Winter is coming: Reflections of the frightening power of demagoguery

Jones, Arnold WayneI still remember, with amazing clarity, my middle school’s race for class president. Two candidates stand out: Brian Koehr and Paige Apple. I was friendly with both, although not close friends with either. Brian was happy and enthusiastic; Paige was quiet and studious. Going into their candidate speeches, I honestly didn’t know who I was going to vote for. I seem to recall being favorably disposed toward Brian.

To this day, the essence of their speeches stays with me. Paige’s was along the lines of, “Here’s my plan for what we all need to do to make this a better school;” Brian’s was along the lines of, “Pizza day every day in the cafeteria!” I voted for Paige, and hoped for the best.

Brian won by a landslide.

That was my first experience with the nature of politics, and the power of the vote.

The truth was, who became class president then didn’t matter. There’s probably no more toothless job in America. Brian, Paige… They were both going to do the same thing — give a speech at homecoming, pick a theme for the school dance, get their faces in the yearbook smiling back. Memories. It was all for show, a gesture toward citizenship, a lesson learned.

And it did instill in me — and probably everybody in school that day — the awesome power of demagoguery: A candidate who will say what the people want to hear has an edge over one who speaks hard truths. That’s not always the case, of course. Sometimes the hard truth is resonant and the pandering rings false. Voters can surprise you.

And certainly they surprised us all Tuesday night.

Brian Koehr was a nice guy in a powerless position who made meaningless promises that had no lasting impact beyond the insulated microcosm of eighth grade. That is not the same with Donald Trump. He is not a nice man. He is not powerless. He is not benevolent. And soon he will wield as much power as any human ever has.

His agenda is chilling. Among his campaign promises: Repeal the Affordable Care Act (and replace it with…? He won’t say); appoint ultra-right-wing justices to the courts, including the Supreme Court; build a wall between the United States and Mexico, whatever the diplomatic cost; impose a ban on, and even deport, Muslims, irrespective of their citizenship status; overturn marriage equality.

I know Trump supporters who allay my concerns about what his presidency will look like by saying, “Don’t worry — he’s not going to do all the things he says.” Then why in the world did you vote for him? Anyway, those are just some of the things he has publicly advocated. What about the ones he hasn’t even thought of? If even half of these come to fruition, it would be devastating for every single person I know.

Even if you can’t trust what he says, what will America under Trump look like? Presumably, it will be one forged by Mitch McConnell and others in the Republican Party who will exploit Trump’s inexperience with the political system to their own end. In many ways, I’m more afraid of a Mike Pence presidency then a Donald Trump presidency. Pence has core values, however twisted, and political experience. He can actually get an agenda through.

What will Trump do? That’s what has me as scared as I have ever been about the future of my republic.

And I’m about as “safe” as you can get. I am a middle-aged, middle-class, white male. Aside from not being Christian or straight, I’m as mainstream as a person can be in this country today.

Still, as a journalist, I feel vulnerable. Donald Trump has waged a war on journalism, encouraging disparagement and violence against the journalism pen at his rallies. If I feel that way, imagine how it must feel to lesbians recently married who now wonder whether their entire union could be overturned by the stroke of a pen? Imagine what it feels like to be a DREAM Act-er concerned over deportation, or a Muslim, or a disabled person, or someone with health insurance for the first time.

I fear for them. I fear for them much more than I fear for myself. And they are my friends.

Twelve years ago, I asked a colleague: If he could hand-pick the nominees of both parties, but could have absolutely zero say in the outcome of the election, who would he choose? My very liberal friend grinned widely and said, “Easy! Hillary for Democrats. And Mike Huckabee for the Republicans. He’s a nut job. He could never get elected. In the bag.” I said, “Sure, it’s nice to think that, but what if did win? Could you live with that?” My colleague brushed away my concerns. “Never happen!” he assured me. “Voters couldn’t be that badly fooled.”

I was not so confident then. I couldn’t imagine a world in which the presidency of the United States was run by someone who honestly believed that the earth was 5,000 years old and that Adam and Eve played with the dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden. “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people,” H.L. Menken opined.

Mike Huckabee concerned me, but at least a right-wing fundamentalist is predictably nutty; not so much an inexperienced businessman with multiple bankruptcies, shady business dealings, a disastrous personal life and temperament more akin to a mental patient than a statesman. Huckabee may have been dangerous, but even he was manageable. He had limits. I wonder how manageable Donald Trump will be, from the left or the right. I suspect even diehard Republicans, when they are done cheering for their victories in the Congress and their defeat of the much-hated Hillary Clinton, will brush the sleep from their eyes in a few days, and realize what their policy is hath wrought.

It is the nature of Americans to be optimistic, to hold out hope for the best in people and make lemons out of lemonade. Fight the good fight, and win or lose, move onto the next one. There is honor in the battle, whatever the outcome. I suspect we will all do that, if not tomorrow, eventually. Maybe not all of us, and maybe not soon. I have serious doubts now for myself.

This has never been a more somber, sobering and frightening time in my adult life. Not the Cold War. Not 9/11. Those were forces from outside that seemed to threaten our survival.

These threats — those of fellow citizens endorsing a hollow candidate with no concrete, constitutional ideas — come from within. Millions of our fellow Americans watched as Donald Trump mocked the disabled, made inane promises, threatened his opponents, disparaged women, committed sexual assault, lied about everything from anti-American protests to his taxes, bred race-hatred and McCarthy-esque suspicions about our fellow Americans.

And they voted for him. They said, “We trust you.”

I have my doubts about that. I don’t think this was about trust. I think this was about animosity toward the opposition. Hillary Clinton didn’t lose this election last night — she lost the moment Obama won in 2008, when the GOP resolved to undermine him at every turn and sow seeds of contempt and conspiracy, mount racial divides and whisper campaigns. They spent eight years priming the pump for a coup. And they won while we all looked on, mouths agape, cattle in the abattoir, lining up brainlessly, uncomprehending of what was happening.

The small bright spot seems to be that Clinton apparently received more popular votes than Trump. That’s cold comfort (ask Al Gore), but it does give me a pinhole of light to stare at. Sometimes you have to experience the scourging to appreciate the salvation.

I still believe in hope. I have to. But I’ve never felt such ennui about my fellow citizens. “Apres moi, le deluge,” the monarch said.

Better grab a towel.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Roy Cohn, ‘Angels in America’ and Trump

cohntrumpPerhaps this weekend you were able to get to the Kalita Humphreys Theater to check out Uptown Players‘ production of Tony Kushner’s epic play, Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches. (If not, there’s still time, and my review will be in Dallas Voice this weekend.) One of the main characters in the play is a real-life person, Roy Cohn, who died of AIDS in August 1986, despite being a homophobic right wing nut job — Sen. Joe McCarthy’s right-hand man and an instrumental player in assuring the execution of alleged spy Ethel Rosenberg. A terrible man, a blight of a human being.

He was also Donald Trump’s mentor.

Yeah. Listen careful to the craven, evil advice Cohn delivers in Angels. Then think if you can translate that into the current political situation.

This isn’t anything new. Media from the New York Times to CNN to The Advocate have written about the relationship this year, but it didn’t really gain traction. Kinda makes you wonder. When former Weather Underground radical Bill Ayers was tied to Obama, it stuck like white on rice. But Cohn was a terrorist of a different sort, and a direct mentor of Trump. Trump admits it. So why wasn’t it covered more?

I know I’m preaching to the converted, but keep this in mind with all your conservative friends and family. When they complain about the “shady” dealings of “Crooked” Hillary, remind them that her opponent advocated red-baiting, witch-hunting, blacklisting political underhandedness. And see what they say.

And then see Angels in America to see what I’m talking about.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Early voting starts today

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As of the morning of Thursday, Oct. 13 — two days after the cutoff to register to vote on Nov. 8 — 15,015,700 Texans were registered to vote, according to Texas Secretary of State Carlos H. Cascos. That is, Cascos said, about 78 percent of Texas’ estimated voting age population of 19,307, 355 people (a population estimate that includes people not eligible to vote, such as non-citizens and convicted felons who have not fully discharged their sentences).

 

And today, those 15-million plus registered voters can start going to the polls for early voting.

When you vote early, you can go to any early voting location in the county in which you are registered to cast your ballot. Be sure to carry your photo ID and your voter registration card with you. But if you don’t have one or either of those items, go anyway. At least cast a provisional ballot.

In Dallas County, polls are open for early voting from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. today through Saturday, Oct. 29; from 1-6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, and again from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31-Friday, Nov. 4.

Over in Tarrant County, the polls are open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. today through Friday, Oct. 28; from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., and from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31-Friday, Nov. 4.

Live in Collin County? Ellis County? Johnson County? Kaufman County? Rockwall County? Denton County? Wise County? Parker County?

Wherever you live, your early voting locations and times should be posted online. If all else fails, check with the Texas Secretary of State.

And if you choose not to vote early, then vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Support your candidate. Vote your conscience. Vote.

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The line at the Grauwyler Recreation Center polling location went out the door and around the building on Monday morning, Oct. 24, the first day to vote early in Dallas County. (Chad Mantooth/Dallas Voice)

—  Tammye Nash

It’s official: Trump names Pence as his running mate

Lisa Keen | Contributing Writer
Keen News Service
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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence

If Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has any weakness in the eyes of the conservative Republican Party base, it’s that he’s too soft on LGBT people.

That seemed to be the general assessment of various commentators this week as they first imagined and then learned through a Twitter post Friday morning, July 15, that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has named Pence as his vice presidential running mate.

LGBT people, however, disagree.

Trump was scheduled to hold a press conference Friday morning to announce his choice of a running mate, but abruptly canceled that plan Thursday night after a shocking attack on Bastille Day revelers in Nice, France, killed more than 80 people. Trump then posted a Twitter message late Friday morning, making the announcement official.

Pence, who pondered a run for the Republican nomination in 2012, is said to be well respected among Republican conservatives, but he is not well liked by LGBT activists.

Rich Tafel, former president of the national Log Cabin Republicans group, called Pence “about one of the worst people for gay equality based on his experience in the House and as governor.”

But, added Tafel, “There is an upside.”

“Pence is a favorite of the evangelicals and endorsed [Ted] Cruz. If this bus goes off the cliff, which I think it might,” said Tafel, “it is better to have the evangelicals and the white nationalists in it together.

“Whatever happens, they will blame others for their failure. But the fact that 85 percent of evangelicals are on board with Trump is good for those of us seeking to create a new center-right party. Had Trump chosen someone more moderate, the far right would say that’s why we lost,” Tafel said.

As a member of the U.S. House, Pence opposed every piece of pro-equal rights legislation that came to the floor in the House, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT).

He also voted for amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. In each of those years, his record on LGBT issues repeatedly earned him a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard.

Speaking at an event in Iowa in 2011, Pence suggested that allowing same-sex couples to marry would lead to an economic meltdown. He told MSNBC that repeal of DADT amounted to trying to “advance a liberal social agenda” and “mainstream homosexuality.”

In 2014, Gov. Mike Pence led the move to pass a state bill banning recognition of same-sex marriages. The bill called for also banning recognition of other forms of same-sex relationships, such as civil unions. And in 2015, he supported and signed a bill that would have allowed citizens to discriminate against LGBT people by claiming to hold a religious belief that compelled them.

Bob Vander Plaats, who has headed up anti-gay campaigns in Iowa, told an Iowa television station that Pence would attract evangelicals to the ticket because he is “pro-life” and against marriage for same-sex couples.

But Pence disappointed some conservatives last year when — after first supporting and signing the “religious freedom” bill — he signed a “clarification bill” aimed at “resolving controversy” and “making clear every person feels welcome and respected” in Indiana.

He did so only after boycotts of the state in the wake of the bill’s passage began to cost Indiana thousands of dollars. Still, a number of conservatives expressed unhappiness with Trump’s choice.

 

© 2016 by Keen News Service

 

 

—  Tammye Nash

Beware the Trump rally: DPD warns of traffic congestion around Gilley’s

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Donald Trump

Garcia.domingo

Domingo Garcia

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, is in Dallas today trying to round up some donations, and he will stage a rally this evening at Gilley’s South Side Ballroom, 1135 S. Lamar St. (It took Trump at least a week to find a place for his rally, Irving turned him down, as did Grand Prairie.)

There is also a counter-protest planned outside Gilley’s, and Dallas Police are planning ahead to try and avoid as many problems as possible, considering the violence that has become part-and-parcel of Trump rallies and protests. To that end, police are asking businesses in downtown Dallas to help out by sending their employees home early, encouraging everyone to vacate the downtown area by 3 p.m., in anticipation of major traffic delays and for safety reasons.

Police have since issued a statement saying they will begin closing streets around Gilley’s — between the 1000 block and the 1300 block (at Belleview) on Lamar — about 2 p.m. in preparation for the 7 p.m. rally.

Longtime Dallas activist (attorney, former city councilman and former state representative) Domingo Garcia, one of the lead organizers of the counter-protest, said the rally will begin outside Gilley’s at 6 p.m. Organizers are asking that those attending the protest rally wear white shirts to promote peace. And if you want to carry a flag, make sure it is an American flag, not one from Mexico or any other country. Those who bring flags representing any country other than the U.S. will be asked to leave, Garcia told Dallas Observer.

He also said the rally is being staged “to send a message to Donald Trump that his campaign of hatred, bigotry and division is not welcome in the United States or North Texas.”

DPD said in a statement that the department is “committed to protecting every person’s right to free speech and to assemble peaceably.” The statement went on to warn, however, that “there will be no tolerance for individuals who engage in criminal activity or attempt to incite violence or civil disorder. In order to accomplish this, a significant number of police officers, both uniformed and undercover, will be utilized to maintain order.”

—  Tammye Nash

Donald Trump ALMOST out-does Dan Patrick on Twitter

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About 7 a.m. this morning (Sunday, June 12), just hours after people were killed and more than 50 others injured in a mass shooting inside an Orlando gay bar, Texas’ right-wing asshole lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, tweeted a Bible verse about “reaping what you sow.” He has since deleted it, I believe, but not before the whole world saw it.

And now, the man who would be king … uh, president, I mean … has almost outdone Patrick in the realm of tasteless, vulgar, hateful tweeting. Almost.

About noon CST, Trump tweeted: “Appreciate the congrats on being right about radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

As PoliticusUSA.com says: “There is something morally repulsive about anyone receiving congratulations on a day when over 100 innocent Americans were killed and wounded in an act of terror. Instead of thinking about the victims of this horrific attack, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is patting himself on the back.”

I still say that Dan Patrick’s tweet suggesting that the shooting was God’s vengeance on gays trumps Trump. But then there’s Pat Robertson to consider. He just came right out and declared that the shooting is God’s punishment on the country for the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling a year ago on marriage equality.

—  Tammye Nash

Editorial Cartoon • 06.03.16

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—  Dallasvoice

Dumb and Dumber

Perry

Brokeback Perry

Two pieces of Rick Perry news today: His portrait was unveiled at the Capitol in Austin. And Perry endorsed Donald Trump today.

Perry’s portrait now hangs on the first floor in the rotunda just two pictures away from Ann Richards. They’ll be separated only by Gov. George Bush.

While endorsing Trump, Perry said he’d consider the vice presidential spot on a Trump ticket.  And why not? He’d balance the ticket well. They both have real estate. Trump has Trump Tower. Perry has his hunting camp Ni***rhead.

Trump made New Yorkers look like idiots. Perry, well, he succeeded a governor who already did that for Texas, but he enhanced the image a great deal.

Perry once called Trump a cancer on the Republican Party and a “false prophet.” “A man too arrogant, too self-absorbed, to seek God’s forgiveness is precisely the type of leader John Adams prayed would never occupy the White House,” Perry said about Trump in a speech last summer.

Here’s one of Perry’s most entertaining quotes about the man he endorsed: “Donald Trump is the modern-day incarnation of the ‘Know Nothing’ movement.”

Hello pot? Kettle calling.

So, we look forward to a Trump-Perry ticket. Dumb and Dumber bumper stickers already being printed.

—  David Taffet

Trump celebrates Cinco de Mayo

Here he is ladies and gentlemen, the presumptive GOP nominee for president of the United States, Donald Trump. Aren’t we all just so proud?!

(But seriously, after the party nominated Sarah Palin for VP, are we surprised that it’s come to this?)

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—  Tammye Nash

Clinton, Sanders respond to 2016 presidential HIV/AIDS questionnaire

Bernie Sanders and Hillary ClintonIn February, a coalition of more than 50 AIDS and HIV service organizations, including AIDS Arms and Houston’s Legacy Community Health, sent a survey to presidential candidates from both parties to assess their stances on HIV/AIDS policies and initiatives. Candidates were question on their positions on HIV stigmatization laws, research funding and needle exchange policies.

Of the five candidates still in the race, only the two Democrats — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — have responded.

In general both support policies supported by HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention advocates. But when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of policy, Clinton shines.

On the issue of ending HIV criminalization laws, here’s Clinton’s take:

As President, I will work with advocates, HIV and AIDS organizations, and Congress to review and reform outdated and stigmatizing HIV criminalization laws — and I will call on states to do the sameI will continue to aggressively enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws to fight HIV-related discrimination. And I will ensure that my Administration releases the latest facts about HIV transmission and risk behaviors to counter unnecessary laws and work to educate prosecutors about the latest science of HIV to reduce unnecessary charges against people with HIV that are not scientifically valid. 

Here’s Sanders’ take:

We should continue and expand the policies that are working. The United States has clearly come a long way in its attitudes towards sexual orientation, gender identity, and health status, but there is still a long way to go. We must ensure that health providers, social services, law enforcement, and all other entities have proper resources and training to handle the varying needs of the community they serve. Schools must be giving students age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education. I echo the Strategy’s recommendation that all Americans should have access to scientifically-accurate information regarding HIV infection. For starters, I would direct FDA to update its blood donation policy. The recent update was a step in the right direction, but a blanket one-year ban is still not supported by science. I have joined other Members in asking FDA to implement a risk-based policy for all donors.

Click here to read Clinton’s complete response. Click here to read Sanders’ complete response.

For what it’s worth, the coalition is still happy to receive responses from remaining GOP candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, businessman Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. In absence of a response, however, the coalition reviewed campaign literature, speeches or other positions of the candidates but found no information directly related to HIV/AIDS issues addressed in the survey.

—  James Russell