Friday, September 6, 2019

Cruelty is Trump's Guiding Principle — But Democrats Can Use It to Defeat Him

It is possible to hurt a person without ever meeting them. Donald Trump and his regime have done that millions of times in the almost three years he has been president of the United States.

Cruelty, especially against nonwhite people, is one of the Trump regime’s guiding principles. Trump, his supporters, and enablers take great pleasure in hurting the weak, the sick and any other people they deem vulnerable. This is a function of "social dominance behavior," a trait that is common to conservative-authoritarian personalities.

As I explained in an 2017 essay at Salon, Republicans and conservatives widely believe:

... that those who seek assistance from society have no right to receive it. If people do not have the resources to provide adequate health for themselves and their families, that's their own fault. Most important, the sick deserve their illnesses; the healthy and strong have earned their advantages. 
Once again, the repeated efforts by the Republican Party to repeal the minimal protections offered by the Affordable Care Act serve to remind us that conservatism is a type of socially-motivated cognition that minimizes any sense of human obligation and connection to other people, outside a narrowly defined kin or other peer group. 
Today's version of American conservatism is also a celebration of selfishness — and a belief that true freedom and liberty are based on a perverse individualism with little sense of common decency or linked fate with someone's fellow citizens. Today's American conservatism also embraces an extreme form of neoliberalism whereby human worth and dignity are determined by profit-and-loss statements, and capitalism and democracy are confused with one another. Ultimately, American conservatism is a value system that is antisocial, anti-democratic and anti-freedom.
In keeping with those values, the Trump administration recently proposed deporting critically ill immigrants who are receiving medical care in the United States.

Earlier this week the New York Times reported that on Aug. 7:
... the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, without public notice, eliminated a 'deferred action' program that had allowed immigrants to avoid deportation while they or their relatives were undergoing lifesaving medical treatment. The agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, had sent letters informing those who had asked for a renewal, which the immigrants must make every two years, that it was no longer entertaining such requests. The letters said that the immigrants must leave the country within 33 days, or face deportation.
Because of public outrage at the wanton cruelty of sending sick people — including many children — back to their home countries to die, USCIS announced a temporary pause in the deportations:
On Monday, the agency said in a statement that while limiting the program was “appropriate,” officials would “complete the caseload that was pending on August 7.” The statement said that deportation proceedings had not been initiated against anyone who had received the letter. However, it did not say whether it would continue to grant immigrants extensions to stay in the country or whether the program would be continued after current applications are processed. When asked for clarification, an agency official said the agency “is taking immediate corrective action to reopen previously pending cases for consideration.”
This should be no comfort for the people who are in the United States under the "deferred action" program. Moreover, the safe and reasonable assumption should be that the Trump regime will resume its efforts to deport immigrants receiving lifesaving medical care once the controversy and resulting public and media attention subsides. This is part of the Trump regime's fascist strategy of creating controversy through its "shocking" and "surprising" assaults on democracy, the rule of law and human decency. Predictably, the public and news media react to the outrage of the day, week or month. In response, the administration then appears to back down.

Testing the limits of societal norms is one of the primary ways through which fascists and other authoritarians break a democracy and in so doing train the public into a state of constant distraction, exhaustion and learned helplessness.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Patriotism, truth and fascism: Donald Trump is creating a subjective reality where dissent is not allowed

At some point in high school, Donald Trump’s new White House press secretary and communications director Stephanie Grisham must have read George Orwell’s "1984." Instead of understanding Orwell’s book as a warning about totalitarianism, however, Grisham took it as a "how to" guide.

This is from a profile of Grisham, published last week in the Washington Post:
Does Grisham think Trump ever lies? After all, as of Aug. 5, The Washington Post Fact Checker had documented 12,019 false or misleading claims made by Trump during his presidency. 
“No,” she responds without hesitation. “I don’t think they’re lies. . . . I think the president communicates in a way that some people, especially the media, aren’t necessarily comfortable with. A lot of times they take him so literally. I know people will roll their eyes if I say he was just kidding or was speaking in hypotheticals, but sometimes he is. What I’ve learned about him is that he loves this country and he’s not going to lie to this country.”
Despite the thousands of documented lies Trump has told since becoming president, his media sycophants at Fox News and elsewhere continue to claim that he is an honest and truthful person. Because they are authoritarians who are comfortable with their leaders lying to them, Trump’s voters and other Republicans also believe that he is honest.

Grisham’s recent comments to the Post are also another example of a very dangerous overlap between Donald Trump’s subjective reality, politics and truth. When Grisham says, "What I’ve learned about him is that he loves this country and he’s not going to lie to this country,” she is asserting that patriotism — always a subjective and normative quality — is a litmus test for the truth. Given his egomania and narcissism, Trump certainly agrees with her. Objective reality is to be made secondary, if not wholly replaced and usurped by, the whims of a mercurial, unstable authoritarian.

The real world is swallowed up by TrumpWorld; Trump’s critics and other detractors are then excluded from reality itself — which in turn legitimates their silencing by any means available.

In total, Trump's lies, and the media and political machine that disseminates and sustains them, are antithetical to democracy. This is not a precondition for fascism. It is fascism in action.

Moreover, those people and organizations who aid, abet and enforce his lies are also enemies of a good and humane society. Philosopher Hannah Arendt warned of this in her 1971 essay “Lying in Politics”:
[T]he historian knows how vulnerable is the whole texture of facts in which we spend our daily life …. [I]t is always in danger of being perforated by single lies or torn to shreds by the organized lying of groups, nations, or classes, or denied and distorted, often carefully covered up by reams of falsehoods or simply allowed to fall into oblivion. Facts need testimony to be remembered and trustworthy witnesses to be established in order to find a secure dwelling place in the domain of human affairs.
The Washington Post’s profile of Stephanie Grisham also reveals the worldview and collective character of the Trump regime and those people willing to serve it. In Grisham’s comments about her job as press secretary and communications director there is no mention of a commitment to public service, the common good or the well-being of the American people. Loyalty to Donald Trump is all that matters. The framers of the United States Constitution rejected the divine right of kings and queens and the idea of a hereditary nobility in America. Donald Trump is the human exemplar of why the framers put safeguards in the Constitution to remove such an authoritarian.

Donald Trump’s lies are a tool. They help him to assault the rule of law, cut away at democracy, profit from corruption and greed, normalize his illegitimate regime, and stay in power by distracting the American people and the news media from his political agenda, which presents a dire threat to the existence of America’s multiracial democracy.

Donald Trump’s lies represent another type of threat as well. Philosopher Henry Giroux demonstrates in his new book “American Nightmare” how Trump and his movement imperil the American people’s relationship to history and reality:

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Chauncey DeVega Show: A Conversation with Dr. Justin Frank About How Donald Trump's Mental Pathologies are Encouraging A Plague of Right-wing Violence and Hatred Across America

Dr. Justin Frank is a former clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center and a physician with more than 40 years of experience in psychoanalysis. He is the author of the bestselling books Bush on the Couch and Obama on the Couch. His newest book is Trump on the Couch. Dr. Frank's work has appeared in Time magazine and the Daily Beast and he has appeared as an expert commentator and guest on MSNBC, CNN, PBS and other outlets.

Dr. Frank explains how Donald Trump's many mental pathologies give permission for the violence, hatred and terrorism of his supporters and why the massacres in El Paso and Dayton -- and his reactions to them -- reveal Trump's lack of empathy for other human beings and how the president is likely a sociopath. Dr. Frank also warns that Donald Trump hates to see happy families and this is why he does not care about seeing nonwhite children and their families suffering in his concentration camps. Dr. Frank also sounds the alarm about how the right-wing terrorism and other political violence that Trump has encouraged and commanded through stochastic terrorism and scripted violence will spread across the country like an epidemic.

Chauncey DeVega is angry that after only three years of so-called "resistance" that too many people have already surrendered to Donald Trump, the Republican Party and their fascist regime. Why? Because they are "tired" and "frustrated". This is because of a lack of historical perspective and understanding about what true struggle looks like in America and around the world. Chauncey also shares several news stories and commentaries about Donald Trump's post El Paso and Dayton "victory" tour of human depravity including a raid by ICE brownshirts which stole hundreds of Latino and Hispanic parents away from their crying children on the first day of school.

At the end of this week's podcast Chauncey reads a wonderful animal friends story about an honored elder who adopted an amazing senior cat.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Truth Report: My Conversation with Tim Wise About White Rage and Donald Trump's "Race War" in America

Tim Wise is one of America's and the world's leading experts on white privilege and racism. He is the author of numerous books including his most recent Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America.

Tim Wise explains why three years into Trump's presidency there are still so many journalists, reporters and other political observers who are "shocked" and "surprised" by his blatant racism and authoritarian behavior. Is Republican strategist Rick Wilson correct in his assessment that Donald Trump wants a "race war" in America? And in what ways isthe recent mass shooting in California by an apparent Nazi -- as well as a very large increase in right-wing political violence more generally in America -- the expected outcome of Donald Trump's presidency?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A Conversation with MSNBC's Joy-Ann Reid About How Donald Trump Represents Everything Wrong With America

Joy-Ann Reid is the host of AM Joy on MSNBC. She is the author of several books including Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons and the Racial Divide as well as We Are the Change We Seek: The Speeches of Barack Obama. Her new book is The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story.

Reid explains how Donald Trump has betrayed American democracy, why his violence, racism and other vile behavior is appealing to his supporters, and how he is the human embodiment of America's cultural and social ills.

Joy-Ann Reid also reflects on how best to make sense of this confusing and disorienting moment in American history and a Republican Party and Donald Trump which are committed to restoring American Apartheid and total white rule over an increasingly diverse country.

On this week's show Chauncey DeVega ponders why so many journalists, reporters, and the American people as a whole, are still surprised by Donald Trump's racism and his newest exercise in presidential white supremacy -- the slurring of four nonwhite Democratic congresswomen (most notably Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) as somehow being inherently "un-American" and who should be kicked out of the United States if they do not bow in fealty to Trump's racial authoritarian regime.

Chauncey also shares several news items which highlight Trump's war on America's multiracial democracy and his campaign of cruelty against nonwhites and then asks you, the listeners, to connect the dots.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

"Two years ago I compared Trump to Hitler. People didn't believe me": Dr. John Gartner Explains How Donald Trump's Poor Mental Health is Grounds for Impeachment

Dr. John Gartner is a former professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School. Gartner is also the founder of the Duty to Warn PAC, an organization working to raise awareness about the danger to the United States and the world posed by Donald Trump.

He was a contributor to the 2017 bestselling book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. Gartner along with two other expert mental health professionals, is the author of the recent and widely-read USA Today op-ed "President Donald Trump's poor mental health is grounds for impeachment".

Dr. Gartner explains why there is no mass resistance to Donald Trump's movement and his assault on American democracy and freedom. He also answers the following questions.

Why have so many Americans chosen to surrender? How can psychology help to explain Donald Trump and his movement's assault on reality and why so many Americans have been seduced by this malignant reality? How has the Mueller Report empowered Donald Trump and fueled his apparent public mental illness and other dangerous behavior? What must be done to force Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party to impeach Donald Trump? Will there be violence from Trump's supporters if he is forced to leave office?

Friday, July 19, 2019

Political Scientist Ashley Jardina Explains How "White Identity Politics" Are a Dire Threat to American Democracy

Today's Republican Party is the largest, most powerful and most dangerous white racist organization in the United States -- if not the world. Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is its leader. These are plain if not understated facts. No embellishment is needed. The examples are many. Over the last few days Donald Trump has repeatedly dug into his bucket of racist political scatology, saying on Twitter and elsewhere that four nonwhite members of Congress ("Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen," as he mockingly put it) should leave America and go back to their own "crime infested" and "totally broken" countries.

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib were all born in the United States. Rep. Ilhan Omar is a naturalized citizen who was born in Somalia. This is not the first time that Donald Trump has said such vile things, which are almost word-for-word white supremacist or white nationalist talking points about how being a "real American" means one must first and foremost be "white" — and that nonwhites should be removed from the United States if they do not submit to white rule and authority.

Trump's racism is part of a much larger pattern of white supremacist behavior by his administration: Interning nonwhite migrants and immigrants in concentration camps, seeking to ban Muslims from entering the United States, suggesting that black athletes who oppose police brutality are traitors, changing the country's immigration laws with the aim of maintaining a white majority, and disenfranchising nonwhite people through gerrymandering, voter suppression, voter intimidation and other tactics, legal and otherwise.

Republican elected officials almost unanimously support Trump's racist agenda. To wit: only four Republicans voted "yes" in support of Tuesday's House resolution condemning Donald Trump's gross and obvious racism.

Senior Republican leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Sen. Mitt Romney have either stated support for Trump's racist comments or avoided answering questions about them.

Trump's White House spokespeople and the right-wing media have of course enthusiastically supported Donald Trump's most recent example of public white supremacy. Public opinion polls show that support for Donald Trump has grown among Republican voters because of his racist attacks.

Donald Trump and the Republican Party's racist agenda is in service to white identity politics and a foundational assumption that white people should always and forever be the most privileged and dominant group in the United States. But what are the specific contours of white identity politics, and why has it been so politically effective and personally seductive for Trump, the Republican Party and their voters? Is white identity politics an existential threat to America's multiracial democracy? What does it mean to be "white" in post-civil rights America? Are white men and white women invested in white identity in the same way?

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Ashley Jardina, a professor of political science at Duke University and author of the new book "White Identity Politics."

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Donald Trump is America's Racist-in-Chief: Why is Anyone Surprised By His Vile Attacks on Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley?

Donald Trump dug deeper than ever into his bucket of political scatology this weekend. On Sunday, in tweets already made infamous, he proclaimed:
So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!
This is another version of "America: Love it or leave it!" It's troglodyte patriotism, low and unseemly coming from a drunk on a barstool, and nearly impossible to believe coming from the president of the United States.

Trump's "Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen" are no mystery. He means Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, all freshmen elected last year. Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx. Pressley was born in Cincinnati. Tlaib was born in Detroit.

Ilhan Omar was born in Somalia and came to America as a refugee in 1995. Unlike those Americans who hit the geographic and genetic lottery by being born in the United States, she chose to become an American citizen in the year 2000, at 17 years old. Her patriotism and loyalty to America are proven by her choice to be a public servant and by the policy goals she has pursued.This kind of "Love it or leave it!" patriotism has always been infused with white supremacy. Such language has have routinely been directed towards nonwhites and others — especially liberals, progressives and socialists — who want to make the United States a better country. Those who throw these rhetorical bombs imagine the nation as one being a "real American" is synonymous with being white and Christian.

Trump's comments are not surprising or shocking. Throughout his public life, Trump has shown himself to be a racist and a bigot.

Journalist Jonathan M. Katz summarized this perfectly on Twitter, writing on Sunday: "Donald Trump was an authoritarian white supremacist with fascist tendencies in 2015, and every single public figure and publication that did not make that clear from the moment he announced is complicit in the #ICEraid, the concentration camps, and everything happening today."

For all of the talk about how the Democrats are obsessed with "identity politics" in reality it is Donald Trump, the Republican Party and their supporters who wield it like a whipsaw against multiracial democracy and black and brown people.

The only riddle — and it is not much of one — is why so many members of the chattering class remain in denial about who and what Donald Trump really is.

The answer lies in white racial innocence: the presumption that to be "white" is to be inherently benign in one's intent and behavior, and in the outcomes which generally result. Donald Trump is the country's most prominent beneficiary of that type of white privilege.

There remains, even now, a fear and reluctance among the mainstream news media to describe Donald Trump as a racist or a white supremacist. Instead his bigotry is treated as a puzzle or the source of indecipherable questions. We can't know what is in his heart. Trump is often said to "misspeak" or to "make inaccurate statements."

Human Rights Attorney Hope Frye Explains the Evils She Witnessed Inside of Trump's Concentration Camps

Hope Frye is a human rights attorney who has been defending the human dignity and civil rights of migrants, refugees and other groups of vulnerable people for 40 years. Hope became involved  when she chaired the Board of Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law and now leads teams of lawyers and doctors into ORR, ICE and CBP detention facilities to monitor compliance with the landmark 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement governing the treatment of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children.
The Flores decision has governed the care of these children until Trump's vile regime circumvented that agreement.
Most recently she has lead teams to McAllen, Texas, Homestead, Florida, and several facilities in the Rio Grande Valley. She is the attorney who discovered the premature newborn and recovering young mother at an overcrowded processing facility in McAllen, Texas last month.
Hope Frye explains how Donald Trump's regime is violating American and international law in its treatment of migrants and refugees and why the culture of the Border Patrol and ICE encourages cruelty towards non-white immigrants, refugees, and migrants. Frye also shares her experiences documenting the horrible conditions inside of Trump's concentration camps and what it was like to discover a young mother and her premature baby who were suffering at the hands of Trump's Border Patrol enforcers.
During this week's podcast Chauncey explains why Donald Trump's authoritarian right-wing July 4th "celebration" was a carnival of white supremacy where Trump's MAGAite faithful eagerly waited for his special love juice and other sacred fluids. Chauncey also "connects the dots" between Trump's vile July 4th event and how the Republican Party is a dangerous revanchist destructive organization on a global scale.
And at the end of this week's show Chauncey reflects on America's moral reckoning and the poem "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson.

Eve Ensler on Righteous Anger, Forgiveness and Her New Book "The Apology"

Eve Ensler is an author, Tony Award-winner, playwright and activist. Her award-winning play The Vagina Monologues ran for more than 10 years and has been performed in more than 140 countries. Ensler's new book The Apology is a meditation on the decades of sexual abuse and other violence she endured from her father and on how she finally purged his power over her life through creative confrontation and forgiveness. 
Ensler reflects on the rise of Donald Trump and America's moral crisis, privilege and responsibility, healthy masculinity, why only certain groups in America are forced to forgive the transgressions against them, and how women who dare to publicly speak out against rapists and abusers are often made to suffer more trauma. 
Ensler also explains the power of righteous anger, her own choice to forgive her abusive father, and what she gained and sacrificed through the process of writing The Apology.
During this week's podcast Chauncey explains how the culture of violence among Trump's Border Patrol and ICE enforcers is much greater and bigger than a few "bad apples" and the ways that Michael Pence's "inspection tour" of his boss's concentration camps is an example of human evil across history. 
Chauncey also cautions people that the act of brave resistance by a freedom fighter in Tacoma, Washington who engaged in direct action against one of the Trump's regime's concentration camps on Saturday will be used to make the regime's Border Patrol and other foot soldier hooligans into "the real victims". 
And on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show our intrepid host shares some movie reviews and also a wonderful animal friend story.