Resignation at the worst possible time

Yesterday’s terror attack in Charlottesville reminds us how openly America’s white sheets and brown shirts have been displayed for years, and how dangerous they’ve always been — especially since Donald Trump’s embrace. White supremacists and neo-Nazis were in Charlottesville this week as part of white supremacist Richard Spencer’s “Unite the Right” rally. They were in town to protest the removal of a Confederate statue, a lingering symbol of slavery. Yesterday former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke was out singing Trump’s praises, while the night before Spencer was carrying Klan torches.

And then James Fields, a member of Vanguard America with a Hitler haircut, tore through a pedestrian mall in his Dodge Challenger, mowing down dozens of people and killing one. Most media outlets reported the terror attack as part of a “clash” that occurred at a protest, but after years and dozens of right-wing attacks, the attack illustrated the need to start taking American fascism seriously.

The Great new America Trump promises is founded on toxic, racist and authoritarian politics we haven’t seen since 1925. That was the year the United States had 4 million members of the Ku Klux Klan. Now racists and fascists feel emboldened to march in public. After all, they’re in the White House.

The Trump campaign finally found its winning ticket with a third campaign manager, an anti-Semite with a soft spot for neo-Nazis who tapped into the American cesspool of racism and authoritarianism. Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is an unrepentant segregationist. Three of his advisors, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, have ties to neo-Nazi groups. America’s white supremacist in chief himself receives daily cabinet briefings. And, as the NAACP pointed out seven years ago, the House’s Tea Party members are riddled with racist and neo-Nazi elements.

After the Charlottesville attack Republicans issued a series of insincere repudiations of white terror, but took pains not to alienate their base. Paul Ryan, for example, called white supremacy a “scourge.” But scourge or not, racists comprise a majority of Trump’s supporters. David Duke reacted to Trump’s not-quite-a-condemnation of the terror attack, warning: “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror and remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”

And the GOP knows it. They courted it. They count on it.

Unfortunately Democrats have little inclination to fight back. Whether by denial, PTSD, or Stockholm Syndrome, the DNC seems to be moving toward the right along with the Republicans. Rather than convincing DNC leaders that political centrism is an empty husk, the shellacking the party took in 2016 appears to have made it even less willing to be the party to defend Americans from institutionalized racism and bigotry.

When Democrats unveiled their Better Deal marketing strategy, they did so only a hundred miles from Charlottesville, focusing strictly on economic issues — making it clear their purpose was to attract Southern white voters. This appeared to be a repudiation of the “identity politics” some hold responsible for the loss of the 2016 Presidential election. Jamil Smith wrote in Vanity Fair that the Democrat’s new campaign is wrapped in Red, White, and Blue and doesn’t dare tread on issues of social justice: “Party leadership seems to want a divorce from identity politics. Or a trial separation, at least.”

A piece in the New York Times right after the election by Mark Lilla (“The End of Identity Liberalism“) castigated liberals for celebrating diversity instead of commonality. Lilla advised liberals to turn their backs on civil rights “issues that are highly charged symbolically […], especially those touching on sexuality and religion. Such a liberalism would work quietly, sensitively and with a proper sense of scale. […] America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.” But it wasn’t just bathrooms. As Lilla observed, it’s every issue pitting fundamentalism against secular Americans.

In retrospect, the DNC seems to have listened to Lilla and those like him. Besides backing away from “identity politics” the DNC now won’t even unequivocally support abortion rights. Secularism and multiculturalism, it seems, are not to be major efforts of the new Democratic Party.

Steve Phillips, columnist, civil rights lawyer and author, hammers the DNC’s “Better Deal” as not only a repudiation of America’s true majority but as a case of moral delinquency:

“Rather than draw a line in the sand, speak out against that, summon people to their highest and best selves to actually embrace a multi-racial country that we have, the Democrats are putting their head in the sand and ignoring that and simply trying to go after this economic message, which is both mathematically unfounded as well as morally delinquent in terms of speaking up to the outrages and the attacks on the various communities of color and the other marginalized groups in this society that this administration is doing.”

The GOP is 89% white, while that number is 60% for Democrats. For decades it has been up to the Democratic Party to defend civil rights of all types — abortion, voting rights, wage parity, marriage equality, privacy — rights the GOP works so tirelessly to dismantle.

But now the DNC has handed in its resignation at the worst possible time.

A Better Better Deal

Leftovers, at best

While Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi think their Better Deal will be a tasty voter treat, it’s basically leftover Democratic meat loaf warmed up in the microwave — with an extra splosh of Worcester Sauce. It is the underwhelming work of a timid party trying to crawl back into a nonexistent center.

A Better Better Deal

Meanwhile, the Summer for Progress is a substantial portfolio of seven progressive bills covering wages, health care, education, taxation, voting rights, environmental protection and reproductive choice. The seven bills are supported by two dozen progressive organizations and represent a bold vision for the country.

More importantly, this is not a hodge-podge of neo-Liberal gimmicks but a comprehensive vision for what America could become. And it’s a vision of what kind of America we’ll need after the Trump administration finishes wielding their wrecking ball.

Think of the Summer for Progress as a better Better Deal.

But the legislation could use a lot more Congressional love. Despite a very progressive state Democratic Party platform that affirms almost everything in the Summer for Progress platform, very few Massachusetts Democrats actually support any of the legislation.

Well, this is their big chance to show that there’s more to Democrats than just empty rhetoric. Call your Democratic legislators and ask them why they have not co-sponsored any of the seven bills.

If Democrats won’t even support their own platforms and are only prepared to serve voters unappetizing leftovers, how do you think the midterm elections are going to end?

The right to boycott

Despite plenty of evidence Donald Trump has a thing for Russian mobsters and Kremlin operatives, we still don’t know if he actually conspired with Russia to throw the 2016 presidential election.

But last week I wrote about some indisputable foreign meddling — AIPAC’s attempts to take away political rights of Americans to protest Israel’s domestic policies with economic boycotts.

And Israel is trying the same thing right here in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts House bill H.1685 and Senate bill S.1689 sound harmless enough (“An Act prohibiting discrimination in State Contracts”). No one would ever admit liking discrimination. And one would hope that any legislator co-sponsoring bills like these would have only the best of intentions.

But these two bills do much more harm than good.

Like cookie-cutter legislation crafted by ALEC, these were pushed by a pro-Israel organization, the JCRC, which regards them as tools to block the BDS Movement. Lobbyists for Israel have introduced similar legislation in 35 states and they have been enacted in 19.

Seekonk Rep. Steven Howitt was crystal clear about the bill’s intent: “This bill clarifies to businesses that either support BDS or who boycott Israeli-owned businesses and products that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will not engage in commerce with them.”

In short, this is an attack on the exercise of the Constitutionally-protected right to boycott a foreign nation on political grounds. Not surprisingly, the Massachusetts ACLU opposes H.1685.

The bills’ supporters claim that any criticism of Israel’s occupation and settlements is tantamount to anti-semitism. But the international BDS Movement has specific political goals. And Israel’s domestic policies as well as American foreign policy toward it are political issues. Both bills are opposed by a number of Jewish organizations, including the Boston Workmen’s Circle, Jewish Voice for Peace, over 100 progressive organizations, and also the National Council of Churches.

In 1982 the Supreme Court affirmed the right of Americans to use boycotts for political purposes. After fifty years of occupation and creeping settlements Israel just might need a little economic incentive to stop. But no matter how you feel about Middle Eastern politics, Israel’s problems can not be solved by violating the civil liberties of Americans.

Contact House and Senate sponsors from your district and ask them to kill these bills and withdraw their sponsorship.