How and why Trump uses racism as a political tool – and why he will become even more aggressively racist in the run-up to 2020

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Leah Millis / Reuters

In November 2016 –  shortly after Donald Trump was elected nearly three years ago – I wrote the following article for The New Statesman about his use of racism as a political strategy in order to appeal to the grievances of white Americans who feel that their sense of identity is under threat.

As I wrote then: “Although using division for votes is nothing new for Republicans, Trump appears to be acting directly from the Southern Strategy playbook – a Nixonian strategy from the Seventies based on the exploitation of racial tensions and divisive politics aimed at increasing discord in order to maintain Republican presence.” (Isn’t it fascinating that Trump has been compared to Nixon in many other ways over these last 3 years…? Perhaps his fate will be the same…)

Trump’s racist/racial/racialized agenda has always been clear to me. Unlike others – such as George Conway, husband of Trump mouthpiece Kellyanne and Trump critic/foe, who just finally concluded this past weekend that Trump is indeed a racist and wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about his new found discovery – I have not been surprised nor in denial about the depths of his animus towards people of color. Dismayed, often. Saddened at times. But shocked? Absolutely not. I know racism when I see it. My very survival depends on that.

Trump’s racism is long and old, and it certainly has never been hard to miss. If you can’t cast your mind back to 1989 and his front page newspaper adverts calling for the death penalty to be brought back and used in the case of the so-called Central Park Five – the group of 5 young black men who were wrongfully imprisoned and later exonerated for the rape of a female jogger in Central Park – you should at least be able to remember that he actually got President Barack Obama to produce a copy of his actual birth certificate after insisting – in a bizarre conspiracy theory – that there was no way Obama was actually American. Trump has been at this game for quite some time now. And even though he been proven very wrong – as he is on most things – he is good at it.

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As the country grapples with Trump’s most recent insults, this time aimed at Reps. Ayana Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, four freshmen Democratic women of color in Congress (all American, one foreign-born) who he tweeted should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” I have gone back to review this piece. Not only is it prescient, but it seems to get even more accurate the longer Trump is in office.

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Anna Moneymaker/ The New York Times

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Supreme Court Upholds Trump travel ban – A bad news day

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(c)Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

This is bad, bad, bad news for America.

In addition to upholding this Muslim ban, this court has also a) upheld racial gerrymandering in Texas and North Carolina (where voting boundaries are re-drawn, effectively making votes of minority voters less important) and b) upheld voter purging in Ohio allowing them to remove the names of people who haven’t voted for the past 2 years which is simply a form of voter suppression which tends to affect lower income and minorities more than any other group due to people moving more. In the past, in one county in Cincinatti, 10% of eligible African American voters were purged from the voter list!

This is all designed to disenfranchise brown and black people while at the same time promoting racist theories and ideas about which people are deemed to be dangerous and unworthy (ie Muslims), not to mention essentially trying to rig forthcoming elections.

It’s really very sad to see politics and the law being used in this way, taking the country back to a place that many millions fought for a long time to move on from. This is an endorsement of prejudice. It’s a thumbs up to discrimination. This is a BIG deal.

The culture war is in full effect, the corruption is real, and I genuinely shudder to think how much this ruling will embolden Trump and his ilk. Trump thrives on stuff like this.

I don’t really have words for this today, apart from that it’s just a damn shame and I actually literally feel quite sick about it. 😬😬😬

Stay Woke: Brands get political in the Trump era


It was with anticipation that I tuned in, along with 111.3 million other people, on Sunday night, to watch the Super Bowl. I don’t fully understand American football to be honest, but I’ve always enjoyed a good Super Bowl party.


This game, however, wasn’t just your average Super Bowl. Not just because of the Patriots’ comeback from being 25 points down in the third quarter to finally – and unexpectedly – beating the Atlanta Falcons by 34 – 28 in an historic overtime play, but due to the striking politicization of the game itself, from the commercials to the reactions of fans and players alike.


Brands took the current political climate in hand, placing politics at the heart of their commercials, with themes such as integration, inclusion, diversity and immigration – all, of course, major issues which have dominated and divided America since Donald Trump was inaugurated nearly three weeks ago – tackled openly (and often beautifully) from companies like Anheuser-Busch, Air BnB and Coca-Cola.


Instead of conforming to conventional advertising wisdom to stay out of politics – especially at an event that is as widely watched and beloved as the Super Bowl – brands went to some lengths to clarify their values and to ensure that viewers were left in little doubt as to which side of the political aisle they are on.


No doubt there is an economic reason for this commercialized political activism, but it is always risky for any brand to delve into sensitive social and political topics. With 24% of the Super Bowl broadcast itself being dedicated to commercials, however, it was clearly not lost on advertisers that they could use their spots to say a lot more than just “buy our beer”. Influencing through soft power and culture will become even more prevalent over the course of this political term.


Then there were the fans. It is one thing for fans to be divided because they support opposing teams, but, again, things are different right now. Now, even your average fan is unable to ignore what’s going on politically.


With the Patriot’s MVP Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft being friends and supporters of Trump, supporting the Patriots took on a different meaning for some on Sunday; there were more than a few conflicted Patriots fans showing up in my social media timeline who felt that their support was betraying their political ideals, making them Trump supporters by association. One Boston based entrepreneur (a Patriot’s fan), for example, even offered to donate “$100 for every retweet up to $50,000 “as penance for Patriots politics” to the American Civil Liberties Union, the organization currently fighting Trump’s immigration ban in the courts.


Other people saw the Patriot’s unexpected and last minute win as a metaphor for Trump’s electoral victory over Hillary Clinton in the election. In other words, with all that’s going on – and uncertainty about what’s to come – people of all stripes are increasingly seeing what might usually be considered mundane through energized, political eyes.


Although Trump campaigned along the lines of being less political than the average politician, he has actually injected politics into the American everyday in a way that I certainly have not witnessed over the previous 8 years. Those who before may have said: “let sports be sports” are now asking “what are that football player’s/musicians/advertisers/magazine’s beliefs, and do they align with mine?” before making decisions.


On one hand, this is demonstrative of the overreach of the kind of politics that’s currently coming out of the White House. On the plus side, however, it is great to see so many more people participating in and engaging in politics and thinking about the impact of politics on everyday lives and actions. Right now, more than ever, America needs it.  

President Obama’s remarks on the Supreme Court Affordable Care Act ruling

Today marked an historic day, as the Supreme Court ruled that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was indeed constitutional. My thoughts on it all to come later. For now, here are the remarks made by President Obama on the ruling.

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE SUPREME COURT RULING ON THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

East Room

12:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  Earlier today, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — the name of the health care reform we passed two years ago.  In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed a fundamental principle that here in America — in the wealthiest nation on Earth – no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin.

I know there will be a lot of discussion today about the politics of all this, about who won and who lost.  That’s how these things tend to be viewed here in Washington.  But that discussion completely misses the point.  Whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it.

And because this law has a direct impact on so many Americans, I want to take this opportunity to talk about exactly what it means for you.

First, if you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance — this law will only make it more secure and more affordable.  Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on the amount of care you receive.  They can no longer discriminate against children with preexisting conditions.  They can no longer drop your coverage if you get sick.  They can no longer jack up your premiums without reason.  They are required to provide free preventive care like check-ups and mammograms — a provision that’s already helped 54 million Americans with private insurance.  And by this August, nearly 13 million of you will receive a rebate from your insurance company because it spent too much on things like administrative costs and CEO bonuses, and not enough on your health care.

There’s more.  Because of the Affordable Care Act, young adults under the age of 26 are able to stay on their parent’s health care plans — a provision that’s already helped 6 million young Americans.  And because of the Affordable Care Act, seniors receive a discount on their prescription drugs — a discount that’s already saved more than 5 million seniors on Medicare about $600 each.

All of this is happening because of the Affordable Care Act. These provisions provide common-sense protections for middle class families, and they enjoy broad popular support.  And thanks to today’s decision, all of these benefits and protections will continue for Americans who already have health insurance.

Now, if you’re one of the 30 million Americans who don’t yet have health insurance, starting in 2014 this law will offer you an array of quality, affordable, private health insurance plans to choose from.  Each state will take the lead in designing their own menu of options, and if states can come up with even better ways of covering more people at the same quality and cost, this law allows them to do that, too.  And I’ve asked Congress to help speed up that process, and give states this flexibility in year one.

Once states set up these health insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges, insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against any American with a preexisting health condition.  They won’t be able to charge you more just because you’re a woman.  They won’t be able to bill you into bankruptcy. If you’re sick, you’ll finally have the same chance to get quality, affordable health care as everyone else.  And if you can’t afford the premiums, you’ll receive a credit that helps pay for it.

Today, the Supreme Court also upheld the principle that people who can afford health insurance should take the responsibility to buy health insurance.  This is important for two reasons.

First, when uninsured people who can afford coverage get sick, and show up at the emergency room for care, the rest of us end up paying for their care in the form of higher premiums.

And second, if you ask insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions, but don’t require people who can afford it to buy their own insurance, some folks might wait until they’re sick to buy the care they need — which would also drive up everybody else’s premiums.

That’s why, even though I knew it wouldn’t be politically popular, and resisted the idea when I ran for this office, we ultimately included a provision in the Affordable Care Act that people who can afford to buy health insurance should take the responsibility to do so.  In fact, this idea has enjoyed support from members of both parties, including the current Republican nominee for President.

Still, I know the debate over this law has been divisive.  I respect the very real concerns that millions of Americans have shared.  And I know a lot of coverage through this health care debate has focused on what it means politically.

Well, it should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it was good politics.  I did it because I believed it was good for the country.  I did it because I believed it was good for the American people.

There’s a framed letter that hangs in my office right now.  It was sent to me during the health care debate by a woman named Natoma Canfield.  For years and years, Natoma did everything right.  She bought health insurance.  She paid her premiums on time.  But 18 years ago, Natoma was diagnosed with cancer.  And even though she’d been cancer-free for more than a decade, her insurance company kept jacking up her rates, year after year.  And despite her desire to keep her coverage — despite her fears that she would get sick again — she had to surrender her health insurance, and was forced to hang her fortunes on chance.

I carried Natoma’s story with me every day of the fight to pass this law.  It reminded me of all the Americans, all across the country, who have had to worry not only about getting sick, but about the cost of getting well.

Natoma is well today.  And because of this law, there are other Americans — other sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers — who will not have to hang their fortunes on chance.  These are the Americans for whom we passed this law.

The highest Court in the land has now spoken.  We will continue to implement this law.  And we’ll work together to improve on it where we can.  But what we won’t do — what the country can’t afford to do — is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were.

With today’s announcement, it’s time for us to move forward — to implement and, where necessary, improve on this law.  And now is the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time:  putting people back to work, paying down our debt, and building an economy where people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead.

But today, I’m as confident as ever that when we look back five years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, we’ll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward.

Thank you.  God bless you, and God bless America.

Obama 2007 until today – My view in photos and words

I first saw Barack Obama speak in New York City in the summer of 2007. On that day, surprised by the multi-generational, multi-racial crowd, I realized that something very major was going to happen in the next (2008) election.

    

2008 came… I spent a lot of time writing and doing TV and radio appearances in the lead up to the election.

I also watched, with fascination, the intense public sentiment about the possibility of the first African American president.

Barack Obama’s election took place on November 4th, 2008. My 28th birthday.

     

My piece for The Guardian written shortly after his win was announced talked about Obama’s election crossing racial lines.

I was at President Obama’s historic inauguration in 2009.

      

Despite being one of the coldest days I have ever experienced, I managed to rush back to The Guardian offices to thaw out my fingers and type a piece. In it, I mused that Barack Obama’s ambitions could not be achieved without the help of a supportive public.

….this means a more responsible America, which as a nation has a less arrogant way of dealing with the world and doesn’t take its greatness for granted or misuse its power. It goes without saying that there are many in the world – Obama talked specifically about the Muslim world in his speech – who will have been pleased to hear that and are looking forward to seeing America take that new approach, which is so markedly different from the aggressive ways of George Bush.

This also means a more thoughtful and reflective American individual who will continue to “take in a stranger when the levees break … and who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job.” Obama’s campaign was built on people power and today he made it clear that it is that same power that will help lead America, under his presidency, become an even greater nation.

I also did some partying afterwards! It was a momentous time to see, and be there to celebrate, the first African American president sworn into office.

  

I have been to the White House a few times since then. Here is a recent photo, taken from the White House lawn, as Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama spoke at a joint press conference.

A lot has happened, and much has changed, in the past 4 years, the global economy being a prominent issue. In 08, race was a big issue. This time around it’s class and socio-economics. The American Dream is in jeopardy.

Politics has become increasingly divisive. It really is right v left. The Tea Party emerged after the last election to claim their place in American history. Sadly, despite the President’s desire for bi-partisanship, American politics continues to be even more highly partisan and highly oppositional. Washington, I believe, is even more broken. I don’t think this is Obama’s fault per se – if anything, I think his election simply drew more attention and added more fuel to the already-existing issues.

In 2012, it is now former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney v Obama. Obama is now the incumbent and clearly a threatening one as super PACS aim to spend plenty of money (one group will spend $1bn) to destroy the incumbent. Despite the Occupy protests and growing discussion about politics for the people, there are some who are clearly not listening.

Romney continues to swing to the right, to his detriment in my view. Romney could have stood strong as a business man and played that card right. I have actually worked at Bain, and I very much enjoyed my time there. I found it an excellent company. Instead, Romney has gone socially conservative, talking about women’s rights, abortion (which, honestly, I think is a woman-only domain) and courting Donald Trump who continues to bang on endlessly about Obama’s country of birth. As if this is what matters.

Obama has both centrist and leftists to factor in, as well as those sorely disillusioned by his 08 promises of hope and change. The grassroots swell has died down, and the Occupy movement has come in to provide the space for those who thought that an Obama presidency would mean radical change in the US. Obama certainly has work to do.

I’d rather this election was just about pragmatism and what is best for the country, but that’s partisan politics for you. Polls in key states are saying that Obama and Romney are close. We shall see.

Four years is not a long time, and not long enough to fulfill a mission for a nation. I hope that Obama gets another shot.