After Trump’s Fear and Security Speech, Damage Control at DNC?

Janet Redman and Annabel Park say the Democrats could galvanize support of those left out of the RNC by linking racial justice, economic justice, and the environmental movement

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination last night for president at the convention held in Cleveland, Ohio. He offered something for just about everyone while attacking Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration with dozens of exaggerations and some outright lies. Many media outlets that did fact-checking on his speech found too many inaccuracies for us to go over here, but it’s worth looking up.

I’m now to being joined by Annabel Park and Janet Redmond to discuss his speech and the Republican convention.

Janet Redman is joining me from Washington, D.C. She’s the director of Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies.

And Annabel Park is a documentary filmmaker and the founder of We Want Bernie Sanders, a popular Facebook page. She contributes to Act.TV as a video producer and is wrapping up a feature-length documentary called Story of America.

Annabel, thank you for joining us.

ANNABEL PARK, VIDEO PRODUCER: Thanks for having me.

PERIES: Janet, good to have you back on The Real News.

JANET REDMAN, DIRECTOR, IPS CLIMATE POLICY PROGRAM: Good to be back.

PERIES: So let me first go to both of you to get your first reactions. Let me go to you, Annabel, first.

PARK: I feel like I want to call, like, 911. This is a national emergency. Panic is setting in. I feel like–I’m just shocked at what I’m seeing right now. I’m kind of at a loss right now what to do.

PERIES: What specifically is bothering you?

PARK: I mean, that he, that Donald Trump, who appears to me to be like a con man, to me–that’s how I see him; he’s a showman and a con man–that he would be the nominee for a major party is so shocking to me, and that so many people would actually buy his lie, his story. It’s unbelievable.

PERIES: And Janet, let me go to you for the same.

REDMAN: Yeah. I mean, of course, as someone who cares about climate and the environment, anything about climate or the environment was missing in his speech last night. That’s maybe a good thing, because what he’s had to say about the environment and the climate is mostly denialist and pro-industry, pro-corporation, pro-coal. So maybe it was a good thing.

What I was really struck by–and I don’t know if any of this is new, but just having it all in one hour-and-a-half-long speech, which was a little overwhelming to the senses for me, was just such a push back on law and order: I’m going to be the law and order president. Using terms that I haven’t heard before–“immigration security”, which means security against immigrants coming into our country; “compromised countries”; defeating the barbarians of ISIS; the whole concept of Americanism–we want Americanism, not globalism–for me was so surprising at alarming.

There’s some stuff that I actually agree with, like we shouldn’t be doing nation building, we shouldn’t be involved in regime change in other people’s countries.

But the idea that in his kind of three points around that policy that means that we need to stamp out Islamic terrorism ’cause they’re threatening the LGPDQ community here in the United States and gather more intelligence in America, wow, that was such an interesting bringing together, such a scary bringing together of lots of different people’s concepts. You could really see him knitting together kind of libertarian–you know, grabbing the people who are maybe further to the right but may have gone for Bernie, and grabbing those folks to bring them back into his camp. And that to me is a scary building project, actually.

PERIES: And Annabel, your reaction to what Janet just said.

PARK: Yeah. I think his attempts to appeal to Bernie Sanders supporters offended me at the deepest level, but also frightened me, because I can see how some of that would work–certainly not with me, but the fact that he is critical of TPP and trade policies or neoliberal policies, that would appeal to a lot of Bernie people I know.

PERIES: He mentioned Bernie Sanders a couple of times.

PARK: Yes, he did. He really wants Bernie Sanders people, I can tell.

But yeah. So I think it’s intensely offputting for my sensibility. But at the same time, the things that he said about trade policies and the kind of anti-imperial or isolationist–however you want to put it–I mean, all that stuff could appeal to people.

So I don’t know. It worried me. I don’t know if there’s been a survey of Bernie supporters, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it worked. And I guess that’s the part that really is giving me a lot of pause and things to reflect on is, like, what are we going to do?

PERIES: There was a very conscious effort to appeal to as many of the security apparatus as possible. He called out his support for police officers and just the security that was available, including his own Secret Service people and so on. So there was a real focus on that. And, of course, in that shoutouts he gave, he of course didn’t mention any of the current distress caused by these security forces among the black community and people that are distressed by that. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that, Annabel.

PARK: Yeah. There’s been a lot of talk about Melania plagiarizing Michelle Obama, but I feel like right now Trump is plagiarizing Richard Nixon’s campaign from ’68. And I think it might work. That’s the part that bothers me, this whole talk about law and order and trying to show violence. There was violence at his rallies. There was some violence at the convention or things that looked kind of–ultimate fighting type of stuff, of kind of a mob scene and protesters protesting inside and outside. Like, all that makes people feel agitated, and I feel like he was putting all that on as a show that we need law and order.

And just all that conflict plays into this narrative that he wants to create for what’s happening in America even though the crime rate is down, that he wants people to be scared and that they need a strongman like him to crack down on the hooligans and the criminals. And so it’s 1968 right now.

PERIES: Go ahead, Janet.

REDMAN: [incompr.] and I think that a piece of that, like, the racial dimension of that, is so coded. I don’t think he actually came right out and said race, but he said things like Obama has made the U.S. a dangerous place because the way he talks divides us, he’s using the pulpit to divide our communities, and he’s failed America’s inner cities, which is code words, of course, for African American most of the time and low income. And people in the inner cities are experiencing a lack of education, jobs, and they’re experiencing crime.

But the connection that he makes between violence, I think, as Annabel rightly says, like, he’s been drawing it up and drawing that out. And he’s been linking it with terrorism. So now we’re talking about what’s happening in the streets and the violence against police, which is, I mean, not-that-implicit coding for Black Lives Matter and movement for black lives, and making an implicit link to people who are feeling squeezed and crunched, and we don’t know the motivation, but maybe are feeling like they can’t take the squeeze and crunch from being targeted by police anymore, and calling that terrorism. So he’s put those two words together and framed it in a way that says–in my mind and what he’s communicating very clearly is people who are agitating for the human rights of black people in the United States are functionally terrorists if they’re doing it in a way that is on the streets and makes people feel threatened. Makes you feel threatened? My assumption by looking at the crowd is makes white people feel threatened.

So I think there is a real role for white people, for our white allies to come back and say, OK, we need to start talking about and dismantling the implicit coding that Donald Trump is feeding to the white community. That to me feels really dangerous and really scary and just really fomenting–.

PERIES: The anti-immigrant sentiments, for example–you know, sort of saying all these people from the Middle East coming over are essentially ISIS, according to him, because we’re not screening them properly, when in fact there’s a very intense screening process underway at this time in terms of accepting immigrants from the middle east.

REDMAN: And even saying the immigrants from the southern border. I mean, he really clearly kind of said Obama’s not valuing U.S. lives, ’cause look at a woman who has been murdered by someone who had immigrated illegally, like, really making a connection: there are lives that matter and there are lives that don’t matter, and people who are crossing the border that are not doing it in a legal way don’t have their lives matter, they don’t matter as much as other people do in this country.

PARK: I think it’s dehumanizing rhetoric. You know, he’s dehumanizing people so that they become like a class of people that don’t deserve rights. They’re not even seen as humans.

PERIES: Right. I guess this gives way to your film, titled Story of America [crosstalk] this moment is historic.

Moving on to the environment, Janet, you mentioned earlier that it was good that he didn’t mention it too much. But at the same time, he did talk about reviving and re-energizing the energy sector and putting people from the fossil fuel industry back to work and so on. What did you think of that?

REDMAN: Yeah. I mean, we’ve seen–I don’t know if your audience has been watching, but there are signs that “Trump Digs Coal” and people in hardhats, mining hats.

Pence actually talked about this a lot more in his acceptance of the VP nomination the other night, two nights ago, where he really laid out that we need an all-of-the-above energy strategy, that it’s reflected in the RNC platform, of course, that coal is cheap, it’s abundant, it’s clean, and that it’s the backbone of our economy. Sure we need some wind and solar and some nuclear and all these other kinds of fuels, but that we are talking about being energy independent and in fact exporting energy for the first time.

So this is not a new–I mean, there’s a real interesting thing that has been done, and I think it was an incredible misstep by Hillary, by Clinton in her campaigning, where she said, basically, we’re going to have to close down mines and take away jobs from mineworkers. And the way she said it was callous enough, without a broader framework of saying we need a just transition and a fair transition, and that can only be coupled by putting in place different economic anchors, and that needs to protect particular workers who will lose their particular jobs. Without building that broader framework of what that transition looks like, it played, really, right into the hands of this idea that people who care about the environment and the transition off of fossil fuels, which we know is necessary, even if people don’t like it–I think the majority of folks now in America know this is necessary–he’s playing on the fear that there’s no way to do this without kind of, basically, collapse of an entire sector and a collapse of a job sector. So that’s such a powerful rhetoric that needs to be undone.

PERIES: Right. And Annabel, one of the things that he focused on was really jobs and putting people back to work and conditions of inner cities. And he took a jab at Obama in particular in terms of Chicago. But this kind of talk really resonated with a lot of people out there who are feeling the consequences of the economic downturn over the last few years and losing jobs and so on. But at the same time, there seems to be–you know, amnesia has settled into the audience, because they seem to have forgotten who actually created the great recession that we’re still coming out of.

PARK: Yeah. I think it’s a combination of forgetting what caused the recession, but also that Obama did propose and the Democrats did propose a bunch of job bills that never passed. So this is another strategy of Republicans, conservatives, basically making it impossible for us to govern, and then blaming government and saying government doesn’t work and having people lose faith in government and not seeing that there’s somebody, like, trying to really make it impossible for government to function. So the fact that they’re able to hide the fact that they keep obstructing progress and then still finding ways to blame the victims or blaming people who are trying, it’s unbelievable that people keep falling for this.

But a lot of this is the fault of the media, that they just play along with this. And in some ways, yeah, it’s terrible that Trump uses this rhetoric and the conservatives have been using this rhetoric, but it’s also the fact that the public is not catching on, they’re not seeing how false it is.

PERIES: And so, moving forward to the Democratic Party convention coming up next week, I know tomorrow evening–not tomorrow; Sunday evening, actually, there’s going to be a huge rally, which is an environmental rally being organized by a number of people. What do you think so far? Let me go to you, Janet, first. Given that there was very little addressing of climate change in the Republican Party in order to sort of really galvanize the people around the Democratic Party, what should they be focusing on at the Democratic Party convention that you’d like to see moving forward?

REDMAN: Well, I think there were a couple of interesting statements. I think a lot of folks are thinking about the DNC platform and what was missing there on environment, actually. There were some really good, I think, recommendations made there on the environment around banning fracking, stopping new exploration in public lands and leasing on public lands, some pieces that have been started in parts of the country–New York has banned fracking. Obama did put a coal moratorium on extraction on public lands for new leases on public lands. There have been talks of carbon taxes. There have been a number of different pieces that kind of were suggested for the platform, were taken out, or amendments were given to put pieces back in and those were not accepted.

So I think a piece that people will be looking for and that the Democratic convention would be smart to add in is–again, part of it is bringing along the Bernie folks and saying climate change is the greatest threat to America, the security of the United States. I don’t know that a person like Clinton will make that kind of a statement, unfortunately, but I think that would galvanize a lot of the climate/environment movement. I think taking the links from climate change and really being explicit about climate justice, so who’s being hit first and worst by climate change, can help knit together folks that are fighting what basically Annabel said, the right to be recognized as real human beings and for their lives to be counted as meaningful and real with issues like Flint Michigan and lead showing up in the water in public schools, which is, of course, being seen around the country, largely in low-income neighborhood schools.

So there’s a real opportunity right now to link the economic justice, racial justice, and environmental justice issues that would be really not just clever politically, but would actually help us move forward on these issues and, I think, galvanize a broader audience that is really being left out of the RNC. So that to me feels like a clever place for them to be focusing.

PERIES: And Annabel, let me give you the last word. So, given what we’ve heard at the Republican Party convention, what should the DNC now focus on in moving forward to nail this election?

PARK: Well, I mean, I don’t know, because I right now feel so disappointed in the Democratic Party that I don’t know exactly what they can new to do to do damage control, because I think they have to go into some damage control mode, ’cause they’ve alienated so many people in the Bernie Sanders movement that I don’t know if people are going to actually be persuaded by Donald Trump, but I know a lot of people will probably vote Jill Stein.

And so they need to do damage control. . . . or involve having some sense of–take ownership of what’s happened. You know, the primary was a mess. The neoliberal policies of the Democratic Party is part of the problem here, and that it’s given rise to a demagogue like Donald Trump. I mean, the Democratic Party has not been very effective at creating jobs. I mean, yes, conservatives obstructed a lot of the attempts, but they really have focused on it. I mean, when was the last time Hillary Clinton used the words poor or poverty? I think they need to really focus on these economic issues. Philadelphia is one of the poorest cities in the country by many measures. They need to take stock of the fact that we need to do something about people who are really suffering, who are going off the economic cliff.

And so I would like to see Clinton really get real and address these things instead of just trying to put a shine on Obama’s legacy and just pretending like none of this is the fault of the Democratic Party.

PERIES: That’s true. Honest conversation needs to take place [crosstalk]

PARK: Exactly. That’s what I would like to hear, instead of just this rhetoric and this story that really doesn’t fit with my reality.

PERIES: Yeah. Yeah. And doesn’t sound very genuine when you hear the speaking notes and campaignspeak.

Anyway, I thank you both for joining us and sharing your thoughts with us today, Janet and Annabel. I looking forward to maybe catching up with you guys at the DNC.

REDMAN: Absolutely.

PARK: OK. Bye.

PERIES: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

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