Scholar Lilliana Mason: “I’m worried about violent conflict between Democrats and Republicans”

From Salon:

Author of “Uncivil Agreement” on how politics has descended into a brutal team sport focused solely on winning

Chauncey DeVega
August 20, 2018

President Abraham Lincoln famously warned that “a house divided against itself, cannot stand.” More than 150 years later his alarm still resonates: While the conflagration will most likely take a different form than it did in Lincoln’s day, America in the era of President Donald Trump is increasingly a country of warring tribes rather than a united people possessed of a shared sense of identity and destiny.

Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, do not live in the same communities. They do not consume the same news media. They are divided by race, gender, religion and ethnicity. Republicans and conservatives have even tried to create their own alternate universe, a world free of facts not governed by empirical reality where right-wing ideology is a religion or cult that supersedes all other things.

The president of the United States is not a unifier who seeks to lead all people and by doing so to inspire the best of who and what America and the American people can be. Instead he is hell-bent on creating chaos and division. For his voters and other Republicans and conservatives, he is a champion and political godhead. For Democrats, liberals and other people of conscience he is closer to being a monster.

How did America become so divided? Why has political polarization become so extreme? In what ways have political parties become like sports teams where winning is all that matters and the common good is unimportant? Can American democracy to survive Donald Trump amid the rise of a conservative movement that views Democrats and liberals as an “un-American” enemy?

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Lilliana Mason. She is a assistant professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the author of the new book “Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity.”

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Lilliana Mason. She is a assistant professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the author of the new book “Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity.”

How do you explain the election of Donald Trump and the current state of American politics?

Our party identities have been moving into alignment with other social identities. As a result race, religion, culture, geography and to some extent gender and other identities align with political parties. This means we become much more focused on the party winning. For Republicans this means white and Christian, rural and male. What Trump did was to activate a particular type of white identity. Then he made it clear to the Republican electorate that they should be paying attention to their white identities and voting based on it. Trump was also telling these voters what they had in their heads already.

He really pointed to a group of people who were feeling vulnerable and condescended to and made fun of and said, “You guys are losers, right? We’re all losers, we are losing all the time.” Then he said, “But I’m going to make you winners, I’m going to make us win again.” So it was this almost perfect message delivered to a group of people who were ready to hear a message like that, and were committed to defeating the Democrats because the other party is so socially “other” from them. Ultimately, Donald Trump tapped into a dynamic that has been developing over the last few decades in America.

America has a long history of extreme political polarization and partisanship. We actually fought a civil war that killed 750,000 people. Those fault lines of race still exist. Part of me feels like there is nothing really new about Trump and what he represents. In fact, America has only been a democracy on paper for about the last 50 years. Then again, Trump and his supporters’ unabashed contempt for democracy and overt racism and bigotry does feel new in the recent history of American politics. How do you reconcile those tensions?

This is not a completely new way of approaching politics, at least in the Republican Party — consider the racist Southern Strategy [of the 1968 election and thereafter]. But there are now such strong partisans that will do almost anything just for their political team to win. As I said earlier, this is partly because when our party “wins,” our racial group and our religious group and our other cultural and social identities “win” too. The victory of our political party is taking up more and more of what I describe as “self-esteem real estate.” Every part of us is involved now in the outcome of the election. So when our party loses, it hurts a lot more than it did before, because we used to have other meaningful identities.

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Why It Can Happen Here

From The New York Times:

We’re very close to becoming another Poland or Hungary.

By Paul Krugman
Aug. 27, 2018

Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a friend of mine — an expert on international relations — made a joke: “Now that Eastern Europe is free from the alien ideology of Communism, it can return to its true historical path — fascism.” Even at the time, his quip had a real edge.

And as of 2018 it hardly seems like a joke at all. What Freedom House calls illiberalism is on the rise across Eastern Europe. This includes Poland and Hungary, both still members of the European Union, in which democracy as we normally understand it is already dead.

In both countries the ruling parties — Law and Justice in Poland, Fidesz in Hungary — have established regimes that maintain the forms of popular elections, but have destroyed the independence of the judiciary, suppressed freedom of the press, institutionalized large-scale corruption and effectively delegitimized dissent. The result seems likely to be one-party rule for the foreseeable future.

And it could all too easily happen here. There was a time, not long ago, when people used to say that our democratic norms, our proud history of freedom, would protect us from such a slide into tyranny. In fact, some people still say that. But believing such a thing today requires willful blindness. The fact is that the Republican Party is ready, even eager, to become an American version of Law and Justice or Fidesz, exploiting its current political power to lock in permanent rule.

Just look at what has been happening at the state level.

In North Carolina, after a Democrat won the governorship, Republicans used the incumbent’s final days to pass legislation stripping the governor’s office of much of its power.

In Georgia, Republicans tried to use transparently phony concerns about access for disabled voters to close most of the polling places in a mainly black district.

In West Virginia, Republican legislators exploited complaints about excessive spending to impeach the entire State Supreme Court and replace it with party loyalists.

And these are just the cases that have received national attention. There are surely scores if not hundreds of similar stories across the nation. What all of them reflect is the reality that the modern G.O.P. feels no allegiance to democratic ideals; it will do whatever it thinks it can get away with to entrench its power.

What about developments at the national level? That’s where things get really scary. We’re currently sitting on a knife edge. If we fall off it in the wrong direction — specifically, if Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress in November — we will become another Poland or Hungary faster than you can imagine.

This week Axios created a bit of a stir with a scoop about a spreadsheet circulating among Republicans in Congress, listing investigations they think Democrats are likely to carry out if they take the House. The thing about the list is that every item on it — starting with Donald Trump’s tax returns — is something that obviously should be investigated, and would have been investigated under any other president. But the people circulating the document simply take it for granted that Republicans won’t address any of these issues: Party loyalty will prevail over constitutional responsibility.

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Emails Show Homeland Security Official Had Ties To White Nationalists

From The Forward:

By Alyssa Fisher
August 29, 2018

The Department of Homeland Security has denounced “all forms of violent extremism” following the resignation of a department policy analyst who was connected to white nationalists, The Atlantic reported.

Leaked emails seen by The Atlantic show that analyst Ian Smith had been in contact and planned events with a group that included known white nationalists. One email thread sent to Smith included the address of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer. Jared Taylor, the founder of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance, was also a recipient of an email sent to Smith.

The messages show how prominent white nationalists interact and stay in touch with each other, including gathering for what they called an “Alt-right Toastmasters” night.

When asked for comment, Smith said in an email: “I no longer work at DHS as of last week and didn’t attend any of the events you’ve mentioned.” Neither he nor DHS disputed that Smith is in fact included on the emails in question.

Others in the Trump administration have already been outed for their ties to white nationalism. White House speechwriter Darren Beattie left the administration after CNN reported earlier this month that he had attended a conference popular with white nationalists in 2016. And The Washington Post reported last week that Peter Brimelow, the publisher of the white nationalist website VDare, had attended a party at the house of top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.


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Al Gore to Donald Trump: “Resign!”

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White House Hosts Christian Leader Who Implied Trans People in Bathrooms Should be Shot

From Into More:

Kate Sosin
28 Aug 2018

As LGBTQ advocates scramble to head off a crisis of transgender murders in the U.S., the Trump White House sat down for dinner with a Christian leader who advocates shooting transgender people who dare use public bathrooms.

On Monday, The White House hosted James Dobson, along with a spate of vehement anti-LGBTQ religious leaders, at a dinner celebrating Evangelical leaders.

Dobson, the infamous anti-gay activist who founded Focus on the Family, implied transgender people should be murdered in bathrooms, after President Obama directed schools to allow students to use a bathroom corresponding with their gender identity in 2016.

Writing for World Net Daily, Dobson described transgender people as perverts.

“If you are a dad, I pray you will protect your little girls from men who walk in unannounced, unzip their pants and urinate in front of them,” he wrote. “If this had happened 100 years ago, someone might have been shot. Where is today’s manhood? God help us!”

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted a photo of himself strolling with Dobson and their wives on Monday.

Dobson was not the only radioactive figure embraced by the White House Monday night. Ivanka Trump, who reportedly worked behind the scenes to convince her father to keep Obama-era LGBTQ workplace protections, has been roundly criticized for posing for photos with anti-gay champion Jim Garlow, who also managed to squeeze into shots with Trump, Pence, Kellyanne Conway and Melania Trump.

Garlow has repeatedly claimed that same-sex marriage is the work of Satan. According to GLAAD, Garlow thinks Christians should rise up the way they did during the Revolutionary War.

“They would pick up a musket and ask: ‘Who’s going to go fight with me?’” Garlow said. “And so the revolutionary armies during that time came from pastors leading the churches. It’s known as the Black-Robed Regiment. And we need a black-robed regiment today. We need pastors who are willing to stand up. And we need persons who are in the pews to stand up with them…”

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Trump warns evangelicals of ‘violence’ if GOP loses in the midterms

This is flat out incitement to violence should real Americans actually exercise their Constitutional rights to vote Trump’s gang of thugs, traitors and thieves out of office come November.

Fifty years of hippie punching and waging war against the 1960s and we have come to this.  An Asshole in Chief who disrespects  John McCain, a war hero and the man chosen by Trump’s party to run for the highest office in the land in 2008.


Shame upon all who support this Clown.

Vote them out.

We have a Constitution and a Republic if we can defend it.

From CNN:

By Jeff Zeleny and Kevin Liptak, CNN
Tue August 28, 2018

(CNN)US President Donald Trump, facing scrutiny for hush money payments to a porn star and a former Playboy model, pleaded with evangelical leaders for political help during closed-door remarks on Monday, warning of dire consequences to their congregations should Republicans lose in November’s midterm elections.

“This November 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment. It’s a referendum on so much,” Trump told the assemblage of pastors and other Christian leaders gathered in the State Dining Room, according to a recording from people in the room.

It’s not a question of like or dislike, it’s a question that they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence. When you look at Antifa — these are violent people,” Trump said, describing what would happen should his voters fail to cast ballots. “You have tremendous power. You were saying, in this room, you have people who preach to almost 200 million people. Depending on which Sunday we’re talking about.”

Antifa — a loose collection of anti-fascist groups who regularly stage counter-protests against white supremacists and neo-Nazis — have emerged as an effective bogeyman for segments of the US right.

In a video released last year by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the pro-gun group used footage from street protests and occasional Antifa violence to paint all on the US left as seeking to “bully and terrorize the law-abiding.”

Trump previously appeared to link Antifa to violence at a Charlottesville demonstration last year in which a white supremacist killed a left-wing counter protester and injured 19 others. The President later said there was “blame on both sides.”

‘Get people to support us’

Evangelicals have provided a solid block of support for Trump, even amid the scandals involving alleged sexual affairs.

After news of those purported encounters emerged, his standing among white evangelicals did not slip. But inviting the leaders to the White House only days after the President was newly implicated by his longtime personal lawyer’s guilty plea underscored the degree to which Trump is trying to keep his supporters on his side.

“You have to hopefully get out and get people to support us,” Trump said. “If you don’t, that will be the beginning of ending everything that you’ve gotten.”

Trump will need to maintain that support if he hopes to help Republicans stay in power on Capitol Hill or win re-election himself in 2020. On Monday, he touted the steps he’s taken to promote religious liberty, such as loosening restrictions on political speech from the pulpit, which previously could jeopardize religious institutions’ tax-exempt status.

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A Candidate Backed Medical Marijuana. Wells Fargo Closed Her Bank Account.

Wells Fargo has gotten worse by the month over the last year.  I keep feeling like they really don’t want to do business with people below a certain place on the economic scale.

From The New York Times:

By Emily Flitter
Aug. 20, 2018

Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for agriculture commissioner in Florida, has made no secret of her support for medical marijuana.

Further expansion of the state’s program is the highest priority on her campaign website. Before entering the race, she ran a lobbying firm, Igniting Florida, and described herself as “one of most visible faces and key activists in Florida’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry.”

Even so, employees at Wells Fargo, where her campaign held an account, had questions about her platform.

The bank, which says it has a policy against serving marijuana-related businesses, had noticed that Ms. Fried was “advocating for expanded patient access to medical marijuana.” It asked the campaign in July whether it would be receiving money from “lobbyists from the medical marijuana industry in any capacity.”

The campaign replied that, yes, Ms. Fried would be receiving donations from lobbyists as well as “executives, employees and corporations in the medical marijuana industry.”

Last week, the campaign said it had received written notice that Wells Fargo was closing its account.

On Monday, Ms. Fried urged her supporters to consider pulling their money from the bank.

“This is absolutely unprecedented,” she said in a telephone interview. “I’ve been in this campaign since the beginning of June. Everybody in Florida knows that I’m one of the main proponents of the expansion of medical marijuana.”

Wells Fargo isn’t the first bank to close a customer’s account over money that could be related to the sale of marijuana, which is legal in some form in states including Florida but still prohibited by federal law.

That conflict has had banks large and small walking a line for more than a decade, since the first states began changing their cannabis laws. Marijuana growers have struggled to open and maintain bank accounts, and dispensaries have relied on cash to do business instead of credit cards. Businesses like construction companies and electricians that provide services to the growers and distributors have also had problems.

The biggest banks are traditionally the most cautious. But Wells Fargo’s scrutiny of Ms. Fried’s political beliefs set its decision apart.

“If a bank is going to start drawing a line based on a candidate’s particular advocacy, where does a bank draw that line?” asked Christian Bax, who until Aug. 10 was Florida’s medical marijuana director. “Is it going to extend to every candidate in Florida who advocates for medical marijuana?”

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman declined to discuss Ms. Fried’s case specifically, but said the bank has a policy of avoiding the marijuana industry.

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