The failure of Obama/Clinton economic policies lends credibility to Trump’s acceptance speech at the RNC, as he evokes images of “lawless black men and murderous illegal immigrants” – Bill Curry and Yvette Carnell in conversation with Paul Jay
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. I say ‘In Baltimore’ with a little emphasis, because Baltimore was featured a couple of times in Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican Convention in Cleveland. The speech brought into being a spectre of chaos and lawlessness in the streets, but was also sort of a pandering or offering something to almost every segment of society, of course, except illegal immigrants, and the idea of young black men running through the streets, killing policemen and such, almost directly depicted that way. But it started with a whole other face altogether. A speech by Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, which could have been given at the Democratic Party Convention, where she offers a bunch of social programs. Here’s a small clip and an example. IVANKA TRUMP: As researchers have noted, gender is no longer the factor creating the greatest wage discrepancy in this country: motherhood is. As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put in place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality childcare affordable and accessbile for all. JAY: So it starts with his daughter offering affordable daycare, and she went on to offer equal pay for equal work, and so on. And then we get to Donald. And while again in his speech he offers a little bit of something to everyone, he’s going to bring back jobs by getting rid of bad free trade agreements, like NAFTA. He’s going to bring back jobs to the rust belt cities, and so on. The main theme of the evening was the threat to law and order. And here’s what he had to say. DONALD TRUMP: In our nation’s capitals, killings have risen by 50 percent. They’re up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore. In the President’s hometown of Chicago, more than 2,000 people have been the victim of shootings this year alone. And almost 4,000 have been killed in the Chicago area since he took office. The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50 percent compared to this point last year. Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records ordered deported from our country are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens. The number of new illegal immigrant families who have crossed the border so far this year already exceeds the entire total from 2015. They are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources. The first task for our new administration will be to liberate our citizens from the crime and terrorism and lawlessness that threatens our communities. JAY: So Donald Trump, talking about how he will defend the cities of America from mayhem and chaos. I thought a few stats might be interesting to look at, just before we introduce our guest to discuss the speech. First of all, the supposed 60 percent increase in murders in Baltimore, I don’t know where the number comes from. There was last year a high murder rate. It was almost 348, which is crazy. But that is not that ahistorical in Baltimore. It was up from the year before, but it was back, it was at a number that had already existed a few years earlier. But overall, the homicide rates across the country, according to an AP fact check, half as many people were killed last year as in 1991. Half as many people, half as many murders across the country as 1991. And that’s obviously after a great deal of population growth. I don’t have the exact number, but it’s not hard to imagine. According to the AP fact check, illegal crossings across the border are actually down from 2014. He talked about the, releasing into the population. That’s because of a court decision that has restricted how long illegal immigrants, as he uses, or undocumented immigrants, can be held. Most important stat, I think, because he spent so much time in the speech focusing on the killing of policemen. I mentioned this before on the Real News. There’s around 100-109 police deaths each year. So far this year it’s tracking at about 67 police deaths to 62 last year. There has not been an enormous increase. About half of those are from shootings, deliberate shootings. But maybe around 50 a year. The other 50 or so deaths are mostly taking place in car accidents, as a result of chases or other–for other reasons. But the actual murder rate is around the same most years, hovering around 100. But let’s put that into some context. Construction workers in the United States, 4,800 construction workers are killed every year. That’s 13 construction workers a day. And how many of those–I don’t have the number–but how many of those are, in fact, undocumented workers who are working in such terrible conditions, unsafe conditions, and putting up the buildings that Donald is so proud of? At any rate, to talk about what they thought about the speech I’m now joined, first of all, by Yvette Carnell. Yvette is on the right of the screen. She writes about politics, international and cultural issues, for Your Black World, and is the founder of Breaking Brown. She joins us from Atlanta, Georgia. Bill Curry is a columnist for Salon.com. He was a White House counselor to President Clinton, and he was a two-time Democratic nominee for governor of Connecticut. He joins us from Farmington, Connecticut. Thank you both for joining us. BILL CURRY: Great to be here. JAY: So Bill, let me start with you. What’s your kind of overall impression from the speech? And let me just ask the question: who exactly is he talking to, here? What I mean by that, with the thing, almost most important thing, even though he’s talking about trade and things like that, the central thing about the speech was defense of law and order, mayhem and chaos in the streets, and so on. But most white people actually don’t experience that. If you live in Baltimore and you’re a white person, you’re actually relatively safe. In 2014, where there was about 240-250 murders, something in that way, I don’t think there was more than 10-11 white people that were killed. The people who experience this mayhem are people living in deep, chronic poverty in cities like Baltimore, and they’re black. Black people aren’t going to vote for Donald Trump. I actually don’t understand why he didn’t actually make much more an issue of external terrorism. What’s your take? CURRY: You know, I agree with what you just said. I think that he did, in some ways, a loathsome but brilliant job of melding all of that anxiety and fear together in an almost seamless message. Immigration, refugees, terrorism, are all the same issue to Trump and to the core constituency he’s addressing. And secondly I’d just say, you know, when I was with Clinton all those years ago, violent crime in the most violent areas in inner cities and in areas that had been the toughest, where nobody thought crime was ever going to come down, plummeted. And it plummeted because the economy was improving, it was plummeting for a lot of different reasons. But whenever we polled on it, no one believed–and I thought then, I think even more now–there are two things that go on in this country. One is that we have such a violent popular culture. People spend, you know, four hours a day watching television, another two hours playing violent video games, who actually think the world is a much more violent place than it is. And secondly, when you have a drumbeat, a right-wing and sometimes even establishment drumbeat, of the worst kind of racial politics, it again all becomes lost in this fear of the other, and for the Trump types, contempt for the other. And so all that’s, all that’s at work here in this just awful goulash, a goulash of fearmongering. And I’m not sure that he has to separate it all out. If he were making a rational argument he wouldn’t be saying any of it. JAY: Yvette, one of the things Trump tried to do was speak to black people, I guess trying to win their support, saying that there has to be some kind of an effort to deal with inner city problems, the failure of the Obama administration to solve the problems of chronic poverty and stuff. We’re going to play clip number 5 here, just to give an example of that. TRUMP: This administration has failed America’s inner cities. Remember, it has failed America’s inner cities. It’s failed them on education. It’s failed them on jobs. It’s failed them on crime. It’s failed them in every way and on every single level. When I am president I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally and protected equally. JAY: So of course, what he says is true, Yvette. This administration, I think by most people’s estimates, has failed black people of the inner cities. I did a piece last week where I talked about Trump and the enablers of neofascism. I mean, without the failure of the economic policies of hte last eight years, and the enormous economic inequality growth, Trump’s message wouldn’t be able to resonate at all. But do you think it will at all? Are black people going to listen to, be able to–let me just ask you, what are people going to make of this promise to save the inner cities? YVETTE CARNELL: Well, you know, it’s kind of interesting, right. I agree with you that, you know, Obama’s policies have failed. And we know when he says inner city we’re talking about black people, just like when he says middle America we’re talking about white people. So we understand what that means. And I do agree with him in terms of Obama. But the Republican Party is sort of schizophrenic right now in the sense of we went through all of the Obama years with the Republican Party calling him the food stamp president, and caricaturing him as this person who’s just giving away free stuff, Obamaphones, to black people. And so now you want to come back and say, well, this president hasn’t done anything for you. And both things can’t be true. I don’t know which one is true, but that’s what kind of alerts me to the fact that you’re pandering to me right now. Now, in terms of, in terms of jobs, I don’t necessarily see Trump doing anything for African-Americans. But what I will say, I wish I would have a Democratic nominee that says that they oppose NAFTA. So although I think Trump is just pandering, I think he can peel off some African-American votes. Because what you see here, whether you like him or not, you’re seeing a guy who doesn’t have a problem telling at least some truth about deals that have been bad for working-class people, people who are disproportionately poor, and that’s disproportionately black people. So in terms of falling to the bottom we heard him say something last night about corruption. And he says, you know, I would know in terms of I’ve been in there. I’ve played this political game. I know that we’re kind of, you know, that politicians are kind of prostitutes. It’s that kind of truth-telling that could yield him some benefits in the black community, because we know in terms of neoliberalism and the Clintons that we’ve sort of been lied to. We get a lot of criticism right now on Trump and the law and order, and how could he just kind of use this nasty rhetoric. But you rewind all the way back, and we saw, you know, Hillary Clinton and the superpredator comment. I’m not saying crime was at the same place now as it was then, but that’s something that resonates for us. JAY: I know in Baltimore there is a certain amount of division amongst the black community, amongst sections of kind of stable black working-class families, who themselves feel threatened by the very chronically poor areas where gangs are more active, where there’s more murders and such. I mean, he seemed to be carefully parsing various segments of the population, and particularly African-Americans, to try to kind of split–because certainly, in Baltimore where you have a black mayor and essentially a Democratic Party machine in power, much of the community is very concerned about the kind of spillover crime, how it affects their kids. I mean, how effective is this going to be? CARNELL: Well, part of the problem in the black community is that the people who speak on behalf of the black community, like these black misleadership functionaries–I don’t even call them the black misleadership class, really, anymore, because they’re not a separate class, really. Not that much. But what I say is that you have these functionaries who don’t live in the ghetto. So you have these functionaries who are saying, oh, it’s so awful. How could Trump say this about, you know, crime in the black community? And people who live in the black community are saying, yeah. You know, if I walk out on the street, whether it be because of policies or whatever, I’m likely to be assailed by somebody black more than I am likely to be assailed by a white police officer. It doesn’t mean that the police aren’t racist and that we don’t have a problem, but it’s a systemic problem in terms of police, and it’s a systemic problem in terms of us, too. So you have a group of people representing black people to white people who really don’t represent, you know, the inner city black people that Trump is talking about. So therein lies the opportunity for Trump to slide in, and I think that’s what he’s trying to do. JAY: So Bill, I mean, the thing–as I just said, that enables all of this is Clinton does represent, more or less, what Trump said she does. And how is she going to fight back? CURRY: I’ve said before that one of the mysteries of Hillary Clinton is how such a bright student could be such a slow learner. And she truly was one of the architects of that sort of neoliberal economic world order in the 1990s, in believing so deeply that information technology and that boom, the integration of global capital and unrestrained free trade, and fiscal austerity at home, were all going to combine to unleash this great rising tide that would lift all boats. It’s been 20 years, and the verdict is in: it’s not true. And when the President or Hillary go around saying that Donald Trump is the inevitable result of the rancid Republican politics of the last decade, I think there’s truth to that, in terms of their licensing of hate speech, but it’s also true that we softened the ground by leaving so many people behind. And you know, when nobody’s–when it’s been so long, white or black, for everybody struggling who haven’t heard their name called in a long time, who can’t remember when a serious problem they had had really been fixed by their government, when that siren call–that police siren call–of the Trump proto-fascist appeal is heard, they’re susceptible to it. That’s when it works, when there’s a large working middle class, underclass, turned underclass, left behind. And so I think that, again, that the most importnat thing here is whether or not the Democratic Party can put a blueprint on the table. And unfortunately, when I [inaud.] the vibe I still get from the Clinton people is that they regard the populism of the Sanders campaign and other factions of the party, they think of it all as just a liberal fetish. And they don’t even–they haven’t figured out what Trump has figured out: that what he’s standing for is, what Bernie’s been standing for in this campaign representing, is in fact a set of issues about which the broad middle class, and the broad working middle class in particular, are deeply concerned. This is where all those swing voters are. They’re desperate. And they want to hear one real specific blueprint for how we’re going to get to move forward. And then they have to believe that you believe it. JAY: Yvette, the speech was pretty smart, in many ways. I would say carefully-crafted. A kind of populist bit of even libertarian shell with a fascist core. But that shell is going to, you know, could appeal. I mean, against NAFTA. He even attacks foreign policy. He’s opposed to regime change. He says let’s end this democracy project, nation-building project, which is a denounciation of Bush and the Obama administration foreign policy. Instead of calling it nation-building they’re into humanitarian interventions. It’s a little bit for all kinds of segments of the population. But no doubt this attack on illegal immigrants, this repeated imagery of chaos in the streets, and his number one message, that he’s the defender of law and order, you know, not the–I don’t know if he mentioned once defending the Constitution, which is kind of one of the main themes, usually, in the Republican Convention. Defending law and order is not necessarily upholding of the Constitution. How do you and how do you think people in sort of progressive circles should or are going to deal with this issue that, one, you’ve got the enablers of this kind of neo-fascism running the Democratic Party. On the other hand, this threat from Trump, at its core, really is a fascist threat, I think. CARNELL: Well, you know, I think I shocked a few people last night when I said, I don’t know if Trump is a fascist. I will admit that he is an opportunist. But when I look at the red meat that Trump is throwing, like in the comments, his comments about lawlessness last night and was, you know, was indicative of, you know, in my mind of the two black–the two black men that we just saw kill those police officers. We saw it in Baton Rouge, we saw it in Dallas. I think it was a play to that, because that caused, in terms of the white fear that that caused–. And you talk about video games and being violent. I heard your other guest talk about that. But we also have–what we have also is this right-wing media. Remember when the knockout game was out. So we had, we had conservative media convincing white people that, you know, a black man is going to come out of nowhere and just sock you in the face. So that’s what we’re dealing with. So I thought that was just a craven attempt to kind of use what, the news of the last few weeks, to his benefit. To kind of leverage that. That’s what I saw. But in terms of all of the other, all the other stuff that he’s saying, I’ve heard other politicians say that and worse, you know, in the history of politics in this country. And I’m not saying that fascism hasn’t existed elsewhere. But I think Trump is just a craven opportunist. I don’t think that he’s trying to do or–you know, I don’t think he has the agenda. Like, I’ve heard people say he’s the second coming of Hitler. No, I think that if you’re talking about somebody like that, you would look at a Ted Cruz. I don’t think Trump really has that much of an agenda. He just knows that there are some things that are wrong, that he can use to play in in terms of trade deals, in terms of people following through, in terms of people following through to the bottom, in terms of corruption. And I think that’s what he’s playing to. And the problem that Clinton has, you know,, given her background and given the fact that she is, now, a member of the elite, of the ruling class, is that she’s not willing to concede that these things are wrong. I remember watching a debate with Hillary Clinton where Sanders couldn’t get her to commit to not, you know, to not changing Social Security. So if you’re not–if he’s willing to tell people I know something’s wrong, and I’m going to help you, even though he doesn’t have specifics, he’s telling you that the game is rigged. And we all know the game is rigged. But Hillary Clinton is over there and she won’t say anything. She won’t admit it. At least Trump is saying, whether he’s lying or whether he’s telling the truth, or whether he’s a fascist or not, at least he’s telling you, listen, you’re right. The system is rigged. JAY: Right. Bill, I mean, when I say he’s fascist at the core, first of all, I’m not sure there’s a contradiction between being a craven opportunist and being a fascist, because I think that’s part of–they quite go hand-in-hand. But I think it’s less about what he says and more about the political alliances he’s creating that are going to, if he wins, bring him to power. I mean, to have a Rudy Giuliani go out there and accuse Iran of being the funder of terrorism that’s going to come attack America, more importantly to pick Pence as his vice preisdent, who couldn’t be more a supporter of Likud and Netanyahu and the furthest right wing of Zionism, who attacks Iran again. That’s where they converge, is on isolating Iran and wanting to undo the Iran agreement. But Pence has also been pro-free trade. He represents that exact establishment within the Republican Party, but the far right of that establishment in the Republican Party. Trump talks about replacing Scalia with a person who’s going to be exactly like Scalia. Like, that craven opportunism has brought him–the only way he gets to power–is surrounding himself with, essentially, fascist forces. Do you agree with that? CURRY: You know, I just would say a couple things. First is that in my entire life in politics, this is the first time I’ve ever called anyone a fascist. I hope it doesn’t have to be a second occasion. And I always say proto-fascist, just to assure people I don’t mean Nazi. Fascist means something else. Trump has actually done us a service. There is fascist politics risnig throughout Europe and it’s been on the rise in the United States. And sometimes it really helps to name a problem. And so, when I look at Trump, he’s done us the service also–I see that he’s also done us the service of remind us that, as you said, Paul, fascism is ideologically nondescript. You could be for or against universal healthcare or a trade agreement. Its essence is that it’s authoritarian. What are the earmarks? That you scapegoat vulnerable minorities, that you plead nationalism at every turn, that you plead militarism, that you are willing to abuse the democratic process, inciting your followers to violence, threatening the press with prosecution. All of those, all of those symptoms of fascism run through his personality and his campaign in ways that I think would be hard for anyone to deny. And I just want to make one other–the second point is, this campaign, we’re about to face a choice between basically pay-to-play politics and neoliberal economics, and proto-fascism. I know which choice I’m making on that. I know that I don’t want to be responsible for Trump being elected. I personally get that. And the question, though, there are a number of questions here. And one of them is for the media. The media has not performed any of its basic vetting responsibilities. Both Trump’s protofascism, and I would add to that–another thing I’ve never accused anyone of–is emotional instability. This is truly a person who’s obviously bedeviled with a narcissistic character disorder. He has almost no impulse control. This really is a person who doesn’t belong in high public office, let alone as president of the United States. And then thirdly, his whole life narrative is really a fraud. This isn’t the kind of businessman that people admire. He inherited all of his money, he doesn’t pay his taxes. He’s been exporting jobs all of his life. You parse every piece of this, he’s virtually given nothing to charity. He lived his life at the intersection of business and politics, buying access he criticizes others for selling. This is such a fraud. And in both cases, for he and Clinton, the judiciary did all the vetting. The FBI vetted Clinton, and the federal court case is the only real vetting of Trump until very late in the game. We need much more discussion of the deep flaws of our candidates from the media, and most of the media that most of the country relies on is no longer capable of it. JAY: Very little history of Hillary Clinton to start with. Yvette, last word to you. CARNELL: Well, I think that–just let me touch on something that your guest just said about fascism and fascist candidates. I think he listed, like, five definng characteristics of fascism. And I would just say that four out of those five I think I found in a lot of other Republican politicians, with the exception of inciting to violence. So the only thing I say, if you want to define Trump, you have to kind of define him as–if you want to define him as a fascist–is let’s not define him as a fascist who comes up out of a bubble, and he’s this–no, he’s a continuation. He’s a continuation of a fascist movement in the Republican Party, if you want to see it that way. He’s not something that just emerges from out of this, out of the aether. That’s not who he is. So I think, in terms of, in terms of Hillary Clinton, here’s what I will say. And in terms of Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump. If Hillary Clinton is going to make a case, Hillary Clinton has to tell me why I should vote for her–I’m not voting for her. But tell the community why we should vote for her, tell the black community, white community, everybody, without mentioning Donald Trump. Can you give me a positive reason to vote for Hillary Clinton without saying Trump would be worse, or Trump is a fascist? If she wants to win, I think she has to make that case, and I haven’t heard it. JAY: All right. Thank you both for joining us. CURRY: Thank you. JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.