Tuesday, October 16, 2018
|"Proud Boys" in a brawl screaming homophobic slurs.|
The latest disingenuous meme - lie might be the better description - being disseminated by Republicans, including Der Trumpenführer, is that Democrats are a violence prone "angry mob." The only flimsy support for this lie is a few, rare actions by Antifa anarchists, a group that despises Democrats as much as Republicans. In contrast, the GOP has a vast array of far right groups supporting its racist, homophobic agenda that range from the KKK to right wing militias and neo-Nazi groups (think Charlottesville and the right wing groups on display). Sadly some of the media - and some "friends" who seemingly only get their news from Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, and Brietbart - are promoting the dishonest meme. Instead, they should be focusing on right wing organizations that law enforcement recognizes as a real threat to law and order and the safety of citizens. A piece in The Daily Beast at one such group, Proud Boys, a certified hate group, promoted by Republicans. Here are excerpts:
Nine members of the far-right Proud Boys group and three protesters are facing riot and assault charges after a street brawl between them Friday night in New York.
The fight wasn’t a random clash, though: The Proud Boys were in Manhattan thanks to an invite from the Metropolitan Republican Club.
In a speech at the club, which was vandalized before the event, Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes waved a sword at anti-fascist protesters and celebrated the assassination of a socialist Japanese politician. McInnes, a Vice co-founder, dressed up as the Japanese assassin who killed the politician, complete with glasses that made his eyes into a racist caricature of a Japanese person’s eyes.
It was a bizarre event to host at the GOP’s Manhattan clubhouse, but the Metropolitan Republican Club defended McInnes and the Proud Boys after the brawl. In a statement released Sunday, the club said McInnes’s speech “was certainly not inciting violence.”
The Republican club’s role hosting the event highlights how the Proud Boys have managed to insinuate themselves with mainstream Republicans, even as they increasingly make news for violence. But the New York Republicans aren’t alone — the Proud Boys have already managed to make their way into other mainstream GOP campaign events and conservative media.
Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Devin Nunes have posed for pictures with Proud Boys on the campaign trail. Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson posed in a Fox green room with two Proud Boys and Republican operative Roger Stone earlier this year.
Stone has himself taken steps to be initiated into the Proud Boys and made headlines in March when he used the Proud Boys as a security force at the Dorchester Conference, a Republican event in Oregon. By then, the Proud Boys were already notorious in Oregon for a series of bloody Portland brawls. But Dorchester board member and former Oregon legislator Patrick Sheehan defended the Proud Boys’ attendance, telling Willamette Week that Stone “was worried about getting killed … He said he’d been in touch with individual Proud Boys for more than a year, and that he tried talking some out of attending the first Unite the Right rally.“I urged a number of individual proudboys [sic] I know NOT to go to Charlottesville because of the stated views of some of the on-line organizers,” he said.
Fascist skinhead groups have wreaked havoc in the U.S. for decades, but scholars of fascism have noted that those groups pose limited political threats — unless a mainstream political party embraces them.
“The skinheads, for example, would become functional equivalents of Hitler’s SA and Mussolini’s squadristi only if they aroused support instead of revulsion,” historian Robert Paxton writes in his 2004 book The Anatomy of Fascism. “If important elements of the conservative elite begin to cultivate or even tolerate them as weapons against some internal enemy, such as immigrants, we are approaching Stage Two" of what he identifies as fascist insurgency.
The Proud Boys, which have a paramilitary wing, have already proved willing to act as strongmen for Stone, and GOP stalwarts like the Metropolitan Republican Club have already proved willing to host the group.
[A]s clashes between pro-Trump protesters and left-wing “antifa” grabbed headlines in the summer of 2017, McInnes sought to play up violence as a part of the Proud Boy ethos. . . . . McInnes also made a new achievement for Proud Boys: the “fourth degree,” designated for Proud Boys who had endured a “major struggle for the cause.”
Proud Boy rhetoric also grew more belligerent, adopting mottoes like “Fuck around and find out” and “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” Both lines are references to punching out antifa members in self-defense. But Proud Boys have also embraced references and clothing with references to “helicopter rides,” an allusion to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s regime executing opponents by throwing them out of helicopters.
That attention has drawn even more would-be fighters to Proud Boy events, according to Keegan Hankes, a senior researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. At this point, the violence surrounding the Proud Boy has become the group’s “life blood,” according to Hankes.
[V]iolence has erupted outside other, more conventionally Republican events, including a February 2017 event hosted by New York University’s College Republican club. Police arrested 11 people in brawls outside the NYU building. Among them was Proud Boy Salvatore Cipolla, who attacked a journalist who was covering the event. Cipolla attended Unite the Right later that year. During an on-camera interview at Unite the Right, Cipolla identified as a Proud Boy and showed off a Proud Boy tattoo.
Jason Lee Van Dyke, a Proud Boy who also acts as the group’s lawyer said the group has found welcome with a populist, pro-Trump wing of the Republican party.
“I think some Republicans appreciate the Proud Boys because they understand what we actually stand for: love of country, small government, freedom, and fun,” he said. Van Dyke was expelled from his college over a firearms offense after which campus police found an anti-Semitic race war book in his dorm. He was recently charged for allegedly filing a false police report about the theft of his guns.
The rift between Trumpist and traditional conservatives recently engulfed the Metropolitan Republican Club, where McInnes spoke on Friday. In early 2017, the New York Post reported that the club’s “never Trump” leadership was attempting to “purge” the club’s pro-Trump, far-right elements.
That older, anti-Trump faction appears to have lost—at the Metropolitan Republican Club and elsewhere in the U.S., as more extreme-right elements take hold of the GOP.
The Metropolitan Republican Club recently hosted open Islamophobe Pamela Geller. A State of the Union watch party at the club in January descended into alt-right chaos, the Observer reported.
But the Proud Boys’ supporters in the GOP say there’s nothing untoward about the group—at least not more so than mainstream Republicans.
Monday, October 15, 2018
a five-year-old from Honduras, was detained after the Trump
Administration announced |
that it would halt the separation of immigrant families.
The Republican Party that I belonged to years ago, in my view, believed in right and wrong and one of the things that a decent person would never do is harm a small child or deliberately take away a child's legal rights. But that is not the Republican Party of today with Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer at its head. Tricking a child so that the child forfeits rights and suffers a cruel family separation is all in a days work for the Trump/Pence regime. What I find most disturbing is the number of people - including some "friends" who pretend to be decent moral people are just fine and dandy with such ruthless cruelty. They would never want their own children or grandchildren to be treated this way, but seemingly, if the child in question has black or brown skin, then anything goes. How these people live with themselves is something I cannot grasp (hopefully, I never will). A piece in The New Yorker looks at the case of "Helen" a five year old from Honduras - the country of my mother's birth - who without any adult advocate was tricked into signing away her rights and who, as a result, ended up separated for many months from family members. Helen's case is not an exception and some children have yet to be reunited with their families. You would expect something like this in Nazi Germany or Bolshevik Russia, but not in America. Here are story highlights:
Helen—a smart, cheerful five-year-old girl—is an asylum seeker from Honduras. . . . In July, Helen fled Honduras with her grandmother, Noehmi, and several other relatives; gangs had threatened Noehmi’s teen-age son, Christian, and the family no longer felt safe. Helen’s mother, Jeny, had migrated to Texas four years earlier, and Noehmi planned to seek legal refuge there. With Noehmi’s help, Helen travelled thousands of miles, sometimes on foot, and frequently fell behind the group.When the family reached the scrubland of southern Texas, U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended them and moved them through a series of detention centers. A month earlier, the Trump Administration had announced, amid public outcry over its systemic separation of migrant families at the border, that it would halt the practice. But, at a packed processing hub, Christian was taken from Noehmi and placed in a cage with toddlers. Noehmi remained in a cold holding cell, clutching Helen. Soon, she recalled, a plainclolothes official arrived and informed her that she and Helen would be separated. “No!” Noehmi cried. “The girl is under my care! Please!”
Noehmi said that the official told her, “Don’t make things too difficult,” and pulled Helen from her arms. “The girl will stay here,” he said, “and you’ll be deported.” . . . . the authorities explaining that Helen’s mother would be able to retrieve her, soon, from wherever they were taking her.
Later that day, Noehmi and Christian were reunited. The adults in the family were fitted with electronic ankle bracelets and all were released, pending court dates. They left the detention center and rushed to Jeny’s house, in McAllen, hoping to find Helen there. When they didn’t, Noehmi began to shake, struggling to explain the situation. “Immigration took your daughter,” she told Jeny.
The next day, authorities—likely from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (O.R.R.)—called to say that they were holding Helen at a shelter near Houston; according to Noehmi, they wouldn’t say exactly where. . . . Helen had been brought to Baytown, a shelter run by Baptist Child & Family Services, which the federal government had contracted to house unaccompanied minors.
According to a long-standing legal precedent known as the Flores settlement, which established guidelines for keeping children in immigration detention, Helen had a right to a bond hearing before a judge; that hearing would have likely hastened her release from government custody and her return to her family. At the time of her apprehension, in fact, Helen checked a box on a line that read, “I do request an immigration judge,” asserting her legal right to have her custody reviewed. But, in early August, an unknown official handed Helen a legal document, a “Request for a Flores Bond Hearing,” which described a set of legal proceedings and rights that would have been difficult for Helen to comprehend. (“In a Flores bond hearing, an immigration judge reviews your case to determine whether you pose a danger to the community,” the document began.) On Helen’s form, which was filled out with assistance from officials, there is a checked box next to a line that says, “I withdraw my previous request for a Flores bond hearing.” Beneath that line, the five-year-old signed her name in wobbly letters.
As the summer progressed with no signs of Helen’s return, Noehmi and Jeny contacted LUPE, a nonprofit community union based in the Rio Grande Valley, to ask for help winning Helen’s release. . . . Tania Chavez, a strategy leader for the organization, met with the family to hear their story.
As Chavez saw it, the girl’s seizure by the government showed that the family-separation crisis hadn’t been resolved, as many Americans believed—it had simply evolved.
Now stage three has commenced—one in which separations are done quietly, LUPE’s Tania Chavez asserts, and in which reunifications can be mysteriously stymied. According to recent Department of Justice numbers—released because of an ongoing A.C.L.U. lawsuit challenging family separations—a hundred and thirty-six children who fall within the lawsuit’s scope are still in government custody. An uncounted number of separated children in shelters and foster care fall outside the lawsuit’s current purview—including many like Helen, who arrived with a grandparent or other guardian, rather than with a parent. Many such children have been misclassified, in government paperwork, as “unaccompanied minors,” due to a sloppy process that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General recently critiqued.
[M]any kids have largely disappeared from public view, and from official statistics, with the federal government showing little urgency to hasten reunifications. (O.R.R. and U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not respond to requests for comment.)
Noehmi and Jeny connected with LUPE’s newly hired attorney, Eugene Delgado. . . . He agreed to represent Noehmi and her family, and at the summer’s end he went with them to court to represent them in removal proceedings. There, a judge granted Noehmi and her relatives more time to apply for asylum. Toward the end of the hearing, Delgado brought up Helen.
“Judge, this case doesn’t stop here,” Delgado said. “What about the little child lost in the system?” The judge looked confused. “What do you mean?” he asked. “Well, where is Helen, the five-year-old?”
The judge, Delgado recalled, seemed startled. Both he and the government prosecutor had no idea that Helen existed, let alone where she was being held. “I could give you a couple of phone numbers to call?” the prosecutor offered.
Delgado began the search. “It was just a complete maze, trying to trace the girl down,” he recalled. “I talked to at least ten people—case workers, social workers.” Eventually, he learned of Helen’s placement in Baytown, the Houston shelter. After that, Noehmi and Jeny were allowed two ten-minute calls with Helen per week, during which the girl often pleaded, “Come get me, Grandma!” The government collected fingerprints and other information from Noehmi and Jeny, to determine whether they were Helen’s rightful guardians; the Office of Refugee Resettlement soon deemed Jeny a fit sponsor, Delgado told me, but the completion of Noehmi’s background check was delayed for unexplained reasons.
On August 17th, Helen was transferred to a foster home in San Antonio. “I feared, did they give Helen away?” Noehmi told me; she worried about the prospect of adoption.
Chavez had found, in these cases, that authorities sometimes responded to public pressure; she’d never tried this in family-separation cases, but it seemed worth a shot. Chavez reached out to Alida Garcia, the vice-president of advocacy for the group FWD.us, and Jess Morales Rocketto, the chair of an alliance known as Families Belong Together. These teams worked together to craft a national social-media campaign, using Helen’s O.R.R. case-file photograph: an image that eerily resembled a cherub-cheeked mug shot. On August 31st, they began to circulate a petition addressing the O.R.R. official in charge of Helen’s case. “By that Friday, we already had six hundred signatures,” Chavez said. Right away, they began receiving calls from O.R.R., promising that Helen would be returned to her family as soon as possible.
On September 7th, LUPE was told that Helen would finally be released, nearly two months after she was taken from Noehmi.
Soon after, the shelter sent a small black backpack that Helen had left behind. It held Helen’s legal paperwork, including the document that the five-year-old had been told to sign, withdrawing her request to see a judge. The backpack also held Helen’s colored sketch of Lady Liberty. Beneath the statue’s image, a lesson summary, in Spanish, read, “Objective: That the students draw one of the most representative symbols of the United States.”
Last Thursday, Helen’s family held another party, with cake and more princess gear, to celebrate the reunion and to thank the advocacy groups that helped make it happen.
Read the full piece for more details. Ask yourself if you'd want your child or grandchild treated this way? Frankly, I wouldn't treat a dog this way much less a small child. If this story disturbs you, take the first step in ending such stories: vote Democrat on November 6, 2018, for every office possible. If this story doesn't disturb you, then do the rest of us a favor and stop pretending that you are a good Christian because you clearly are not.“One of the things Helen’s story really showed us is that the Trump Administration never stopped separating children from their families,” Morales Rocketto said. “In fact, they’ve doubled down, but it’s even more insidious now, because they are doing it in the cover of night.” She added, “We believe that there are more kids like Helen. We have learned we cannot take this Administration at their word.”
I have never been a fan one way or the other of Taylor Swift nor one to follow the celebrity gossip of shows like "Entertainment Tonight," but I now have a new appreciation of the singer who dared to use her celebrity to perhaps motivate Millennials and others of the stakes the nation facing in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. In my view, these may be the most important elections in a generation or more and the results will determine if rising authoritarianism and rule by a toxic minority will continue in this country. Some may view the previous statement as hyperbole, but I believe we stand at a turning point where either democracy is defended or it will begin a dangerous death. A column in the New York Times looks at Swift's speaking out and the stakes in these elections. Here are column excerpts:
Last Sunday night, Taylor Swift did something she had never done in her stratospheric career as a pop star: She endorsed a political candidate in Tennessee, her adopted home state.She endorsed two candidates, actually, both Democrats: Representative Jim Cooper, who is running for re-election to Congress, and former Gov. Phil Bredesen, who is running to fill the Senate seat that the Republican Bob Corker is voluntarily, sort of, vacating.
Swift did more than simply endorse the Democrats. In an Instagram post to her 112 million followers, she also slammed Marsha Blackburn, the Republican House member running against Mr. Bredesen: “Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me,” Ms. Swift wrote. “She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values.”
There’s a good reason for any female artist, especially one who got her start on country radio, to think twice about wading into politics. . . . . The Dixie Chicks never recovered.
Here in 2018, something very different is happening to Taylor Swift: People, it seems, are following her lead. By noon on Tuesday, less than 48 hours after she posted her exhortation on Instagram, more than 166,000 people across the country had registered to vote. And while there is no hard evidence, no way to measure how much Swift’s post had to do with the bump, some details were telling: Roughly 42 percent of the newly registered are between the ages of 18 and 24, right in Taylor Swift’s wheelhouse. “We have never seen a 24- or 36- or 48-hour period like this,” a spokeswoman for Vote.org told The Times.
Among the newly registered, more than 6,200 live in Tennessee, and Mr. Bredesen will need every one of them to show up at the polls on Nov. 6.
[T]he state’s two largest cities, Memphis and Nashville, consistently vote for Democrats. And given that Tennessee’s urban population continues to grow even as its rural population shrinks, it stands to reason that a truly progressive candidate — someone charismatic and unapologetically liberal — could bring out young voters and people of color and thus change the whole nature of politics here.
Instead, state Democrats got behind Phil Bredesen, a 74-year-old business-friendly moderate who previously served two terms as both mayor of Nashville and governor of Tennessee. It was a savvy move in many ways. Mr. Bredesen won all 95 Tennessee counties when he ran for re-election in 2006, his last campaign, and he still enjoys high name recognition and approval ratings here. In May, Vanderbilt University polled a representative sampling of Tennesseans, rating Mr. Bredesen’s overall favorability at 67 percent.
It’s hard to imagine a candidate better poised to attract disaffected Republicans. If you’re an old-school conservative and you’re alarmed by an erratic president with no functional institutional checks on his most outrageous ideas, the last person you want to send to the Senate on your behalf is a rabble-rousing Trump apologist with a gun in her purse.
For moderate Republican voters, a calm, affable fiscal conservative is an appealing alternative, especially one who has a history of standing up to his own party. . . . . But for Tennessee progressives, Mr. Bredesen represents a tragic lost opportunity.
But the biggest boost may have come from a 28-year-old pop star who pointed out what would seem to be obvious: that our choice is not between a progressive and a conservative. Our choice is between a mild-mannered, business-friendly centrist and a Tea Party Republican who has voted with the president 91 percent of the time, who favors the repeal of Roe v. Wade, who opposes marriage equality and who is in thrall to the Koch brothers and the National Rifle Association. The list of Marsha Blackburn’s assaults on liberal values goes on and on and on.
The choice is likewise clear across America. Here in Hampton Roads it means voting for Elaine Luria, Tim Kaine and other Democrat candidates.As she pointed out in her Instagram post, “We may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100 percent on every issue, but we have to vote anyway.” In Tennessee, the choice is clear.
Sunday, October 14, 2018
In politics, one should never allow them-self to feel over confident. It is always essential to act as if one is behind and must turn out every possible voter so that one either wins by a small margin or, better yet, wins by a landslide, That said, things appear to be looking up for Democrats in the Mid-West where much of Donald Trump's promised economic resurgence is falling flat. The result is that Republican candidates are likewise filling flat in midterm election contests. Indeed, the Des Moines Register has endorsed Democrat candidates complaining" the GOP has failed to govern," Here are highlights from that papers argument that Republicans need to be sent into retirement:
When Republicans achieved the trifecta in 2016, winning the presidency as well as holding the House and Senate, it seemed the country was poised to move beyond the GOP-engineered partisan gridlock that had characterized much of the previous six years.Not so much, as it turned out. The Republican majority in Congress tried and failed to dismantle the Affordable Care Act without offering a plan of their own that a majority of their own members — let alone a majority of the American people — could support. Instead, they have allowed the system to become increasingly unstable, leading to a lack of competition and rising premiums.
Republicans in Congress have not only failed at comprehensive immigration reform, but their action allowed protection to expire on young, undocumented Americans brought here as children. They haven’t even fully funded President Trump’s border wall. They stood by as the administration tried to bar Muslims from certain countries from entering the United States. They looked the other way as the administration shocked and dismayed the nation by separating young children from their parents at the border, holding them in detention and losing track of some of the kids.
Republicans promised fiscal responsibility, yet they have punted on putting the nation back on sound financial footing. Their one major legislative success, the 2017 tax cut, is projected to add $1.9 trillion to the debt. This, after Republicans howled endlessly about the comparatively meager deficits created during the Obama administration. The Congressional Budget Office said in August that these tax cuts and spending increases would become “unsustainable” if extended. But the House GOP, including Iowa’s three Republican representatives, voted last month for another $3.8 trillion in tax cuts.
In becoming the party of Trump, the Republicans have forsaken traditional conservatism and given voters no rational alternative to the Democrats. The party needs to be voted out of power and spend a few years becoming again the party of Lincoln, not the party of Trump.
Nothing short of a change in party leadership in Congress will move this country forward. That’s why we’re recommending that Iowa voters send home Reps. Rod Blum, David Young and Steve King and return Rep. Dave Loebsack to the House.
Thankfully, Republican problems extend far beyond Iowa and, as in Iowa, Trump appears to be a major obstacle for many voters. These highlights from the Washington Post looks at the situation:
Polling shows [GOP Congressman Lou Barletta] well behind Democratic Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. Indeed, it has become increasingly hard for Republicans to remain optimistic about the chances for him and other GOP candidates across the industrial Midwest.Republicans running for governor or senator in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, including several who hitched their wagon to Trump’s political movement, are behind in polls by double digits, a remarkable turnabout in swing states that were key to the president’s 2016 victory.
If current polling averages hold, Democrats will maintain all their Senate seats in those states, pick up a handful of House seats and, in some cases, retake the governors’ mansions. In nearby Iowa, a state Trump won by nearly 10 points, the Democratic candidate for governor was running about even with the Republican governor in a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Polling this week found Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) trailing his Democratic opponent, Tony Evers.
The dramatic shift has forced political strategists to reevaluate their post-mortem lessons from the 2016 election, while raising new questions about Trump’s staying power in 2020. Democratic strategists, who worried that Iowa and Ohio were slipping away from them in presidential years, are now heartened and have begun to return their attention to the traditional bellwethers.
“One false assumption that was made was that a Trump voter from the 2016 election was necessarily a Republican voter,” said John Brabender, a GOP consultant who is working with Barletta.
There is a clear historical precedent for such a shift. Then-candidate Barack Obama swept the industrial Midwest in the 2008 elections, only to find his party battered in his first midterm contest two years later, when Republicans retook governorships in Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin, along with Senate seats in Indiana and Wisconsin. Obama was nonetheless able to come back and win those same states, with the exception of Indiana, in his 2012 reelection.
Still, the short-term impact is dire for Republicans. After surprising the nation in 2016, Trump appears to be driving turnout this year that will largely benefit Democrats, as moderate voters, and college-educated women in particular, seek an outlet for their frustration with his policies and behavior. Trump’s aggressive campaign schedule for Republicans in these states has so far failed to turn the tide.
“They thought they had unlocked some formula that would make them successful. But it was only Trump and only that year,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said of the 2016 election. “What the Republicans are doing now isn’t working for union members or struggling families. It’s not working for young people. It’s just not working.”
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who began the year as a leading target for conservative super PACs but is besting Republican challenger Leah Vukmir by about 10 points in recent polls, attributes her success to the return of an energized Democratic voting base, driven by issues such as health care and sustained by how the party, in her view, has built a case that’s bigger than just opposing Trump. . . . . They are saying, ‘No more sitting on the sidelines.’ ”
That same pattern is playing out in Michigan, where Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) and the Democratic candidate for governor, Gretchen Whitmer, have both had comfortable margins in recent polling. Trump won the state by a whisker-thin margin of 10,704 votes in 2016.
“Everything I am seeing in my numbers is revolving not around his [Trump's] job approval but whether you view him favorably or unfavorably,” said pollster Richard Czuba, who runs a statewide survey for the Detroit News and WDIV. “Donald Trump doesn’t have an opponent, and that is his problem right now. ”
The result is a sharp overall surge in voter enthusiasm in the state compared to 2016, and big swings in suburban areas such as Oakland County, the state’s wealthiest region, outside Detroit. “We are finding it difficult to find college-educated women in Oakland County who will call themselves Republicans,” Czuba said.
In many of the Great Lakes states, candidates like Barletta who most tied themselves to the Trump agenda are still flailing. In Ohio, Rep. James B. Renacci (R), whose first Senate campaign ad was about his tight bond with Trump, has yet to come within 10 points of incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in a major public poll.
“We have lost millions of members of our party in the last year,” said John Weaver, a Republican adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a Trump critic, reflecting on how Trump’s bid split the party. “A MAGA candidate who runs as a junior member of the walking dead and wins the primary is going to find themselves shot in the general election.”
Complicating things further is the devotion of the Republican base to Trump’s take-no-prisoners approach, which can make it dangerous for GOP candidates who seek to create some distance.
Trump was able to win in 2016 by contrasting himself with Clinton, who was boasting of an economic resurgence under Obama, in the stock market and unemployment rate, that many voters did not feel in their daily lives.
“Now he is falling into that same line of argument and people are saying, ‘Not so much,’ ” Ryan said. “There is no substantial change.”
|Photo of a red tide by John Moran.|
Nationally, the Republican Party's agenda is to create a new Gilded Age where the rich live the lives of old word aristocrats and the rest of us are peasants and serfs. Environmentally, they want to eliminate environmental regulations that block corporate interests from polluting the air and the water. Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, has rolled back Obama era regulations that would have lowered air and water pollution. Here in Virginia, for the last eight years Democrat governors have sought to mitigate the efforts of Republicans who in some cases have banned even the utterance of the words "climate change." Red states under Republican control have not fared as well. Florida under GOP governor Rick Scott is a case in point. Scott has worked to roll back environmental protections and now Florida finds itself in a crisis separate and apart for the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Thankfully, as laid out in a long Politico Magazine piece, Scott's anti-environment efforts are coming back to haunt him as he runs for the U.S. Senate. Here are article highlights:
John Moran is a Florida nature photographer, but lately he sees himself as a Florida crime photographer. The crime, he likes to say, is the slime.
But one of Moran’s most popular images, a grinning man relaxing on a pink inner tube with his feet slathered in algae, is considerably less artsy. The man’s face is a crudely Photoshopped Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, with a speech bubble that reads: “Come on in. The water’s fine!” Scott is running for U.S. Senate, and Moran wants to make sure voters associate him with the nasty mess that is sickening puppies and beachgoers, forcing lifeguards to wear gas masks, and imperiling the coastal tourist economy that makes Florida go.“Scott has been so terrible on these issues, he’s really promoted the cause of environmental awareness in Florida,” says Moran, whose more serious work on the devastation is on display at a “Summer of Slime” exhibit at Gainesville’s Florida Museum. “It takes a moment like this and a person like that to wake people up.”
The ecological meltdown of Florida’s waters — a toxic rainbow coalition of red tide, blue-green algae and a touch of brown algae — has been very bad news for Scott, or, as he’s been dubbed on social media, #RedTideRick. Before scenic beaches in snowbird meccas like Sanibel and Sarasota were inundated with dead manatees, dolphins and turtles, most polls had Scott ahead of Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, even as other Republican candidates struggled in more safely Republican states. The prediction model at FiveThirtyEight now gives Nelson a slight lead, a shift that seems to owe more to biological red tide than any political blue wave.
Scott would prefer to focus the race on Florida’s low unemployment rate, Nelson’s low profile in Washington, and his own leadership handling storms like Hurricane Michael. But the putrid slime befouling his state has been difficult to avoid — Hurricane Michael actually blew the red tide back into Tampa Bay, where it littered the area's beaches with dead mullet — and Scott has found it difficult to change the subject.
He recently cut short a statewide bus tour after eco-protesters chanting about Red Tide Rick chased him out of an event in heavily Republican Venice on Florida’s west coast. In August, he dodged a much larger crowd of disgruntled homeowners after taking a private boat tour of the algae-choked St. Lucie River in heavily Republican Stuart on the east coast.
[W]ater quality is a state responsibility, and while Scott has made occasional eco-friendly moves during his eight years in office, he has consistently weakened regulation and enforcement of the nutrients that fuel algae blooms. And even though warmer water can supercharge those blooms, as well as hurricanes like Michael that can spread those blooms, Scott has done nothing to deal with climate change. State employees in his administration were even cautioned not to say those two words.
Florida’s politicians have a long and sordid history of promoting the exploitation rather than the conservation of the state’s unique natural resources. But it’s become a real political problem for Scott now that Florida’s waters, its economic golden goose, are in such a conspicuous state of crisis. National publications keep running bad-for-the-brand headlines like “Toxic Slime Is Ruining Florida’s Gulf Coast” (in Bloomberg BusinessWeek) and “A Toxic Tide Is Killing Florida Wildlife” (in the New York Times).
After red tide unexpectedly showed up Thursday in Miami, shutting down beaches and threatening a multibillion-dollar hospitality industry, local filmmaker Billy Corben tweeted a parody of the state tourism bureau’s Visit Florida ads, featuring footage of poisoned marine life interspersed with footage of Scott assuring the public Florida is open for business, over the pounding beat of Pitbull’s “Sexy Beaches.”
“Nothing ever stuck to Teflon Rick, but pardon the pun, the algae is sticking,” Corben says. “It’s such a rich irony that he’s going to be done in by Mother Nature.”
The problem for Scott is that his victories were 1-point squeakers during the Republican landslides of 2010 and 2014, while 2018 looks like a much more Democratic year. And even loyal Republicans don’t seem to enjoy slime in their backyards. People come to Florida to enjoy the outdoors, and the recurring water crises of recent years—in the Everglades, Florida Bay, Lake Okeechobee, the springs of north Florida, and the near-shore estuaries along the east and west coast—have inspired a new movement of digitally savvy activists determined to punish politicians who neglect the state’s natural jewels. Bullsugar.org, a local group formed a few years ago to counter the sugar industry’s influence on water decisions, now has 330,000 followers on Facebook, and it’s using its own influence to support Nelson.
“His [incumbent Senator Nelson] greatest asset,” says Bullsugar co-founder Chris Maroney, a retired internet entrepreneur, “is that he’s not Rick Scott.”
Since becoming in governor in 2011, Scott has pushed to evade even that limited scrutiny. One of his early moves was to petition the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency to drop its push for specific numerical limits on nutrient pollution in Florida; he argued that the feds should leave nutrient control entirely to the state. At the same time, Scott was gutting the budgets and staffs of state environmental agencies and water management districts, shifting their focus from enforcement of pollution violations to reduction of regulatory burdens, and eliminating the state’s growth management agency entirely. He would later repeal a law requiring routine inspections of septic tanks to make sure they weren’t leaking untreated waste into state waters.
In a recent debate, Nelson described the mess as a direct result of Scott “systematically disassembling the environmental agencies of this state … You put pollution in the water, it will grow the algae in the heat of summer.” His ads are just as blunt: “The water is murky, but the fact is clear: Rick Scott caused this problem.”
Kimberly Mitchell, executive director of the Everglades Trust, is also a Republican who served as a city commissioner in West Palm Beach. She thinks the toxic nightmare seeping around the state will hurt her party in November — and after two decades of using its control of Tallahassee to help agricultural interests and other polluters, she thinks that hurt will be well-deserved. “People see the death and destruction on their social media, and they realize they’ve got to do something,” she says. “They’re awake now, and I think a lot of Republicans don’t want that.”
In surveys, Americans rarely cite the environment as a top priority, even though most voters support strict environmental regulations. But nature is so intimately connected to Florida’s economy and culture that green issues can tilt elections here.
Now, nature is having another political moment in the Sunshine State. The activist Erin Brockovich was in Fort Myers last week to raise awareness about the crisis. Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor, attracted an astonishing crowd of more than 1,200 to an environmental rally in Stuart over the weekend, promising to “put the word ‘protection’ back into the Department of Environmental Protection.” His opponent, Congressman Ron DeSantis, has been a reliable vote for the House Republican war on environmental regulation, but he’s running as a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist; his first general-election ad touted his determination to take on Big Sugar and save the Everglades.
In some ways, though, the situation is simple. Scott has spent eight years portraying himself as the jobs-jobs-jobs governor, rolling back environmental rules and enforcement that job creators didn’t like, and now he’s having trouble convincing Floridians he’s also been a nature-nature-nature governor. Whether Mother Nature helps knock him off, or whether he manages to win despite the slime spreading on his watch, the race could send a national message about the environment’s power or lack thereof to take revenge on politicians who mistreat it.
If you care about the quality of the air you breathe and the water you drink - or, in my own case, have in your backyard - there's really no choice but to vote Democrat. To do otherwise is environmental suicide.The situation has also provided a timely reminder that in Florida, nature-nature-nature creates jobs. . . . And if they [algae blooms and red tides] become an annual phenomenon, they could scare away out-of-state visitors who spend more than $100 billion in Florida every year.