A brief history of Republican presidents as mascots

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Donald Trump makes an entrance fit for a Lady Gaga concert at the 2016 GOP Convention.

In a sixth season episode of The Simpsons, Springfield’s Republicans gather to discuss their next mayoral candidate. Mr. Burns insists on “a true leader, who will do exactly as he’s told.” A political strategist says the next mayor of Springfield is just behind the door. When it’s opened, there’s nothing there but a water cooler, prompting a round of applause. Moments later Sideshow Bob, a former TV personality, steps into frame, and the Republicans decide he’s even better.

Three of the last four Republican presidents – Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump – could have easily been devised in such a meeting. In real life, as on The Simpsons, the Republican Party has shown a preference for presidential candidates who lack substance but put on a good show. It seems they don’t want a president so much as they do a mascot. Continue reading

What happens when the worst person in America becomes president

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After shoving a diplomat out of the way, President Trump adjusts his jacket and takes center stage.

Donald Trump is not, yet, the worst-ever president. He’s trying to be, but his administration has been too hamstrung by controversy to get much done. Part of this is because, on a personal level, Trump is almost certainly the worst person to occupy the White House. He’s crude, ignorant, abusive, and greedy – just for starters. Whatever he does or doesn’t accomplish in terms of policy, having such a toxic person in the nation’s highest office is already having destructive consequences. Continue reading

Far right blames negative Trump coverage for congressional baseball shooting

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At rallies across America during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump called for violence from his podium.

At a practice for the Republican congressional baseball team Wednesday morning, a mass shooter opened fire and struck five people. One of them was Steve Scalise, the third-ranked Republican in the House of Representatives. The shooter, identified as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, was killed in a shootout with Capitol police. In the ensuing news cycle, Hodgkinson’s political persuasion became public knowledge. He was, apparently, a political progressive who volunteered on the Bernie Sanders campaign and despised Donald Trump’s presidency.

Figures on the far right wasted no time blaming Trump’s critics for the attack. Comments on right-wing message boards, and on Hodgkinson’s own Facebook page, excoriated liberals for dividing the country and encouraging violence. Sean Hannity, whose FOX News program is the leading Trump propaganda hour on cable, warned, “When Democrats continue to dehumanize Republicans… the climate around the country becomes more than toxic.” Newt Gingrich blamed “an increasing intensity of hostility on the left.” Continue reading

Left and Right PC outrage in the Trump era

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This picture earned more than its thousand words, but it didn’t get as many laughs.

From comedians to journalists, high-profile members of the left and right found themselves in Trump-related controversy in recent weeks. The incidents provide a useful microcosm to paint a bigger picture. When the political correctness of each side is analyzed one thing is clear: the left holds its own to a much higher standard than the right does. And while liberals spend much of their time infighting, Republicans are radicalizing further rightward and running away with the country. Continue reading

White people really don’t like being called racists

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In his defense of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani declares, “To call anyone a racist is outrageous.”

Comedian Louis CK has a bit about white privilege that includes a riff on the lack of effective racial slurs against white people. “Ruined my day,” he mockingly complains after being called a cracker. It’s an interesting observation, but CK overlooked one word that does cause white people to become uppity: the word “racist” itself. For many white people, it has become a slur in its own right. Continue reading

The problem of cop-on-citizen crime is cultural

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Police use violence to contain a crowd in Anaheim protesting police violence in 2012.

Whenever a black, brown or Muslim person commits a crime, pundits spend the next news cycle trying to diagnose what it is about those communities that produces such violence. White Americans are so convinced the problem is with the groups themselves, and not individuals or social forces, that they elected a president who wants to ban all Muslims, build a wall to keep out immigrants, and instill law and order in black neighborhoods.

Yet when a police officer kills an unarmed citizen, media presents the officer’s side of the story; digs into the victim’s past for any evidence of wrongdoing, no matter how petty; and urges the public not to turn against law enforcement. When the officer is truly indefensible, he’s cast as a bad apple. But if there’s any group in America whose violence needs to be examined on a systemic level, it’s the police. Continue reading

Violence at Berkeley is less about free speech than it is white nationalism

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Gavin McInnes, founder of the political street gang Proud Boys, reads what would have been Ann Coulter’s speech at Berkeley.

On April 27, far-right polemicist Ann Coulter was scheduled to give a speech at the University of California at Berkeley. After a lot of back-and-forth, during which Coulter was disinvited, re-invited and rescheduled, the group that sponsored her ultimately backed out. Security concerns, including a near-guarantee of violence, prompted both Coulter and the Young America’s Foundation to decide that her appearance would jeopardize people’s well-being. In a statement, Coulter said, “It’s a sad day for free speech.” Continue reading

For Yiannopoulos, age of consent controversy is a wasted opportunity

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In multiple podcast interviews, Yiannopoulos attempted to defend certain kinds of pedophilia.

When a professional internet troll has to backpedal or apologize, it means he fucked up bad. Milo Yiannopoulos’s living is built largely on characterizing marginalized groups – women, immigrants, Muslims, black people, fat people, the poor – as bullies trying to oppress good, honest, white men. He’s been canceled by event organizers, banned from Twitter, and violently protested against, all of which propped up his brand as a First Amendment provocateur.

Now his provocations have alienated him from this base. During several podcast interviews, Yiannopoulos attempted to minimize and normalize pedophilia. After the remarks were publicized, a planned appearance at CPAC was canceled and a book deal with Simon & Schuster fell through. Yiannopoulos knows he’s in trouble this time, and he’s acting precisely as the free speech crusader he is – by backpedaling and worming out of his own words. Continue reading

Bill Maher grants professional alt-right troll a mainstream platform

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Among the people Yiannopoulos makes a career out of hating are poor immigrants.

A micro-controversy is bubbling in the world of liberal infotainment. Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart editor and self-described internet supervillain, was booked as a guest on Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher. In protest, Jeremy Scahill, a founding editor for The Intercept, canceled his own scheduled appearance on the show. Maher responded by saying, in part, “Liberals will continue to lose elections as long as they follow the example of people like Mr. Scahill.”

Maher further explained, “If Mr. Yiannopoulos is indeed the monster Scahill claims – and he might be – nothing could serve the liberal cause better than having him exposed on Friday night.” But Maher is missing the point. Exposure is precisely what Yiannopoulos craves. It doesn’t matter if he’s revealed as a full-throated Nazi and booed out of the building; he has already won. Continue reading

This is how it begins

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Arsonists set fire to a mosque in Victoria, Texas after President Trump announced a travel ban on select Muslim nations.

According to early reports from Reuters, President Trump plans to refocus a US program called Countering Violent Extremism. The CVE, which combats dangerous ideologies of all stripes, will be repurposed to solely target Islamic fascism and jihad. But as anyone who’s looked at crime data knows, the risk of Islamic terror in the US is infrequent. Trump’s decision to focus on it is not about protecting Americans, it’s about demonizing human beings based on religion and ethnicity. Continue reading