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Who Makes Up Trump’s Real Base?

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              Christopher Caldwell is what we would call a ‘responsible’ conservative advocate and publicist, as opposed to someone like Rush Limbaugh or Laura Ingraham who peddle various self-help medical ‘remedies’ and so-called news which is nothing but pure crap. He now hangs out at the Claremont Institute, which is a right-wing think tank with emphasis on ‘right’ and not ‘think.’

              Anyway, he came out with a book in January which attempts to explain the Trump phenomenon by promoting the idea that many Whites have been attracted to Trump because of how the 1964 Civil Rights Act ended up being used to advance opportunities for all kinds of groups – women, Hispanics, illegal immigrants – except one group; i.e., Whites. In fact, as the fortunes of all these other groups went up through what he says are mis-applications of the Civil Rights law, the fortunes of many Whites have gone down.

              The book is basically an argument against ‘intersectionality’ and PC; the former meaning putting disparate groups together into one, organized mass, the latter meaning what we all know PC to mean. Caldwell argues that this strategy depended on using he Civil Rights law in an extra-Constitutional way, meaning that Obama could reward his supporters by creating government programs and financial rewards without going through traditional legislative channels at all.

              Caldwell spices his argument up with descriptions of events here and there where liberal policy-makers and/or advocates sometimes tried to move the needle a little too far. So, for example, Obama could instruct his Department of Agriculture to make school lunch menus contain more ‘healthy’ foods, and if the kids didn’t like the fact that they couldn’t eat a Hershey bar for lunch, too bad for them.

              Where did Trump come from and how did he understand that White men and women were feeling resentful towards a liberal elite which was rewarding other groups while ignoring or penalizing them? Answer: The rise of the Tea Party which reflected the fact that “those who lost most from the new rights-based politics were white men.” [P. 276.]

              Caldwell’s book is just the latest in a long line of explanations (from both conservatives and liberals, by the way) which uses the rhetoric of the Tea Party to explain both Trump’s 2016 victory as well as the continued support of his ‘base.’ Which is all well and good except that the resentments and anger of the so-called forgotten White majority didn’t first emerge in a rant by CNBC’s Rick Santelli in 2009.

              The GOP has been making common cause with pissed-off White men since Jerry Falwell invented the Moral Majority back in 1979. And what were these White men pissed off about back then? They were pissed off at the fact that a Southerner named Jimmy Carter was reversing Richard Nixon’s pledge to ‘go slow’ on civil rights.

              To deny that the Republican Party hasn’t been playing the race card since Reagan was elected if not before, is to deny the reality of American politics from then until now. And how Caldwell can write an entire book about why White men support Trump and not mention Jerry Falwell even once is beyond me.

              Where did Trump after he was elected President give his first commencement speech? At Liberty University on May 12, 2017. He also spoke at Liberty University in January, 2016. And even though he referred to the Second Corinthians as the ‘”two Corinthians,” he was greeted like a conquering hero by his good friend Jerry Falwell, Jr., who compared him favorably to Ronald Reagan and – ready? – Martin Luther King!

              The only place where anyone would ever dare mention Trump’s name and Martin Luther King’s name in the same positive terms would be at an Evangelical university which was founded by a guy who wanted to give White parents a place where they could send their children to a segregated school.

              This is what Trump’s so-called ‘base’ is based on: racism pure and simple. Nothing else. And no matter what Trump and his acolytes say, racism just isn’t all that popular anymore, which is why all of a sudden Trump’s tweet today refers to his electoral opponent as ‘Joe Biden.’

              What happened to ‘Sleepy Joe?’

When It Comes To Guns, It’s Not What You Say, It’s What You Mean.

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In 1989 Steven Tyler and Aerosmith released a song, ‘Janie’s Got A Gun,’ which began with the following refrain:

Janie’s got a gun
Janie’s got a gun
Her whole world’s come undone
From lookin’ straight at the sun
What did her daddy do?
What did he put you through?
They say when Janie was arrested
They found him underneath a train
But man, he had it comin’
Now that Janie’s got a gun
She ain’t never gonna be the same.

                This song became one of the group’s biggest hits, and if you don’t have the album, you can watch the video on YouTube.  It’s been seen more than 38 million times. You can also listen to it on podcasts produced and distributed by various pro-gun advocates and organizations, in particular, digital broadcasting efforts of various Evangelical preachers and personalities, such as Albert Mohler, who happens to be the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and leads a religious denomination that is overwhelmingly pro-gun.

aerosmith             There’s only one little problem.  Tyler began writing the song’s lyric’s after reading an article about gun violence which then got him thinking about child abuse. He talked about what happened in a Rolling Stone interview: “I looked over at a Time magazine and saw this article on 48 hours, minute by minute, of handgun deaths in the United States.Then I got off on the child-abuse angle. I’d heard this woman speaking about how many children are attacked by their mothers and fathers. It was f—ing scary. I felt, man, I gotta sing about this. And that was it.”

So here we have an interesting situation which needs to be considered and discussed if we’re really going to understand what to do and what to say about gun violence. Because Tyler wasn’t trying to make a positive cultural statement about guns and he certainly wasn’t trying to cynically promote himself to a certain type of audience which feeds off of pro-gun and pro-violence expressions a la the sick rantings of Ted Nugent, et. al.  He was creating an artistic expression about an idea that meant one thing to him, but ended up being taken much differently by many of his fans. Or maybe they didn’t take it any particular way. They just like his music; the ‘message’ may not be what the song meant to them at all.

But either way, in a debate as emotionally-charged as the gun debate, I think we have to be careful when we use certain words, because those words may have very different meanings depending on who uses them and when. Take for example the word ‘defense,’ as in self-defense. In the pro-gun world, this is a very positive word because it represents the idea that a gun will protect you from harm. In the gun-control community (and folks, in the Age of Trump it’s time to stop pretending that we need to apologize for wanting to control guns) a weapon that can be used defensively usually ends up being used offensively.

Why do some people believe that a gun is a valuable, self-protective ‘tool’ when study after study indicates that access to a gun actually increases risk? And I’m not talking about pro-gun trolls who will say anything to get a rise out of the other side. I’m talking about, for example, religious leaders – among conservative Protestant clergy, of whom more than two-thirds hold to the idea that gun ‘rights’ should be taken more seriously than violence caused by guns.

If we have learned anything from the extent to which a Twitter account can be used to run the United States, what is believed to be a true by one person may not be perceived as a fact by someone else. And if we are looking for messaging that will resonate with gun owners to advance public policies like expanded background checks or smart guns, we better not assume that words like ’fact’ and ‘truth’ will carry the day.

Gun Violence Prevention + LGBTQ Versus NRA: Guess Who Wins?

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Now that I am long past the age when I could have started collecting Social Security, I sometimes enjoy thinking about how my memory about various issues and people is at variance with folks who are younger than me.  For example, I first got interested in politics during the 1960 Presidential election; most of the people who will read this column weren’t alive back then.  And what’s a little scary for me is that the timeline between what I experienced first-hand and what others now only know from what people of my age remember continues to move forward.

LGBTQ           A perfect example of the change in cultural values between what I earlier experienced and what is now reality is the issue of LGBT, or what is now called LGBTQ. Because I remember when, in high school, a few kids were called ‘queer,’ and that was the only mention of alternate gender I ever heard.  And I remember in college that a few boys began calling themselves ‘gay,’ but they didn’t say it out loud.  And I remember back in 1990 talking to a gay man who was originally born in New York but moved to San Francisco so that he could ‘come out’ and not drive his parents to despair.

Now I’m not saying that the fact that same-sex marriage is now law of the land (or at least most of the land) necessarily changes minds or souls.  If we have learned one thing from Street Thug’s Presidential campaign, it’s that racist feelings are alive and well more than 60 years after ‘separate but equal’ was struck down. But to deny a major shift in cultural attitudes regarding gender roles is either to deny reality or simply shows that someone came of age after the shift began to occur.  And this is where, when it comes to Gun Violence Prevention, the rubber needs to meet the road.

Because the fact is that while a majority of Americans don’t own guns, and a majority of Americans support common-sense gun regulations like background checks on private gun sales, a majority of Americans also believe that having a gun around the house makes you safe.  And as long as we continue to support this basic, cultural consensus about guns, the easier it will be for Gun-nut Nation to sell the argument that guns should be considered just another normal, mainstream consumer item that we all should own and use.  After all, you can buy a new pistol for about the same price as a droid, and a Glock 42 is smaller than a Rubic’s Cube.

So when all is said and done, what is needed is not just a change in regulations, but a change in culture, which will lead to a change in the definition of ‘safe,’ which will make it easier to make changes in gun regulations that will keep us all truly safe. And who is better equipped than the LGBTQ community when it comes to promoting cultural change over the last twenty years?

Which is why I am so heartened by reports starting to circulate that many LGBTQ organizations are beginning to shift their focus to the issue of guns. There’s a great statement by LGBTQ Nation on their website; the largest LGBT national organization – Human Rights Campaign – has just announced it will focus its energies on gun violence; and there now appears to be momentum building for the LGBTQ-Gun Reform March on Washington scheduled for August 13.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the Senate vote this week and I care but I really don’t care.  Because the momentum created by the Orlando tragedy won’t go away.  And let’s not forget that when LGBTQ began its historic push for cultural change, many of Gun-nut Nation’s best friends (right-wing Evangelicals, political conservatives) tried to block their way. Guess what?  They lost.  And if LGBTQ gets behind gun violence prevention, Gun-nut Nation will lose that one, too.

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