed to remove Trump from office and elect a new person so to restore the dignity of the office. I made this statement for the benefit of all Americans, regardless of partisanship or political ideology. I made the plea as I have had deep concerns about Trump’s irreverent and aberrant behavior in the Oval Office. He has cheapened the dignity of the office, and now needs to be monitored so as not to cause more violence or damage to our democracy based on lies and conspiracy theories.

Meanwhile, George Bush paints and does volunteer work.

Trump needs to be watched so he does not cause injury to the nation by inciting his base.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has used film projects to advance a national dialogue on race and class, democracy, and civil rights.

Donald Trump To Be Overshadowed by Barack Obama–Bookends To One Term In Office

If Steve Inskeep writes it, I will read it.

I have much respect for his insights and ability with words. Which is why Inskeep’s column Monday in The New York Times was well received at our home. With Donald Trump exiting the White House comes next the decades of work by historians who will place him in the narrative of our nation–a topic I hit upon with some regularity on this blog.

Inskeep allowed for this topic to be well encapsulated on the Opinion page of the paper. I have selected a few paragraphs to make the point that Trump will be not the oversized person he yearns to be, but will likely be overshadowed by the Black president he tried, and utterly failed, to diminish.

President Trump’s critics warn that history will look unkindly on his effort to overturn a democratic election. This forecast, while understandable, may be wrong. History rarely looks on one-term presidents at all.

Few presidents who served four years or less find an enduring place in the popular imagination. One term is not long to influence a country so large and dynamic — and a president’s failure to win a second term can be a sign that he didn’t. If you are not from Indiana, you may not know my state produced Benjamin Harrison, a one-term president who was different from President William Henry Harrison, who died after one month in office. Few people visit the statue of James Buchanan in a lonely corner of a Washington park, and in my life I have met just one enthusiast for Chester A. Arthur.

One-term presidents who escape obscurity often did something beyond the presidency — like John Adams, one of the nation’s founders, or Jimmy Carter, whose much-admired post-presidency has lasted 10 times as long as his term. John F. Kennedy’s legacy rests, in part, on legislative achievements that passed after his assassination. Others are known for their failures while in office: Warren G. Harding for a corruption scandal, Herbert Hoover for economic calamity, Andrew Johnson for being impeached.

We can’t be sure what history will make of Mr. Trump, whose term featured scandal, impeachment and calamity, as well as a pandemic. His story may not be over; he remains at the head of a powerful movement, and reportedly talks of running in 2024. But to judge by information available today, he has a relatively narrow role in the American story: as the reaction to a game-changing president — Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump’s place in history may be overshadowed by Mr. Obama’s. Elected in 2008, Mr. Obama seemed to personify America’s growing diversity as a multiracial republic. His campaign motivated new voters, and he talked at first of transcending old political divisions. He said he wanted Americans to regain trust in institutions battered by 9/11, the war in Iraq and the financial crisis. He raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans, signed the Affordable Care Act, tried to break an impasse over immigration and approved a nuclear agreement to ease a long-running conflict with Iran.

The Obama presidency paved the way for Mr. Trump. He rose by relentlessly attacking Mr. Obama, promoting the racist conspiracy theory about his birthplace and falsely claiming that he favored open borders. Mr. Trump told voters in 2016 that he was their “last chance” to win before they were overwhelmed by immigration and globalism.

It is astonishing to recall how much Mr. Trump devoted his term to re-fighting the battles of the Obama years. Using executive authority as Mr. Obama had, he rolled back housing and environmental regulations, reversed transgender rights in the military, and branded antiracism programs as racist.

But on many issues he only partly succeeded. He withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement, but other nations did their best to maintain it. He abandoned Mr. Obama’s strategy toward China, but he struggled to make his own strategy work. He damaged the Affordable Care Act but never managed to repeal it, even when his party controlled Congress.

It was revealing that he publicly supported the most popular benefits of the health insurance law that he said he despised, such as protections for pre-existing conditions. His predecessor defined what health insurance should cover, and Mr. Trump accepted the definition.

Mr. Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord, but his successor plans to rejoin it. Mr. Trump ended Mr. Obama’s program giving legal status to some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, but the Supreme Court restored it, finding Mr. Trump’s action “arbitrary and capricious.” Though Mr. Trump took other actions to limit immigration, the most permanent symbol of his policy may be an unfinished wall in the desert. He neither erased all of President Obama’s accomplishments nor completed his own.

The epic conflicts he generated seem like perfect material for future history classes. It is easy to imagine a high school history book recounting the monthslong court fight over his effort to ban Muslims from entering the United States, followed by discussion on religious freedom and the Constitution.

But in those same textbooks, President Trump may be a minor player in the larger story of a democracy grappling with demands for a more equal society — an era marked by the election of Mr. Obama, the first Black president.

And Mr. Trump’s tenure already has a fitting bookend: On Jan. 20, he will be replaced by Mr. Obama’s vice president.

Night 3 Of Democratic Convention: “Trump Hasn’t Grown Into The Job Because He Can’t”

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Every fiber of my being was alert, engaged, applauding, and aligned with the themes and speakers during the third night of the Democratic National Convention.

Starting with gun violence which plagues our nation and with Gabrielle Giffords providing words of hope and courage–which left tears in the eyes of both men in this home.  Calls for humane pleas for justice and empathy with immigrants and those who are covered under DACA.  It was one of those nights when Americans were able to see not only the problems which are piled high in our land but also the ways they can be dealt with through reasoned and logical leadership with Joe Biden.

In my daily life, I love the dead-pan and understated lines that when delivered power-punches in a way that a big build-up and splash could never convey as effectively.  Such was the case when Kamala Harris, our next vice-president, stated matter-of-factly the following with eight words.

I know a predator when I see one.

It was a verbal volley not only over the Trump White House but straight through the front door.  The self-admitted sexual predator who has lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the past four years has just been called out.  The relentless repetition of his abuse of women will be a theme for the remaining 75 days of this election.

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I have often asked how our nation fell from having a constitutional law professor in the White House with President Obama to Donald Trump who continuously showcases his ignorance.  During Wednesday night’s convention, I was moved by the lifting words and solid underpinnings of Obama as he used history and our Constitution to show how our present course can be corrected.  Must be corrected.

While listening to his speech I was reminded again how little leadership we have from this White House.  Never once in the past four years could we ever have heard Trump offer any aspect of the lines we heard tonight–the type of words and substance our nation yearns for.

Some years ago, I sat down with John and the few remaining leaders of the early Civil Rights Movement. One of them told me he never imagined he’d walk into the White House and see a president who looked like his grandson. Then he told me that he’d looked it up, and it turned out that on the very day that I was born, he was marching into a jail cell, trying to end Jim Crow segregation in the South.

What we do echoes through the generations.

Whatever our backgrounds, we’re all the children of Americans who fought the good fight. Great grandparents working in firetraps and sweatshops without rights or representation. Farmers losing their dreams to dust. Irish and Italians and Asians and Latinos told to go back where they came from. Jews and Catholics, Muslims and Sikhs, made to feel suspect for the way they worshipped. Black Americans chained and whipped and hanged. Spit on for trying to sit at lunch counters. Beaten for trying to vote.

If anyone had a right to believe that this democracy did not work, and could not work, it was those Americans. Our ancestors. They were on the receiving end of a democracy that had fallen short all their lives. They knew how far the daily reality of America strayed from the myth. And yet, instead of giving up, they joined together and said somehow, some way, we are going to make this work. We are going to bring those words, in our founding documents, to life.

It was a night of tonic for the soul.  Some tears, some smiles, some reflections, some hope building.  It takes nights like this to get us to the place we want to be.

Donald Trump Still Unable To Master Being Presidential

There is no way not to talk about another odd and truly awful display from Donald Trump.  We know one of the points repeatedly made in opposition to Trump is that he fails to act presidential.  Fails to act in a fashion that does not embarrass our nation.  There was such scorn over his behavior that it forced him to address the problem.

Trump said that he can be one of the “most presidential” presidents to hold office at a campaign rally Tuesday.

Trump told a crowd at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, that “with the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office.”

That line roared back into my mind while watching a replay of Trump’s long remarks about the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.  There is no doubt the news was fitting for one who had lived such a sordid life.  While Daesh will not fold up and cease to exist, as there are so many branches and leaders, there is no doubt a psychological blow was suffered by the organization.

But like everything that Trump does he makes the story either about him or uses his lower brainpower to mess up the larger points that really should be the headline.  In today’s case, the news of the death of a terrorist was on an equal par to the odd, and unpresidential manner in which Trump told it.

Mr. Trump nonetheless reveled in the moment, using boastful and provocative language unlike the more solemn tone typically adopted by presidents in such moments. He repeated the word “whimpering” six times and made a point of repeatedly portraying Mr. al-Baghdadi as “sick and depraved” and his followers as “losers” and “frightened puppies.”

“He died like a dog,” Mr. Trump said. “He died like a coward.”

Just a low-class way of explaining the news to the nation. 

The opposite way of conveying this type of news can be recalled when President Obama told the nation on a Sunday night Osama Bin Laden was dead.  Obama did not ramp up the rhetoric or need to sound tough.  He knew the power of the office he held and did not need to roll around like a pig in the mud.  Obama sat in the same communication center but did not need to compare it to ‘watching a movie’.  It was quite breath-taking to hear Trump talk today about the details and events that led to the death of children.  And most important to recall is the fact our forces at the time bin Laden was killed made a point of treating the body with respect, so as not to offend Muslims around the world.

But there was more to this odd performance from Trump this morning.

You know, if you read my book, there was a book just before the World Trade Center came down. And I don’t get any credit for this but that’s OK. I never do. But here we are. I wrote a book, a really very successful book and in that book about a year before the World Trade Center was blown up, I said there is somebody named Osama bin Laden, you better kill him or take him out, something to that effect, he’s big trouble. Now, I wasn’t in government. I was building buildings and doing what I did but I always found it fascinating. But I saw this man, tall, handsome, very charismatic making horrible statements about wanting to destroy our country. And I’m writing a book. I think I wrote 12 books. All did very well. And I’m writing a book, World Trade Center had not come down. I think it was about, if you check it was a year before the World Trade Center came down. And nobody heard of al-Baghdadi. And no one heard of Osama bin Laden until really the World Trade Center. But about a year, a year and a half before the World Trade Center, before the book came out, I was talking about Osama bin Laden, you have to kill him, you have to take him out. Nobody listened to me. And to this day I get people coming up to me and they said you know what, one of the most amazing things I’ve seen about you is that you predicted that Osama bin Laden had to be killed before he knocked down the World Trade Center. It’s true. Most of the press doesn’t want to write that but it is true. If you go back and look at my book, I think it’s ‘The America We Deserve.’ I made a prediction — let’s put it this way, if they would have listened to me, a lot of things would have been different.

Of note, Trump made just one passing reference to bin Laden in that book, published in January 2000.  His claim that he delivered a prescient warning about Bin Laden is hyperbolic. His book, The America We Deserve which was published in January 2000.  Within its 304 pages, this is the part which deals with bin Laden.

One day we’re all assured that Iraq is under control, the U.N. inspectors have done their work, everything’s fine, not to worry. The next day the bombing begins. One day we’re told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin Laden is public enemy number one, and U.S. jet fighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later it’s on to a new enemy and new crisis.

Dealing with many different countries at once may require many different strategies. But there isn’t any excuse for the haphazard nature of our foreign policy. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every new conflict.

One more day with glaring examples as to why Trump is not suited for the office he holds.  He is not able to conduct himself with any degree of character and maturity that the office requires.

And today the world was watching.

And so it goes.

Bill Clinton’s Racist Remark About Barack Obama In 2008 Makes Headlines

This type of racist garbage is just awful.

Only days before he will nominate Barack Obama for re-election, a new report  claims that in 2008, former President Bill Clinton said of him: “A few years  ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags.”

Clinton allegedly made the racially insensitive remark to Sen. Ted Kennedy as  he tried to convince the liberal lion to endorse his wife, Hillary, Obama’s  rival for the Democratic nomination, according to The New Yorker.

Kennedy correctly endorsed Obama.

Bill Clinton’s attacks hurt Hillary as much as they did Obama. The Times  denounced Clinton’s fairy-tale comment as a “bizarre and rambling attack” and as  exemplifying a campaign that was “perilously close to injecting racial tension” into the conversation. At a press conference in South Carolina the morning after  Obama won the state, Bill Clinton seemed to dismiss the victory as a fluke of  local demography. “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in ’84 and ’88,” he said. “Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here.” Tim Russert  told me that, according to his sources, Bill Clinton, in an effort to secure an  endorsement for Hillary from Ted Kennedy, said to Kennedy, “A few years ago,  this guy would have been carrying our bags.” Clinton’s role in the campaign  rattled Obama. He told ABC News in an interview that Clinton “has taken his  advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling.” 

Conservative ‘Birther’ Issue Is All About Racism

There will be those who will try to deny it, refute it, and be aghast that anyone would think such a thing.  But let’s be clear about one thing.

Those who blather on and on about President Obama and his birth certificate are doing so for one reason.  And one reason only.  They are racist and can not get over the fact that a black man is President of the United States and making decisions for this nation.

There is no…..repeat NO…rational way to evaluate the statements and attacks on President Obama regarding his birth certificate than to label it for what it is.

RACIST.

While I understand from a political perspective why the White House released President Obama’s 1961 birth certificate from the state of Hawaii, I am fundamentally opposed to the move.  Let’s be honest, there is nothing that will change the ‘birthers’ opinion due to the fact it is not based in logic, but instead is laced with only pure racism.  It is only a matter of hours before the wing-nuts start on something new regarding this issue.  That is the way a racist operates.

The whole idea of bringing up a black man’s birth certificate in the manner that the ‘birthers’ have done is only to make President Obama appear to be ‘foreign’.  It is to somehow make others think that we did not really elect a black man to lead this nation.  Even a half-wit can see the absence of fact and commonsense to the ‘birthers’.

The fact is America did elect a black man President of the United States.  I might add President Obama was elected by a very healthy margin.

I opposed the White House even entertaining the idea of releasing the long-form birth certificate, much less actually doing it, because the out-and-out craziness of the far-right in this country should not gain anything from their actions.

It is an insult to my intelligence, and that of my readers to allow for the insanity of the ‘birthers’  to have any recognition.  To pretend that the clap-trap that gets regurgitated on conservative talk  radio, and then spewed without any regard for seriousness or accuracy on FAUX News has any legitimacy is an insult to those of us who do  get enough oxygen to our brains.

The idea that some conservative wing-nuts can make any outlandish statement that pops into their heads, and then expect rational conversation about it is maddening.  There should be no quarters for idiots and those who only wish to foment controversy.

The ‘birthers’ created a controversy based on pure racism, and then were invited on television shows to defend their lunacy as if somehow what they claim was relevant.  Given the ‘birthers’  level of intelligence the next debate will be about if the sky looks blue.  Should we entertain that crap too?

Given that many people conducting interviews on TV are not trained in dealing with bat-shit crazy people, as the conservative birthers are, the end result is an audience that often thinks two sane people were just having a logical conversation.  

At the end of the day it must drive racists completely nuts to know they have a Commander-In-Chief who is black, and all they can do about it is try to attack his place of birth.

How does it feel to be so impotent?