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Trump, America: Where do things go from here?

By Askia Muhammad and Nisa Islam Muhammad, Final Call Staffers | Last updated: Aug 9, 2017 - 5:47:44 PM

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WASHINGTON—
If President Donald J. Trump—who has averaged 4.6 fabrications, misrepresentations, and lies each day since taking office—is to be believed, there is no chaos in his administration. Upheaval, bedlam maybe, freefall?

“Highest Stock Market EVER, best economic numbers in years, unemployment lowest in 17 years, wages raising, border secure, S.C.: No WH chaos!” the President wrote on Twitter, after a week that saw his top legislative goal—repealing the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”)—defeated; a shake-up of top White House staff; reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign is broadening into Mr. Trump’s financial affairs; worsening relations with Russia; and belligerence from North Korea.

Despite a record 61 percent disapproval rating, Mr. Trump retains the unshakeable support of better than a third of U.S. voters.

But the flurry of unforced errors by the Trump team, and hopes for the demise of his administration may have lulled some of his opponents to sleep. “The chaos is also hiding some of the ways at the departmental level they’re making really fundamental changes,” Dr. Clarence Lusane, chair of the Department of Political Science at Howard University, said in an interview.

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“That’s what’s really scary. They’ve put in people who basically deconstruct all those departments—the most obvious being, what’s going on with the Justice Department … the Environmental Protection Agency, and Education, they are rapidly getting rid of all the gains that people have made in those areas,” Dr. Lusane continued.

Congress, controlled in both the House and the Senate by Republicans, must share the blame for the legislative stalemate with the GOP White House. The party’s sole, unqualified success was the nomination and the Senate confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Some Republicans hesitantly supported Mr. Trump’s campaign over concerns that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would get to fill the seat left vacant after the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia during the sixth year of President Barack Obama’s term.

“I think we should not be celebrating the chaos that is at one level, undermining Trump and has driven his popularity down to the low 30s, but, there’s a lot of impact the administration is having because they’ve been able to place these ideologues and these extremists in key positions,” said Dr. Lusane.

Democrats meanwhile, are preparing for the 2018-midterm elections, by prioritizing the pursuit of wavering White voters over working to inspire its Black, core voting base. In Virginia, in late July, party leaders unveiled their new slogan—“A Better Deal”—and rolled out an agenda to win back working-class voters they lost to President Donald Trump in November. The rebranding effort comes as the Democrats have lost all four special congressional elections this year to Republicans.

The prevailing myth is that Democratic voters, working-class White voters who had supported President Obama, defected from the Democrats and flocked to the Trump campaign, and that’s why Democrats lost, and that’s why they have to pursue those voters to try to regain their power. Black and Latino interests have again been rendered expendable.

“You don’t count. That’s the point he’s making,” the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan told broadcaster Cliff Kelly on Chicago’s WVON-AM earlier this year, concerning President Trump’s fondness for President Andrew Jackson, who owned 175 slaves and led Indian massacres.

“So, the hell with what you think,” Minister Farrakhan continued. “He wants Andrew Jackson, so he got him up, in the White House. Look, brothers and sisters, you’ve got to wake up and know that you don’t count … except when it’s time to count a vote; or when it’s time to pay your taxes; or when it’s time to fight their war. Other than that, you don’t count.

“They gave you the 13th, 14th, 15th Amendments. They enforce none! They promised us 40 acres and a mule. What did you get? Nothing! So all they can do now is promise what they don’t even have the will or power to grant,” said Minister Farrakhan.

“The Democrats are making a humongous mistake if they think that they’re going to convert some of these people who have cottoned themselves to Trump,” said Dr. Lusane. “Many of the people who have cottoned themselves to Trump are not doing so because they agree with everything he says. They agree with what they think Trump represents, which is this reassertion of White privilege and White opportunity that obviously they didn’t get under Obama, and that in general they are not going to get under Democrats. So, they’re not going to be converted, and they are going with Trump all the way down to the pits of hell.”

“There is a lesson there for the Democratic Party. If they’ve got any shot at coming to power again, it’s going to be, putting forth an agenda that addresses the interests of Black people, Latinos, women, progressives, environmentalists, that broad agenda that they have basically stepped back on in the last number of years, even under Obama,” he said.

For many around the country, looking at their president is a daily exercise in head shaking and wondering, “what in the world is he doing?” and “what will it mean for me?” 

From his new immigration policy to his voter fraud commission to Russian sanctions and his revolving door of staff members, Americans are confused.

However, political scientist, producer and host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Leon,” on SiriusXM Satellite radio, Dr. Wilmer Leon, believes the president’s goal with his new immigration policy is to make America White again.

“By focusing on those immigrants with higher skill-sets over those who perform service sector and manual or ‘stoop’ labor jobs, Trump’s proposed legislation will result in lower skilled immigrants entering the country via any means necessary, thus exacerbating illegal immigration,” he told The Final Call.

There is also an ominous message in the Trump slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

“To the average American these are innocuous words, standard American rhetoric. To those with another reality who understand settler colonialism, American racism and hegemony, this is White Nationalist code language and this immigration policy is an attempt to put this code language into practice,” said Dr. Leon. 

“A  2016 Huffington Post poll of White Trump voters found that 45 percent of them believe that Whites are the victims of discrimination, more so than Muslims, Blacks, Jews and Latinos,” he added.

Others are wondering “why?” about the recently convened Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

The People’s Organization for Progress in Newark, N.J., hosted an Aug. 4 press conference to condemn the commission. They and other critics believe it will be used to expand purging voters wrongly dropped from rolls, predominantly Black and Brown people, since a 2013 Supreme Court weakened enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

According to research done by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program, that analyzed lists of nearly 50 million registered voters from a dozen states, seven million voters were removed over the last year, 2015-2016. Meaning, millions were of voters being removed from voting rolls and not allowed to vote in the 2016 election.

Serious observers see the commission’s work as “nationalizing” a voter purge previously been done in Republican-controlled states to insure Mr. Trump does not lose the popular vote in 2020 and that Republicans do not lose Congress in 2018.

This comes at a crucial anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law on Aug. 6, 1965 by President Johnson.

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Anti-Trump supporters rally at the Texas State Capitol on July 2, during an impeachment march in Austin, Texas, by anti-Trump supporters in hopes to gain attention and impeach Trump. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

“We cannot let the anniversary of that epic bill coming into law go by and be silent while the administration is trying at this very moment to destroy its usefulness and to employ a whole new method of racially discriminatory voter suppression,” insisted People for Progress chairman Lawrence Hamm.

A Washington University Law student in St. Louis, Mo., expressed disappointment and concerns with the direction of the current administration.  

“My thoughts on the latest rounds of what is happening with President Trump and his administration are a cacophony of strong feelings of anger, confusion, embarrassment, fear, yet shining through all of that is gratefulness,” said Jermaine A. Brookshire, Jr., J.D. candidate 2019.

“I am grateful that a number of people are not letting Trump reign unchecked. He is brash and unfiltered, but many are standing up to Trump and are reminding him that the policies and statements he has made or seeking to institute will not persist if they are unconstitutional.”

“I am disappointed with the America that can support Trump, but I am encouraged by the America that stands up against the unapologetically divisive rhetoric and policies of the Trump Administration. America is resilient and the plethora of colors, ethnicities, and beliefs that make up America are way too powerful to allow for this country to revert back to the ignorant and intolerant ways of its past,” he argued.

Mr.  Brookshire’s arguments match that part of the electorate that protested Mr. Trump before he came into office and had what is likely a record of daily protests for a new president.

But there is another side that supports Mr. Trump no matter what. They aren’t worried about claims of Russia collusion, a possible constitutional crisis if the president moves to fire the special prosecutor probing claims of Russian collusion, loss of American prestige on the world stage, fights with the press or divisions in the country. One poll found significant support for the president, even if he literally went out and shot someone.

“It’s a horrifying thought: A man walks down to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan—a bustling street full of New Yorkers and tourists alike—and fires a round at a passer-by,” reported Newsweek in July.

“But in the eyes of many American voters, as long as the shooter was President Donald Trump, that act would be just fine. At least that’s what the findings indicate in a new poll,” said the magazine. The survey was done by Public Policy Polling.

“The survey results hark back to a now-infamous claim Trump made on the campaign trail last January, when he raised his hand like a gun and said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters would still love him.”

“Public Policy Polling put that claim to the test, and it mostly held up. Forty-five percent of Trump voters said they would approve of the president shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, while just 29 percent disapproved. Twenty-six percent, somehow, were unsure about their thoughts about whether it would be OK for Trump to shoot a random person on the street,” said Newsweek.

Most Clinton voters disapproved of the president shooting someone, but “17 percent of those who voted for Independent candidate Gary Johnson approved of Trump shooting someone,” the magazine continued.

“More Republicans (which presumably includes some #NeverTrumpers) approved of Trump shooting someone than disapproved. Forty-two percent approved, 34 percent disapproved, and 25 percent weren’t sure. Overall, when asked the question ‘If Donald Trump shot someone on Fifth Avenue, would you approve or disapprove of the job he’s doing as president?,’ 22 percent of voters approved and 62 percent disapproved.”

“Another way of thinking about it: more people would approve of Trump shooting someone on 5th Ave. than support the current health care bill,” remarked one Twitter user.

“Public Policy Polling summed up the results: ‘Trump’s right about one thing, though—he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose most of his support,’ ” said Newsweek.

The article added, “It’s worth noting, however, that while a portion of Trump voters might be fanatical in their devotion to the president, his overall support across the country is extremely low. The weighted average from data-focused website FiveThirtyEight pegged his approval rating at just 38.7 percent … . As Trump approaches the six-month mark, that’s the lowest-ever approval figure for a president at this point in his tenure.”

“Somehow, Trump manages to be many different things to his followers, often in ways that are contradictory: He’s a regular guy but also a flamboyant billionaire; a uniter and a fighter; a politician who won’t touch social issues and who will appoint Supreme Court justices opposed to abortion,” observed the Washington Post in a piece devoted to Trump voters last year.

“But in scores of interviews across the country in recent months, supporters often echoed one another in describing what they like about Trump: He isn’t afraid to say the things they also say, even if those things are deemed racist, sexist, xenophobic or politically incorrect. He’s a businessman who will aggressively negotiate for people like them, not big donors. A family man, a truth-teller, an entertainer and a fearless outsider who is not afraid to attack the media, the establishment and even the pope.”

None of that adds up to a president who is a uniter.

Min. Farrakhan warned the country to be careful about choosing Mr. Trump saying he could take America where God wants it to go on a rocket ship. Just a few months in office it appears the U.S. may be headed there.

Politically the Democrats have little power to stop Mr. Trump and GOPers are walking a fine line in dealing with president who is unafraid to publicly bully and humiliate members of his own party, as he did with Attorney General Jeff Sessions because he followed justice Dept. protocol and recused himself from the Russia probe to avoid any appearance of impropriety. The president is also willing to fire staffers almost at will.

“Although he has only been in office a few months, Donald Trump’s presidency has had a major impact on how the world sees the United States. Trump and many of his key policies are broadly unpopular around the globe, and ratings for the U.S. have declined steeply in many nations,” reported a Pew Research Center survey of 37 nations earlier this summer.

The survey said, “a median of just 22 percent has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when a median of 64 percent expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world.”

Then there is saber rattling with North Korea, China and Iran—all at the same time. Europe and Germany have declared they will go their own way and not rely on U.S.  leadership in world affairs.

(Final Call staff and writer J.A. Salaam contributed to this report.)

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