Whose America?

After he was elected Donald Trump crowed, “this is the day we take our country back.” The Orange One’s supporters knew what his dog whistle meant. White supremacist Richard Spencer announced: “We won. America belongs to white men.” His buddy Jared Taylor told ABC News journalist Amna Nawaz: “we built a wonderful country that your ancestors could not have [built]. That is why people like you come here.” Taylor put into words what many white Americans believe — that the nation is the crowning achievement of Christian white people and that it’s their country.

But history professor Joe Krulder isn’t buying the myth of America as a lily white nation. In “America was never White” Krulder provides numerous examples of the diversity that actually built America, and of a much more complex history — not simply white settlement — that made the nation.

The founding myths of America that white supremacists like Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor are flogging almost seem to have been taken from Nazi and Soviet era propaganda. White farmers braving cold Dakota winters in sod houses, nobly attacking the land with scythes, or pictures of muscular white tradesmen hammering iron or forging the beams of American skyscrapers. It’s quite romantic.

And it’s also a crock. Historians can tell you that the real America was conquered by genocide, ethnic cleansing, and violence. Much of our national wealth was accumulated by stealing the lives and labor of those regarded as less than human and pressing them into slavery. White supremacy had to be invented to justify slavery, but white supremacy has proven to be both versatile and extensible in justifying America’s many wars of choice on brown and yellow people around the world.

White supremacy, in fact, is such a major strand of our national DNA that it leads many to believe that we are something grander than a nation among other nations, that we have a divine mission to minister to our benighted brown brethren in other countries, guide them, murder them if necessary, deliver to them our great institutions of democracy and capitalism through the barrel of a gun. Every aspect of our society — from economic inequality to the prison system — is based on white supremacist myths that people like Spencer and Taylor have long been selling. Even our first black president, a man who lived in other cultures, considered himself an advocate of American Exceptionalism.

Charlottesville reminded us again of this when racists and Nazis mobilized to defend Southern “heritage” in the form of a Confederate statue. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center there are at least 1,500 monuments to the “lost cause” of the Confederacy, many of them built by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

The Daughters of the Confederacy describes itself as a patriotic organization. But like Spencer and Taylor the UDC promotes a revisionist history. It is “an organization which has for its purpose the continuance and furtherance of the true history of the South and the ideals of southern womanhood.” The “true history” the UDC is selling is “a heritage so rich in honor and glory that it far surpasses any material wealth.”

Likewise the Sons of Confederate Veterans is committed to “the vindication of the cause for which we fought. […] the perpetuation of those principles […] and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish.” Glorious slavery.

But don’t believe me. Believe the slavemasters themselves. The Constitution of the Confederate States spells out the Confederate glories in detail. Slavery is mentioned no less than a dozen times in the document, and it was such a central, glorious “ideal” that the Confederate Constitution contained a clause which prevented slavery from ever being abolished.

But if we really want to look at Southern heritage, let’s begin where the Civil War began — in South Carolina.

The first settlements in the Carolinas date from 1640 to 1650. A second wave of colonists, slave traders from Barbados, arrived in 1665, and a third wave came in 1670 to what is now Charleston, South Carolina. They were a quarrelsome, violent bunch. Authoritarian government, political intrigue, dissension, murder and insurrection were the rule rather than the exception. Brotherly love among white colonists might have been a Christian notion but it was nowhere to be found. British Anglicans prohibited French Protestants from owning land in the colony, for example.

For this, after all, was colonialism. Competitors had to be fought and killed, natives had to be “repealed and replaced.” In 1713 Carolina’s colonists forced Tuscorara, Westoe and Coree Indians to flee north where they were eventually assimilated by the Iroquois. Despite colonial treaties many Indians were pressed into slavery and shipped to the West Indies to serve on plantations. It seems triply obscene that Jeff Sessions won’t let them back in their country.

The French, English, and Spanish were all in the New World to conquer it. And they hated each other. It is laughable to think of Spencer’s and Taylor’s fairytale notion of a monolithic European culture at America’s founding. Queen Anne’s War was a colonial dispute over conquered Spanish territory that played out all over the North American continent. Indians in the Carolinas — when they were not being whipped and shipped into slavery — were pressed into the ranks of militias on both the French and English sides.

But then there are the demographics. If, as white supremacists argue, America was always a white Christian nation, then the early American population should have been demonstrably white.

But census data easily disproves this notion.

Throughout the Deep South, for much of our early history, slaves outnumbered whites. It was slaves who farmed the land. In cities many slaves were skilled tradesmen and artisans. Besides white brethren who refused to see them as such, it was also slaves — and the children of slaves — who were hammering on American iron. Go to Charleston, South Carolina and you can see hundreds of pieces of the enduring iron work of Philip Simmons, who learned his craft from a former slave.

During World War I the 371st Infantry Regiment numbered many black Americans from South Carolina. Pershing didn’t see much use for them and he actually handed over the regiment to French command. But numerous members of the 371st received the Croix de Guerre and the Order of Légion d’Honneur. Then they returned to a nation they had just defended but never heard the phrase: “thank you for your service.”

Census figures from the early 1700’s show a consistent non-white majority in South Carolina until 1920 — that was the year that white people finally edged past 50.38%. The nation was 150 years old; whites could finally claim South Carolina was white.

White supremacist myths can’t hold up to history and fact. It may be true that the reins of the economy have always been in white hands, but the work of building and defending America was done — and always has been done — by those rarely given their rightful credit.


Questions for Bill Keating

On August 30th at 6PM at the UMASS Law School in Dartmouth voters from the 9th Congressional District will have a chance to meet Congressman Bill Keating. As I have noted previously, Keating is not much of a Liberal and his views on immigration, healthcare, consumer protection, and foreign policy are substantially at odds with many Democrats and completely at odds with the new Massachusetts Democratic Party platform. In fact, on immigration especially, Bill Keating seems to go out of his way to vote with Republicans.

Yes, our Congressman has some explaining to do — not only his own voting record, but also the positions of the New Democrat Coalition, of which he is a member. This is one more new Democratic grouping resisting progressive legislation that has some membership overlap with the openly conservative Blue Dog Coalition.

Keating is either a relic of the Democratic Party’s past, or a symbol of its unchanged, and doomed, future.

The PDF in this link might be useful for anyone in the audience on August 30th with an opportunity to jump in line and ask Mr. Keating a question.

Voters need answers on:

  • Immigration
    You have broken with Democrats to vote for several GOP anti-immigrant bills. H.R.3009 punishes Sanctuary Cities. H.R.4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, restricts absorption of Syrian refugees. Most recently you voted for H.R.3004, “Kate’s Law,” which takes a harsh but largely symbolic stand against desperate people who re-enter the United States. The candidate statement on immigration you provided “On the Issues” sounds like it was written by Donald Trump or Jeff Sessions. Can you explain why your positions are so divergent from mainstream Democrats?
  • Discriminatory Auto Financing
    You and a minority of House Democrats broke with your own party to vote for Republican sponsored H.R.1737, the Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Financing Guidance Act. This bill prohibited consumers — particularly minorities — from suing auto lenders who violated Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rules against discrimination in lending. The bill takes the unusual step of preventing disclosures of violations with Freedom of Information Act requests. The NAACP, the Urban League, La Raza, the Consumers Union, and many others, were opposed. Why did you vote to preserve and protect discrimination? And why did you vote against consumers?
  • Medicare for All
    One hundred and sixteen Democrats, including your colleagues in the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, Katherine Clark, Jim McGovern, and Michael Capuano, have co-sponsored H.R.676, John Conyers’ Medicare for All Act. Why are you not a co-sponsor of this bill? And is there another plan to expand care to Americans that you WOULD support?
  • College Tuition
    Twenty-seven Democrats, including your Rhode Island colleagues in the House, David Cicilline and Jim Langevin, have co-sponsored H.R.1880, Pramila Jaypal’s College for All Act. Why are you not a co-sponsor of this bill, one which puts into action what Massachusetts Democrats just voted into our platform last June?
  • Private Prisons
    Two members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation — McGovern and Clark — support H.R.3227, Raul Grijalva’s Justice is Not for Sale Act. At a time Republicans are trying to re-institute discredited justice and prison practices, and pushing privatization, including prisons, schools, and even the war in Afghanistan, why won’t you support this bill — one that places restrictions on private prisons?
  • Mortgage Lending
    You and 63 Democrats broke with your own party to vote for Republican sponsored H.R.3192, the Homebuyers Assistance Act. This bill was a hit with the American Bankers Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Home Builders lobby, but it prohibited consumers from suing mortgage lenders who violated Consumer Financial Protection Bureau disclosure requirements under the Truth in Lending Act. You don’t believe in amnesty for immigrants. Why an amnesty for mortgage lenders?
  • Abortion
    One hundred and twenty-one Democrats, including you, support H.R.771, the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage. Thank you for that. However, DNC chair Tom Perez and DCCC chair Ray Lujan, as well as some in the New Democrat Coalition, of which you and Seth Moulton are members, argue for “flexibility” on abortion and against abortion as a litmus test. But shouldn’t abortion rights be a non-negotiable plank for Democrats? A litmus test, if you will?
  • Citizens United
    In light of the tremendous amount of money now being spent on elections at all levels and ballot questions from 2012 and 2014 showing over 70% of Massachusetts voters supporting a Constitutional amendment to restrict rights to natural persons and to take money out of elections — why are you not a co-sponsor of H.J.Res.48, which would do precisely that?
  • Automatic Voter Registration
    One hundred and sixteen Democrats, including four Massachusetts Representatives — McGovern, Tsongas, Neal, and Clark — support H.R.2840, David Cicilline’s Automatic Voter Registration Act. At a time when Republicans are making it more difficult, not easier to vote, what’s stopping you from supporting this bill?
  • Taxing Wall Street Speculation
    Two members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation — McGovern and Clark — already support H.R.1144, Keith Ellison’s Inclusive Prosperity Act. This Wall Street Speculation fee is a fraction of a percent tax on stocks, bonds, and financial derivatives, will be used to fund public university tuition, and is offset by tax credits. Can we get you on record tonight as supporting this bill?
    Two members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation — McGovern and Moulton — have co-signed Representatives Bill Pascrell and Debbie Dingell’s letter urging the U.S. Trade Representative’s office to ensure that the NAFTA renegotiation process remains open and transparent. — Why not you?

Show them all the door

The nation can’t take much more of this. This week alone Donald Trump has edged us uncomfortably closer to both nuclear and civil war.

Anyone disappointed by Trump’s unwillingness to condemn white supremacists and fascists should hardly be surprised to find so many of them in his own administration. Anyone who believes the GOP’s repudiations of white supremacy should remember how hard Republicans fought for Trump’s cabinet picks and national security appointments (below). And anyone who would like to give the 45th president of the United State the benefit of the doubt on his recent comments should remember that white supremacy is a tradition in the Trump family.

Trump has got to go. Either by impeachment or the 25th Amendment, either is fine by me. And those in the following gallery of haters — half of whom are Trump-appointed white supremacists — should all be shown the door.

  • Steve Bannon, Chief Strategist and Senior advisor – white nationalist, Islamophobe and anti-immigrant
  • Lou Barletta, Immigration Policy advisor – white nationalist and anti-immigrant
  • John Bolton, Unofficial National Security advisor – Islamophobe
  • Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Islamophobe
  • David Clarke, Dept. of Homeland Security – Islamophobe
  • Kellyanne Conway, Senior advisor and former campaign manager – Islamophobe
  • Monica Crowley, Director of Communications at the National Security Council – Islamophobe
  • Jon Feere, Dept. of Homeland Security – white nationalist and anti-Semite
  • Michael Flynn, Former National Security advisor – white nationalist, Islamophobe and anti-immigrant
  • Frank Gaffney, Unofficial National Security advisor – Islamophobe
  • Newt Gingrich, Unofficial advisor – Islamophobe
  • Katharine Gorka, DHS Landing Team advisor – Islamophobe
  • Sebastian Gorka, National Security advisor – white nationalist, Islamophobe, anti-immigrant, with connections to actual Hungarian Nazis
  • Pete Hoekstra, Unofficial National Security advisor – Islamophobe
  • Julie Kirchner, Customs and Border Protection advisor – white nationalist and anti-immigrant
  • Kris Kobach, Immigration Policy advisor – white nationalist, Islamophobe and anti-immigrant
  • Clare Lopez, Unofficial National Security advisor – Islamophobe
  • K.T. McFarland, Former National Security advisor – Islamophobe
  • Stephen Miller, Senior Policy advisor – white nationalist, Islamophobe and anti-immigrant
  • Heather Nauert, State Department spokesperson – Islamophobe
  • Walid Phares, Foreign policy advisor – Islamophobe
  • Mike Pompeo, CIA Director – Islamophobe
  • Jeff Sessions, Attorney General – white nationalist, Islamophobe, and anti-immigrant
  • Peter Thiel, Transition Team advisor – white nationalist and anti-immigrant
  • Beth Van Duyne, Dept. of Housing and Urban Development – Islamophobe
  • Frank Wuco, Homeland Security advisor – Islamophobe
  • Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior – white nationalist, Islamophobe and anti-immigrant

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.