Speaking out on Trump, populism, and complacency toward war crimes

❝ Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein…recently stepped down from four years as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights…A Jordanian prince whose father is Arab and mother European, a Muslim who has visited Auschwitz and bicycled around Israel, he is a fervent believer in “the human rights of each individual, everywhere.” A soft-spoken man who talks with hard-edged eloquence, he took on an impossible job, challenging violators on all sides, whether American, Russian, Chinese, African, Arab, Israeli, or other. And doing it publicly.

❝ He is reflecting on those difficult years as a Distinguished Global Leader-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House, where he shared some of his thoughts.

We invite you to read his thoughts on the responsibilities of that post. On what has been accomplished…what still needs to be done.

How One Photographer Documented The Segregated South

❝ Monumental shifts were occurring in America during the time that photographer Hugh Mangum was working in North Carolina and the Virginias. It was the height of the Jim Crow era, when the nation was starting to see laws separating whites from blacks. But as a businessman who needed to support his family, Mangum didn’t discriminate between clientele, therefore leaving behind an archive that tells a different story of the segregated South at the turn of the 20th century…

❝ Mangum, I learned, often used a Penny Picture Camera that was designed to allow multiple and distinct exposures on a single glass plate negative. This was ideal for creating inexpensive novelty pictures because it meant multiple subjects could be photographed on a single negative. The order of the images on a single glass plate mirrored the order in which Mangum’s diverse clientele rotated through the studio. Thus, the negatives reasonably represent a day’s work for this gregarious photographer.

❝ The vibrancy of black communities building new identities and creating futures in Durham and elsewhere is not lost on Mangum’s negatives. His black clients present themselves as lighthearted, resolute and everything in between. They bring their children to the studio to be photographed, an ode to the hope they have for the lives their sons and daughters will live. Though we don’t know the identity of most of Mangum’s sitters, it’s probable that many of the black men and women pictured were working publicly and privately to establish black agency, independence and community vitality.

All while the two old parties worked their abuse of Constitutional freedoms to rebuild the edifice of bigotry through Jim Crow laws. Methodology, dedication, sleaze and hypocrisy repeated in following decades to support US involvement in colonial wars, populist puppet shows and more.

Trump’s anti-immigrant bigotry is populist – and popular

❝ Donald Trump’s presidency reminds me of nothing so much as the wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. At the height of the violence, a Serb friend said to me that, “I don’t like [Slobodan] Milošević. I don’t like his methods, his cruelty, his crudeness, and his sadism. But at least someone is doing something.”

That last clause captured the essence of the entire conflict. My friend was willing to look past all of Milošević’s abuses and brutality if it meant that Serbia wouldn’t be a victim anymore. According to this nationalist narrative, Serbia had been forced to accept that it was just one republic among six, even though Serbs, who were spread out across Yugoslavia, comprised almost half of the country’s total population…

❝ In many ways, a similar pattern has emerged in the United States since Trump took office. Trump is rude and often cruel, and even many of his supporters seem to realize that they wouldn’t want their own children to emulate him. Still, he speaks to their grievances and anxieties. And in 2016, he reached enough swing-state voters to clinch a victory – a scenario that could well happen again in 2020…

❝ In the eyes of his supporters, Trump is winning on immigration, simply because he is “doing something.” Under his watch, distinctions between legal and illegal immigration have been cast aside, along with wonky debates about the need for skilled workers in certain sectors or locales. And if you think that Trump will acknowledge that immigrants built the country, you can think again. The entire issue has been reduced to a question of American identity, filtered through the prism of race.

Worthwhile read, folks. What I’d expect from a career public servant. Well educated, smart and experienced. Exactly the sort of opinion ignored by the Trump cult.

The Bundys and their religious government

❝ The Bundys are Mormons who believe that the Constitution was inspired, if not more or less dictated wholesale, by God—and that the founding of the United States was the first step toward the restoration of Zion on the continent where most of the Book of Mormon takes place. They’ve taken much of this from W. Cleon Skousen, a fervent Mormon and formative figure of the postwar America extreme-right who believed in a divine America beset by internationalist conspiracies to overthrow the Constitution. The Bundys have identified parts of the Skousenite philosophy and built their own system on top of it—as much a practical guide to living as a political schema, and it’s something they teach as all their own, without citing any influences besides the Constitution and the Bible.

❝ The Constitution, for the Bundys, is an expression of certain natural rights, which are basically our rights to life, liberty, and property, with a heavy emphasis on property. These are supposed to have been implanted by God and so natively obvious that all people sense them intrinsically. Property, for them, is gotten and maintained, in a very frontier way, by your right to “claim, use, and defend” it, as they repeat ad nauseam. It’s a strange irony of the Bundys’ ability to generate media attention that this is maybe the key trio of words in their entire ideology, but that if you Google “claim, use, defend” along with the name “Bundy,” they seem to have not been able to get a single reporter to quote the phrase.

Yeah, they sound like so many of the John Birchers, Minutemen, Klan members I’ve encountered in almost 60 years of activism for civil liberties, civil rights. Including a few family members back East. Religious bigotry comes even easier than distorting the Constitution to most of these folks. Analysts who care about this crap more than I — have written, will write over and again detailed analyses of what drives this variety of populist ideology. I can’t crank up enough curiosity to drag my attention past their nutball crap. Focussing on their outlaw habits pretending to be civil disobedience is dangerous enough. More than that is deadly boring.

In Ohio, a struggle for the [white] soul of the Democratic Party is playing out

❝ On a sweltering evening in a rural corner of Ohio, the struggle for the soul and identity of the Democratic Party is playing out over wine, meatballs and recriminations about Hillary Clinton’s defeat in last year’s presidential election.

Joe Schiavoni, the former top Democrat in the Ohio state senate, is talking to a crowd at a fundraising event for his fledgling bid to become their next governor. He believes leaders of his party in Washington have lost touch with voters. It’s a familiar refrain among Democrats in a state that helped catapult Republican Donald Trump into the White House in November…

In Ohio, as in other politically competitive “swing” states that Democrats won in 2012 but lost in 2016, Democrats are struggling to come up with a clear message and identity to win back the voters they lost.

❝ Listening to voters is the key to moving forward, some three dozen Democratic Party members across Ohio said in interviews. But there was little consensus on how to win over those voters.

Many of those interviewed said the party’s national leaders have not learned the lessons of last year’s defeat, when many voters rejected the party as too elitist and out of touch with working Americans.

This Reuters article apparently reflects the views of the official Democrat Party – as far as I can see. There is NO mention whatsoever of Black people or Hispanics. Either the party presumes automatic votes or hasn’t looked at anything other than the white chunk of Ohio’s working class.

❝ Angered by last year’s defeats up and down the ballot in Ohio, a group of political consultants circulated a memo to every member of the state party’s executive committee in December.

The memo, which has not been previously reported, lambastes the party leadership for the “electoral carnage” of 2016.

This memo at least acknowledges the inherent racism of ignoring questions affecting Black workers and the Black community in Ohio. It makes no mention of Hispanic workers or community.

11% of Ohio registered voters are Black. Almost 2% are Latino. That’s a lot of folks to take for granted.

NAFTA, global trade deals, aren’t what killed American manufacturing jobs

❝ Politically speaking, there was no debate on United States international trade agreements in 2016: All politicians seeking to win a national election, or even to create a party-spanning political coalition, agree that our trade agreements are bad things.

❝ From the left, we had Democratic presidential primary runner-up Bernie Sanders — and a remarkably close runner-up he was — slamming trade. From the — I do not think it’s wrong but it’s not quite correct to call it “right,” at least not as Americans have hitherto understood what “right” is — but from somewhere, we had now-President Donald Trump. Listen to them: The rhetoric is the same.

❝ And what did we hear from the center establishment? We had…Hillary Rodham Clinton: “I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I oppose it now, I’ll oppose it after the election, and I’ll oppose it as president…”…

❝ The political truthiness has been flying thick and fast on this subject for decades now. Politicians are taking claims that have a very tenuous connection to economic reality — claims that feel true — and running with them, sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes because of cynical calculation…

❝ Yes, America has been losing manufacturing job share at a furious rate. Yes, the spread between the incomes of the non-college-educated and the college-educated has widened massively. Yes, the spread between the incomes of even the college-educated and our overclass has exploded.

But this is not due to NAFTA. This is not due to bringing China into the WTO rather than keeping it out. This is not due to the not-yet-completed — and now never-to-be-completed — TPP…

❝ To defend trade deals is not to say that US economic policy has been without fault

To be clear, I do think American international economic policy has been far, far from perfect. I could rant with the best of them about our failure to be a capital-exporting nation financing the industrialization of the world, a role from which we would ultimately benefit both economically and politically. I can rant about our reluctance to properly incentivize the creation and maintenance of the global treasures that are our communities of engineering practice…

❝ But the never-to-be-implemented TPP? NAFTA? And China-WTO? They are not big parts of any picture. They are not a big part of the long-run decline in the manufacturing job share. Indeed, they barely register among the flaws in US international economic policy.

By and large, the jobs that we shed as a result of NAFTA and China-WTO were low-paying jobs that we did not really want. Because of NAFTA and China-WTO, we have been able to buy a lot of good stuff much cheaper — which means we have had more income to spend on other things and to pay people to do other, more useful things than work on low-productivity blue-collar assembly lines.

❝ The elephant in the room is the collapse over the past three generations of the manufacturing employment share here in America.

A manufacturing job making things in a factory is no longer, in any sense, a typical job for Americans. A sector of the economy that provided three out of 10 nonfarm jobs at the start of the 1950s and one in four nonfarm jobs at the start of the 1970s now provides fewer than one in 11 nonfarm jobs today. Proportionally, the United States has shed almost two-thirds of relative manufacturing employment since 1971…

RTFA. Please. It’s long and detailed in premises and proofs. That doesn’t make economics or thoroughgoing history more enjoyable; but, it surely helps with understanding.

❝ But — as professor DeLong concludes — even here in America, you can, as you definitely can elsewhere, mobilize a great deal of populist energy by identifying foreigners as the enemy. I do not think this is an impulse that it is healthy for any part of this country. I do not think this is something any political movement that seeks to do anything other than destroy can dare to encourage…The economic case against the two agreements that passed, and the one that did not, doesn’t hold water. It’s clear, however, that candidates can make an effective political case against trade agreements — and that scares me.