Race

Grover Norquist Thinks Pistol-Packing Frackers Who Home-School Their Kids Will Elect a Republican President in 2016

"I'm starting with the man in the mirror/I'm asking him to change his ways..."

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror/I’m asking him to change his ways…”

Everybody knows Republicans are suffering from demographic troubles in presidential elections. Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012 highlighted the fact that you can’t win the Oval Office with just the straight white vote. Even Republicans know that they mathematically need the LGBT and minority vote to win the White House. But rather than going about the difficult work of reforming the party, Republicans instead doubled down on restrictive voter ID laws to keep those people away from the ballot box. We’ll find out this fall whether these laws are successful or not.

But in the meantime, Republican strategists are struggling to find ways for the party to achieve a demographic win without actually welcoming any non-white, non-straight voters to their side. The preeminent Republican mathemagician, Grover Norquist, has devised six subgroups that he believes are going to be the “soccer moms” of the 2016 election, swinging the demographics back to the Republican side. Nancy LeTourneau at Political Animal sums up his categories like this:

1. Home schoolers
2. Charter school supporters
3. Concealed-carry permit holders
4. Fracking workers
5. Users of e-cigarettes and vapor products
6. Uber drivers

Uh, okay. The immediate problem with Norquist’s Six Great Republican Demographic Saviors is that I see a whole lot of overlap with the sole remaining Republican demographic of straight white people.  Homeschoolers? Yeah, the vast majority of homeschoolers are white. Whites make up 90 percent of all active concealed carry permit holders in Illinois. Whites only make up 37% of Uber drivers, but almost 90 percent of all Uber drivers are male. Norquist is not calling out many diverse groups, here. In fact, what he’s doing is taking the one piece of the pie that the Republican Party can lay claim to, dividing it into many smaller slices, and arguing that because there are more slices, Republicans somehow have a larger share of the pie.

Of course, I don’t really expect political genius from Grover Norquist; he’s the schmuck who had the big idea to shame Republicans into signing his anti-tax pledge. The pledge scored Norquist visibility as a kingmaker, and it resonated with Tea Party voters, but it effectively foiled Republican lawmakers from getting anything done in terms of raising revenue. Norquist’s pledge was something akin to requiring that chefs promise to keep their right hands tied behind their backs when they go in the kitchen. It’s one of the most marvelously short-sighted political maneuvers of the 21st century.

And as the Republican presidential campaign continues to drag on, it turns out that Republicans have even more demographic problems than the one they faced with Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket. Only 44 percent of Republican women want Donald Trump to win his party’s nomination, and, according to the Washington Post, that percentage is “higher than the percentage of women who prefer [Ted] Cruz or Ohio Gov. John Kasich.” When candidates say things like this…

…you can understand women for not being very enthusiastic about voting for them.

And so this is what strategists like Norquist are left with: trying to discover some never-before-seen demographic—homeschooling Uber moms who vape—who can swoop in like a fairy godmother and save the 2016 election for them. You know what would work better? Dropping the gimmicky pledges and the attempt to dissect the already-narrowing demographics of Republican voters into smaller categories and working to open the party up to more voters. This would not just benefit the Republican Party; if the GOP became more inclusive, Democrats would have to adopt even more inclusive strategies in order to stay relevant, and American politics would improve on a fundamental level—politicians would be more accountable, more people would get involved with the democratic process, and the dialogue would be a two-way street. That should be the goal for everyone.
 

Hillary Clinton Refuses to Evolve on Marijuana

Hillary Clinton is a self-confessed pragmatic progressive. In everyday parlance, that means she’s the type of person that likes to dip her toe in the pool before jumping in. There’s a lot to admire in a deliberative person like that. There’s also a lot to despise in someone that uses “pragmatism” to veil their political cowardice.

Unfortunately, Clinton continues to exhibit the latter when talking about marijuana. This is what she had to say on the subject last week on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

What the states are doing right now needs to be supported. And I absolutely support all the states that are moving toward medical marijuana, moving toward absolutely legalizing it for recreational use. But I want to see what the states learn from that experience, because there are still a lot of questions we still have to answer on the federal level.

There’s some great evidence about what marijuana can do for people who are in cancer treatment, who have other kinds of chronic diseases, who are suffering from intense pain…

I’m accepting information from everybody.

At the risk of mansplaining to the Secretary of State, here is some information which illustrates why she should reconsider her hesitant position on marijuana legalization:

Supporting legalization could tick the following political boxes then for Clinton:

  • Energize young people to vote for her. Which is something she could use going into the general election, as right now she only enjoys 37 percent of Democratic millennial support. She needs to give young people a reason to show up and vote for her – beyond telling them that they can refinance their student loans from 8% to 4%. YES WE CAN!
  • Cut down on a huge amount of unnecessary public money on the drug war
  • Confront racial injustice head on
  • Start to dismantle our prison-industrial complex
  • Show that she has the capacity to get out in front of a progressive issue

Clinton is right that weed needs to be removed from the list of Schedule I substances. Yet this move isn’t going to address the criminal elements of the issue. While scientists will spend years studying marijuana, millions of our people will continue to be put behind bars for a relatively innocuous drug. That comes at a cost. Not only through a loss of human capital, but also through our tax dollars. Our public infrastructure is crumbling and our government is deciding to spend our hard-earned dollars by locking up people over marijuana? This is insanity.

If this is what “pragmatism” yields, then color me disappointed. Hillary, please reconsider legalization. I know you’re not afraid of dramatically changing your position on tough issues. And this actually has the benefit of not only being popular, but also morally and politically correct.

Legalize it.

What Can You Do to Fight for Equity in Seattle Public School’s Libraries?

We can supply books to school libraries throughout Seattle. It's just a matter of thinking we can.

We can supply books to school libraries throughout Seattle. It’s just a matter of thinking we can do it.

Over at the Seattle Review of Books, I’ve been interviewing Seattle-area school librarians all month long. They have, to a person, been delightful interviews: friendly, optimistic, and eager to talk about their work. Almost every one of them told me that they believe they have the best job in the world.

But they’ve also all talked about a problem that plagues every school librarian in Seattle. It’s a problem that is frankly unbelievable for a modern American city, especially one that considers itself to be as progressive as Seattle does. To be blunt: Seattle Public Schools’ libraries are criminally underfunded. Not only are school librarians in Seattle all expected to perform a more than full-time job on a half-time salary, but there is no budget to buy materials for school libraries. As in, none.

When Kathleen Eads started as the librarian at Greenlake Elementary School, she was greeted by the school’s Parent Teacher Association with a $5000 fund to buy books. Eads was thrilled to receive such generous support — to put it in perspective, Greenlake Elementary School has roughly 350 students, so $5000 is a lot more than the $10-per-student minimum that national school library organizations recommend as the bare minimum for school libraries to sustain themselves by replacing lost, stolen, and damaged books, and buying new books to keep the collections fresh and relevant.

But Eads also knows that other librarians in the Seattle area aren’t so lucky. She says our school libraries are suffering from egregious inequality. When a librarian starts the school year, they’ll receive a certain amount from the PTA “and maybe if your principal is nice, he’ll give you some money from the discretionary fund.” Librarians share stories about school libraries in Seattle that have only $1000 per year for schools of 750 kids. Other Seattle Public School libraries get nothing at all. Librarians try to make up the rest of the funds by applying for grants and throwing book fairs, but they’re already expected to maintain collections, support teachers, and interact with multiple classes of students per day on a schedule that only allows them to be at work for a few days a week. Their time is already stretched way too thin.

And this inequality means that the schools that need library funds the most aren’t getting them. Eads says her “heart hurts because the kids who have books at home get funding, while the kids who don’t have books at home don’t get funding.” That divide in Seattle falls almost directly on north-south lines: the poorer schools to the south — the districts with more people of color — always suffer more than the schools in the wealthier, whiter neighborhoods to the north. Eads says we have “this crazy thing in Seattle where we pretend we’re not divided, and in reality we’re so divided on systematic levels.”

School librarians have discussed ways to share resources more efficiently and equally — they’ve entertained the possibility of well-supported school libraries from wealthier neighborhoods establishing a sister school relationship with libraries in poorer neighborhoods. But experience has shown, Eads says, that “parents would not contribute as much [to the PTA] if they knew that their money would not go entirely to their school.” She pauses. “So that’s where we are now.”

Eads and other school librarians have founded a Library Equity Team over the last few months. They plan to work together to demand a $10 per student budget for every school in Seattle. But that’s a lofty goal — libraries have gotten short shrift in Seattle schools for a long time. Eads says that when the last Director of Libraries for Seattle Public Schools left, the position was not replaced. A part-time manager is now performing the duties for what used to be a full-time dedicated position.

Eads tries not to get discouraged, but it’s tough. “I feel like I’m alone in this mission at times,” she says. The fight for library equity is “really a grassroots movement. It’s really easy to think we’re never going to make a change, that we’re fighting a huge uphill battle.”

What can parents and concerned Seattleites do to make sure kids across Seattle get the books that they need? Eads advises “advocacy on a verbal level. Writing about it, going to school board meetings, hashtagging it, whatever it might be.” The recently created hashtag for the equity movement is #SPSLibraryEquity; Eads says that sharing your support on Twitter and Facebook would make a world of difference. And if you have any ideas on how to improve advocacy for our school libraries, Eads encourages you to contact her on Twitter @eadsreads or via email at kaeads@seattleschools.org.

Why, with all Washington state’s education problems, should libraries be a priority? For one thing, a school with a quality library is much likelier to succeed than one with a library in disrepair. Eads also thinks people should get involved in the battle for library equity because it’s a challenge with clearly defined goals. If Seattle properly funds its school libraries, she says, those libraries “can be a little beacon of light that would inspire” us to do better in other areas. If Seattle had the best public school libraries in the nation, for example, that would encourage us to look at other elements — special education, say, or arts programs — that can be improved.

No single signifier says more about a society’s commitment to learning than its libraries. Seattle can and must do better.

(Cross-posted.)

Reflections On the End of the GOP

All hat, no cattle.

All hat, no cattle.

The Republican Party is coming apart, and if this disintegration wasn’t endangering our country and the world, it would be amusing. Much has already been said and written about this, so I am aware that this rant may add nothing to the conversation. But I think this political event was more predictable and is easier to understand than most people realize. And I think that Donald Trump himself has far less to do with the fall of the GOP than the GOP itself.

The end of the modern GOP should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention. Because from the point of view of the typical GOP voter — their 99% — the modern Republican Party has been one of the most epic failures of all time.

The modern GOP as a political construct has principally been an alliance between two interest groups: urban economic elites and rural social conservatives. The reason the party is disintegrating is that it has over-delivered to the former, and completely failed the latter.

If there is one thing the Republican Party stands for and has effectively delivered on, it is trickle down economics. Trickle down economics has three major elements — tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of the powerful, and wage suppression for everyone else — all in the name of “growth.” And the Republican Party (with unfortunate cooperation from some Democrats), has been extraordinarily effective in the promulgation of these ideas. Over the last 35 years, middle-class voters from both parties bought this scam hook, line, and sinker.

Meantime, the Republican Party has theoretically represented the interests of social conservatives, fundamentalist religious types, and racists. And for this coalition, despite the rhetoric, the party has completely and utterly failed. Across any social issue, the country has lurched towards inclusion and liberalism, from LGBT rights to drug legalization, women’s rights, minority rights, and worst of all, the election of a black president named Barack Hussein Obama. From the perspective of these Republican voters, it is the end of days.

But to the GOP’s one percent — the secular, more socially centrist, urban economic elites who have controlled the party — the last 35 years have been a bonanza. They have been the recipients of an immense concentration of wealth and power, without the inconvenience of having to deliver on the backwards and often bigoted social demands of what the GOP elite dismiss as their hillbilly, bible-thumping brethren.

Which brings us to the unresolvable challenge facing the modern GOP.

From the point of view of their 99%, the median Republican voter, the last 35 years have been a disaster, and their party has caused it. Because if you are a working- or middle-class white Republican-leaning man, your party has completely and totally screwed you.

They screwed you by holding down the minimum wage.

They screwed you by almost completely eliminating overtime pay.

They screwed the union that used to defend your interests.

The screwed you out of the pension on which the middle-class once retired.

They screwed you a thousand ways on trade, and exported your job.

They screwed you on tax policy by lowering taxes on the rich.

They screwed you on infrastructure and education investment.

They screwed you by deregulating the banks.

They screwed you out of your home during the housing bubble and subsequent collapse.

They screwed you on health care costs.

They screwed you on the cost of college and on student debt.

They screwed you (and sent your kids to die) in the Iraq war.

And then they also screwed you on abortion, and gay marriage, and the “War on Drugs,” and women’s rights, and minority rights, and Obamacare repeal, and all the other things you culturally care about, by delivering absolutely nothing.

Since 1980, 95 percent of the benefits of growth have accrued to the top one percent of earners.  The share of income for the top one percent has tripled, from about eight percent of national income to about 22 percent over this time. The minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $2.13 plus tips, is at historically low levels; if it had tracked the wages of the top 1 percent, the minimum wage would be over $28 per hour today. Overtime pay, which used to apply to about 70 percent of salaried workers, now applies to only 9 percent. Union membership, and the middle-class wages and benefits that comes with it, has fallen from a third of American workers in 1964 to only 10 percent today — and just 7 percent in the private sector. Consequently, wages as a percent of GDP have fallen about a trillion dollars, while corporate profits have increased by the same amount. Add in the ridiculous increases in compensation and other income for the very rich and you are talking about close to a two trillion dollar-per-year scam perpetuated on the American middle and working class. Over thirty years, that shit adds up.

If you are a rural social conservative, your Republican party has enacted economic policies that destroyed your communities and sucked the life out of your small towns. And then to add insult to injury, they could not stop people like me from winning on all of the social and cultural issues that you care so much about.

So it should come as no surprise that a candidate like Donald Trump, who appeals to the nativist, racist, and nationalist tendencies of some right-leaning voters, despite his flaws, could take the GOP by storm. Who couldn’t? Seriously. Daffy Duck with a nationalist message would be winning today. I do not agree with a lot of the policies preferred by rural right-wing voters. I think they are wrong and misguided. But I do emphatically agree with their anger. They should be angry. They deserve to be angry. And the focus of their anger should be on the GOP elites like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio and the rest of the trickle-down clown car.  These people have screwed, and want to continue to screw, the median Republican voter. And typical Republicans are finally beginning to notice.

I wish the answer to all of this was simply that more people should become Democrats. And indeed in this election cycle, given what is at stake, that would be my preference. But long-term, that isn’t what our country needs. Instead, America needs a Republican party that isn’t simply a vehicle for the already very rich to increase their wealth and power. Our country needs a Republican Party that vigorously and honestly competes with the Democratic Party to actually increase the welfare of the typical American family. Not with a scam like trickle down economics that simply makes the rich richer, but with actual ideas that might improve the life of the typical family.

Thus, the Republican Party’s greatest challenge is how to ditch the economic program of their donor elite. Because embracing a new economic narrative that actually delivers the goods to regular folks is what it will take to compete in a meaningful way again. Paul Ryan is against raising the minimum wage because he is paid to oppose increases in the minimum wage. So, too, are Marco Rubio and the rest of these clowns. Claiming that “raising wages kills jobs” is really just saying the Koch brothers prefer wages low and profits high. It’s the GOP elite declaring that “we matter, and you don’t.”

I do not believe a Republican Party that works to ensure a more inclusive capitalism will eliminate the racism in the party. Prosperity does not end racism—but it is one hell of a distraction. When most citizens feel like they are winning, it’s not so important to them that others lose. Shared prosperity creates the conditions whereby few reasonable people are angry enough to take a clown like Trump seriously.

Let’s all hope that the current crisis in the Republican Party will bring the fundamental change necessary to allow it to reconstitute itself in a new and more constructive way—one that we may not all agree with, but at least that we won’t be embarrassed or appalled by. America needs a Republican Party that actually represents the true interests of regular Republicans, and not the exclusive interests of the Republican elite.

Louis CK’s Call For ‘Balance’ Is A Position of Privilege and Fantasy

louis CK trump hitler

As you probably have heard, over the weekend, comedian Louis CK called Donald Trump “Hitler.” Literally, he wrote in an email (which was to promote his new show, but it was the addendum that’s gotten all the attention), “the guy is Hitler.” Immediately, the email was dubbed “epic” and “compassionate” and “scathing” and myriad other things.

What it was not, however, was a.) revolutionary or b.) inclusive. In fact, I’d argue that CK’s email—which few people seem to have read past the “Hitler” part—is actively harmful to a whole lot of people in this country.

CK had a lot of not-nice things to say about Trump—calling him “an insane bigot” and some other things that probably sound a lot like what you’ve said about Trump with your friends—but none of them were actually particularly new or novel. People have been comparing Trump to Hitler for months. Seriously, it’s a very populated Google search.

louis ck trump hitler

Not exactly leading the conversation, then.

Beyond the lack of novelty in CK’s critique, though, is a much more dangerous problem: That he seems to believe the right is a lot less harmful than it actually is. From the email:

I’m not advocating for Hillary or Bernie. I like them both but frankly I wish the next president was a conservative only because we had Obama for eight years and we need balance. And not because I particularly enjoy the conservative agenda. I just think the government should reflect the people. And we are about 40 percent conservative and 40 percent liberal. When I was growing up and when I was a younger man, liberals and conservatives were friends with differences. They weren’t enemies. And it always made sense that everyone gets a president they like for a while and then hates the president for a while. But it only works if the conservatives put up a good candidate. A good smart conservative to face the liberal candidate so they can have a good argument and the country can decide which way to go this time.

First of all, that’s not how democracy works; just because the country is divided, doesn’t mean we necessarily need to have equal representation within our elected officials—that’s pretty obvious from the blatant gender and racial imbalances in almost every office and governing body across the country.

Sure, it would be great if our electorate were perfectly representative, but as long as conservatives are in power and keep drawing congressional lines to ensure that doesn’t happen that’s just not a reality.

On Salon, Scott Timberg explained it as such:

People on the left, the center, and the center-right may agree that Trump is nasty, hateful, and all the rest. But voting for a “reasonable” conservative candidate is not going to make reactionary extremists any less likely.

These reasonable conservatives brought us the gerrymandering that has strengthened the Republican infrastructure, squashed minority voting, and allowed extremism to thrive. They’ve led to a relaxing of media ownership laws that allowed the right-wing echo chamber to grow and flourish. Non-crazy, pro-Wall Street Republicans helped destabilize the middle class and fueled Trump’s rise. Regular old conservatives opened the door to the appointment of judges that gave George W. Bush the presidency in 2000; and with Scalia’s death, the next president is likely to shape the Supreme Court profoundly.

You can’t just decide that maybe four or eight years of someone who’s in opposition to Obama would simply move along, carrying the torch in a slightly different direction—instead, what every candidate on the right is promising to do is undo the work of the Affordable Care Act and the Family Leave Act and other hard-fought wins, effectively driving us backwards in a war of attrition every election season.

Second, it’s not just the reactionaries who are bolstering Trump’s success—to look at the primary numbers as they stand, there simply aren’t that many dyed-in-the-wool racist bigots in the country. Instead, Donald Trump’s rise should signal to anyone who’s watching that he’s not a fluke, he’s actually very much speaking to many, many voters. He’s not an aberration—he’s what they’ve got.

As much as we love the idea of “balance” in both politics and the economy, the truth is that there is one party in the United States where our Presidential debates contain salient conversation about race and gender equity, about economic stability and relief for the lowest earners, and another where the topic of penis size and carpet-bombing have been featured highlights.

Trump is the party’s “good candidate” according not to just to members of the KKK—he’s the favorite with the exact kind of “moderate” Republicans CK is dreamily getting nostalgic about. He’s also got the support of many of the “moderate” conservatives who have already been elected.

The reason the conservatives haven’t put up “a good candidate” is because the candidates they’ve put up, Trump included, actually do represent their party. It’s the party of believing the South should have won the war, of pushing for the deportation of Muslims, of passing laws that require doctors to lie or are based in lies. Trump is not some “outsider,” much as he’d like to claim—he is exactly the product of years of those “moderate” Republicans quietly whispering lies about “welfare queens” and “dangerous terrorists” and “lazy people” and “drug dealers” into the ears of voters.

If you plant Racism Seeds for decades, can you really be surprised if one day you walk outside and your garden is ripe with Racism Fruit?

Assuming that having a conservative in the White House would somehow restore balance is something that literally only someone who feels 100% comfortable regardless of the political climate can do. It is a position of privilege, pure and simple, because anyone from any kind of vulnerable population knows that it’s not just Trump who’s scary—it’s everyone on the GOP side.

This apparent oversight didn’t go unnoticed by everyone, though; writer Lauren Hoffman quickly responded with a necessary criticism: That the idea of giving “each party their turn” is actively detrimental to a whole lot of vulnerable people, particularly women.

Access to reproductive care certainly hangs in the balance, particularly considering the Trump alternatives. CK’s letter refers to Ohio Governor John Kasich, who currently hovers around third or fourth, depending on how much the media has decided Marco Rubio can pull out the world’s greatest comeback.

“I mean that guy seems okay,” writes CK “I don’t like any of them myself but if you’re that kind of voter please go for a guy like that. It feels like between him and either democrat we’d have a decent choice. It feels like a healthier choice.”

Healthier for who, the women of Ohio may ask? After all, Kasich just weeks ago voted to defund Planned Parenthood, a move which would do little to nothing to cut spending on abortion (Planned Parenthood already can’t use most government money on abortion services). What it will do, however, is make it much harder for people of all genders to get necessary medical care, ranging from cancer screenings to STI treatment to general health counseling.

And it’s not just reproductive rights that Kasich has been anything but “balanced” on; his record on education is decidedly not good when it comes to poor schools and districts, his history on LGBTQ issues is abysmal, and as recently as a few weeks ago, he’s a union-buster. And despite touting his record on criminal justice reform—where, to his credit, he did champion addiction treatment services as a prison diversion—he’s still staunchly anti-marijuana legalization, a policy that is basically entirely rooted in racism. He was also instrumental legislation—both in DC and as the Governor of Ohio—which make it harder or impossible for families to qualify and access social services like food stamps.

All of which sounds great to Republicans, who are overwhelmingly represented by people a lot like Louis CK: Already in positions of economic, racial, gender, and generational power. However, to people who are disproportionately impacted by the laws passed by “moderates” like John Kasich—laws which restrict health care access and funding, which gut the funding for public schools in poorer areas, which reduce the collective bargaining power of unions (whose memberships are often more diverse than non-unionized private sector jobs), which make social services more difficult to get—know that “balance” simply means “policies that don’t benefit me and in fact may be detrimental to me.”

Calling out Donald Trump for being dangerous is important, because, well, he is. A Trump presidency would be a disaster for the economy, national security, and most of the residents of the country. And honestly, there’s a really good chance that CK’s audience has some overlap with conservative voters who may actually see Trump as a viable option, and this warning could be somewhat compelling.

What is not good, however, is throwing women, LGBTQ folks, poor folks, people of color, and basically any other vulnerable group of people under the bus in the name of “balance.”

If the GOP wants to field a “good candidate,” they need to clean up their own house and collect their own people—which will only happen when “moderate” conservatives stop supporting candidates who, in addition to tightening the purse strings, are actively limiting the rights of voters. Until then, there’s no such thing as balance—there are just two parties, one of which is only out for wealthy white guys.

Donald Trump Is Not a Problem. Donald Trump Is a Symptom of a Problem.

"You know that thing you really don't want to think about? Here are nine billion stories about it!"

“You know that thing you really don’t want to think about? Here are nine billion stories about it!”

This was always going to happen.

America was always hurtling toward a debate in which the Republican frontrunner bragged about the size of his own genitals in front of an audience of millions. We were destined to watch three contenders spend nearly two full hours accusing the frontrunner of every dirty trick under the sun—scams, lies, flip-flops, foul language, breaks with the party line—and then we were of course going to see those same three contenders, in the last ten minutes of the debate, pledge to support that same frontrunner unconditionally in the general election. In retrospect, it’s as obvious as winter turning to spring. It just had to happen.

At the time, nobody could have predicted that the election of the first African-American president, a Democrat, to the presidency would result in a shameless celebrity seizing the Republican Party’s nomination in 2016. But that’s what happened, and now that it’s happened, it’s beyond obvious.

The Republican Party over the last eight years has fallen prey to institutional racism. A small but vocal subsection of the party, the ideological heirs to the Dixiecrats who turned Republican, capitalized on conservative unrest after Obama’s first election to seize the discourse. They have since consumed the party, infecting every level of it—from the language Republican elected officials use to the laws they pass.

Racism is a tool through which the powerful suppress those with less power. Though racism belongs to no class in particular, it benefits those at the top—in other words, the Donald Trumps of the world. When a large number of Americans are obsessed with taking rights away from other Americans, they don’t worry about protecting or growing their own rights. If the people who vote you into office are concerned about making sure that minorities don’t get any benefits, they will cheer you on when you cut taxes on the rich and reduce benefits for everyone.

I’m not saying that every Republican is a racist, but I am saying that the entire party has served the culture of racism, and it’s caused some genuinely ugly rifts in the democratic process. At its core, beneath even the letter of the law, democracy requires civility to function. We’ve seen with the Senate’s outright refusal to even consider an Obama nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy left by the deceased Justice Antonin Scalia that civility doesn’t exist anymore.

From Joe Wilson’s “you lie!” to the birther “debate” to then-Speaker John Boehner’s undiplomatic invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to the battle over Confederate flags, the Republican Party has unfailingly railed against decency and honesty in the political conversation in a way which surpasses even the worst partisan rancor that we’ve previously ever seen. At its core is bigotry: if you don’t believe President Obama is human, you don’t have to treat him with the respect a human deserves.

Other issues are at play here, of course: Ronald Reagan’s distrust of government has been canonized so unthinkingly that it’s not uncommon for Republican representatives—people who receive government healthcare and taxpayer-funded salaries—to get into pissing matches about how much they hate the government. A lot of the current Republican dynamic is caused by fear, too, though fear often gets wrapped up in racism. (Racism is fear’s firstborn child.) And the unimaginative Republican obsession with trickle down economics has hurt them at every turn.

But how else can you explain Donald Trump’s ascension from a reality TV star to the frontman for the conservative obsession over Barack Obama’s birth certificate to the Republican presidential frontrunner, without racism? How else do you explain Trump’s popularity among white supremacists, all the veiled talk about political correctness, his long history of racism? Without the racist talk and the support from open bigots, Trump would be nothing more than a less-qualified Mitt Romney, another rich guy with delusions of grandeur. Instead, he’s in the lead for his party’s nomination.

The bright side is that Romney proved in 2012 that it’s almost impossible to win the presidency on the support of white voters alone. I’m having a hard time imagining how Trump regains the trust of minority voters after characterizing them as criminals, rapists, and terrorists who should be refused access to the nation. But the Republican Party has been working hard to deny access to voters over the last eight years—yes, still more racism—so it’s possible that turnout could be low enough that Trump’s self-dubbed “silent majority” could brute-force a path to victory at the polls.

Supposedly, in conjunction with Mitt Romney’s too-late speech, the most recent Republican debate was going to be the moment when the Republican Party gained a hold of its sanity again. But then all three of the nominees said that they would vote for Trump in November, and all that mud they slung proved to be utterly useless. They’re not the only Republicans to fail on this mission: John McCain attacked Trump repeatedly, but then he said he would vote for Trump in the general election because he’s loyal to his party.

Party loyalty is admirable, I suppose, but whatever happened to the idea of being loyal to your country? The difference between Republicans and Democrats has become exaggerated to the point where we’re enemies pitted in a never-ending war, as opposed to human beings with different solutions for our common problems. Politics is supposed to be the institutionalized conversation we have about how we make America a better place. Instead, it’s become a death match.

If Republicans really want to have a party when all this is said and done, there’s really only one thing they can do: Disavow Trump and Trumpism, as loudly and as publicly and as often as they can. That means more than just refusing to vote for Trump. It means they’ll have to dismantle this ugly system of racism that they’ve constructed since 2008, from ridiculous voter registration laws to unreasonable obstruction to local legislation that targets minorities—laws like stop and frisk and stand your ground. Either their party burns itself to the ground this fall, or they acknowledge that their problem is bigger than one very orange, very loud man. What they are, is the last resort for racists and scoundrels in an America that is rapidly becoming more inclusive than ever. And in 2016, that is absolutely unacceptable.

Charles Koch, Who Made Politics Exclusionary, Is Upset That Politics Are So Exclusionary

I read an astounding paragraph about conservative mega-donor Charles Koch this morning. It’s in the New York Times, it was written by Alan Rappeport, and here it is:

In an interview with The Financial Times, Mr. Koch bemoaned the state of the field of Republican candidates seeking the nomination and suggested that big money was losing its influence in politics these days. His concern over the policies of Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was especially clear.

An appropriate alternative headline for this story would be “In Retrospect, Frankenstein Regrets Constructing Monster Out of Deceased Human Parts.” Koch says two head-shakingly stupid things in this interview. Let’s take them apart, one by one.

Not the Koch favorite.

Not the Koch favorite.

First of all, Koch, who previously announced with his brother David that he’d be spending 900 million dollars in the 2016 election cycle, laments the fact that money doesn’t have as much influence in politics as it once did. This is an incredible admission. The Kochs are the poster boys of campaign overspending; their names have become intertwined with the Supreme Court’s terrible Citizens United decision.

Spending did not correlate with success in the 2012 presidential election cycle, leading many people to theorize that excessive spending has led to a saturation point. Basically, there are only so many TV ad spaces you can buy, and only so much public attention you can purchase. So in short, Koch is complaining that other rich people came in and ruined the wonderland that he had imagined he and his brother would dominate. This is not just whiny, it’s also incredibly short-sighted. How did Koch not realize this would happen? And what’s he going to do next—pursue legislation that only people named “Koch” can donate more than $50,000 to a campaign? I bet some congressional Republicans would endorse that legislation.

And secondly, Koch says that Trump’s (unconstitutional) plan to temporarily bar Muslims from entering America would potentially “destroy our free society.” The Kochs have railed against the Tea Party’s anti-immigration stance for some time now. But they’re the ones who propped up the tea party, which has been exclusionary from the very beginning. There’s nothing new about Trump’s policies; in fact, Trump and Cruz—the latter of whom was elected as a tea party candidate—are the natural end results of the Koch’s tea party funding.

When you successfully push for an exclusionary small government the way the Kochs have, you’re going to inspire a political race to the bottom. And what that means is your push to eliminate food stamps and other government assistance programs winds up fulminating a loathing of poor and underprivileged groups. And historically in America, the poorest and most underprivileged groups are immigrants, and there’s a long history of anti-immigration sentiment in America. Koch would have to be blind not to see this coming; people were predicting it from the very first tea party rallies. These are the monsters he created, and now he’s upset that they’re rampaging around the country.

GOP Presidential Candidates Continue to Make Un-American Statements About Syrian Refugees

This is a piece of the cover image from Ted Cruz's Facebook page. Is it supposed to be ironic or something?

This is a piece of the cover image from Ted Cruz’s Facebook page. Is it supposed to be ironic or something?

It has been a depressing week to be an American. As Nick Cassella mentioned this morning, Governor Jay Inslee has been a rare voice of sanity with his vocal opposition to the rush to prosecute American Muslims and turn away refugees. But a cowardly Washington state legislator is loudly arguing against refugees, saying “We cannot differentiate between the innocent refugee who want to come to our shores and live in peace with the individual who is a terrorist who wants to exploit our freedoms and use those freedoms against us to do us harm.” (ISIS is terrified that it’s losing refugees, by the way, and they’re disseminating propaganda in an effort to convince them to come home. These politicians are in fact doing ISIS’s work by agitating to refuse refugees.) Yesterday, Donald Trump even suggested a national database for American Muslims, though he seems to be trying to backpedal right now:

Meanwhile, Marco Rubio tried to add some nuance to Trump’s call to close down mosques, but he kind of backfired when he announced that he wants to shut down any private business—”whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site”— where “radicals are being inspired.” He also said the problem is that we’re not spying on ourselves enough:

The bigger problem we have is our inability to find out where these places are, because we’ve crippled our intelligence programs, both through unauthorized disclosures by a traitor, in Edward Snowden, or by some of the things this president has put in place with the support even of some from my own party to diminish our intelligence capabilities.

Here’s how we know we’ve entered topsy-turvy land: Jeb Bush is the only Republican candidate who’s exactly right about this. ““You talk about closing mosques, you talk about registering people, that’s just wrong,” Bush said. He added, “it’s manipulating people’s angst and their fears. That’s not strength. That’s weakness.” This is the truest thing any Republican running for president has said all week. It will probably cause Bush to plunge in the polls. Back in crazytown, Ted Cruz is tossing kiddie insults at President Obama.

Everyone except Jeb Bush has failed to recognize the fact that our country is great because we welcome more, not fewer, people from diverse backgrounds. The minute we start to play the exclusionary game, the jig is up. An America that does not celebrate a diverse population from around the world is an America in decline.

It’s been a garbage week. Let’s do better than this, America.