Local GOP Silence Reveals Loud Support for Nativism

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The concentration camps and the White House’s daily parade of insults and embarrassments are quite difficult for people to wrap their heads around. It is unimaginable that this is what our government has become, and it is amazing how far and how fast we fell. Things that were once whispers are now amplified with bullhorns. But whereas guys like Pat Buchanan and Lee Atwater had taught Republicans how to use racism to their advantage without being, well, so blatant about it, the President now is cool with all of it – the perception and the reality. 

The Tweets shown above are official statements of the President of the United States. Think on that for a moment. 

There is no bottom with Donald Trump and his followers – it sinks deeper and deeper with each passing day.

The thing about authoritarian wannabe dictators is that they energize and re-energize the base of their support by casting themselves as victims. Accusing some “other” of being the cause of some great societal misfortune, the demagogue rhetorically shifts the conversation from one about national priorities into something accusatory and sinister. It’s not 50 years’ worth of slow, systemic changes and obsolescence that shrunk the number and quality of once-abundant manufacturing jobs – it’s immigrants. It’s not de-unionization over the last 40 years that left the middle class weaker, poorer, and less secure, it’s the “open” border. Misdirection. 

In August 2015, a couple of Trump supporters picked a random Hispanic person, beat him up, and pissed on him. They did it because Trump has gone out of his way since the beginning of his campaign to single out and demonize Spanish-speaking immigrants. Around that same time, Republican Presidential front-runners were tripping over themselves to demand an end of jus soli birthright citizenship.

It’s not just about undocumented or documented immigrants – the anti-immigrant Republicans go so far as to hurl epithets at Americans whose only crime was to have been born American on American soil – anchor baby

If you want to understand this anti-immigrant logic, take a listen to “Why Do We Build The Wall” from Tony-Award winning musical Hadestown. I saw it last weekend. This song destroyed me. Anais Mitchell wrote it in 2006; it’s not about Trump. 

Destroyed me.

The Republicans, who have been world champion nihilists ever since Barack Obama was sworn in, now say that if you don’t like it, you can leave.

Weird, because I don’t remember them all pissing off back to wherever they came from when they hated Obama and his policies. 

The whole notion of “go back where you came from” is dictatorial. It is hateful white Nationalism. The people against whom Trump first directed it are all women of color, two of them of the Muslim faith. All but one of them was born in the United States. Do you remember Obama telling Jim Jordan or Tom Cotton or Darrell Issa to go back where he came from if they didn’t like what he was doing? Of course not. He also knew how to spell “al Qaeda“.  

2017 – year zero of the Cultural Revolution – saw the ascendance of a remarkably ignorant and basically ideology-free type of neo-fascism in America. Fascism for dummies, but literally. The cruelty is the point. The cruelty – to opponents, to immigrants, to asylum seekers, to our allies, to minorities – is the unifying and foundational ethos and dogma of Trumpist fascism. The people who vocally and tacitly support Trump also support this fundamental cruelty; the hatred, the epithets, the dismissiveness, turning our backs on the Western world; the demonization and dehumanization of immigrants

During his rallies in 2016, Trump used to ask the crowd to raise their arms and pledge allegiance to him. People called it fascist. Trump said people “love it.” 

Trump tells people who don’t like him to “go back” where they came from. People say to him that this is racist. Trump says, “many people agree with me.” 

The translation is that he doesn’t mind being a white Nationalist neo-fascist cult leader because people like him and the cruelty for which he stands. 

Donald Trump’s racism and wish for a pure, white America is no secret – especially not anymore. Just ask Kellyanne Conway’s husband

But Sunday left no doubt. Naivete, resentment and outright racism, roiled in a toxic mix, have given us a racist president. Trump could have used vile slurs, including the vilest of them all, and the intent and effect would have been no less clear. Telling four non-white members of Congress — American citizens all, three natural-born — to “go back” to the “countries” they “originally came from”? That’s racist to the core. It doesn’t matter what these representatives are for or against — and there’s plenty to criticize them for — it’s beyond the bounds of human decency. For anyone, not least a president.

What’s just as bad, though, is the virtual silence from Republican leaders and officeholders. They’re silent not because they agree with Trump. Surely they know better. They’re silent because, knowing that he’s incorrigible, they have inured themselves to his wild statements; because, knowing that he’s a fool, they don’t really take his words seriously and pretend that others shouldn’t, either; because, knowing how damaging Trump’s words are, the Republicans don’t want to give succor to their political enemies; because, knowing how vindictive, stubborn and obtusely self-destructive Trump is, they fear his wrath.

So far, among western New York’s elected and prominent Republicans, there has been nary a peep about any of this. The only one with the courage to denounce Trump’s Tweets? Erie County Legislator Joe Lorigo (C-West Seneca). 

What about you, Nick Langworthy, chairman of the state committee? New York is one of the most wonderfully diverse states in the nation, and you say nothing. 

What about you, Stefan Mychajliw? You use your status as a first-generation American with each exhale, but here the President – whom you embrace – tells people who disagree with him to leave the country and go back where they came. Should you have gone back to where you came when you disagreed with Barack Obama? Where is your supposed moral and ethical leadership on an issue that hits home for you, more than it does for most people. 

What about you, Lynne Dixon? For weeks you jumped on the Green Light Bill and demanded that Mark Poloncarz say what he thinks of it. OK., he took that bait. You support this President. There’s a picture of him with you from that fundraiser at Salvatore’s floating around. Where do you stand on this notion that people with political disagreements should re-emigrate to where they came from?

And where are the media stenographers and useful idiots for the local Republicans? Why aren’t they hounding Dixon over this particular issue like they hounded Poloncarz over driver’s licenses? 

What about you, Ed Rath? Mickey Kearns (you’re a Republican now, don’t let’s pretend otherwise)? Puppetmasters Chris Grant and Michael Caputo? Chris Collins? Chris Jacobs? David DiPietro? Tim Howard? Pat Gallivan? Mike Ranzenhofer? Mike Norris? Angelo Morinello? John Mills

A lot of you come up and shake my hand at parades and stuff. You know how I think. You know I disagree. You know I think the President is a complete and utter disaster, and that his policies are making America weaker and poorer. This is your time to take a stand and to show some courage. 

After all, I’m one of those “anchor babies.” My parents came here on a tourist visa in 1966. They quickly transformed it into a Green Card and sold back their return ticket; foreign-born physicians were in demand. They settled in Queens. In 1969, my dad was drafted into the US Army. He was sworn in as a citizen within days as a Major. We were sent to live in Columbia, South Carolina for two years. 

When my dad came to the US, he spoke almost perfect, accent-free English. My mom, not so much. She had a strong accent. She couldn’t pronounce a “w” and everything was a “v”. She learned English with me – watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. When she drove around South Carolina, she was frequently called a “Commie”. They had New York plates on their car, so they were “Yankees,” to boot. My mom – until her dying day – hated South Carolina and her experience there because of how cruel people had been to her especially. She was admonished by strangers on more than one occasion to go back where she came from. I don’t think she ever set foot in that state again after 1971. I guess it’s no surprise that Trump approvingly quotes South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in the Tweets reproduced above. 

And my parents were white. Had they been recent immigrants who also looked differently, the abuse would likely have been exponentially worse. 

When Trump tells anyone to “go back where they came from” this is a direct attack on every immigrant, regardless of visa status. 

Our local Republicans have sold out their souls and their morals and their ethics for Donald Trump. They’ll smile and shake my hand when they see me, but they don’t have the courage to stand up for people like my mom against nativist hatred from the likes of a failed casino owner and TV huckster.

Seriously, don’t bother next time. 

Don’t come looking for me at the next parade. Or if you see me at County Hall. Or at the store. Don’t greet me. Don’t come up and tell me that you don’t think like this, or that you’re disappointed in Trump’s rhetoric. Your private tsk-tsk is meaningless; your public silence is assent. Your refusal to do what you (might) know to be right is disgusting. 

You know who loves America? People who leave behind every thing they own and every person they know to come to this country for a new start; for opportunity in a new world created by immigrants from all over the world. My mom loved this country and what it offered her, and she didn’t deserve to be harassed and bullied by South Carolina rednecks just for talking differently or being from an Eastern European country. She came here with nothing – they came here with nothing except an education. She went to work at Ciba Geigy, the American Health Foundation, and Pepsico as a chemist. My dad helped people as a physician at various hospitals and clinics, including the V.A. They are my heroes and I viscerally miss them each day. They loved this country as much if not more than some spoiled rich kid who is American by accident of birth. They chose this place.

You know who hates America? People who tolerate the separation of asylum seeking families at the border. People who tolerate inhumane conditions at border detention facilities. 

You know who hates America? People who think that someone who disagrees with them should leave the country if they “don’t like it.”  

And their enablers. 

No Answers to Stupid Questions

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“No Answers to Stupid Questions” is basically the gist – the “tl;dr” of this Buffalo News article by Sandra Tan. It does little except to parrot Republican concern-trolling over what, if anything, Mark Poloncarz thinks about the “Green Light” statute the legislature in Albany passed, and which Governor Cuomo signed into law. Who has been asking? Nick Langworthy. Chris Grant. Lynne Dixon. All three of them tall pillars, it seems, of non-partisan concern. 

In honor of Mad Magazine and Al Jaffee, here are some, shall we say, snappier answers to stupid questions. 

1. Before 2001, undocumented aliens were free to qualify for and obtain a New York State Driver’s license. 

2. What authority does a County Executive (or a party boss or a political shit-stirrer) have over federal immigration law? 

3. What authority does a County Executive have over driver’s licenses? 

4. In what race is Poloncarz running that renders his opinion on the Green Light bill relevant to the duties of his job? 

5. Why is the County Comptroller – whose portfolio is strictly limited to finances and cash flow – opposed to an influx of money to the County coffers? 

6. What authority does a County Executive have over the border? 

When Nick Langworthy tells you that “‘people are not just against this; they’re violently against this…[o]ur phones have been ringing off the hook,'” have him prove it. If people are “violently” against something, why would he accommodate or encourage violence? If the Republicans are already strongly against brown people with uncertain visa status getting licenses, why would they be receiving calls about it?

The only literally legitimate “concern” about undocumented immigrants receiving licenses has to do with the motor voter law. Obviously, properly documented immigrants fill out the same driver’s license application form as citizens, and they have to simply skip the “register to vote” part. Are the Republicans demanding that the motor voter law be repealed? (Probably. Of course. Having lots of eligible people voting is anathema to them.) Yet somehow the Mychajliws and Kearnses of the world have determined that while documented immigrants would skip the voting registration part of the application, undocumented immigrants would all fill it out because, according to them, they’re already criminals

This plays well with the neo-Confederate crowd, the people who need to blame an “other” for their own failures, and, naturally, garden-variety racists. You know, the people who leave angry comments over the casting of a mermaid. In an economically depressed region such as ours, having a county clerk, a county comptroller, and a county executive candidate sit there and preen to the media about who hates immigrants more is definitely going to win some votes from guys who hang around diners playing with their Trump Barbie dolls. Regular people? It depends. 

I guess the larger question is, why are Republican propagandists allowed to spout absolute bullshit to the Buffalo News and have it regurgitated, verbatim, without someone bothering to check? 

1. Dixon and Grant told Bob McCarthy that the Dixon campaign raised over $200,000 since March. McCarthy published it, apparently without verifying the accuracy of what he was told. It was, alas, inaccurate. McCarthy had (wittingly? unwittingly?) allowed himself and the News to become propagandists for the Dixon campaign. 

2. Dixon and Grant tell McCarthy about some bullshit poll from some bullshit pollster no one ever heard of. McCarthy publishes it all. But the poll had to be filed with the state Board of Elections, and savvy observers who were polled noted that all of the “push poll” language – the anti-Poloncarz propaganda parts of the poll – were not there. I called bullshit. So did Geoff Kelly at the Investigative Post. 

3. Now, McCarthy says Kelly is wrong and he is vindicated! The “Politics Column Had it Right” the headline exclaims. Dude, that’s your job – to get it right. If true, do you want a medal or a monument? The surgeon who doesn’t kill a patient doesn’t get a self-congratulatory news story about it. You’re supposed to get it right. But all of this is like political insider trading – McCarthy is given a tip, and he makes a couple of calls to get reaction, and then runs it. Did the “Politics Column [have] it right”? Let’s examine what Kelly wrote

Whatever the mood of the electorate, that poll wasn’t designed to measure it. It was, rather, a “push poll,” which is a marketing technique intended to disseminate information, negative or positive, to a target audience.

In this case, the poll was meant to spread some unflattering— and not entirely accurate — talking points about Poloncarz and his administration to prospective voters in November’s general election.

Here’s what happened:

Earlier this month, Dixon’s campaign commissioned a poll by a Kansas City, Mo., firm called Co/Efficient. The company’s website does not list previous clients, nor did the company respond immediately to an inquiry from Investigative Post.

The Dixon campaign then shared the poll with The Buffalo News. The paper’s political reporter, Bob McCarthy, made the poll the subject of an article published in the Sunday, June 16 paper.

Under state election law, when a political campaign makes public reference to a poll it has conducted or commissioned, it is obligated to make public the details of the poll within 48 hours of that reference. (Otherwise, campaigns could use specious or even nonexistent polls to promote their candidates or attack their opponents. Think of Donald Trump prefacing a claim with “Lots of people say…”) Among the information that must be filed: What questions were asked — their precise wording — and in what order? Was the poll conducted by phone or by other means? Who conducted it? Who paid for it?

The Dixon campaign filed the poll with the New York State Board of Elections in a letter dated Monday, June 17. The campaign also sent a summary of the poll to Investigative Post, at our request, on Tuesday afternoon. 

But what the Dixon campaign filed with the state and shared with Investigative Post does not comport with what some who took the poll describe.

What does McCarthy print in the newspaper of record to vindicate that he “got it right?” 

Dixon campaign consultant Chris Grant confirmed that some potential voters were asked a question about rapists. But it and other leading questions stemmed from a second poll for internal use, not the one the campaign released publicly and filed with the Board of Elections.

Oh, really? Prove it. May I see that poll? May I see its results? Its crosstabs? That it exists? Or was it really just all one push poll and you – a dirty trickster and your never-heard-of-him bullshit midwest pollster – just excised the propaganda questions to sanitize the poll before publishing it? Why should anyone be believed about anything? ‘It was two polls, actually’ is utter garbage without proof of the existence of a second poll – without an audio recording of two distinct and separate polls purporting to gauge voter sentiment. 

“We did one poll to release publicly and then did a separate survey for internal campaign use that we did not release,” he said.

Or maybe you did one poll and selected what you wanted to release publicly and just kept the push poll questions out of what you filed. Again – I’m not saying that’s what happened, I’m saying there’s literally no proof that it didn’t, and no one – not Bob McCarthy, not anyone – should just take these people at their word. 

Indeed, The News reported its story on the straight questions it reviewed, and not on the leading questions upon which Investigative Post claimed the story was based.

“When the region’s leading daily newspaper presents the poll without closely analyzing its legitimacy and calling it what it is,” Investigative Post wrote, and then depicted a Dixon campaign tweet touting The News story about the poll.

The News “reported” what Chris Grant gave it to publish. The News did not inquire further. It did not question the accuracy or completeness of what it was being told by a paid advocate for a political candidate. 

Kelly said that he stands by his story.

“I look forward to reading this second poll when it’s filed with the state board of elections, within 48 hours of its reference in your column,” Kelly responded, referring to his interpretation of requirements for filing of polls released to the public.

Translation: Chris Grant and Lynne Dixon are using the News for propaganda, and the News is just engaging in lazy, facile “he said, she said” “reporting” rather than actually drilling down and finding out through long-cultivated sources whether it is being told the truth. 

Chris Grant says, Bob McCarthy writes. Chris Grant says, Sandra Tan writes. It doesn’t matter if the information is false, or that Mark Poloncarz’s opinion about a state law is irrelevant.

Free media for Republican candidates is a phone call away.