Trump as Tea Party Devil Spawn

teapartyRock Creek, Montana    One of the books I had thrown in my bag as I left for Montana was an updated, reissued volume published by Oxford Press and sent to me at Social Policy, called The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism by Harvard Professor Theda Skocpol, a well-known scholar of American voluntary organizations, and Vanessa Williamson, now at the Brookings Institute. The book is an extensive look at the Tea Party from its inception in 2009 to its usurpation in 2011. They’ve added an epilogue that looked at the rise of Trump before he won the Republican nomination and noted many of the same fires that stoked both these engines, but that was more like waving a red flag for all of us who may have missed the book earlier, even if we couldn’t avoid the point now.

There’s no way to think of Trump and the phenomena he represents without also seeing him as the direct descendant of the outbreak and then successful cooptation of the Tea Party, and the fact that his candidacy offered the now dispersed Tea Party base an opportunity to rise again, expand, and express their continued, unmet demand to “take back America.” Trump is the proudly embraced Tea Party’s devil spawn.

The authors point out that at its heyday, a mere seven years ago, polling put the Tea Party support at around 20% of the American electorate, which at 46 million people would be difficult to ignore. Trying to calculate its actual organizational strength they settled at something like 200,000 members, defined as activists, in about 800 chapters around the country with an average of about 200 members per group. Importantly, they do a good job at looking at the contradictory political positions of this largely older, white political movement. They raised a big tent so there were extremes of the right and racists aplenty, but they were most stone cold in their consensus against immigration. On race they were welcoming of their few black members, embraced black speakers, and most of their leadership, the authors found, tried to hew them closer to middle ground. Yes, much like Trump. They flirt with racism, but steadfastly deny it. About immigration they have no such qualms.

Similarly on social programs, they were anti-welfare, but also opposed to privatization of Social Security and very much in favor of Medicare and other benefits and even in favor of expansion, including to children, despite their heavy mouth breathing about Obamacare. They also weren’t from Kansas, and were in support of public education. The authors also did not find a tight alignment of Tea Party views with the religious right. These were often two ships meeting in the night over abortion and same-sex issues, but a long way from synonymous, which I would argue also helps explain Trump’s ability to walk a line between these forces successfully.

They don’t spend a lot of time on the theme of how successful billionaires, like the Kochs, and media manipulators, like Fox News, seized the Tea Party momentum, and politicians like the wave of candidates elected in 2010 waving their banners so to speak, like Rubio, Cruz and others, usurped their issues, co-opted their energy, and tried to graft them onto their own, often self-serving programs and causes. This is a story waiting to be told and at the heart of understanding both the Trump phenomena as a revival of the same Tea Party protests in general and the estrangement between the Trump, the base, and Republican Party elites whether Speaker Paul Ryan, the Kochs, or countless think tanks, who were willing to play with the Tea Party fire, but never really understood the heat.

Trump did, perhaps intuitively, and 2016 election is the Tea Party fire this time without the party. If we all survive, there’s a lot to learn from all of this.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Kansas’ Kris Kobach is Evil and Nothing is Stopping Him

April 25, 2012 - Washington, District of Columbia, U.S. - Kansas Secretary of State KRIS W. KOBACH speaks to the media outside of the Supreme Court on Wednesday after the Court heard arguments on Arizona's controversial immigration law. Kobach played a significant role in the drafting of the law known as Arizona Senate Bill 1070 which seeks to crack down on illegal immigration. (Credit Image: © Pete Marovich/ZUMAPRESS.com)

– Kansas Secretary of State KRIS W. KOBACH

Grenoble   There’s a civil war happening in Kansas and the people are losing. Even worse it continues to also be a cancer spreading virally wherever it is not blocked in other states and nationally. The main carrier of this plague against democracy is Kris Kobach, the elected Secretary of State of Kansas, which gives him a small platform for his real work as the primary architect and author of hate speech couched as legislative acts around immigration, voting, marriage and other hard right issues. The truth is that Kris Kobach is evil, and my fear is that nothing is stopping him.

I’ve been on the Kobach Watch for years back to his early political races some years ago. He caught my attention when he was making speeches around the state of Kansas in his successful 2010 election calling for the people of Kansas to vote for him in order to prevent “ACORN from stealing elections” in the state. All’s fair in love, war, and I guess in Kobach’s view, politics, but I knew, as surely as Kobach knew at the time, that ACORN had no offices, staff or – to my knowledge – members in Kansas at the time, so Kobach’s campaign was constructed on a complete fabrication and was little more than an exercise in total demagoguery. Call me old fashioned now in the Age of Trump, but I see that as wrong.

I take some pleasure in the fact that the New York Times has noted that his zealotry has interfered with the federal administration of elections where a Kansan has tried to subvert the elections board in order to suppress votes at Kobach’s bidding. They didn’t name him out though, although they have now in editorials about his recalcitrance in blocking 17,000 voters based on extreme voter ID requirements. These voters can be counted in federal elections, but as Secretary of State despite losing all lower and higher court decisions, Kobach has ordered election officials not to count their local and state ballots to simply steal votes away. The Kansas City Star has called for him to lose the unique prosecutorial power he wrested from the state legislature as the only secretary of state in the country that can go to court over so-called voting fraud. In their words: “But now Kobach has been exposed as a big fraud on the issue of voter fraud, which studies have found to be almost nonexistent in America.” In another story, the Star wrote that Kobach’s voter cases had “exposed the incompetence of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at home and his standing as a national embarrassment as a public official.” The Star couldn’t help but note that the Daily Kos had found that on the Secretary of State’s website, he gave different instructions in English than Spanish and gave incorrect information in Spanish to misdirect their votes.

And, believe it or not, this almost pales compared to his work opposing immigration where he serves as general counsel for a national hater group. Who wrote the notorious and unconstitutional Arizona immigrant profiling act? Kris Kobach that’s who. Who wrote the even worse anti-immigrant act in Alabama? Kris Kobach that’s who! Who was involved in dirty tricks in the effort to re-elect the Republican Senator from Kansas? Yes, of course Kris Kobach as well as fines for mishandling money as party chair in Kansas and contributions problems in all of this campaigns.

You don’t want to check Wikipedia on this dude. Under immigration it’s one hateful lawsuit after another targeting immigrants.

Kobach has also litigated several lawsuits defending cities and states that adopt laws to discourage illegal immigration. He served as lead lawyer defending the city of Valley Park, Missouri in a federal case concerning an ordinance that sanctioned employers who hire unauthorized aliens. The ordinance was upheld by Missouri federal judge E. Richard Webber on January 31, 2008 (Gray v. Valley Park, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7238).[3][9] The ACLU, representing the plaintiff, appealed the case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kobach prevailed in the appeal, and the Court allowed the Valley Park ordinance to stand (Gray v. Valley Park, 567 F.3d 976 (8th Cir. 2009)).

Kobach is also the lead attorney defending the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, whose anti-illegal immigration ordinances had been struck down by a federal judge in Pennsylvania and again before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.[10] In June 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Third Circuit’s decision and remanded the case back to the Third Circuit for reconsideration. Sup. Ct. No 10-722. In July 2013, the Third Circuit concluded again that both the employment and housing provisions of the Hazleton ordinances are pre-empted by federal immigration law.

He is currently involved with another lawsuit, involving a Farmers Branch, Texas ordinance that prevents landlords from renting to illegal immigrants.[3] That case is on appeal before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. It was originally heard by a three judge panel, then the Fifth Circuit granted rehearing en banc before the entire Court. Case No. 10-10751.

Read ‘em, and weep.

So of course he was out early for Trump and calling for military across the border. And, not surprisingly, he has infected the national Republican platform and pushed it even farther right.

The court system is just a blunt weapon for attacks by Kobach, and he has no interest in the rule of law that underpins the court, only whether or not he can weaponized the system. Kobach is such an ideologue that he believes he is above the law and the people. He’s a shining example of what’s wrong with Kansas, but now he’s a national scourge and the enemy of democracy everywhere. He plays by no rules other than the ones he makes, and he tries to twist all the rules that matter.

What does it take to stop Kobach?

***

Please enjoy Bonnie Raitt’s Need You Tonight. Thanks to KABF. 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Big Win for School Workers and Children in Houston

houstonleadinwater

Houston Press

Budapest   I may have drug my gear across two Metro lines and two trains and one airport in Paris to end up in Budapest meeting with Mate Varga, the head of the Civic College in Hungary, along the Danube last night with everyone watching Euro 2016, a soccer match, but my mind was also on Houston and the huge victory won by Local 100 for school workers and children. Perhaps it’s not the kind of victory many would expect, like a twenty-five cent raise or an extra break or holiday, but it was the kind of victory that highlights the kind of community-and-worker-based union that we try to build at Local 100. Simply put: we want to get the lead out!

I’m not going to pretend we were early to this fight. For yearsI have heard about the dangers of lead for children. ACORN went after Sherwin-Williams to try to force them to bear up to the responsibility for decades of lead poisoning. We fought in Argentina and Peru to keep lead from continuing to be produced in paint plants over the last decade, years after such production had been banned in the United States and Europe. Furthermore, Louisiana ACORN and then A Community Voice, was constantly involved in lead testing right under my nose in New Orleans day after day. Nonetheless, Flint, Michigan was a wakeup call for us as organizers, just as it was for the whole country. And, following up on Flint, when school districts like Newark started shutting down water fountains and bringing in bottled water for children, we finally got the message. Our union represents school workers and they, and the children they serve, may be in danger, so it was time for action.

Our members in the Houston Independent School District led the way, demanding testing in all of the schools. Orell Fitzsimmons, the office director for the union in Houston went with some of our stewards and met with some of the school trustees and raised the issue, after we got what would have to be described as a brushoff from the district on our initial requests. They had obviously decided to play ostrich on this issue, even after we independently began collecting dirt samples around the schools in Houston and Dallas.

The Houston Press and the daily Houston Chronicle finally jumped on the story with us, so I’ll let the Press tell the rest of the story:

In interviews Wednesday, before the changed policy was announced, School Board Trustee Harvin Moore and United Labor Unions Local 100 Field Director Orell Fitzsimmons said HISD officials had previously told them they planned to test only nine schools for lead each year. When asked about this plan, HISD spokeswoman Lila Hollin said Wednesday, “As far as how many and which ones, that hasn’t been decided yet.”

At a rate of only nine schools per year, with 283 schools to test, the district wouldn’t have finished its tests for more than 30 years.

Yet around 6 p.m. Wednesday, after the Press spoke with Hollin and called numerous HISD employees that day with questions about the district’s lead testing policy, Board of Education trustees received a one-paragraph email from HISD Interim Superintendent Ken Huewitt. That email said something very different.

“While we have tested a number of our schools in HISD, we have decided to take a much more proactive and aggressive approach,” Huewitt wrote in the email. “I have asked the facilities team to test all elementary schools this year. All middle schools will be tested in the 2017-2018 school year. Finally, any remaining high schools that have not been completed with the bond program will be tested in the 2018-2019 school year.”

“Results for each facility will be posted on the HISD website as well as a schedule outlining when testing will occur,” Huewitt added.

Fitzsimmons first took an interest in HISD’s lead testing policies after watching the water crisis unfold in Flint, Mich. He submitted multiple public information requests asking about HISD’s records and practices regarding testing for lead contamination, and spoke at the June 9 Board of Education meeting about the district’s need to test all of its schools for lead, starting with elementary schools – the age group most at risk for lead poisoning.

As Houston has proven, finally, on lead, you can run, but you can’t hide. Dallas is next on our target list, but, frankly, now that one district after another is getting the message that they need to do their job of protecting children in school buildings, none of us should allow any schools to not do the same.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Supreme Court Moving Left? Not Yet!

US_Supreme_Court_3_CNA_4_17_15Madison   The Supreme Court ended its term at the end of June, so we can stop holding our breath, but we can hardly celebrate. The Martin-Quinn scores are named after a professors at the University of Michigan and University of California at Berkeley and attempt to use the Justices voting patterns to determine ideology. They claim that the recent term showed an ongoing pattern of the Roberts Court towards the left. Perhaps we’ve become so desperate for good news that we’re now willing to grasp at any straws?

This so-called drift does not include the decisions in the widely heralded Texas abortion case where the court by a 5-3 decision threw out the specious decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the Texas legislatures transparent attempt to roll boulders in the way of women attempting to gain an abortion in that state using the veneer of adding additional health safety requirements. The court saw through that attempt, now widely copied by many other states. In a simple fact-based decision, they noted that there was no proof that the additional health standards were about protecting women and noted that many other procedures that were much more dangerous did not have to meet these burdensome hospital privilege and surgical operating room standards. There was no poetry in the decision, just the facts, ma’am. Roberts and Alito dissented on procedural grounds without contesting the facts, further locking the door on these conservative efforts to control women. Was this a liberal-left decision or simply the majority crying “gotcha” at such obvious overreaching?

The Court also drew a finer line around what accounts for corruption from political figures versus a wink-and-nod, all part of the game exchange at the favor bank of political commerce by vacating a conviction of the former governor of Virginia. He and his wife had taken a boatload of gifts from a contractor, but at the time there was no law in Virginia forbidding it, no matter how unseemly. The Court in an opinion written by the Chief Justice said, essentially, let the good times roll, if someone has money and power, that’s the point of politics and they can ask and receive favors and assistance without it being a bribe as long as the politician didn’t directly interfere with the governmental process in offering such help. Is this a liberal-left decision or just a free pass for the one-percenters to get-and-grab at politics along the Trump transactional model while someone down the line can get life in prison for five-fingering a bag of candy?

Meanwhile we have the split decisions without a full Court like the one that left union-shop dues provisions alive on one hand and re-criminalized more than four million immigrants on the other. Those were cases of dodging a bullet and taking one on pretty fierce ideological lines. No movement there. Four-on-four hard-court, no fouls game on the biggest court we have. And, how about the erosion of Fourth Amendment rights on search and seizure by police which ignores everything we are learning in modern society about an institution well-armed and out of control. Yikes!

Speculation about the current nominee-in-waiting, Judge Merrick Garland, puts him as slightly left of Justice Stephen Breyer and right of Justice Elena Kagan. Hardly a move to open the envelope wider or go out of the box. None of this seems like a move towards real justice, but just more middle-of-the-road, keep the peace and let the establishment rest easy. It seems clear we have less the rule of law and equal justice and just more pure politics covered in a black robe.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Hating Immigrants is the Wild Card in the Electoral Deck

immigration_2280507bNew Orleans   Wow! It must have suddenly become hate-on-an-immigrant day and Hallmark didn’t prepare any condolence cards for the rest of us. In one day the lives of immigrant millions of families were cast into limbo with the split, no-decision 4-4 polling of the Supreme Court and the 52-48 so-called Brexit vote for Great Britain to leave the European Union. President Obama called the Supreme Court split decision, “heartbreaking,” and said the upcoming election would determine “what kind of people we are.”

Meanwhile the United Kingdom showed what kind of people they were, and it was a bit brutish and left little doubt that immigration and the attendant freedom of mobility within the European Union was the wedge issue driving them out of the EU. As reported in the Times,

With net migration to Britain of 330,000 people in 2015, more than half of them from the European Union, Mr. Cameron had no effective response to how he could limit the influx. And there was no question that while the immigrants contributed more to the economy and to tax receipts than they cost, parts of Britain felt that its national identity was under assault and that the influx was putting substantial pressure on schools, health care and housing.

The campaign run by one of the loudest proponents of leaving, the U.K. Independence Party, flirted with xenophobia, nativism and what some of its critics considered racism. But the official, more mainstream Leave campaign also invoked immigration as an issue, and its slogan, “Take control,” resonated with voters who feel that the government is failing to regulate the inflow of people from Europe and beyond.

Prime Minister David Cameron will pay for the misjudgment and shortsightedness in calling the vote and the rejection at the polls with his job, offering his resignation after a couple of month’s transition to sort out the mess. There is pulling of hair and rending of clothes throughout Europe in trying to understand the “turning point,” the vote represents, but it is hard to see it as anything other than backwards. Scotland which voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, is likely to press again for independence from the United Kingdom given this debacle.

Meanwhile in the United States the same mess is brewing. Trump of course said, “good for them,” joining the nativist on both sides of the Atlantic. Speaker Ryan who is becoming expert at the convoluted logic of politics claimed the no-decision was somehow a rejection by the Supreme Court of Obama’s executive authority around immigration, knowing that all of this awaits the appointment of a tie-breaking Justice in the hands of the next President. The Republicans once again proved how quickly tragedy can be converted into farce.

But what about the people, the immigrants themselves? The five million or more who were living on the bubble of this decision who were parents of citizens or children raised here, all of whom were hoping for some security and a path to the future? Advocates promised to mobilize, voter registration efforts were highlighted, but in the meantime, the “kind of people we are” will be the kind of people who break up families and deport record numbers of people from the United States, because our politics lacks both a heart and a backbone willing to make hard political decisions even when they are so clearly morally correct.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Hillary Says, “If it’s Broke, I’ll Fix it”

51Wc+ZfNTSLNew Orleans    Hillary Clinton in a one-two punch has now laid out her prescription for the United States economy. She says it’s not about one-liners or fancy slogans, but her slogan seems to be: “If it’s broke, I’ll fix it.” She is positioning herself not exactly as the leader-of-the-free world but as the Maytag repairman, a modern day Rosie Riveter with a tool belt strapped around her waist.

She’s not making the mistake of over promising in her campaign pledges, and in fact it was hard to pick through the reports of her economic speech and find many promises at all.

Reportedly, she might try to get more people overtime, but that’s an Obama policy and DOL rule that is still being absorbed by workers and businesses. What would that be exactly? Something over $50,000 rather than the current mid-$40000 number? No revolution there. Another bone she threw out to workers is that she will do more to police and enforce wage and hour rules to curtail wage theft. Sounds good, but I’m pretty sure that would involve some serious beefing up of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division and its personnel, and given how badly this area has atrophied over the last 30 odd years, amen to that. I’m also pretty sure it would take a Congressional appropriation that would actually give the DOL money to finally do that job, and I’m not sure there are many Republican Congressman in the majority that are looking to muscle up on small and medium sized businesses.

She says she’ll renegotiate some of the trade pacts. As most of us know by now anything that has to do with trade negotiations takes forever, so she might be messing with that assignment deep into a second term, if she were able to win one. No holding our breath on that either.

She says there are fix-it-quick deals she can make that would perk up the economy with massive infrastructure investments. That’s a well-traveled road from the Obama Administration as well, and sounds good, but it’s hard to believe there’s a real deal there with Congress either, other than the usual, “when we say, infrastructure, they say, pork.” Oh, she also says she’ll get something going on immigration reform. I’m hearing Trump’s hateration as the soundtrack on this one which, win or lose, is likely to continue to make a lot of conservative Congressmen timid here on real reform, unless this is just a sop she’s throwing to Silicon Valley and its special pleading to bring in more foreign engineers to play with computers and code.

Ok, so this is thin soup so far. She’s saying she’s “feeling your pain” and grabbing her tool belt, but she’s still talking about fulfilling pretty small work orders. She adds, according to the New York Times, that’s not a problem though because, “… she will campaign and govern with a five-point plan, drawn up by subject-area experts, incorporating the full range of potential legislative and administrative tools available to the next president.”

Wow! I’d like to meet the person who takes either comfort or inspiration from a future “five-point plan, drawn up by subject-area experts.” There’s leading from behind, but I’m not sure that American workers and wannabe workers are ready to be happy with her being this far behind.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail