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A segment of working-class people in our country still believes Donald Trump defends their interests. We must win them over
‘Democrats’ job during the first 100 days of the Biden administration is to make it absolutely clear whose side they are on.’ Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Tue 24 Nov 2020 (theguardian.com)
As the count currently stands, nearly 80 million Americans voted for Joe Biden. With this vote against the authoritarian bigotry of Donald Trump, the world can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
But the election results did also reveal something that should be a cause for concern. Trump received 11 million more votes than he did in 2016, increasing his support in many distressed communities – where unemployment and poverty are high, healthcare and childcare are inadequate, and people are hurting the most.‘A cabinet that looks like America’: Harris hails Biden’s diverse picksRead more
For a president who lies all the time, perhaps Donald Trump’s most outlandish lie is that he and his administration are friends of the working class in our country.
The truth is that Trump put more billionaires into his administration than any president in history; he appointed vehemently anti-labor members to the National Relations Labor Board (NLRB) and he gave huge tax breaks to the very rich and large corporations while proposing massive cuts to education, housing and nutrition programs. Trump has tried to throw up to 32 million people off the healthcare they have and has produced budgets that called for tens of billions in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and social security.Advertisement
Yet, a certain segment of the working class in our country still believe Donald Trump is on their side.
Why is that?
At a time when millions of Americans are living in fear and anxiety, have lost their jobs because of unfair trade agreements and are earning no more in real dollars than 47 years ago, he was perceived by his supporters to be a tough guy and a “fighter”. He seems to be fighting almost everyone, every day.
He declared himself an enemy of “the swamp” not only attacking Democrats, but Republicans who were not 100% in lockstep with him and even members of his own administration, whom he declared part of the “deep state”. He attacks the leaders of countries who have been our longstanding allies, as well as governors and mayors and our independent judiciary. He blasts the media as an “enemy of the people” and is ruthless in his non-stop attacks against the immigrant community, outspoken women, the African American community, the gay community, Muslims and protesters.
He uses racism, xenophobia and paranoia to convince a vast swath of the American people that he was concerned about their needs, when nothing could be further from the truth. His only interest, from day one, has been Donald Trump.
Joe Biden will be sworn in as president on 20 January and Nancy Pelosi will be speaker of the House. Depending upon what happens in Georgia’s special elections, it is unclear which party will control the US Senate.
Democrats’ job during the first 100 days of the Biden administration is to make it clear whose side they are on
But one thing is clear. If the Democratic party wants to avoid losing millions of votes in the future it must stand tall and deliver for the working families of our country who, today, are facing more economic desperation than at any time since the Great Depression. Democrats must show, in word and deed, how fraudulent the Republican party is when it claims to be the party of working families.
And, in order to do that, Democrats must have the courage to take on the powerful special interests who have been at war with the working class of this country for decades. I’m talking about Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, the fossil fuel industry, the military industrial complex, the private prison industrial complex and many profitable corporations who continue to exploit their employees.
If the Democratic party cannot demonstrate that it will stand up to these powerful institutions and aggressively fight for the working families of this country – Black, White, Latino, Asian American and Native American – we will pave the way for another rightwing authoritarian to be elected in 2024. And that president could be even worse than Trump.
Joe Biden ran for president on a strong pro working-class agenda. Now we must fight to put that agenda into action and vigorously oppose those who stands in its way.
Which Side Are You On? was a folk song written by Florence Reece, the wife of an organizer with the United Mine Workers when the union went on strike in Kentucky in 1931. Democrats need to make it absolutely clear whose side they are on.
One side is for ending starvation wages and raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. One side is not.
One side is for expanding unions. One side is not.
One side is for creating millions of good paying jobs by combating climate change and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. One side is not.
One side is for expanding healthcare. One side is not.
One side is for lowering the cost of prescription drugs. One side is not.
One side is for paid family and medical leave. One side is not.
One side is for universal pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in America. One side is not.
One side is for expanding social security. One side is not.
One side is for making public colleges and universities tuition-free for working families, and eliminating student debt. One side is not.
One side is for ending a broken and racist criminal justice system, and investing in our young people in jobs and education. One side is not.
One side is for reforming and making our immigration system fair and humane. One side is not.
Democrats’ job during the first 100 days of the Biden administration is to make it absolutely clear whose side they are on, and who is on the other side. That’s not only good public policy to strengthen our country. It’s how to win elections in the future.
- Bernie Sanders is a US senator. He represents the state of Vermont
November 25, 2020 by Common Dreams
His lies and incompetence created epic disasters that may yet sink America.
by Mike Lofgren
In terms of creating disasters, Trump has nothing on George W. Bush. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/AFP/Getty Images)
My friend and former colleague Bruce Bartlett has done a service by reminding us that after four years of the non-stop catastrophe that was the Trump administration, we should not lull ourselves with the illusion that the 45th president was some aberration that fell out of the sky.
His flamboyant criminality and relentlessly malignant personality may exert the same sick fascination as watching a grisly car crash, but in terms of creating disasters, Trump has nothing on George W. Bush.
As Bartlett points out, Bush’s presidency was filled with the same hubris, incomprehension of rational policy, and disdain for any government employee who told the president other than what he wanted to hear. There was much the same contempt for expertise (“I don’t do nuance.”). But understandably, Bartlett focuses on his own area of expertise, economics. National security gets only brief mention.
As one who spent a career in the national security field, I believe that’s where the real demons lay. It constitutes Bush’s true legacy.
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 marked the rest of Bush’s presidency, gave him a convenient boost in popularity, and probably were responsible for getting him a second term. Yet he ignored so many indications of an impending attack that even the 9/11 Commission, replete as it was with equivocation, coverups, and pussyfooting generally, proclaimed that “the system was blinking red.”
Yet Bush preferred to spend that summer playing golf, telling the CIA briefer who informed him of the threat, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.” That behavior strangely foreshadowed Trump’s dismissal of medical experts warning him of the coronavirus. Like Bush, he had better things to do—such as protecting Wall Street.
The almost incomprehensible ease with which the terrorists succeeded was such that a large portion of the American people simply could not believe it wasn’t a false flag operation. This paranoia was reinforced by the speed with which Bush and his cronies exploited the attack both for crass political gain, and (even worse) to provide a flimsy excuse to invade a country which had nothing to do with the attackers—but whose leader was a bête noir of the Bush family.
The bald facts of Bush’s incompetent negligence were bad enough and should have gotten him impeached. But his brazen use of the tragedy as an excuse to invade the wrong country gave impetus to a plague of conspiratorial thinking that now pervades and suffocates political thought. The bogus “technical” arguments of conspiracy buffs about the melting point of steel in the twin towers were merely the precursors of far-fetched theories about coronavirus being a hoax, and the victims being crisis actors. America’s mental hygiene has never been the same since that day in September.
The crippling human and material cost of Afghanistan and Iraq set our country on a downward spiral that continues to this day.
Future historians may view 9/11’s effect on the United States as spookily paralleling the 1914 terrorist incident in Sarajevo for its impact on the Habsburg Empire and the igniting of World War I. For us—although in a more protracted manner – 9/11 may have spelled the beginning of the end, just as Sarajevo did with the Habsburgs.
Initially, the government in Vienna thought the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand at the hands of a Serbian gunman to be a tragedy, but by no means an existential crisis for the monarchy. But soon enough, the militant faction, led by Foreign Minister Berchtold and General Hötzendorf exploited it as a means to rid Austria of the Serbian “menace” once and for all. They contrived to send an ultimatum of demands to Serbia that no self-respecting nation could possibly accept. They succeeded in getting their war.
That eerily foretells how Bush administration gunslingers like Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld resolved to exploit 9/11. Rumsfeld jotted down in his notes,”Near term target needs—go massive—sweep it all up, things related and not.” Empowering the CIA or Special Forces to locate and neutralize the 9/11 plotters wasn’t enough. Bush and his paladins gave Afghanistan’s Taliban regime an ultimatum they could not accept, and, for good measure, proceeded to give Iraq the same treatment. We know the rest.
The crippling human and material cost of Afghanistan and Iraq set our country on a downward spiral that continues to this day. Those hideous misadventures spawned the Department of Homeland Security, the agency with the Orwellian name whose menacing potential is held in check mainly by incompetence. Former employees tell me it is far less than the sum of the agencies that were folded into it.
Yet, even as the twin disaster of Iraq and Afghanistan became evident to any thinking person, the combination of fear, vengeance, hatred, and hubris that the Republican propaganda machine whipped up got the public into lather. Foreign policy could no longer be viewed with detachment as an issue of national interests, cost, and risk. It became one more weapon in the culture wars arsenal. The 2004 was a referendum on Iraq, and, significantly, it remains the only time since 1988 that a Republican presidential candidate won the popular vote.
Congress entered a steep decline, sinking to the level of Franco’s cortes or the central committee under Stalin. Before the Iraq invasion, I conveyed my strategic concerns to a couple of congressmen. One of them slapped his forehead with the heel of his hand and said in mock regret, “Mike, I wish you hadn’t told me that!” But I didn’t change anyone’s vote (after all, I wasn’t a lobbyist with a checkbook). This, too, presages the behavior of Republican legislators toward Trump. Off the record, they are alarmed by him and disdainful. In public, they are as grovelingly adoring of him as Kim Jong Un’s subordinates are to the Dear Leader.
Bush’s disasters reverberate to this day. Our foreign policy establishment evidently feels toward Afghanistan as a man who has a wolf by the ears. He knows he can’t hold on forever, but he dares not let go. Iraq, where al Qaeda did not exist, spawned al Qaeda in Iraq, which begat ISIS, which then spread to Syria.
It is doubtful a president with the wisdom of Solomon could solve the Middle East problems that Bush created. And, as if to magnify the errors of his Republican predecessor, Trump abrogated the nuclear agreement with Iran, one of the few positive steps the United States has taken in that region in recent decades (and an agreement that Iran was complying with). For good measure, he gave a hearty thumbs up to the Saudi monarchy’s murderous bombing of Yemeni civilians.
In any case, time is not on our side. For a decade or more, liberals have congratulated themselves on projected demographic changes in the country that would mean a more diverse, better educated electorate. That change simply has not happened in an electorally beneficial manner, and is unlikely to do so in the medium term.
Indeed, because of our absurdly archaic electoral system, demographic sorting by region may actually exacerbate the inability to produce an electorate that will vote for moderate – let alone progressive—foreign and domestic policies that will not replicate the disasters I have described. And it could lead to an even more authoritarian GOP; the party that already produced Bush and Trump could stumble upon a Führer who was actually competent, and the game will be over.
Just as Austria’s cumbersome dual monarchy was not up to the challenges of the 20th century, so it is in the 21st century with America’s antique political system (there is only one example of an institution comparable to our own electoral college: the electors of the Holy Roman Empire, a state which ceased to exist in 1806). The very structure of our system, combined with an increasingly paranoid and disinformed electorate, means the likelihood of producing a dud occupying the Oval Office is roughly 50/50.
Austria, though, in its twilight at least produced Gustav Mahler, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Karl Popper. We seem to be stuck with Ted Nugent and Kanye West.
Mike Lofgren is a former congressional staff member who served on both the House and Senate budget committees. His books include: “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government” (2016) and “The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted” (2013).
When leaders run out of unifying myths, division is the last currency. Why this Thanksgiving, America is a “death cult” versus “radical socialists”
|Matt Taibbi||Nov 25, 2020 (substack.com)|
Self-described “elected DNC member” and Washington Monthly contributor David Atkins tweeted this last week, garnering a huge response:David Atkins @DavidOAtkinsNo seriously…how *do* you deprogram 75 million people? Where do you start? Fox? Facebook? We have to start thinking in terms of post-WWII Germany or Japan. Or the failures of Reconstruction in the South.November 18th 202010,062 Retweets62,327 Likes
You have to read the full thread to grasp the argument, a greatest hits collection of DNC talking points. Conservatives, Atkins writes, have no beliefs, being a “belligerent death cult against reality and basic decency.” There’s no reason to listen to them, since the “only actual policy debates” are “happening within the dem coalition between left and center-left.” He had over 61,000 likes last I checked.
Meanwhile, as Donald Trump kept describing the election as a “hoax,” newly re-upped South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted this, perhaps offering a preview into Republican messaging in the post-Trump era:
Lindsey Graham @LindseyGrahamSCI can understand why the Squad doesn’t want me in the Senate – because I’m going to bury your agenda. You’re a bunch of Socialists. You would transform America and make it Venezuela. I’m gonna stand in your way. I’m not going anywhere!
November 19th 20204,320 Retweets23,492 Likes
From the “vast right-wing conspiracy” through the “basket of deplorables” to now, the Democratic message increasingly focuses on the illegitimacy of the ordinary conservative voter’s opinion: ignorant, conspiratorial, and racist, so terrible that the only hope is mass-reprogramming by educated betters.
On the other hand, Republicans from Goldwater to Trump have warned that coalitions of “marauders” from the inner cities and “bad hombres” from across the border are plotting to use socialist politics to seize the hard-earned treasure of the small-town voter, with the aid of elitist traitors in the Democratic Party.
Spool these ideas endlessly and you get culture war. Any thought that it might abate once Trump left the scene looks naive now. The pre-election warnings from the right about roving bands of Pelosi-coddled Antifa troops looking to “attack your homes” haven’t subsided, while the line that Trump voters are not a political group but a stupidity death-cult is no longer hot take, but a mandatory element of mainstream press analyses.
This language has been picking up for years, from Vanity Fair’s “Cult of Trump” to endless Washington Post and New York Times ruminations on the theme, all wondering how humans supporting Trump could also hold down jobs or take out the trash by themselves. Every tale about science-denying Trumpists gone off the deep end in the manner of religious loons is boosted. When an E.R. nurse went on CNN to tell tales of Biden-haters going to their Covid-choked deaths gasping, “It isn’t real!”, her story was circulated everywhere, retweeted by multiple Senators and a Pulitzer winner.
A rare follow-up by Wired suggested these and other similar tales were apocryphal, which ought to have been a relief. However, just as news that Robert Mueller might not discover the president to be a secret agent was deemed a “disappointment,” press and politicians alike seem reluctant to let go of legends of Middle America as one great sea of mass insanity. In the same way, some in the GOP can’t let go of the dream of an election stolen in the dark night of our Venezuela-style city governments.
As a result, we’ve seen story after story of late about skyrocketing gun sales, with frequent reminders that it’s not just frustrated white dudes tooling up now. Even “women, minorities, and politically liberal buyers” are being forced to “contemplate something outside their universe,” is how one gun dealer recently put it to NBC.
Though the oft-predicted breakout of Yugoslavia-style sectarian violence hasn’t happened yet, it’s not for want of trying on the part of both politicians and the bigger media organizations, which couldn’t get enough of the stories of “on edge” and “nervous” citizens boarding up storefronts on Election Night. They keep playing up these tensions as click-generating theater, not caring about the consequences of wishing actual sectarian battle into existence.
This is what happens when the very wealthy stop having a stake in the outcome of a country’s future. Having long ago stopped investing in ameliorative programs to keep cities and small towns alive, they stop bothering with unifying national legends, too, letting long-simmering divisions rise.
Eight years ago, at the height of anger toward Wall Street, the American Conservative wrote about the “revolt of the rich,” saying, “Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it.” They pointed out that in both world wars, the Harvard man and the New York socialite alike “knew the weight of an army pack.” By the 21st century, war became a job for lower-class suckers, with soldiers being one of many groups targeted by predatory lending in the crash era. Conflicts in places like Afghanistan drag on forever because the children of Important People mostly don’t serve. We have very wealthy people, but walled off in an archipelago of tax and criminal justice loopholes that give them more common statehood with other plutocrats in Europe and Asia than with other Americans.
Right around the same time that article was being published, political movements on both the left and the right were beginning to wake up to the idea that they’d been focusing their anger in the wrong places. Each articulated a theory of political abandonment. The Occupy movement described their battle as being between the 99% and the 1%, while the Tea Partiers, for all their eccentricities — I was pretty harsh about them once upon a time — were at least coming to the realization that the Republican Party leaders had long been lying to them about things like spending. These movements respectively set the stage for Bernie Sanders and Trump, who both described politics as a fight between a broad mean of betrayed constituents and that archipelago of rich villains.
Those movements failed, for different reasons, and we’re now back to corporate-sponsored tales of half against half. What’s always forgotten is who’s paying for these messages. We have two donor-fattened parties that across decades of incompetence have each run out of convincing pitches for how to improve the lives of ordinary people. So they’ve settled into a new propaganda line that blames voters for their problems, with each party directing its base to demonize the other’s followers. Essentially, in the wake of Trump, the political class is accepting the inevitability of culture war, and urging it on, as something preferable to populist revolt.
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To the degree that one can measure the sincerity of such people … probably. Sure.
George Chidi November 24 2020 (theintercept.com)
An officer in riot gear stands between supporters of President Donald Trump and counterprotesters as the groups yell at each other outside of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Nov. 21, 2020. Photo: Ben Gray/AP
AS A LONGTIME observer of Georgia politics, I am at a point where I can no longer distinguish trolling from earnest madness.
A hashtag began trending this morning on Twitter: #WriteInTrumpForGA. You could probably have seen it coming as soon as Lin Wood, a Trump attorney arguing to overturn the election results here, tweeted his support for a boycott of the U.S. Senate runoff elections.
But far-right protesters had been calling for it in the street even before Wood’s comment. Vincent James Foxx took to the steps of the Georgia Capitol last week to tell “Republican traitors” who are not trying to overturn the election that “we will not be willing to show up for them.”
Foxx founded Red Elephants, a media platform based in California that the Anti-Defamation League described as promoting “conspiracy theories, anti-Semitic beliefs and white supremacist mantras.”
Nonetheless, video of his commentary went viral, though probably not the way he might have liked. Virtually all of the engagement has been with progressive commenters wishing him well here.
If Jon Ossoff beats Sen. David Perdue and Raphael Warnock beats Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the January runoff, Democrats take control of the Senate. So the reaction on the left both locally and nationally has been giddy, gleeful support for the proposition of a far-right boycott.
Alex Jones, host of Infowars, an extreme right-wing program that often trafficks in conspiracy theories, speaks at a “Stop the Steal” rally against the results of the U.S. presidential election inside the state capitol on Nov. 18, 2020 in Atlanta. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger noted in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week that 24,000 Republican voters submitted absentee ballots in the June primary and refrained from voting in the general election — enough voters to have closed Biden’s margin in Georgia.
Typically, a runoff election in Georgia might draw as few as 20 percent of the voters from the general election. More important jobs draw a higher proportion of voters, as happened in 2018 when Raffensperger himself faced a runoff contest against John Barrow, where about 40 percent of voters returned. The last U.S. Senate runoff here in 2008, between Republican Saxby Chambliss and his Democratic challenger Jim Martin, drew about 60 percent of general election voters.The question to ask is if 30,000 people who would vote for Republican candidates are open to an argument for a boycott.
Chambliss won the runoff handily. But given recent election trends in Georgia, with Democrats so focused on turnout, one might hold presumptions of Republican victory less strongly. If total turnout in January is around 3 million votes, a 1 percent gap would be 30,000 voters. The question to ask is if 30,000 people who would vote for Republican candidates are open to an argument for a boycott.
Are people like Wood and Foxx sincere? To the degree that one can measure the sincerity of such people … probably. Sure. I’m guessing that Wood is trying to set up former Georgia congressman Doug Collins for a right-flank challenge to Loeffler or Warnock in two years, or perhaps against Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
Foxx’s deeper motivations might be a bit more nuanced. Set aside his stated reasons (his fallacious belief in a stolen election and a demand for Republicans to spend their political capital fighting it). And ignore for a moment their general contempt for “democracy” as a political value. Biden’s win means some Republicans will recalculate their electoral math, asking if courting white nationalists loses them more elections than they will win.
The far right has been in a crisis ever since the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, provoked a massive, world-changing backlash. White supremacist groups have been falling apart from lawsuits, the rolling identification of their leaders, social media deplatforming, and infighting. People like Foxx have had some access to power over the last four years. A call to boycott is a loyalty test, and loyalty tests are deliberately painful: Do this distasteful thing — disregard the law and voters — to prove you still listen to us, or we will show you what that will cost you.
Trump himself reiterated support for Loeffler and Perdue the week after the election. Yesterday, Donald Trump Jr. described calls to boycott as “nonsense” and asked people to ignore them. Neither Loeffler nor Perdue have addressed the idea directly.
Nonetheless, social media chatter about a boycott is continuing to grow. On the social media network Parler, the hashtag #boycottgeorgiarunoffs doubled its traffic overnight. But most of the accounts pushing it are brand new and utterly anonymous. Parler’s conservative supporters tout its unmoderated forum as an alternative to Facebook, but as a practical matter, it is completely susceptible to manipulation by political provocateurs.
Despite its supposed noninterference policy, Parler began striking the #WriteInTrumpForGA hashtag today. Perhaps that’s because under Georgia election rules, you can’t actually write in a candidate in a runoff. Even if you could, a write-in candidate has to be qualified by the secretary of state’s office for the votes to count. And Donald Trump is a legal resident of Florida, and would not be eligible regardless.
The idea is absurd. But that’s where we are now.
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NOVEMBER 23, 2020 (counterpunch.org)
Obama, Trump, Jeffrey Goldberg, and Richie Rich
BY PAUL STREET
Photograph Source: Peter J. Souza – CC BY 2.0
The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg recently conducted a long and obsequious interview with Barack Obama. The interview was occasioned by the apparent defeat of Obama’s fascist successor Donald Trump and by the recent release of the first volume of Obama’s much-awaited presidential memoir A Promised Land – Obama’s third book about Obama, soon to be followed by a fourth.
It sucked. The interview that is. I can’t and won’t read the memoir. Myself also (like Obama) the author of three books on Obama, I have read enough of the 44th president’s dreary, pedantic, fake-progressive, and fake-poetic prose to last a lifetime. No more, please.
The interview warmed the Obama fan Goldberg’s heart by “remind[ing him] of what a thoughtful president sounds like.”
A Dark Irony
Reading between the lines of the Goldberg-Obama dialogue last week, I was struck not for the first or the last time by the great irony of Obama’s ex-presidency: his high-popularity has been driven largely by the awfulness of Trump, who Obama helped create and usher into power, Weimar-like. With all due respect for the dismal awfulness of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, sexism, and the James Comey intervention, Obama’s depressingly conservative and neoliberal presidency (more on this below) was no small part of how and why the Democrats were unable to turn out their party’s progressive base in sufficient numbers to block Trump’s terrible ascendency. Obama helped render transparently inauthentic the Democrats’ progressive pretense, feeding a mass alienation and demobilization Trump was able to exploit in disastrous ways.
How perverse Obama’s image is burnished by the monster he did a lot to hatch.
It’s working for him. Along with the undeserved acclaim, Obama has climbed high into the nation’s obscenely opulent oligarchy – delayed reward for his eight years of presidential service to the rich and powerful. A Promised Land is no small part of the big Obama cash-in. The book contracts for his and his wife’s White House memoir the Obamas $65 million.
On Manly Responsibility, Keeping One’s Word, Defending the Vulnerable, and Richie Rich
The most revealing and revolting part of Goldberg’s fawning dialogue with “the most admired man in the world” related to masculinity among other things:
Obama: “I will say that I’m not surprised that somebody like Trump could get traction in our political life. He’s a symptom as much as an accelerant. But if we were going to have a right-wing populist in this country, I would have expected somebody a little more appealing.”
Goldberg: “Not a man-child?”
Obama: “Yes. If you think about populists from the past, someone like Huey Long—he wasn’t from the right; he was a classic populist, rooted in the earth; he knows the lives of the people he is rallying; he genuinely understands them. I guess I would not have expected someone who has complete disdain for ordinary people to be able to get attention and then the following from those very same people…I guess I’m also surprised by, and this is not an original thought on my part—but I think about the classic male hero in American culture when you and I were growing up: the John Waynes, the Gary Coopers, the Jimmy Stewarts, the Clint Eastwoods, for that matter. There was a code. This is something I always emphasize. I may be African American but I’m African and American. This is part of me. The code of masculinity that I grew up with that harkens back to the ’30s and ’40s and before that—there’s a notion that a man is true to his word, that he takes responsibility, that he doesn’t complain, that he isn’t a bully; in fact he defends the vulnerable against bullies. And so even if you are someone who is annoyed by wokeness and political correctness and wants men to be men again and is tired about everyone complaining about the patriarchy, I thought that the model wouldn’t be Richie Rich—the complaining, lying, doesn’t-take-responsibility-for-anything type of figure.”
This is a Richly ironic passage, no pun originally intended. The critique of Trump is accurate enough. But how manly and mature (by Obama’s Gary Cooper-esque criteria) has Obama’s career been? True to his word? Defending the weak against the strong? Taking responsibility? Obama’s 2007-08 campaign rhetoric was loaded with false claims of progressive identity, values, and intent. But, as many Left critics (myself included) who had studied his pre-presidential career easily predicted, Obama kicked progressive policy proposals, activists, and beliefs to the curb in “pragmatic” service to the masters of capital and Empire. As president, the “brown-faced Clinton” Obama sided with bullies and against the vulnerable at home and abroad, like when he:
* Murdered an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, despite the fact that al-Awlaki had never been charged with (let alone convicted of) any crime, in September of 2011 – and, just two weeks later, ordered another CIA drone strike that murdered al-Awlaki’s 16-yar-old son, Abdulrahman, along with the boy’s 17-year-old cousin and several other innocent Yemenis.
* Blew up serious efforts to set binding carbon emissions at Copenhagen in December of 2009.
* Offered no substantive support to the remarkable working-class uprising in Madison, Wisconsin in February and March of 2011.
* Gave the okay to escalated oil drilling and fracking in the absurd name of “energy independence” as the planet tipped over into more deadly levels of climate catastrophe.
* He stepped up to the plate for the big financial institutions and health insurance and drug companies but not for the non-affluent majority with his massive Wall Street bailouts and his not-so Affordable care Act.
* Immediately dropped campaign commitments to advance the Employee Free Choice Act, which might have re-legalized serious union organizing in the U.S.
* Helped dismantle the genuinely populist Occupy Movement (which had been fueled in large part his transparent obedience to Wall Street) in the fall and early winter of 2011.
* Became a major enemy of government whistleblowers
* Set a record for the number of “illegal” immigrants deported and yes introduced caging for migrant children at the southern border.
* Gave George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of their messianic-militarist gang a free pass for torture, assassination, and launching a monumentally criminal and mass-murderous imperialist war.
* Took personal command of the drone attacks and then far surpassed the Bush administration in “automated” killing from the sky.
* …the list goes on (see my 2010 book The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power, for a semi-exhaustive account of Obama’s first year in the White House.)
On “Disdain for Ordinary People”
It is ironic for Obama to accuse Trump of fake populist “disdain for ordinary people.” As I predicted in one book and documented in three others, Obama’s Citigroup-Goldman Sachs-Council on Foreign Relations presidency was a monument to precisely such disdain. As William Greider noted early on, Obama gave Americas “a blunt lesson about power, who has it and who doesn’t.” Americans, Greider wrote, “watched Washington rush to rescue the very financial interests that caused the catastrophe. They learned that the government has plenty of money to spend when the right people want it. ‘Where’s my bailout,’ became the rueful punch line at lunch counters and construction sites nationwide. Then to deepen the insult, people watched as establishment forces re-launched their campaign for ‘entitlement reform’—a euphemism for whacking Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid.”
Along with the American working and lower classes – “ordinary people “ – other vulnerable folks on the wrong side of Obama’s “progressive” presidency included the record-setting number (three million) of “illegal” immigrants he deported from the country, the immigrant children he put in detention cages, the Hondurans he murdered by the right wing coup regime he backed. the tens of thousands of Libyans, Africans, Yeminis, Syrians, Palestinians, and others who were killed and/or maimed by his armed forces and US-backed allies’ bombs, missiles, artillery, bullets, and drones.
Especially depressing in light of Obama’s accurate observation (in his memoir and in his discussion with Goldberg) that the Tea Party and then Trump arose on the basis of racist horror over the presence of a Black family in the White House, Obama did nothing or close to it to stand up for Black folks, poor ones especially, during his presidency. Given Obama’s much-ballyhooed status as the nation’s first Black president, one of the models of presidential conduct that Obama helped pass on from his predecessors to the racist Trump is profoundly peculiar: a tendency to downplay the role of systemic racism and to emphasize the role of Black personal and cultural responsibility in the creation of the nation’s stark racial inequalities. As the Black scholar William A. Darity, Jr. noted in an incisive December 2016 essay titled “How Barack Obama Failed Black Americans,” President Obama trafficked heavily in the culturally white-supremacist claim that Blacks’ economic difficulties were largely the result of Blacks’ own “self-defeating or dysfunctional behavior.” Obama’s failure to fight meaningfully for Black equality and racial justice beyond the symbolic fact of his own technically Black presence in the White House was all the more distressing in light of the unpleasant fact that his ascendancy sparked a white racist backlash that would target Black Americans who did not share the Obamas’ elevated status and protection. Obama did little if anything to advance or shield Black Americans while setting them up for intensified hatred and assault from whites who sadly but predictably took Obama’s presidency to mean that Blacks and other non-whites were “taking over the country” – and that racism no longer posed meaningful barriers to Black advancement and equality. Those were absurd beliefs that Donald Trump was more than happy to fan and exploit.
No Gary Cooper, Obama has not taken any responsibility for his betrayals. He sounded positively Richly Rich in his Goldberg interview, as if he had nothing to do with the nightmarish and racist Trump experience.
After greasing the skids for Trump’s victory, Obama tried to sell the despicable fiend to the nation. The day after the 2016 election, Obama went out into the White House Rose Garden to spout his standard bipartisan and conflict-avoidant drivel about how we’re all “America[n s] First” and should trust the winner to “want what’s best for the country.” That was complicity. Obama knew well (but privately) that Trump was an authoritarian, white-nationalist and even fascist menace but went out to publicly endorse the maniac’s election and then to absurdly express faith in the malignant lunatic’s supposed commitment to democracy and the common good.
It was a revolting, man-childish performance followed by four years of mostly keeping his mouth shout about a maniacal fascist president who blamed Obama for every national and global malady under the sun. I document this childish passivity at length in the second chapter, titled “Where’s Obama?,” of my new book Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and the Politics of Appeasement.
Along the way, Obama went off to Martha’s Vineyard and Netflix, to become fantastically rich, the delayed payoff for his eight-plus years of serving concentrated wealth and power. See the fourth chapter, titled “Playing, Cashing In,” of Hollow Resistance.
What a man! Obama has taken zero masculine, Jimmy Stewart-like responsibility for having helped launch and sustain the pandemo-fascist Trumpenstein, which continues to insanely menace the nation and world for two more months.
Obama’s Fake and Complicit Surprise at “Populist” Fascism
As in the interview passage block-quoted above and speaking of disingenuousness and the underestimation and downplaying of evil, Obama and Goldberg referred repeatedly to Trump as a “populist.” This is a squishy word that triangulating neoliberals like Obama, Tony Blair., the Clintons and Emanuel Macron (and I suppose Goldberg) use to falsely conflate the humane leftish progressivism of a Bernie Sanders and an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with the racist ethno-nationalism of a Trump, a Marie Le Pen or a Nigel Farage. The problem here is that Trump isn’t a populist or just a “conservative” (another perversely normalizing term Obama employs to describe Trump and the Republifascists in the interview), he’s a fascist. (If you want to know exactly how that’s an accurate judgement, please read the first chapter, titled “Is it the Fascist Apocalypse Yet? This Happened Here,” in Hollow Resistance.)
Obama knows I’m right about this, privately. In October of 2016, Obama privately told Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine that “you’ve got to keep a fascist out of the White House.”
Which brings us to Obama’s frankly unbelievable claim of surprise at the Republican Party’s collaboration with the insidious Orange Super-Spreader. Behold this passage from Goldberg’s recent lovefest with the “thoughtful” Obama:
Goldberg: “In The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum and others have been writing about the issue of complicity. I’m wondering what you think of people who are smarter than Donald Trump—Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, these sorts of politicians—and their role in all of this.”
Obama: “This is the thing that has surprised me the most over the past four years. Donald Trump’s character and behavior haven’t surprised me. This was all evident before the 2016 election. I didn’t expect him to significantly change. I did not believe how easily the Republican establishment, people who had been in Washington for a long time and had professed a belief in certain institutional values and norms, would just cave.”
It’s dishonestly honest for Obama to say that he hasn’t been surprised by Trump’s character and conduct since we know that Obama privately (and accurately) understood Trump to be a “fascist” on the eve of the election. But Obama’s claim of surprise at the extent to which the Republican establishment crawled under the umbrella of Trump and defended the orange-brushed ogre’s evil white-nationalist presidency is not credible. Obama is too intelligent not to know that the Republican Party crossed over into proto-fascistic, white-nationalist and “eliminationist” space during if not before his election, which catalyzed and accelerated the party’s fascistic drift.
“We’re Making [COVID-19] Harder Than It Should Be”
“I Think is Fair is to Take a Look at What’s Happened in Canada”
The former president’s trademark fake-progressive disingenuousness was also on display when Goldberg asked Obama to reflect on how much of COVID-19’s death and destruction should be blamed on Trump, eliciting this deep reflection. “What I think is fair,” Obama intoned, “is to take a look at what’s happened in Canada, where they still have had big problems but their death rate per capita is about 61 percent lower than ours. There are a whole set of explanations around that—universal health care in Canada, and in some areas they may not have the same population densities. But it is a comparable country on the same continent.”
Note two things Obama’s left out. First, Canada’s health insurance system isn’t just universal, it’s free to the Canadian people, underwritten by a Single Payer: the Canadian government. Like most of the rest of the civilized industrial world, but unlike the U.S., Canada has made health care a human right. That’s a big part of Canada’s healthier outcomes on COVID-19 and other diseases and ailments.
Second, Single Payer health insurance, supported now by 7 in 10 Americans, was coldly kicked to the curb by Obama in favor of a health insurance reform that disastrously left the big private insurance and drug companies in parasitic, premium-driving control of the absurdly expensive and dysfunctional American health care system.
Note also Obama’s excessive, ponderous, fake-eloquent wordiness: why say “What I think is fair is to take a look at what’s happened in Canada,” when a normal person could just say “Look at Canada”?
“This Would Have Been a Hard Thing for Any President”
But the most sickening thing about Obama’s answer to Goldberg was his trademark nauseating appeasement and downplaying of right-wing evil. Listen to Obama’s epic understatement of Trump’s mass-murderous role in fanning and fueling the COVID-19 pandemic to the point where America became home of a fifth of the world’s cases and deaths: “This would have been a really hard thing to deal with for any president and we’ve seen countries that have acted responsibly and taken the right steps and they’re still seeing an uptick… We’ll get through this. But we’re making it harder than it should be. It would have been hard no matter what, but we’re making it harder. It would have been hard no matter what, but we’ve made it harder.”
That is shameful statement that takes underestimation and conciliation – appeasement – to a despicable low. Europe and Asia’s “uptick” is mild compared to the wild and reckless take-off Trump has fanned in the U.S. And Trump is of course far from being “any president.” The virulent racist, pandemo-fascist Social Darwinist herd-immunitarian Trump and his Republifascist allies, enablers, and followers have fanned and fueled the pandemic from the beginning in numerous overlapping ways: publicly denying its lethal impact while (as we learned from Bob Woodward before the election) privately understanding its deadly nature early on; falsely and repeatedly claiming that the virus would soon disappear; backing neo-fascistic protests of state-level protection measures; embracing quack cures; opposing and undermining efforts for a comprehensive national testing plan; failing to issue a common-sense national mask mandate; failing to use the Defense Production Act to order the manufacture of adequate medical supplies; infecting his own White House staff and Secret Service personnel; demeaning and denying basic medical and public health science and expertise; influentially modeling and encouraging reckless behavior by holding unmasked and non-distanced events; mocking and lethally politicizing mask-wearing; holding super-spreader events that directly expanded the virus; using his own infection to downplay the lethality and danger of the disease. (The ugly white-nationalist “Million MAGA[t] March” that far-right forces held with Trump’s approval in Washington two weekends ago was notable among other terrible things for its participants’ persistent stubborn refusal to wear masks. The super-spreader death cult continues after the Super-Spreader-in-Chief’s electoral loss, naturally enough.) Trump’s vicious herd-immunitarian “coronavirus adviser” Scott Atlas (a radiologist who stands against the conventional wisdom of medical science) recently urged “people [to] rise up” against new Covid-19 restrictions in Michigan – a not-so-veiled call to pandemo-fascist violence. Atlas tells Americans not to shy away from big Thanksgiving gatherings because their older relatives are already close to death anyway.
Trump and his team and allies are on pace to have epidemiologically exterminated half a million if not more Americans, disproportionately poor and nonwhite, by February 2021. Meanwhile, Trump’s malignant refuse to concede the election and participate in an orderly transition is damaging the incoming Biden-Harris-Obama-Citigroup-Council on Foreign Relations administration’s ability to act against the disease. As many as 200,000 more Americans will needlessly die before their time from the pandemic in coming months thanks to Donald Trump’s continuing genocidal-racist pandemic madness. This monstrous malignancy of a man is a racist and eugenicist mass murderer.
Obama statement that “We’re making it harder than it should be” is punk-ass appeasement on steroids. It is shameful. It is cowardly. It’s not manly at all.
How pathetic. How Weimar.
Low-Bar Barry: “Hey, We’re Not Genghis Kahn”
Then there’s the related and absurdly low moral bar that Obama sets to claim that modern history under the reign of his beloved Western-world system, capitalism-imperialism, is progress. At one point in his sit-down with Goldberg, Obama described how the 13th Century Mongol emperor Genghis Khan would overwhelm a town. “They gave you two choices,” Obama said. “If you open the gates, we’ll just kill you quickly and take your women and enslave your children, but we won’t slaughter them. But if you hold out, then we’ll slowly boil you in oil and peel off your skin.’” The “Obama-like point” here, was, in Goldberg’s words, “If you think today’s world is grim, simply cast your mind back 800 years to the steppes of Central Asia.”
“Compare the degree of brutality and venality and corruption and just sheer folly that you see across human history with how things are now,” Obama told Goldberg, “It’s not even close.”
This “Obama-like point” is deadly historical horseshit laced with lethally reactionary consequences.
Obama and Goldberg might want to review the U.S. siege of Fallujah, conducted during the reign of the messianic militarist George W. Bush, whose monumentally mass-murderous invasion and occupation of Iraq ranks as one of the greatest crimes in history. Bush’s petro-imperialist war, ordered on thoroughly and absurdly false pretexts, killed more than a million Iraqis. It was absurdly defended by presidential candidate Obama as a well-intentioned “mistake” driven by an excessive zeal to spread democracy.
During his Goldberg interview, the deeply conciliatory Obama recalled feeling sympathy for the arch war-criminal and Katrina butcher George W. Bush when people on the streets of Washington jeered his predecessor as they rode together to Obama’s first Inauguration. (The murderer of Mesopotamia subsequently became a favorite of Obama’s wife Michelle.)
Or Obama could also review his bombing of Afghan children during the first week of May 2009. That’s when U.S. air-strikes killed more than 140 civilians in Bola Boluk, a village western Afghanistan’s Farah Province. Ninety-three of the dead villagers torn apart by U.S. explosives were children. Just 22 were males 18 years or older. As The New York Times reported:
“In a phone call played on a loudspeaker on Wednesday to outraged members of the Afghan Parliament, the governor of Farah Province, Rohul Amin, said that as many as 130 civilians had been killed, according to a legislator, Mohammad Naim Farahi. Afghan lawmakers immediately called for an agreement regulating foreign military operations in the country.”
“‘The governor said that the villagers have brought two tractor-trailers full of pieces of human bodies to his office to prove the casualties that had occurred,’ Mr. Farahi said.”
“’Everyone at the governor’s office was crying, watching that shocking scene.’”
“Mr. Farahi said he had talked to someone he knew personally who had counted 113 bodies being buried, including those of many women and children. Later, more bodies were pulled from the rubble and some victims who had been taken to the hospital died, he said.”
The initial response of the Obama Pentagon to this horrific incident – one among many such mass U.S. aerial killings in Afghanistan since October 2001 – was to absurdly blame the civilian deaths on “Taliban grenades.” Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed deep “regret” about the loss of innocent life, but the administration refused to issue an apology or acknowledge U.S. responsibility for the blasting apart of civilian bodies in Farah Province. By telling and sickening contrast, Obama had just offered a full apology and fired a White House official because that official had scared New Yorkers with an ill-advised Air Force One photo-shoot flyover of Manhattan that reminded people of 9/11.
What a man!
Genghis Kahn would have been impressed.
As Goldberg would never dare to observe, Obama’s historical comparison point is a glib way of trying to whitewash the continuing sins of the great white West and the American Empire, including Obama’s own murderous transgressions, like the backing of a murderous coup in Honduras, the destruction of Libya and much North Africa, the wars on Syria and Yemen, the mass-murderous bombing of Pashtun villagers (children included), and the slaughter of hundreds of Arabs and Muslims (children included) with drones. The people on the wrong end of those and other U.S. crimes ordered, approved, and defended by Obama can be forgiven if they are unimpressed by his claim that at least they weren’t being murdered, maimed, and tortured by Genghis Khan.
Perhaps that’s how Obama rationalized not prosecuting the George W. Bush and Dick Cheney regime for torture and for launching a criminal, mass murderous war on blatantly false pretexts: “Hey, at least they weren’t Genghis Kahn.”
But this is standard Obama. I am reminded of a passage in Obama’s second book about Obama, The Audacity of Hope – a 2006 campaign volume whose titled was crassly stolen from his former preacher Rev. Jeremiah Wright, soon to cut out of the Obama family photo album for being too loudly and justly critical of American imperialism. The volume contained long passages obsequiously whitewashing American domestic and imperial history. There Obama wrote about “just how good our [U.S.-American] poor have it” compared to their more truly miserable counterparts in Africa and Latin America. Obama elegantly avoided less favorable U.S. contrasts with other wealthy nations, the only reasonable comparisons, where more humane and democratic norms, institutions, and policies create significantly lower levels of poverty and inequality than what is found in the militantly state-capitalist U.S. Obama naturally omitted Washington, Wall Street, and corporate America’s imperial responsibility for the poverty and misery that is rampant across the vast world -capitalist periphery.
Obama’s moral benchmark Genghis Kahn is a revealing bit of historical cherry-picking when it comes to claiming that Western- and U.S-led-history is progress. To cite one of many counter-examples, the Indigenous civilizations that populated North America “before Predator came” (to use Ward Churchill’s terminology for the arrival of Europe’s genocidal “settlers”) lived remarkably healthy, peaceful, and poverty- and inequality-free spirit lives of ecological balance and harmony. Their eradication by rapaciously propertarian and eco-cidal white imperialists was historical regression, not progress. It’s not for nothing that the Iroquois name for George Washington was “Town Destroyer.” Adolph Hitler, whose fascist regime is something of an anomaly for Obama’s notion of Western-led history as progress (as if two and half centuries of Black chattel slavery in North America), was inspired and impressed by what the United States did to Indigenous people.
“The First Real Experiment in Building a Large, Multiethnic, Multicultural Democracy”
Speaking of Obama’s longstanding habit of whitewashing the United States, he thoughtfully and ponderously told Goldberg that “America as an experiment is genuinely important to the world not because of the accidents of history that made us the most powerful nation on Earth, but because America is the first real experiment in building a large, multiethnic, multicultural democracy. And we don’t know yet if that can hold.”
Say what now? Most of homo sapiens continues to confront and experience the [the United States of] America as the most powerful and dangerous Empire in history – a blood-soaked Superpower that has directly and indirectly murdered tens if not hundreds of millions across the globe. This Empire has long supported and supplied dictatorships and has functioned in its own right as a type of de facto global dictator over vast swaths of the Earth since 1945. It has enforced a savagely unequal world system of exploitation and ecocide, raping the world’s human and other natural resources for the benefit of a privileged minority within the United States and other wealthy states.
The world outside the U.S. has little experience of the United States as a model and force of democracy (multi-ethnic and multicultural or otherwise) – quite the opposite. But then neither do U.S.-Americans themselves! A vast body of sound empirical scholarship shows clearly that the United States is a corporate and financial oligarchy where majority public opinion is technically irrelevant or close to it in the making of policy and the structuring of social and political life. This is consistent with the intentions of the nation’s absurdly venerated Founders. An elementary reading of the Federalist Papers, the proceedings of the U.S. Constitutional Convention, and the relevant historical scholarship shows that the last thing the nation’s original merchant capitalist and slave-owning masters ever wanted to see break out in “the American experiment” was popular sovereignty/democracy. It hasn’t broken out yet, as was and remains clear before, during, and since “Wall Street Barry” Obama’s time in the White House.
Obama’s description of the U.S. as “the first real experiment in building a large, multiethnic, multicultural democracy” seems to require an apology at least to India and Brazil, though one could certainly think of other nations that might rightly feel insulted by that statement (not that any nation subject to the dictates of capital and military complexes can actually be a functioning democracy.)
If this all sounds counter-intuitively conservative and right-wing, that’s because Barack “The empire’s New Clothes” Obama has always been a conservative and right-wing wolf wrapped in deceptive, faux-progressive sheep’s clothing. In his arrogant conversation with Obama, Goldberg said this: “A colleague of mine says that in some ways you’re a never-Trump conservative.” Obama replied without protest, adding this: “I understand that. There’s this sense of probity, honesty, responsibility, of homespun values, that I admire. That’s the Kansas side of me.”
Kansas? Please. That’s the Columbia University, Harvard Law, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Robert Rubin, military-industrial-complex, Council on Foreign Relations side of Obama.
What’s the matter with Obama isn’t Kansas, it’s his allegiance to the ruling class, now rewarded with ascendency into the upper reaches of the oligarchy (part-ownership of an NBA franchise beckons to the sports nut Obama).
Starting in the summer of 2004, I tried without success to warn American progressives and liberals about how militantly corporate-neoliberal, imperialist, objectively white-supremacist and flat-out right-wing Obama was, something I knew very well from my years in and around Chicago and Illinois politics between 1996 and 2005. But people didn’t have to take it just from a scar “radical Leftist” like me. They could have read the moderately liberal New Yorker writer Larissa MacFarquhar, who offered poignant, precisely accurate reflections on the future president after sitting down with Obama in the spring of 2007. “In his view of history, in his respect for tradition, in his skepticism that the world can be changed any way but very, very slowly,” MacFarquhar determined. “Obama is deeply conservative. There are moments when he sounds almost Burkean…It’s not just that he thinks revolutions are unlikely: he values continuity and stability for their own sake, sometimes even more than he values change for the good” (emphasis added). MacFarquhar cited Obama’s reluctance to embrace single-payer health insurance on the Canadian model, which he told her would “so disruptive that people feel like suddenly what they’ve known for most of their lives is thrown by the wayside.” Obama told MacFarquhar that “we’ve got all these legacy systems in place, and managing the transition, as well as adjusting the culture to a different system, would be difficult to pull off. So we may need a system that’s not so disruptive that people feel like suddenly what they’ve known for most of their lives is thrown by the wayside.”
So what if large popular majorities in the U.S. had long favored Single Payer (as Obama once claimed to), with good reason? So what if Single Payer would let people keep the doctors of their choice, only throwing away the mob protection pay-off to the private insurance mafia? So what if “the legacy systems” Obama defended included corporate insurance and pharmaceutical oligopolies that regularly threw millions of American lives by the wayside of market calculation, causing enormous harm for the populace?
But then, that’s what Obama has always been all about: appeasement of the ever more insane and fascistic right-wing. This was the Reagan-praising and 1960s-hating Obama I knew him from Illinois, where his best friends in the State Senate were Republicans crackers. This was the Obama that Adolph Reed, Jr., tried to warn liberals and progressives off of in early 1996:
“In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program — the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance. I suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics, as in Haiti and wherever else the International Monetary Fund has sway. So far the black activist response hasn’t been up to the challenge. We have to do better.”
Who did Obama choose as his mentor as a freshman U.S. Senator in 2005? The right-wing Demublican, blood-soaked imperialist, and appeaser of the right Joe Liberman. Of course.
Countering a Fascist President with a Self-Blaming Self-Help Group for Victims of Racism
Speaking of appeasing fascist evil with a “fundamentally bootstrap line[s]” that advances “small-scale solutions” to “the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance,” Obama’s appearance in an hour-long special supposedly about his memoir on MSNBC last Friday night was almost too neoliberally pathetic to be believed. It was straight out of Reed’s hauntingly prescient warning a quarter century ago. Asked about his pandemo-fascist successor’s reprehensible refusal to concede defeat in the 2020 election, Obama severely understated Trump’s record-setting record of lying and misstatement by saying that the current White House occupant has “a flimsy relationship to truth” (that’s like saying that “Hitler stretched things a bit when he claimed that an international Jewish and Bolshevik conspiracy was trying to enslave humanity”). Then Obama droned out the following lame, conciliatory, and bipartisan bromides and banalities to his fawning MSNBC interviewer Jonathan Capehart:
“I think Joe Biden is right to say that we should all make an effort to do our best to lower the temperature and listen to the other side. But I think when you have a current president whose entire style is to fan division, that’s hard while he’s on the stage. In some ways, I think it will be useful for us to just get back to the normal arguments between Democrats and Republicans. There are things that transcend partisanship… I didn’t enjoy having to call Donald Trump and congratulate him for having won the night of his election four years ago, but I did it because that’s part of my job. And the same way that George Bush called me and invited me and facilitated my transition — you know, that’s part of the continuity of our democracy that allows us to have arguments, have differences, but at the end of the day, still be confident that this is a government of, by and for the people.”
(There’s that phrase again – “our democracy,” a curious description of an Open Secret corporate and financial Oligarchy).
Oh, yes, America, lets’ get back to “normal arguments” with a Republican Party that has gone proto-fascist/eliminationist and that is currently failing to speak up against its Dear Leader’s openly crass attempt to subvert a presidential election he clearly lost by a big margin. Yes, we have to “reach out across the aisle” and “listen” to vicious, science-denying, white-nationalist Republifascists – this while the corporate Democratic establishment engages in ugly attacks on its own party’s left (Sanders and AOC) wing, which must be punished for an unforgivable sin: running in accord with the majority progressive and anti-oligarchic sentiments of the citizenry.
The lion’s share of Obama’s astonishingly dull and vapid appearance on MSNBC consisted of personal conversations with members of My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), which the network described as “an initiative Obama launched during his presidency aimed at breaking down barriers for young men and boys of color, that touched on mentorship, education and race — and the bias that still affects them despite their success.” That was a deceptive, overly generous description. Like its founder, MBK is deeply conservative. In his aforementioned essay on Obama’s betrayal of Black America, William Darity noted the deep irony of the one and only Obama program designed specifically for Black Americans—a program rooted in the idea that racial disparity is largely about Black behavior:
“There is one major initiative that the Obama administration has inaugurated that is black-specific, but it is the exception that proves the rule. It exposes all the issues at play. My Brother’s Keeper is a program premised on the view that young black men constitute a social problem and need interventions that will alter their outlook and actions. The focus is on reforming young men rather than directly increasing the resources possessed by them and their families and removing the constraints they face. Again, the underlying ideological motivation is the belief in black cultural deficiency, and, again, this type of initiative is another expression of failure to pursue bold policies that confront the fundamental causes of racial disparity in American society.”
Thanks so much, Barack Obama.
Thanks for blowing up the struggle for Black equality. Thanks for blowing up Single Payer. Thanks for blowing up serious global climate control efforts in Copenhagen. Thanks for blowing up the Employee Free Choice Act. Thanks for blowing up Bernie Sanders, twice. Thanks for Hillary Clinton. Thanks for Pete, Amy, and Sleepy Joe. Thanks for blowing up Occupy. Thanks for blowing up boys and girls in Bola Boluk. Thanks for blowing up Libya. Thanks for blowing up millions of immigrants’ struggles to escape misery and poverty in Mexico and Central America. Thanks for pioneering kids in cages. Thanks for helping blow up democracy in Honduras. Thanks for murdering Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son. Thanks for whitewashing American capitalism and imperialism. Thanks for blowing up whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Thanks for helping Israel murder Palestinians and for keeping U.S. dollars and hardware going to the vicious reactionary state of Saudi Arabia. Thanks for blowing up efforts to prosecute torture. Thanks for heling advance fascism in Ukraine. Thanks for helping generate, elect, and appease the fascist Donald Trump, a president so awful that tens of millions of Americans are now all too understandably grateful to be presidentially assaulted by the right-wing corporate Democrat Joe “Nothing Will Fundamentally Change” Biden.
Thanks for all that and so much more, Obama.
1. Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Routledge, March 2008).
2. The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Routledge, 2010); They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Routledge, 2014); Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and the Politics of Appeasement (CounterPunch Books, October 2020).
3. Here’s what Obama said in the Rose Garden to the nation the day after Trump’s chilling election victory:
“Now, everybody is sad when their side loses an election. But the day after, we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country. That’s what I heard in Mr. Trump’s remarks last night. That’s what I heard when I spoke to him directly. And I was heartened by that… we all go forward, with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens — because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy. That’s how this country has moved forward for 240 years. It’s how we’ve pushed boundaries and promoted freedom around the world.…that’s why I’m confident that this incredible journey that we’re on as Americans will go on. And I am looking forward to doing everything that I can to make sure that the next President is successful in that. I have said before, I think of this job as being a relay runner — you take the baton, you run your best race, and hopefully, by the time you hand it off you’re a little further ahead, you’ve made a little progress. And I can say that we’ve done that, and I want to make sure that handoff is well-executed, because ultimately we’re all on the same team (emphasis added).”
Obama should never be permitted to live these ignominious words down.
Paul Street’s new book is The Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and Politics of Appeasement.
By David Sirota November 24, 2020 The Daily Poster Subscribe now
A new survey finds that 68 percent of Americans want lawmakers to reject corporate executives and lobbyists if they are nominated to Cabinet posts by Joe Biden.
As congressional Democrats press Joe Biden to reject investment banking executive Rahm Emanuel’s bid to get himself appointed to the Cabinet, new polling data obtained by The Daily Poster show the vast majority of Americans want senators to vote down presidential nominees who are too closely tied to corporate interests.
The Data for Progress survey, sponsored by Demand Progress, found that 60 percent of respondents believe that Biden appointing corporate executives and lobbyists to his administration would be out of step with his campaign promises — and 68 percent of respondents believe that if Biden nonetheless puts forward corporate-linked nominees, senators should reject them.
The polling comes only a few years after Elizabeth Warren was lauded for staging a high-profile campaign to block President Barack Obama’s attempt to install a Wall Street banker in a top regulatory position.
Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said that it would be “enormously insulting if Biden put together a ‘team of rivals’ — and there’s some discussion that that’s what he intends to do — which might include Republicans and conservative Democrats — but which ignored the progressive community. I think that would be very, very unfortunate.”
A Battle Over Nominees Is Already Raging
Demand Progress and the Revolving Door Project have been pressing a prospective Biden administration to break with the Clinton and Obama administration tradition of installing corporate allies in key governmental positions. The groups are poll testing potential nominees, with descriptions of their backgrounds, to gauge potential public support and opposition for a Biden cabinet.
The groups’ work received a boost when incoming U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones last week launched a petition calling on Biden to reject Emanuel, who has been floated for U.S. Transportation Secretary or U.S. Trade Representative. Mondaire Jones @MondaireJonesRahm Emanuel covered up the murder of a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald, while he was Mayor of Chicago. That he’s being considered for a cabinet position is completely outrageous and, honestly, very hurtful.
Rahm Emanuel under consideration to become Biden’s transportation secretaryFormer Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is under consideration to lead the department of transportation, people familiar with the matter say, a move that would enrage progressive activists if the former Illinois congressman and White House chief of staff in the Obama administration was ultimately nominate…cnn.com
Emanuel left the Chicago mayoralty in disgrace after his administration suppressed video of the police murder of a teenager. Since then, he has become a TV talking head and a senior advisor at an investment banking firm that advises big corporations on mega-mergers, acquisitions and restructuring plans. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman have echoed Jones’ demand for Biden to reject Emanuel.
Regardless of what happens with Emanuel, Biden has already named two Cabinet nominees tied to corporate interests, and he is reportedly considering others.
On Monday, Biden announced that he has chosen Tony Blinken to serve as Secretary of State. Blinken founded WestExec Advisors, a secretive business consultancy that has worked with defense contractors. Avril Haines, a former WestExec principal, will serve as Biden’s Director of National Intelligence.
Biden is also reportedly considering nominating WestExec co-founder Michele Flournoy to serve as Secretary of Defense, as well as two corporate lawyers — Sally Yates and Karen Dunn — to serve as Attorney General and the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, respectively.
Biden did appease some progressives with the nomination of former Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen to serve as his Treasury Secretary. Yellen would be a rare Treasury Secretary who didn’t come straight from Wall Street, and she has supported deficit spending and tougher banking regulations, though she has also echoed some of the austerity rhetoric of groups aiming to cut Social Security and Medicare.
The Demand Progress poll found that 58 percent of respondents supported the nomination of Yellen, based on a description of her as an official who wants “to extend unemployment benefits and help state and local governments avoid cuts to services.”
Past Precedent For Progressive Opposition
There is precedent for Democratic senators to block nominees from presidents of their own party — that happened at least three times in Obama’s second term.
In 2013, when Obama was reportedly considering nominating Wall Street ally Larry Summers to head the Federal Reserve, Democratic senators short-circuited the nomination before it ever happened.
In 2014, Obama pushed to install banker Antonio Weiss into a top job at the Treasury Department, but the nomination was torpedoed by Warren, who used the confirmation fight as a way to spotlight the close ties between the White House and Wall Street.
The next year, Warren opposed Obama’s attempt to appoint corporate attorney Keir Gumbs to a Democratic seat on the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In a closely divided Senate, opposition to Biden nominees from even a handful of Democratic lawmakers could mean the difference between confirmation and rejection. That potentially gives progressive lawmakers more power in the Cabinet selection process.
This will be the last announcement for a bit – unless there is an emergency!
*** ASL interpretation – Let me know if your event needs this service .***
Please include Accessibility and ASL info in your events! And if your action is ‘child friendly’
These are JUSTICE and INCLUSIVE issues!
Please post your actions on Indybay even if event is digital: https://www.indybay.org/calendar/?page_id=12
See Indybay also for other listing of events.
Listing of other Bay Area Protests & Rallies
A. DA Boudin charges fired SFPD officer with manslaughter over fatal shooting – November 23, 2020
B. Silence About JULIAN ASSANGE Exposes Journalists HYPOCRISY. – November 22, 2020
C. UN panel votes 163-5 in support of Palestinian statehood, end of occupation
D. 3 New Federal Execution Set in Lame Duck Presidency – November 20, 2020
See action # 2
E. Supes to push measure keeping homeless hotels open – November 18, 2020
F. DA Boudin ‘committed’ to refiling charges against Alameda deputies in Mission beating – November 18, 2020
G. San Francisco Public Defender Launches “CopWatch SF” Database to Ensure Public Access to Available Police – November 18, 2020
1. Tell the Biden-Harris administration to uproot Trump’s Social Security underminers!
2. President-Elect Biden: Call Out Trumps Lame Duck Executions!
3. Tell CAF To Get Off Israel’s Apartheid Train!
4. Tell the State Department: Dismantle antisemitism and protect human rights
5. Biden Can Stop the Attacks on Cuba’s Medical Internationalism
6. The Government Wants to See Your Cryptocurrency Transactions
7. Urgent Demand 4 Mumia’s Release
Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM 8335
There is a serious outbreak of COVID 19 in Mahanoy Correctional Facility, where Mumia and 2,400 other men live. As of now 20 guards have tested positive 4 COVID 19, and the prison is frantically testing those housed in the prison. Obviously, this a a huge cause for concern. Despite the prison being on lockdown, meaning no one leaves there cell except for showers and emergencies. Food is brought to the cells.
Needless, to say, Mumia quite worried as he should be. He is 66, years old, has liver damage and prison personnel are the ones bringing in the virus.
Please call Governor Tom Wolf to demand Mumia and other aging elders with underlying vulnerable health concerns be considered for compassionate release. Clearly, there is no such thing as social distancing in prison. The only way to stop this virus from spreading and killing those in its’ path is to send our elders home
who pose no threat to our community.
Governor Tom Wolf -1(717) 787-2500 Fax 1 (717) 772-8284
Office of the Governor
508 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
After calling the governor, send an online communication about our concerns. https://www.governor.pa.gov/contact/#PhoneNumber
Tuesday, November 24 – Sunday, November 29
Tuesday, November 24
1. Tuesday, 1:00pm (PT); 4:00pm (ET), COVID-19 in the Amazon: Stories from the Frontlines of Indigenous & Traditional Communities
WEBINAR RSVP: https://amazonemergencyfund.org/
This event will include a 30 minute program followed by 30 minutes of Q&A. This on-the-ground reporting will highlight how our fundraising efforts have provided critical support to Indigenous peoples combating COVID-19, and how together we can (and must) continue this work.
–Gregorio Mirabal, General Coordinator, COICA
–Atossa Soltani, Founder, Amazon Watch
–Leila Salazar-Lopez, Executive Director, Amazon Watch –Suzanne Pelletier, Executive Director, Rainforest Foundation US
–Tabea Casique, COICA.
Amazonian communities face multiple threats as the pandemic spreads across the forest, including increased violence, high levels of morbidity and mortality, a lack of access to healthcare and protective equipment, food scarcity, lack of income and environmental catastrophes including increased deforestation, oil spills, fires and floods.
For over 500 years, indigenous peoples of the Amazon and across the Americas have faced invasions and loss of their ancestral territories, ethnic and socioeconomic discrimination, and the constant threat of physical and cultural extermination resulting in displacement, disease and genocide.
Host: Amazon Emergency Fund & Artists for Amazonia
2. Tuesday, 3:00pm – 5:00pm, SFPD’s Virtual Town Hall Meeting RE: Nov. 17th officer involved shooting
The town hall will be streamed live on SFGovTV’s YouTube page (http://youtube.com/sfgtv).
It will also be streamed on SFPD’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SFPD/).
Following a presentation by SFPD command staff, a call-in number will be provided to viewers wishing to offer public comment.
As part of the San Francisco Police Department’s commitment towards accountability and transparency with our community, a virtual town hall meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, from 3:00 PM until 5:00 PM to provide the community with an update on the investigation of the officer-involved shooting that occurred on the 800 block of Market Street on November 17, 2020.
3. Tuesday, 3:00pm, Anti-Black Racism in the Arab Region
The recent uprisings against the violence of policing and the killings of our Black siblings in the US has sparked important conversations across the world about how anti-Blackness has manifested itself in many communities including communities of color and countries in the global south. These conversations include looking at identities and how they are formed, the ways in which popular culture perpetuates biases, and in some instances how anti-Black racism has structured our societies and relationships. They also include discussions on the long history of solidarity between Black liberation and Arab liberation movements. This panel hopes to shed light onto the history of anti-Black racism in the Arab region to help us understand these trajectories and how they have interacted with economic interests, colonization practices, sociological theorizing, and political power. It also sheds light on the current struggles against racism in the region and the ways people have been resisting and narrating their stories.
The current political moment demonstrates the rise of white nationalism as it draws on the structures of white supremacy. These structures do not only frame the world of the US, but also its imperial and colonial practices and strategies. Our communities need to come together not from a place of shared victimhood and fear, but from a place of full understanding of the ways we have contributed and may currently contribute to these systems and an investment in working through to create an alternative more just society.
Hosts: Arab American Cultural Center at UIC, AROC, Arab American Action Network
4. Tuesday, 5:00pm (PT), What Just Happened: Trump, America and the Danger of Fascism
Join Andy Zee, Coco Das, Indi Samarajiva and Jeff Sharlet this Tuesday night on facebook, twitter, and youtube
Trump lost but won’t concede. Don’t miss this essential forum asking these urgent questions:
What was this that we just experienced/are experiencing?
Was the reign of a corrupt regime led by a narcissistic con man; a fascist resolution to deep problems in the system; something else or both?
Host: Refuse Fascism
5. Tuesday, 5:30pm – 7:30pm, Tenants Together Collective Support & Tenant Clinic/ Clínica de Apoyo Colectivo y Derechos de Inquilinas/os
Register Here: https://bit.ly/34oWUxV
Join if are a tenant and/or a tenant advocate with questions about your rights and to learn about what is happening regarding our #CancelRent campaign!
EVERY other TUESDAY from 5:30pm – 7:30pm
What to expect:
* Share updates on local, regional, state and national policies
* We will answer questions and concerns
* It will be space for sharing stories and popular education
* Collectively strategize to #CancelRent
Host: Tenants Together
Wednesday, November 25
6. Wednesday, 5:00pm (PT); 8:00pm (ET), “The War on Cuba” Film Screening & Discussion w/ Cuban Journalist Liz Oliva
The Cuban journalist Liz Oliva will join the Solidarity Collective to discuss the Belly of the Beast documentary series that focuses on the impact of U.S. policies on the Cuban people. Oliva interviews doctors (including her mother), farmers, students, and talks with people as they wait in long lines, giving a unique insight into the lived experiences of Cubans.
EPISODE #1 Takes an inside look at the impact of increased sanctions on the Cuban people and on US elections during the pandemic.
EPISODE #2 Examines the US-imposed oil blockade against the island nation of Cuba.
EPISODE #3 Delves into the Cuban healthcare system and the international brigades, exposing the dangerous lies behind the Trump administration’s attack on Cuban doctors and their life-saving medical solidarity programs.
Email your questions to email@example.com
Host: Cuba Solidarity Colletive
Friday, November 27
No Presence at the SF Police Officers Association today.
Will resume Friday, December 4th from 1pm – 2pm
Sunday, November 29
7. Sunday, 9:00am – 11:00am (PT); 12Noon – 2:00pm (ET), Online Rally: International Solidarity with Palestinians
REGISTER HERE: www.bit.ly/3fbOY6X
11am (US Central Time) / 5pm (UK Time) / 7pm (Palestine Time)
Sunday 29th November is the UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. At a time when physical gatherings are difficult, we are organising an online international rally to show our solidarity. This is being coordinated jointly by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the BDS National Committee.
Join us as we bring together a range of Palestinian voices, poets, musicians, and social justice campaigners to rally for Palestine.
– Noura Erakat (human rights attorney)
– Maxine Peake (actress)
– Omar Barghouti (BDS Movement)
– Aja Monet (poet)
– Stefanie Fox (Jewish Voice for Peace Director)
– Kevin Courtney (Trades Union Congress)
– Ben Jamal (Palestine Solidarity Campaign Director)
– William Shoki (student activist South Africa)
– Rabbi Alissa Wise (JVP)
– And more to be announced!
Host: Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK, Boycott Divestment & Sanctions Movement
8. Sunday, 10:00am – 1:00pm, (PT), From Colonization to Solidarity: Narratives of Defeat and Sumoud
November 29th, International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
Why did the UN General Assembly partition Palestine in 1947 and what has changed 30 years later to make it possible for the same international body to declare November 29th as the international day of solidarity with the people of Palestine? From Gaza to Jerusalem, Naqab to Beirut, and Haifa to LA and San Francisco, Palestinian public intellectuals will draw lessons for today, critique colonial narratives of submission, subjugation and defeat, and narrate histories of resistance, resilience and steadfastness.
Omar Barghouti: Co-founder of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. https://bdsmovement.net/
Haidar Eid: Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University in Palestine.
Mahmoud El Ali: Coordinator of the Center for Refugee Rights- (Aidoun).
Sahar Francis: General Director of Ramallah-based Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. http://www.addameer.org/
Samia Khoury: Retired community volunteer who had served as National president of the YWCA, president of Rawdat El-Zuhur and is a founding member of Birzeit University Board of Trustees and Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre.
Myssana Morany: Coordinator of the Land and Planning Rights Unit at Adalah. https://www.adalah.org/
In Conversation With:
Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi: Founding Director/Senior scholar of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies Program at SFSU.
Saliem Shehadeh: PhD candidate in Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles
Omar Zahzah: Education and Advocacy Coordinator for Eyewitness Palestine. https://eyewitnesspalestine.org/
Hosts: AMED Studies SFSU, Eyewitness Palestine
THE GOVERNMENT WANTS TO SEE YOUR CRYPTOCURRENCY TRANSACTIONS
“Intel obtained by coercion is never reliable.”
–Joe Lambe (played by Tom Hughes) in the BBC series The Game.
By Bridget Read
November 18, 2020 (thecut.com)
Quawan “Bobby” Charles, a quiet 15-year-old who loved the outdoors and his dog, “My Baby,” went missing in rural Louisiana on October 30. His body was discovered days later in a sugarcane field, 20 miles from his home; the sheriff’s department told his family that the boy had drowned.
Charles’s family calls the claim “bogus,” and says that photos show Quawan’s face was horribly disfigured when he was found. They believe his death could have been racially motivated, and that law enforcement failed to act in the hours after they reported their son missing. Two weeks after Quawan went missing, the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office released a statement saying that they are investigating “suspicious circumstances,” and Quawan’s parents are still looking for answers. “We believe that if he had been of a different color that this will be taken a lot more seriously,” the family’s attorney, Ronald Haley, told ABC News. “We [would] not be talking today about 13 days have gone by, with no leads, 13 days have gone by with no answer, 13 days have gone by without [the] official cause of death … This family deserves that Bobby will be laid to rest.”
Quawan’s father says police have visited a friend of Quawan’s and his mother, both white, who were allegedly the last people to see him before he died. But the sheriff’s has not commented on whether they are communicating with the pair; no suspects have been named in the case, and it has not been designated a homicide.
Here’s everything we know about the death of Quawan “Bobby” Charles:
Quawan went missing on October 30.
Quawan’s parents reported his disappearance from his father’s home in Baldwin, Louisiana, where he had recently moved, on October 30. He had just started a new school. Quawan’s father, Kenneth Jacko, says that part of the reason why he was concerned about Quawan’s whereabouts was that he had left his beloved dog, who he had named “My Baby,” behind. Quawan’s family attorney says that the Baldwin Police Department took a report, but “gave no indication over the next few days that they were searching for the teen or actively investigating his disappearance,” per the Washington Post. “Instead, they suggested Quawan might have gone to a football game and asked if the boy had a troubled past, he said.”
His family says Quawan was with a friend, 17-year-old Gavin Irvin, and Irwin’s mother, Janet, in neighboring Iberia Parish before he died. Jacko told the Post that they learned through a third party that the Irvins picked Quawan up the day he went missing at around 3 p.m., while Jacko was at the store. The Post reports that “Quawan’s father said neither he nor Quawan’s mother knew the Irvins, who are white, and had not given them permission to take Quawan.”
On November 17, Baldwin police released surveillance footage they say depicts Quawan getting picked up by a car on October 30. In the video, a figure, said to be Quawan, sits by the side of the road outside a home before getting up to run toward a car that pulls into the driveway. Two individuals appear to leave the car; eventually, three people get back in and drive off. According to Assistant Chief Sam Wise, police believe that, before reentering the car, Quawan and the two individuals, presumed to be the Irvins, entered the backyard of his father’s home to play with Quawan’s dog. Gavin Irvin had given Quawan the dog, according to his father. “There was no signs of a kidnapping or abduction at that time,” Wise said of the video’s contents.
Quawan’s body was discovered on November 3.
Jacko says that the family, accompanied by police, visited the Irvins on November 3, after Quawan had been missing for four days. Gavin Irvin confirmed that he and Quawan had been together on October 30 but said that Quawan had left later in the day. “[Gavin] said Quawan got up and said he was leaving. [Gavin] asked about where Quawan was going, and after that, he disappeared,” Jacko told the Post.
Iberia Parish police found Quawan’s body in a sugarcane field later that day, in the small community of Loreauville not far from the Irvin’s home. The sheriff’s office told the family that water was found in Quawan’s lungs, and he had drowned, but the family says photos of Quawan’s body show that his face was incredibly mangled. Celina Charles, a cousin serving as a family spokeswoman, said that Quawan’s mother, Roxanne Nelson, ran from the viewing room when she saw his body. The Post reports that, in a photo of Quawan, “the teen appears so disfigured that his teeth are visible outside of his mouth.” Charles told ABC that Quawan “looks like he’d been tortured.” Nelson has since shared photos of his body online to call attention to Quawan’s death and to pressure law enforcement to act.
No one is officially being investigated yet, but the police are investigating his death “as a homicide.”
Law-enforcement officials have now said they are investigating Quawan’s death “as a homicide,” though they have not declared it a homicide officially: “Any case involving someone found deceased in this manner” is treated as a homicide investigation, Iberia Parish sheriff Tommy Romero said in a statement on Saturday.
The sheriff’s office has not named a suspect, but said officers had spoken to the people believed to have been with Quawan before he died. “We interviewed these same individuals and are currently tracking their whereabouts,” police said, though they declined to confirm they had spoken with the Irvins. Neighbors of the Irvins say they were evicted from their mobile home this week, for unknown reasons. Romero also said he had reviewed a video that showed that Quawan was alone in the area where his body was found for at least part of the time before he died.
Law enforcement has also released the preliminary autopsy report in which the coroner states that, in his estimation, Quawan drowned. The report said his death was a “likely drowning” and that there was muddy water found in his airways. The coroner also attributed the scratches and wounds on Quawan’s face to “aquatic animal activity” and said that the boy had not sustained the injuries before his death.
But family attorney Haley says that there is no more than two feet of water in the area where Quawan was found. “If in fact he did die of drowning — and we’re saying that as an if — we’re calling into question how exactly that would have happened,” Haley told the New York Times. “Can somebody who’s 5-foot-6 typically drown in two feet of water? No, not unless there’s another cause associated with that.” The Charles family had ordered their own independent autopsy, and last week asked for help online in raising $15,000 to conduct the autopsy. They soon raised over $100,000.
The results of that independent autopsy were leaked on November 16, and allegedly confirm that Quawan’s injuries are “consistent with drowning.” Though the report declined to definitively state a cause of death, it found no premortem “trauma or natural disease,” per the New York Daily News. The family, however, remains “more interested in the manner of death,” Chase Trichell, one of their lawyers, said on Monday. “If the scientific explanation is drowning, okay. Now let’s narrow the focus to how Quawan came to drown in a sugarcane field. He was an able-bodied person before he ended up facedown in water that was ankle-deep.”
Quawan’s family says police did not act quickly enough after his disappearance.
In the weeks since his body was found, Quawan’s family has demanded accountability from local law enforcement, who they say were delayed in their response to his disappearance. They criticized police for not alerting local news, and say that an Amber Alert was not sent out.
The family says the Baldwin police told them Quawan was entered into an Amber Alert database that must be activated by state police, who apparently determined that the circumstances didn’t meet the threshold to trigger one. “It begs the question, had the protocols been followed, would Quawan be alive today?” family attorney Trichell said. “Once this became public, almost every local news station said, ‘We had no idea a child was even missing,” Haley, the other attorney, told the Post, adding that authorities hadn’t tried pinging Quawan’s cellphone until three days after he disappeared. “That’s how they knew where to narrow the search for him.”
“I want the lady who came to get my son without my permission, his dad’s permission, to be held accountable,” Nelson said during a vigil for her son. “She took them to her house. He was alive and well when he was here, and now he is dead.”
The ACLU of Louisiana is joining the family in their calls for justice. “The disrespect and lack of transparency demonstrated by local officials in response to Bobby’s tragic and suspicious death is unacceptable,” Alanah Odoms Hebert of ACLU of Louisiana, said in a statement. “We join the family in demanding a full and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Bobby’s death.”
This post has been updated with new information.