Say Never

This is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after.

— David Brooks, “If Not Trump, What?” (4-29-2016)

This week’s featured post is “What Will Republicans Do Now?

If you’re wondering where I was last week, check out the Mayday service I gave at the Unitarian Church of Quincy, Illinois.

These last two weeks, everybody has been talking about the end of the Republican primary campaign

Two weeks ago, the plan to stop Donald Trump at the convention was still iffy, but didn’t seem completely daft. Then very quickly, Trump won the Middle Atlantic primaries by wide margins and Cruz collapsed in Indiana. Suddenly Cruz and Kasich were out and Trump was the last man standing.

I talk about the still-splintered Republican Party in the featured post.

Before Cruz went out, though, he unleashed the kind of scathing diatribe you can’t take back, calling Trump a “pathological liar” who “lies [with] practically every word that comes out of his mouth”.

In a response that I think comes straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everyone else of lying. … And it’s simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing.

This is actually a sound insight. In particular, I think it applies to Trump’s recent attack on Hillary Clinton:

Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card.

Reverse that and see how much better it fits. Would anyone support Donald Trump if he weren’t a white man? Isn’t he constantly playing the white man card, stoking up white male resentment against Hispanics, against women, against blacks, against Middle Easterners?

Another frequent Trump claim is that Hillary either will or should be indicted over the email affair. But the more we learn, the more clear it is that she broke no laws. It is Trump, on the other hand, who has a legal problem: The Trump University fraud lawsuit will be heard shortly after the election.

and political comedy

At his last White House Press Correspondents’ Dinner, President Obama proved once again that he has a career in stand-up waiting, if he wants it.

And Jimmy Kimmel did a funny but effective piece about climate change.

The Daily Show turned real Donald Trump quotes into a rap video.

That video illustrates one reason I think liberals will do better against Trump than conservatives did: Trump deserves to be laughed at, and we have much better comedians.

Meanwhile, the last week of the Ted Cruz campaign was full of unintentional yucks: Ted accidentally elbowed his wife in the face. His would-be VP, Carly Fiorina, diverted attention from the entrance of the Cruz family by falling off the stage. And in a WTF moment, Carly started singing. When Hollywood eventually makes a comedy about the 2016 campaign, those moments will have to be included.

and Puerto Rico

The first time I noticed that Puerto Rico had a debt problem was when I started seeing this ad:

It was paid for by one of those dark-money groups with an amorphous name: the Center for Individual Freedom. So of course you can trust everything they tell you.

To get a better idea of what’s involved, watch this John Oliver segment (which features Puerto-Rican-born Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton).

The general theme here is the problem of colonialism: Puerto Rico may have its own government, but the rules it operates under are circumscribed by what Congress allows, and Congress often makes new rules affecting Puerto Rico either by accident (just failing to mention it in the law) or in order to achieve some purpose on the mainland, with the effect on the island being mostly an afterthought.

Right now, Puerto Rico owes $70 billion, or about $20,000 per person. The debt simply can’t be paid, and as the laws currently stand, the island’s government has to pay its bonds before providing services like public health and education. If they do that, it seems clear that people will die; that’s why they’re currently in violation of the law.

Mainlanders who want to write Puerto Ricans off because they’re Hispanics might want to think again: Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, all its people are American citizens. They don’t have to cross any borders or jump any walls to resettle in your town; they just need a plane ticket.

and Cinco de Mayo

For an explanation of why wearing a sombrero, eating nachos, and drinking too much tequila is not a proper way for Anglos to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, listen to Liz Martinez , or watch this:

For what Cinco de Mayo really means, see Wikipedia.

For non-Hispanic Americans, Cinco de Mayo should be an annual opportunity to think about cultural appropriation, the tendency of powerful cultures to steal anything that looks like fun from less powerful cultures. (I discussed this a few years ago in “A Brief Meditation on White Twerking“.) Done badly, the powerful culture’s megaphone drowns out the authentic tradition, ruining practices and celebrations for the people they ought to belong to.

There are respectful ways to mark holidays of cultures you don’t belong to. For example, if you’re a Gentile and your Jewish friends invite you over for a Passover Seder, you can attend without worrying about cultural appropriation, as long as you don’t try to make yourself the center of attention. That’s way different from dressing up like Moses and inviting a bunch of other Gentiles over to eat matzo shaped like the 10 commandments and drink a lot of Manischewitz.


The question is who’s in control. One key symptom of privilege is the tendency to assume that you ought to be in control. If someone else is offended by what you do, you’ll be the judge of whether their objection is justified. You’ll examine your own intentions, and if you decide you meant well, that’s all that matters. If that doesn’t satisfy some people, well, that’s their problem.

You can see that process at work in Washington Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder: He knows he doesn’t intend to insult Native Americans, so if they take offense they’re just wrong. “The truth is on our side,” he says.


A current example is Donald Trump’s Cinco de Mayo tweet. All the elements of cultural appropriation are on display: A white guy eats a white imitation of Mexican food while proclaiming (falsely, according to New York Eater, which judged the Trump Tower Grill’s taco bowls to be “an insult to Mexicans every bit as profound as Trump’s previous pronouncements”) that his people do it better than actual Mexicans. It’s textbook. No wonder California Republican Dennis Hollingsworth tweeted in response: “Holy guacamole, what a dipshit.”


Like Hollingsworth, many interpreted Trump’s tweet as a clueless attempt to reach out to Hispanic-American voters. (Reince Priebus’ generous interpretation was that Trump is “trying”.) But I see something more clever. Trump knows the Hispanic vote is beyond his reach. His actual purpose here is to convince other clueless Anglos that he’s not anti-Hispanic, so they can vote for him without feeling like bigots.

The goal was to get the response he got from Bill O’Reilly (and Neil Cavuto): that the objections to his tweet demonstrate the “political madness” of this campaign. No doubt O’Reilly’s aging white audience is saying, “Look at how crazy those people are! Trump says he loves them, and they’re mad.” Just what the Donald wanted.

and HB2

The plot thickens regarding North Carolina’s HB2 law, the one that polices the state’s bathrooms and prevents local governments from protecting any rights the state doesn’t recognize — particularly gay or trans rights.

Wednesday, the U. S. Justice Department sent Gov. Pat McCrory a letter notifying him that the law violates federal laws against sex-based discrimination in the workplace. The feds wanted assurance by today that North Carolina will not be enforcing the law, which Gov. McCrory is not going to give, calling the letter “Washington overreach”. Billions in federal funds are potentially at risk.

Basically, McCrory is taking the same path that Southern governors like George Wallace and Ross Barnett did during the civil rights era: calling for delay and invoking states rights.

One possible way out is if the city of Charlotte agrees to repeal the LGBT-rights ordinance that HB2 was passed to undo. Then the state might amend HB2 in some way acceptable to the Justice Department. So far, though, Charlotte seems to be taking the view that they didn’t make this problem.

and let’s close with something time-devouring

Polygraph has constructed the most addictive web site I’ve ever linked to. Start at any date you want (after 1958; 1997 is the default), and then watch (and hear) the Billboard Top 5 songs evolve week by week, with a running total of how many weeks each artist stayed at #1. “Maybe I’ll just watch another couple of months,” I say. “Aren’t the Beatles due to show up soon? How long will it take them to catch Elvis?”

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Comments

  • janinmi  On May 10, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Great collection of videos in this post! Thanks for using them; it improved my day.

  • Eric L  On May 15, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    “The goal was to get the response he got from Bill O’Reilly (and Neil Cavuto): that the objections to his tweet demonstrate the “political madness” of this campaign.”

    This is exactly right, but it begs the question, should we play our part in this plan? Now here we are, explaining cultural appropriation, the most tedious and difficult to explain (and maybe even least bad) of all anti-racist charges. We already have a more compelling case than this that Trump is racist.

    • weeklysift  On May 16, 2016 at 5:59 am

      The point of the Cinco de Mayo note wasn’t to hit Trump, it was to explain cultural appropriation, so that maybe this time it would get through to a few more people who want to understand it. Trump was an illustration and a current-events hook.

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