Rothman At-Large

Love Elizabeth Warren's Ideas - But Fear For America If She's The Democratic Presidential Candidate

January 6, 2019

Elizabeth Warren, in so many ways, is catnip for progressives as fed up with the status quo as I am.

“How did we get here?” she asked in a New Republic interview. “Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie, and they enlisted politicians to cut them a fatter slice. They crippled unions so no one could stop them, dismantled the financial rules meant to keep us safe after the Great Depression, and cut their own taxes so they paid less than their secretaries and janitors.”

I love Sen. Warren’s policy recommendations, such as requiring major corporate boards to include some representatives of workers. Her philosophy is the same as mine. Let’s keep capitalism alive by making it fairer.

Sen. Warren’s character appears sterling. She went overboard in playing up her tiny speck of Native American blood, but in the larger context of her life, this is simply an unfortunate aberration. Here is a self-made woman who came out of Oklahoma City to become a Harvard law professor in time, then a U.S. senator—after undergoing the same travails that millions of cash-strapped Americans still suffer. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, her major legacy, is a work of policymaking and legislative art.

Why, then, do I fear for the Democrats and even the country as a whole if the party runs her for president? Because, unfairly, so many voters in blue states will see Elizabeth Warren as Hillary Clinton II and perhaps open the way for the reelection of Donald Trump if our aspiring dictator is able to seek a second term. Just 30 percent of participants in one national poll regarded her favorably, while 37 percent were unfavorable. Another poll shows her far behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in Iowa.

No mystery here. Sen. Warren’s very positives, especially her passion and intelligence, could be the biggest political negatives for a woman in states more conservative than her own  Massachusetts. She could win a popular majority just as Clinton did. But unless Democrats can miraculously will away the existence of the Electoral College, which tilts in favor of heavily rural states full of misogynists and too many women who defer to them, the barriers most likely could be insurmountable in a general election.

Unfair! I’m a huge believer in Senator Warren not only as a high-level thinker but also as a populist orator. Her economic message will resonate with so many voters in economically besieged places like Appalachia and rusty factory towns. But she likely will still lose out to the misogynists and their trusting wives and girlfriends. Almost three-fifths of Republicans everywhere—forget just the conservatives states—don’t want a female president even though most Americans are open to the idea. What’s more, the Atlantic tells of a disturbing study where the subjects reacted to made-up biographies of male and female state senators described as “ambitious” and having a “strong will to power.” Both sexes regarded those traits as positives for the men, negatives for the women.

Remember, this apparently wasn’t a geographically specific study. Now add in the traditional Southern and rural attitudes toward gender, and factor in the evangelical influences in conservative states. Evangelicals aren’t all alike. But more than a few believe that men, not women, are biblically destined to be the leaders. In fairness to the South and rural states, I also need to add that woman-haters are everywhere, Manhattan included. But in conservative red states, the misogynists are much larger in number and carry far more influence.

One counter argument might be that most of the misogynists wouldn’t vote anyway for Bernie Sanders or other male alternatives to Sen. Warren. But remember, there are degrees of misogyny. And this could matter in battleground states where just a few votes could tip the scales.

Paradoxically, then, with the stakes so high for foes of sexism and with the Electoral College counting so much, women would be better off with a male Democratic candidate in 2020.

Forever? Of course not. We just need to wait for enough of the old-fashioned misogynists to die off.

Alas, the same concerns may apply to two other impressive female Senators from coastal states, California’s Kamala Harris and New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, if they run. Sen.  Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota may be an easier sell to heartland voters, but even she would face tough headwinds—her state is still far more progressive than, say, Kansas.

Next consider the math of the Electoral College.

A voter in predominantly rural Wyoming counts several times more than one in heavily urban California. That’s why Donald Trump won the election. He received 61,336,159 votes compared to 62,568,373 for Hillary Clinton, but 306 members of the Electoral College chose him and only 206 favored Clinton. A huge gap. Even a female candidate more likeable than Clinton could be in trouble.

I endlessly admire Elizabeth Warren and think her campaign will be useful in popularizing a much-need vision for America. I just don’t want her to win the nomination. Better that she use leverage from her campaigning—assuming she does better than she is now in Iowa—to convince a more viable candidate to appoint her to a cabinet post where she can work toward her admirable policy goals. Please, Sen. Warren. Cherish your ideas more than any political office, however high.


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De-Trumping America: A Few Lessons From My Ride With Muhammad

December 12, 2018

The Uber driver—let’s call him Muhammad—was from Afghanistan.

 

“So,” I asked, “how do you feel about Donald Trump?”

 

I wasn’t going to take anything for granted.

 

The Aryan in the White House might not like Muhammad’s skin color and his probable Muslim faith. But earlier I’d run across a religious African immigrant who cherished Trump for—gasp—the President’s professions of piety.

 

“I love him,” Muhammad said of Trump without the least irony. “He plays by the rules. He’s President, he’s strong and he puts America first.”

 

“Do you know about Trump’s days in New York?” I asked. “He stiffed a lot of working people. Craftsmen, carpenters, painters, others. He just didn’t pay them.” So allege countless lawsuits, at least. In fact, as shown by the filing of at least sixty suits as of two years ago, the problem has gone far beyond New York. Trump at times has even refused to pay his lawyers. See USA Today.

 

 

“No,” Muhammad said.

 

“Where do get your news?” I asked

 

“Fox,” he said.

 

“Where else?”

 

“Nowhere.”

 

“You don’t read the newspapers?”

 

Muhammad said he didn’t.

 

I gently suggested that Muhammad read the Washington Post and at least consider tuning in MSNBC. CNN-watching might also help.

 

Now—here’s the kicker. Muhammad is no dummy. He says he’s an IT student at a Maryland university. And guess what he did for U.S. forces in Afghanistan? He analyzed news stories in the local media.

 

“You don’t have to believe the Post and MSNBC automatically,” I said. “Just try comparing different news sources against the others and seeing who’s right. Pretend you’re back in Afghanistan analyzing stories there.”

 

Likewise frustrating is that Muhammad isn’t isolated in a rural hamlet. He lives in a Maryland suburb.

 

As if that isn’t enough, Trump’s record on immigration from Afghanistan is hardly sterling, even in regard to locals like Muhammad who helped the U.S.

 

Perhaps Muhammad thought I was a well-connected Trumpist or at least one with ICE friends. But that explanation seems rather far-fetched.

 

So what can Democrats and others learn from my ride with Muhammad?

 

1. Yes, non-Hispanic whites will be a minority in America by mid-century, but one should never take demographics for granted. Muhammad’s political views certainly didn’t fit the stereotypes.

 

Democrats shouldn’t just make nice noises about diversity. 

 

Campaigning, they should try harder in immigrant communities while remembering that although ethnic identity is important, it is far from the only show—whether the immigrants are Afghans or otherwise.

 

Running for re-election in Texas, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz carried more Hispanic voters than expected, and likely not just because Cruz’s father came from Cuba. Many Hispanics are socially conservative and may hate abortion enough for such sentiments to count even more than immigration matters do.

 

The Democrats shouldn’t sell out on issues like abortion just to appeal to immigrants and others, but again and again, they can emphasize how anti-family are Trump and the Republicans—on matters ranging from healthcare to childhood nutrition, maternal leave and minimum wages and tax policies.

 

Even more important, they can come up with better alternatives. This approach worked well in the last election in regard to healthcare. It needs to be expanded.

 

2. Encourage immigrants and others to watch, listen to and read major media outlets without Fox-style ideological agendas—and otherwise gain a better understanding of the issues.

 

Civics education in K-12 is a praiseworthy cause but can go only so far. Muhammad is already a voting-age U.S. citizen.

 

Meaningful U.S. history courses should be required of IT and other technical students like Muhammad, even in college. Let’s think of tech types as citizens, too, not just future workers. Just like liberal arts majors, many will vote.

 

3. Regardless of advice to the contrary, Democrats can zero in on Donald Trump’s flaws as an individual—in germane ways. Notice how Muhammad thought Trump played by the rules? Muhammad didn’t even know Trump had stiffed carpenters and painters. You won’t hear news like that on right-wing outlets as often as elsewhere. Generalities will go only so far, but specifics could help—including facts about Trump’s use of immigrants without proper papers on his private properties.

 

Note: I’ve changed minor details here and there to protect Muhammad’s identity.


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Jewish Casino Billionaire Is Major Trump Donor; Stop Enabling Bigots, Sheldon Adelson

November 4, 2018

Donald Trump is still demonizing billionaire George Soros and other “globalists,” just as he did in a 2016 campaign commercial with anti-Semitic dog-whistles, or at least something very close.

 

But Trump is picky about which Jewish billionaires to smear, and for good reason.

 

None other than Sheldon Adelson, the Jewish casino billionaire, helped finance our demagogic President’s rise to power. In this election cycle, he is the number one donor to the Republican Party in its Trumpist incarnation. Adelson has splurged at least $55 million on the sullied GOP through two groups.

 

As a fellow Jew, I’ve got some advice for the 85-year-old Adelson, borrowed from Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign. “Just say no” to Trump and GOP fundraisers.

 

Vile anti-Semitism has been spiking under Trump, and even if Adelson and other Jewish Trumpists deny the existence of a provable cause-effect, they should at least concede the probability of one.

 

“Jews make up only about 2 percent of the U.S. population,” the AP’s David Crary writes, “but in annual FBI data they repeatedly account for more than half of the Americans targeted by hate crimes committed due to religious bias. The Anti-Defamation League identified 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in 2017, up from 1,267 in 2016, and also reported a major increase in anti-Semitic online harassment.”

 

First Donald Trump spoke of “very fine people on both sides” in the 2017 Charlottesville incident where alt-right bigots clashed with counter-protestors, leaving one of the latter dead. Now comes news of another tragedy. An anti-Semitic truck driver killed 11 Jews in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh—the worst massacre of Jews in American history. Even if Trump didn’t fire off the AR-25 assault rifle used in the attack, Trump just might have blood on his undersized hands.

 

With the full power of his office, the President has been spreading the false rumor that a raggedy band of would-be immigrants poses a serious threat to the United States. Fox News and other right-wing media have repeated the canard again and again.

 

The man charged with the massacre at the synagogue, Robert Gregory Bowers, made his intention clear afterward in this chilling statement: “I just want to kill Jews.” And guess who conspiracists like Bowers apparently hold responsible for the migrant caravan about to “invade” the United States and end their Aryan way of life: Jews. Bowers is believed to have written online that the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people.”

 

While Donald Trump was too much of a “globalist” for Bowers’ taste, the President’s anti-immigrant message must have resonated with the suspected killer, regardless of whether the Trump mentioned HIAS.

 

I won’t buy Trump’s excuse that Bowers did not support him. Nor does it matter that the trucker was crazy. Deranged or not, he left his victims just as dead. The point is, the President has loosed the demons of hate. It makes not a whit of difference that Trump’s daughter, son-in-law and Kushner grandchildren are Jewish. Like any other psychopath, Trump cares mainly about Number One, and if anything, he must enjoy the ability to hide behind them. Keep in mind that Trump once kept a collection of Hitler’s speeches near his bed. Perhaps one of the few books Trump has loved other than his own ghost-written works?

 

You can shrug off My New Order as a chance for the Trump to learn the art of propaganda from a master—or you can say that the book was merely a conversation piece given by a friend. Still, irrefutably, Trump’s own words and deeds are those of a Hitler- or Mussolini-style fascist in spirit at the very least. Here is a Biff Tannen-style bully who punched an elementary school teacher in the face and has been quoted as saying he is the same man today as when he was young.

 

Trump has praised a politician for body-slamming a reporter and continues to call journalists “enemies of the people” despite the risk of lives lost. He has warned against Mexican “rapists” and, pandering to anti-Muslim sentiments, says Middle Eastern people could have been in the migrant caravan. He calls himself a “nationalist,” a term dear to many fascists: no need for “white” in front of it. How long until we Jews are Trump’s major targets—not just the dog-whistled kind—to satisfy the prejudices of The Base? Maybe not next month or next year,  and maybe never, but a future Trump-style fascist could yet arise with an urge to impose on us a bloody “final solution.” The additional havoc that automation may wreak on the U.S. labor force could eventually stir up The Base with Dachau-lethal results. Among the jobs imperiled eventually could be those of truckers like Robert Bowers.

So, Mr. Adelson, please abandon your hopes of influencing Trump’s Israeli policies via your massive campaign donations. How about the long-term safety and well-being of your fellow Jews here in the United States? If nothing else, as a $30-billion man, think of practicalities at the existential level: future fascist bigots just might want to kill you and claim your “Jewish billions” for themselves.


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