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The Republicans’ Alternate Realities Didn’t Start With Trump

As the nation heads into the 2018 midterm elections, it is important to remember that Donald Trump’s cruelty, crudity, mendacity, and penchant for distempered judges was not created in a vacuum. In the 1994 midterms, Democratic president Bill Clinton was drowned under a red wave. The Republicans captured majorities in both houses of Congress and immediately began attacking Clinton’s centrist agenda. Today, President Trump’s “accomplishments” — a tax cut that disproportionately helps the rich, the negligible federal response to Puerto Rico’s ongoing humanitarian crisis after Hurricane Maria last year, savage immigration tactics, support of the “fine people” who march under swastika flags, insert your favorite attack on civil society here — can be partially traced back to the Congress elected in 1994, which was in turn building on the earlier callousness of presidents George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, all the way back to Calvin “The business of America is business” Coolidge. Although he went to jail for his role in the Watergate crimes, Nixon’s onetime attorney general (and campaign chairman) John Mitchell said, in the summer of 1970, “This country is going so far to the right that you won’t recognize it.” Indeed, his prophesy has been vindicated if we take, as just one example, the fact that a Republican Senate refused to even consider the judge that Barack Obama — a two-term, popularly elected Democratic president — chose for the Supreme Court. We have had one-step-forward, two-steps-back progress in America for decades now, due to the GOP’s mendacious machinations, and, with its unwavering support of Donald Trump, the nation has entered uncharted territory, which only gets bleaker the further the president and his enablers drag us into it.

In its January 10, 1995, issue, the Voice published a dozen-page special section exposing those earlier GOP policies that helped lay the groundwork for what has become the Darkness at Noon landscape of Trump’s presidency.

First, from that week’s contents page, we get a rogues’ gallery of the neutered Democrats and right-wing ideologues and con men who were leading the GOP’s slash-and-burn ethos.

1) Pat Robinson: Elfin evangelical demagogue; now a vocal Trump supporter

2) George Pataki: Callous “Empty Suit” governor of New York, 1995–2006. In 2016 he said, “I think Donald Trump would drive the Republicans off a cliff if he’s our nominee.” Was floated as possible ambassador to Hungary; still awaiting call from his president.

3) William Bennett: Pedantic, anti–public education secretary of education. In 1993 he wrote The Book of Virtues; in 2016 he threw it out to support Trump.

4 & 5) Two Hollywood actors from long ago — starred in an idealized movie the GOP views as template for the handling of unruly children

6) Oliver North: Bagman for murderous South American counterrevolutionaries; now president of the National Rifle Association

7) Marilyn Quayle: The brains of the family (see #23)

8) Rush Limbaugh: Rotund forefather of Infowars. On-air bloviator since he was 16, in 1967.

9) Pat Buchanan: Onetime Nixon speechwriter, political godfather of Trumpism; vocal supporter of the POTUS

10) Arnold Schwarzenegger: Muscles-for-brains governor of California (2003–11); married into Kennedy clan — it didn’t work out. Likens GOP under Trump to the Titanic, though rest of his party is hell-bent on melting all the world’s icebergs.

11) VJ Kennedy (no relation): Used to be on MTV; now on Fox Business Network

12) Clarence Thomas: Supreme Court justice who mocks Thurgood Marshall’s soaring achievements every time he gets out of bed

13) Tom Foley: Former Democratic Speaker of the House; drowned in 1994 Red Wave, first Speaker to lose re-election bid in more than a century. Died 2013.

14) Mario Cuomo: Vacillating Democratic New York governor (1983–94) who died in 2015, and is best remembered now for having a bridge named after him

15) Bill Clinton: Democratic POTUS who was at least better than having George H.W. Bush, Ross Perot, or Bob Dole as president from 1993 to 2001

16) Dan Rostenkowski: Democratic virtuoso of the pork barrel. In 1996 was sentenced to seventeen months in prison after involvement in a mail fraud scandal; pardoned by #15 in 2000.

17) Jesse Helms: Unabashed racist senator from North Carolina who fought against voting rights for minorities at every turn; cultural warrior who decried Robert Mapplethorpe’s homoerotic pictures: “The news media’s intellectual dishonesty in calling this perverse, filthy, and revolting garbage, calling it art does not make it art.” Died 2008.

18) Bob Dole: Wounded vet, U.S. senator from Kansas; last Republican on national scene with genuine sense of humor. Supported current president by saying, in 2016, “What am I going to do? I can’t vote for George Washington.”

19) Newt Gingrich: GOP Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999, apparently named for an ingredient in a witch’s brew — his policy proposals were unrelentingly toxic. Now a rabid Trump booster.

20) Al D’Amato: Republican senator from New York (1981–99) known for fixing potholes and putting the fix into any progressive legislation. Supports Trump, but lightly admonishes the POTUS to “think, don’t tweet.”

21) Mary Matalin: Republican operative famously married to Democratic operative James Carville. Claims they never talk politics at home. Changed her party registration to Libertarian in 2016.

22) Arianna Huffington: Wealthy former wife of former Republican congressman. Proof that people can change for the better.

23) Dan Quayle: Handsome trust fund–supported Indiana senator 1981–89, vice president 1989–93; very poor speller

24) Calvin Coolidge: President from 1923 to 1929. Forget ideals and compassion — America’s raison d’être is turning a profit.

On the opening page of the Voice‘s special section, Richard Goldstein reports on Newt Gingrich’s vision for America: “The Republican revolution isn’t just a shift in the way government does business. It’s a transformation in the way people feel. It begins with permission to be indifferent to the needy.” Simply substitute “antagonistic” for “indifferent” and we get a sense today of just how successful the GOP has been in shifting the norm in America from caring for one’s fellow man to every man for himself, each armed with a Glock on his hip. Goldstein’s opener previews the articles to follow and exhorts the resistance of 1995: “This is no time to go gentle into that Newt night. Better to stand out on the highway, flagging down cars if you must, to shout out a warning. Even at the risk of seeming ridiculous, or dangerous, or deviant. Stand up and say, ‘They’re heeeere!’ ”

In the next piece, longtime film critic J. Hoberman tried to determine why Bill Clinton, elected in 1992, was being eclipsed in the media by Speaker-to-be Newt Gingrich, speculating that it was because “the architect of Republican victory stormed the zeitgeist machine — superseding even O.J. Simpson as the object of The New Yorker’s fascination.” Hoberman asks questions that resonate morbidly in our own violent moment: “Did the Maryland kamikaze who crashed his light plane onto the White House lawn hear voices in his brain? Or was he just monitoring Rush on the headset? What about Martin Duran, the 26-year-old ex-GI with a prior history of racial and homophobic violence, who — less than a week before the election — sprayed the White House and its press room with a 29-shot round from an automatic assault rifle. What was his frequency, Kenneth?”

Also on those pages, theater critic Michael Feingold puts on his vestments to instruct children in truly Christian prayers to counter the Republicans’ blasphemies: “Restore our welfare system, that it may feed the starving among us. For thou hast said, ‘Give to him that asketh thee,’ yet our wealthy refuse to give, and call judgment down upon the poor where thou has said, ‘Judge not.’ Knowing that thou lovest charity above all earthly deeds, we pray for the greedy and the selfish of our Republican party, that they may learn to see by thy light, which so many of them falsely claim to be their guide.”

Next, Voice Washington correspondent James Ridgeway exposes the GOP blueprint of greed, and today’s readers might be forgiven in thinking that they have fallen into a far-right time warp: “Make no mistake. The goal of the Republican revolution is to dismantle government as we know it…[and to] speed up executions, bundle all social-welfare programs in block grants and send them back to the states, and move forward with privatization of the Social Security system.”

In “The New Poor Laws,” contributor Robert Fitch spells out “How Mr. Gingrich brought back Tiny Tim”: “The idea that the dependent poor could be transformed once again into quasi-criminals hardly seems far-fetched anymore. The punitive and ascetic 1990s already resemble the 1890s more than the comparatively liberal 1970s, when the dominant idea of welfare reform was to give every American a guaranteed income. That was Richard Nixon’s plan!” Fitch also points out another parallel from then to now: “Rudolph Giuliani’s criminalization of squeegee men and beggars outside the ATMs ominously reprises the furious campaigns against begging and vagrancy that began in the 1870s. The battle reached a peak in 1911, when the state legislature, at the behest of New York City COS [Charity Organization Society], passed a law that created upstate prison camps for city beggars.”

And finally, we get music critic Ann Powers musing on the personal as political: “I tried to make fun of fundamentalists, but ended up retreating into the dislocated feeling I’d first experienced way back when I was 20 and nobody I knew elected Ronald Reagan. My country, their revolution: here it came again, supposedly the spawn of a Middle America I couldn’t see in my kind, tolerant, working-class Wisconsin cousins, or in my freedom-loving Northwest family, all middle class and raised religious, with different opinions about abortion and the welfare state, but none of them this inhumane or this foolhardy.”

 

 

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All the Disquiet on the Midwestern Front

When the results of the 2016 presidential election were confirmed seventeen months ago, political polls, the vast majority of journalists and news outlets, and conventional wisdom in America were proved wrong. But Sarah Kendzior, a journalist based in St. Louis, told me she “did think Trump would win.” With a Ph.D. in anthropology and an M.A. in Central Eurasian studies, she had been studying authoritarianism in Central Asia and noticed troubling links between the forces that had brought these regimes into power in other parts of the world and what was happening in America — how Trump, against expectations, was rising to power. Trump’s mission to control the press and persecute minorities, his secrecy when it came to personal finances, and his bravado were “standard characteristics of dictatorship,” she wrote in the Diplomat. And in countries with huge economic inequalities, as Kendzior believed America should be viewed, these kinds of leaders were rising to power.

Kendzior’s new collection, The View From Flyover Country: Dispatches From the Forgotten America, includes essays published between 2012 and 2014 for Al Jazeera, with a new introduction and epilogue. It’s a call to arms, highlighting the struggles of disenfranchised, overworked, and underpaid Americans, and urging our elected officials to recognize and address the inequalities that have become even more pronounced since when she originally wrote the essays.

I met Kendzior in a coffee shop in St. Louis and asked her to explain her thoughts on what Americans deserve to hear from James Comey, the myth of a strong economy, St. Louis post-Ferguson, and other topics. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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“Flyover country,” from your book’s title, is based on one of your essays. What do you think about that term and what it represents?

I wrote it as a rejoinder to that phrase being used in a pejorative way. Because I write about national and international affairs from St. Louis, people do this kind of double take — [they] assume that we can’t possibly have an investment in what’s going on nationally, [or] be aware [or] as qualified. There’s been this conglomeration of journalism on the coast that has left not just the Midwest, but also the South and the Southwest — basically, most areas of the U.S. — undercovered and underrepresented. I don’t like to give “flyover country” or “middle America” some kind of particular characterization, where there’s a prototype, some sort of typical person that would represent it. What people miss the most when they look at our region is the diversity. There are people from different demographics, different races, different political opinions. The biggest divide is often between cities and rural areas.

How does this perception about the stereotypical person from flyover country shape the way that part of the country is reported on?

The New York Times literally finds a man on the street and interviews the same man over and over. Before the election, the majority of the media did not predict that Trump would win. I did think Trump would win. As a result, there’s all this interest in all the states that voted for Trump. And in order to fill this narrative, they needed to come out and find the most stereotypical representative of a Trump voter. And I don’t even think they’re getting that right. They’re looking for a very angry, usually elderly, white male manufacturing worker. Somebody who fits that profile.

But when I was covering the election, I noticed a huge difference between the Trump fans who went to the rallies, who were very fired up, very into him, who found his bigotry and xenophobia attractive, and most voters I talked to, who were disillusioned, ambivalent — who tended to shrug their shoulders and say, “I might not vote,” or, “I guess I’ll vote for him, I’ve always voted GOP,” or, “I’m pro-life and that’s my issue.” There are all of these nuances. That’s not to defend voting for Trump, because I think when you do vote for Trump, you’re overlooking the fact that he’s threatening a sizable portion of our nation. He’s an anti-democratic candidate.

A fixture of your reporting is economic inequality — you write about the way that low-wage workers, like fast-food workers in St. Louis, are often unable to escape poverty, for example, or the way that adjunct professors are not making a living wage. How much did economics play into the Trump victory?

It played a role, but the thing to realize is that economics played a role for every voter. One of the things that does distinguish us as a region, if you are going to generalize about flyover country, is economic despair. The fact is that so many new technological industries are conglomerated in these very expensive coastal hubs, and we really don’t have the thriving economy. The Great Recession never ended for us. That did lead some white, male Trump voters to be angry, to believe him when he promised economic revival. But the majority of downtrodden voters in the U.S. are women, are nonwhite workers, are people working in the service industries, people working in places like Walmart. That is the future of the low-wage worker.

There have been labor movements fighting for those rights. That’s not really covered as much as industries like mining, which have been declining for thirty to forty years. I wish the media paid more attention to that trend. Trump put out this mythology that it’s immigration that’s causing job loss when, in reality, it’s automation. People are right to be upset. They’re right to be upset that their wages are low. But they’re blaming the wrong target.

When part of Comey’s memoir (out last week) leaked, Trump had a fit, saying Comey is a “slimeball” and should be put in jail (among other things). You’ve been critical of Comey — what do you think the American people deserve from him?

Comey has finally re-emerged. He did testify in the hearings. He did a good job in that capacity. What concerns me is these questions that have remained unanswered. He’s going to be a target for Trump anyway, but the fact that this is coming out in a book tour, that that’s how you access information about national security issues from a very important figure, is troubling.

The questions I want him to answer are: Why did he dismiss Harry Reid’s letters? Harry Reid said: “Russia is working with Trump, they’re probably going to falsify our election results, you’ve been looking into this for a long time, the public has a right to this information, you need to inform the public.” And [Reid] said that in August. And [Comey] did not inform the public. Then Comey had that fatuous Hillary Clinton investigation letter and Harry Reid again addressed him in a very condemning letter. He said: “I thought you were an honorable public servant, and you’re not. And you need to address this now.”

That was a week before the election. At that point, as Reid pointed out, this information was in the public domain. There’s this idea that somehow after the election we all found out about Trump and Russia — that’s simply not the case. Malcolm Nance had a book out in October. This was information that was culled from easily available sources if you bothered to look. It was strenuously denied by the New York Times, which published an article saying that there was no connection. If I were Comey and I saw that piece, I’d be concerned. I’d say, “That’s a real misrepresentation of what’s happening at my bureau — I need to issue a statement to correct that, because the American people are about to vote next week, and they’re going to vote on false pretenses.” I’m really concerned. If he thinks that integrity is a quality we need to cultivate in a society, then why not act with it?

St. Louis was at the center of attention after the shooting of Michael Brown — a black, unarmed teenager — in 2014. What’s happened in the city since then?

That’s been an awful thing. I covered that from the beginning, but I had trouble writing about it because I was personally connected to people protesting and very upset about what was happening. I had covered North County, where Ferguson is, beforehand. I struggled to get articles out about it, and ended up self-publishing one that I did. But I’m glad I did, because it did provide the history of the region, including racial strife and racial segregation. The migration of poor blacks out of North City, into North County, and the troubles they faced. This was mostly on fast-food workers, but most of them lived in Ferguson. Then we had the “uprising,” as people referred to it here, the teargassing and the protests.

We’ve had basically no reforms. The mayor of Ferguson is the same. It took the DOJ saying, “Yes, this is a structural racism problem” that caused them to change some of their ticketing practices. One thing that was troubling is that a lot of people who were not from St. Louis came to represent Ferguson. Some of them had good intentions, but they were raising money, collecting resources, for a greater protest movement. None of that went to the black people from St. Louis who rose up from the beginning and who were doing the work that went on night after night. People thought, “There’s a protest in August, there’s a protest in October,” but there was one every night for months. People lost their jobs, people lost their wages. We ended up with nothing, while a lot of people made a handsome profit.

There’s no St. Louis chapter of Black Lives Matter for that reason. Many feel that Black Lives Matter exploited the situation, whether they intended to or not, and left with the money. I have friends who were Ferguson protesters who are struggling to get back on their feet. I had to post a GoFundMe for a good friend of mine a couple of weeks ago because she cannot pay her bills. It’s a serious problem. These are people who are borderline homeless. While it may be glamorized in the media, people pay a real price here. People associate them with this movement, which a lot of racist white people in St. Louis see as a violent movement — which it wasn’t — and they don’t want to hire them. People paid a high cost for very little result.

People are demoralized, people have PTSD, and very little has changed in terms of racism. Except that racism is emboldened by Trump’s win and the more militant factions — the Oath Keepers and the KKK and the extremists that were also drawn into Ferguson — are also emboldened, and have been threatening Ferguson protestors for years.

You’ve spent years studying authoritarian regimes — specifically, the dictatorships of former Soviet Central Asia: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. How easily could we crumble into an authoritarian regime?

We’ve been witnessing an erosion of democracy from the time Trump came into office. And the way Trump came into office was already from weakened institutions. It’s not like Trump arrived and abruptly everything shifted — although it did accelerate quite a bit. But political institutions, economic stability, the media as an industry, all these things, the erosion and collapse of them, which basically started in 2008 but you also have to throw in the fact that we had two wars — our country was weakened, and it was ripe for a demagogue. And you add in the foreign interference element, which is basically a criminal element, a mafia element, and you’ve got an unparalleled situation.

A lot of former democracies have been going down this road in the last five years. You see this in Poland, in Turkey, in Hungary — really narrow misses in Austria and France. And, of course, Brexit. Nobody is immune. You see Russian influence in a lot of these countries as well. But that’s because the Russian government, the oligarchs and mafia, which are basically a connected entity, realize that these countries are ripe for the picking. The GOP is either complicit or they’re intimidated into silence.

When you’re dealing with an eroded social safety net, which is a prerogative of the GOP, especially under Trump, it’s hard to make daily ends meet, much less try to guard your democracy.

Some of your essays about economic disparity were written in 2013 and 2014. Now, four years later, Trump has declared our economy “strong” again. Has much changed?

All that’s changed is the party that rules us, in name only. When I see polls where people who thought the economy was bad under Obama and now think it’s good, or vice versa, I’m baffled. I thought the economy was terrible under Obama, I think it continues to be terrible under Trump. I think the effect of it is worse under Trump, because they’re trying to strip away the social safety net so that people who are unemployed or don’t have money are less likely to get healthcare, less likely to get any federal or state aid.

The main problem is not unemployment but underemployment and temp jobs and a lack of benefits. All of that makes the cost of living so high that even if you are employed, it’s difficult to pay your bills, if you’re shelling out a lot for private health insurance. The cost of housing has gone up, especially in coastal cities. People come to a place like St. Louis because you can actually afford to live here. That’s a central reason I’m here. I’m not going to pay $3,000 a month to live in a closet with my two children. That’s freaking nuts. So I think the economy is in bad shape.

And leaders inherit situations from their predecessors.

Right! Obama inherited the worst pile of shit any president inherited. He gets two wars, a massive recession that’s the worst since the Great Depression, and a racist, hyper-partisan GOP Congress, which he has to battle tooth and nail to pass any initiative. Don’t get me wrong — I think Obama messed up a lot. I think his foreign policy, especially, is a mess. I’m really pissed off about how they handled the Russia stuff. He obviously should’ve been on top of that. But he had an uphill battle and he didn’t create these problems. He was not entirely successful in solving them, but at least he had an interest in solving them — instead of exacerbating them, which is Trump’s blatant interest. He does not pretend, and neither does most of the GOP. Paul Ryan may slink away, but he was blatant in his childhood dream of starving poor people to death. We all knew what he was about.

You believe that companies like Walmart use “charity” as a guise to cover up the fact that they’re not paying workers a living wage. How is this happening?

The examples I brought out were of companies having charity drives for their own employees, [whom] they were underpaying. It’s this way of seeming generous but does nothing to address the structural issues. It can be harmful. I don’t begrudge anyone who donates to charity — but they need to look at the big picture. What happens when the camera goes away? We need a structural change in how workers are compensated and treated. In order for that to happen, you need to get very honest and real about the problem at hand. And what exactly these companies are doing.

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And in St. Louis, the minimum wage actually dropped from $10 to $7.70.

The fast-food workers movement — St. Louis was the third city in the country to have that. They had a very active protest group and they worked very hard to raise that wage. When it finally passed, it was a rare positive victory for people in St. Louis. But the state legislature, as soon as it was a GOP-dominated legislature, smacked it back down. There are businesses in St. Louis that refuse to follow that, that are keeping the minimum wage at $10 an hour because they believe in it. And because it’s traumatic for people who have been working, and got something closer to a living wage than what they had before, to have to go back to that lifestyle of deprivation.

Missouri under [Governor Eric] Greitens and under this legislature has had a crazy run. Women can get fired if their bosses know they’re on birth control. The NAACP issued a travel alert for black people going through Missouri because it’s too dangerous to travel. All of these unthinkable things that people say won’t happen under Trump — I’m saying, “They’re already happening where I live!”

You’ve been critical of higher education — the fact that Ph.D.’s can end up as cab drivers and fast-food workers. But you also say that you lose both ways — that those without a degree have even fewer choices. Should people still get higher degrees?

I’m thinking about this myself. I have a daughter who will be college age in seven years. A college degree does not guarantee you a job by any means. It does generally guarantee you a massive amount of debt. The thing is, the absence of a college degree means you’re relegated to the lowest tier of employment where you’re going to be making minimum wage. It’s just a bad bargain. I think credentialism is a huge problem. I wish credentials were not required for all these jobs that didn’t require them ten, twenty, thirty years ago. I have a lot of friends who didn’t go to college, and they’re basically locked out of any kind of intellectual work because of this. Even if they’re very talented, people will not even give their work a chance. I think with my wallet. It’s not a matter of decision, it’s a matter of reaction. When you don’t have money, you just do what you can to get by. That’s how most people live their lives. It’s not a luxurious array of choices that is out in front of us.

Another thing I’m worried about is that the quality of higher education has declined. I have a Ph.D., I’ve seen it from the inside. I think most adjuncts and TAs mean to be good professors. If they were given proper resources, they all would be. But you’ve got people teaching seven courses in a semester, running all over the place to scrape together an annual income of maybe $20,000 to $25,000, and they can’t survive on that in a big city — if they’re in New York or something. You get a lower quality. I keep thinking, “Do I wanna pay for this? For my child? To be taught by some harried, rushed professor?”

You also highlight the fact that when higher education is closed off to people who can’t really afford it, there will be detrimental effects on creative output and public discourse.

Oh, absolutely. I think we have a false meritocracy. You see it in our political system. You see it in our media. People are buying degrees. If you come from family wealth, you’re much more likely to enter this realm of prestigious institutions that charge more than the annual household income. And again, this conglomeration in very expensive cities is a problem as well because the expectation is that you’ll do unpaid labor for a corporation that can afford to pay you.

In prestigious industries that have real influence on political life, on social welfare, on all these things that affect the majority of the country, you’ve got the most privileged and kind of out-of-touch people working in those positions. It’s going to have an impact. It’s not necessarily a critique of the person who takes them because they’re just trying to get into their field or whatever, but it is a critique of the companies and government employers that don’t pay people. And it’s become a weird expectation. People have started to think, “This is normal,” and I’m just like, “This is absolutely not normal.” This is exploitative. This is unacceptable, and the longer you go on pretending it’s normal, the more it’ll be kind of enshrined as, “This is just the way it is.”

And so what I was trying to do with all these essays is kind of wake people up into saying, “No. It doesn’t have to be this way, and it’s immoral for it to be this way.”

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It Takes a Child to Raise a Village

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Trump’s Least Dignified Apparatchik Survives Again

Back in February, before Passover and the “Holocaust centers,” less than three weeks after the inauguration, the press was already reporting that the president could be looking for a new spokesman.

“A longtime Republican operative, Sean Spicer is a close ally of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus,” CNN’s Jim Acosta observed before lining up an anonymous source to confirm to him that “Trump is upset with Priebus over the selection of Spicer for arguably the administration’s most visible position, next to the president.”

By that time, we’d already gotten the travel “not ban” ban and Melissa McCarthy’s withering impersonation of “Spicey.” Impromptu cellphone searches of Spicer’s staff came later that month. Despite all this, Sean Spicer is still there, still the president’s spokesman, still taking the podium. What gives?

Acosta did have it right that Spicer is an ally of Priebus. In fact, while Spicer may be new to the television audience, when he came in he was already familiar to the press, having become the chief spokesman for the Republican National Committee back in 2011. Most reporters who worked with him will tell you it’s not that hard to get him on the phone, or to get him to answer questions. The only problem was he was sure to call and yell about the piece afterward.

That, in capsule, decodes Spicer’s resilience as a press spokesman: In a White House that has made beating up the fourth estate official policy, Spicer, along with a number of other press officers and anonymous officials, gives reporters what they need (the getting on the phone part) while giving his bosses what they want (the yelling part).

Last week offered less headline-grabbing but more illustrative moments than just the Holocaust mess. It saw several stunning reversals of key policy positions Trump had advanced during his campaign. What might have been a short, newsless week was anything but for Spicer, even if the whole Assad-Hitler thing had never happened.

After bashing NATO on the campaign trail and giving agita to European allies, Trump changed his tune. “I said it was obsolete,” he said during a visit from NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg. “It’s no longer obsolete.”

Here’s how that played out in the press room: “I think, respectfully, I think you can look at what you’re referring to as a shift in a lot of ways,” Spicer told the press corps. “And by that I mean I saw a couple instances with respect to NATO being one of those shifts, and if you look at what’s happened, it’s those entities or individuals in some cases or issues evolving toward the president’s position.”

Writing about Spicer’s rhetorical gymnastics in the Atlantic, David A. Graham asks what the role of a presidential spokesman could possibly be: It is, he offers, “surely to defend whatever the president says his policy is right now. If even his own spokesman can’t understand and explain that, how is anyone else to do so?”

The answer is: Nobody can. But how many people can stand at a podium and tell the world that our president’s positions never change — it’s the rest of the world that changes?

The fact is, the White House press briefing is important not so much for whatever new information might emerge from it. Serious reporters save their questions for the seemingly endless parade of off-the-record interviews White House insiders are giving about everything from the president’s TV-watching habits to deep policy divides to infighting among rival camps in the West Wing. The briefing is more like a formal record of what the administration’s official line is on any given major topic at any given moment.

So what happens when there is no official position? Or the official position is self-contradictory? You get a spokesman unsuccessfully trying to navigate to the end of a briefing with whatever self-respect he can muster, and answers bizarre enough that they liberate the press corps from having to take them seriously.

The president switches his position overnight, Spicer gives his non-explanation. Reporters can write their dispatches on the NATO meeting and Trump’s “evolution” (i.e., flip-flop) without worrying that they need to seriously account for Spicer’s comments. McCarthy then makes fun of it all on Saturday Night Live.

Even the president gets what he requires, and why should he want more? A president who won with a campaign that was impervious to facts and dismissive of expert knowledge doesn’t really need a spokesman who will correct the image of a White House that runs on the same principles. No, he needs a spokesman who will amplify the blustering confidence of the president. Which Spicer does, at great cost to his own dignity.

It almost seems like we get each other now, the press and Spicer. In a weird kind of way, it’s working just fine.

By the time McCarthy returned on Saturday, it was almost difficult not to feel bad for the guy.

“Y’all got your wish this week, didn’t you, huh? Spicey finally made a mistake,” McCarthy’s Spicer, “sweating my Easter eggs off” in a giant bunny suit, tells the briefing room. After stumbling through the rest of the thing, bathed in that characteristic flop sweat, he makes his way back to the topic of the “Holocaust centers” and that famous dictator he’d awkwardly compared to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

“I am sensitive to the fact that they were sent there on trains, but hey, at least they didn’t have to fly United, am I right?”

Instantly he looks down, shaking his head and muttering, almost to himself, “Hunh, dang. That one jumped — that one just jumped right out of me.”

 

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Turning Off and Tuning Out on Top of the World

Jesse Israel, 32, who has already gone through a few incarnations in New York, including managing the popular band MGMT while still a sophomore at NYU, began suffering from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks in his early twenties.

“I was having an identity crisis,” he said on Sunday, a few hours before eleven hundred people showed up to 1 World Trade Center for his event, “the first ever mass meditation atop the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.” Tickets were $45 a pop.

Israel, a Vedic meditation practitioner and the founder of the Big Quiet, a New York–based meditation group that organizes “massive meditations for modern people,” told the Voice that “we are having a loneliness epidemic.”

After leaving his music management gig and finding himself feeling increasingly isolated, Israel concentrated his efforts on the “BQ.”

“It’s probably the first time in history that whether you live in the city or a suburb, you can sit right next to people and feel totally disconnected from them,” he said.

While the event isn’t religiously affiliated, organizers want the Big Quiet to probe issues of spirituality and digital “cordoning off” by bringing people together in a sort of “be-in” throwback. Their events feature hip partnerships and good music — Sunday’s included classical violinist Jenavieve Varga and live DJs.

Rachel Perrie, a punchy fourteen-year-old who wants to be a singer in musical theater, was the very first in line, waiting with her mother to brave the elevator that would take her to the ear-popping 102nd floor of One World Observatory. “I need my mind off,” she explained.

In keeping with the times, the ticket also included a take-home meditation cushion from Kit and Ace and a salad from Sweetgreen. “Where does dinner fit in to meditation?” one participant wondered. As it turned out, right before the om-ing, when participants were encouraged to connect and “network” before they turned off their cellphones and closed their eyes.

Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali from the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding both said a few words. The group’s mission is “to reduce tensions among diverse racial and ethnic communities.” Rabbi Schneier decried the Trump administration’s decision to declare “open season” on Muslims, and compared the current climate to the ninth biblical plague, “the plague of darkness, a darkness that affected the heart…when we do not see one another and do not care for one another.”

The meditators, sitting in lotus position on their cushions, were then instructed to breathe in deep to the sound of new-age drums and bells — and the occasional electronic chime from a cellphone. Moments after the doula guide, Latham Thomas, told us to “listen to your heart” and let go, there was a prominent “Sorry” from Siri heard in the audience. Later, we were instructed to “Sigh it all out together.”

At the end, Israel took the stage and asked for a moment of silence for all the people killed on the site. He suggested our meditation was working: “The planet can feel it.”

As we came to, the mostly twenty- and thirtysomethings turned to one another and reflected on the experience.

“We are all leading digital lives — it can be scary spending time with yourself,” said Ali Salem, 33, a business analyst at Morgan Stanley. He was there with a friend, Mathew Shurka, 28, who said others had bailed on the event when they learned they had to shut off their phones during the 48-minute session.

“Today we have to pay to remove ourselves and be quiet,” said Jake Sargent, 29, an entrepreneur focused on sustainable design.

“Who doesn’t want to meditate on top of the World Trade Center?” said Andre Torquato, 23, an actor training as a yoga instructor at Sky Ting. Torquato recalled coming home from school in Brazil when 9-11 happened. “The day the whole world changed,” he said. “I hope some of the energy we create goes down through the floors.”

 

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Trump’s Assault On NYC’s Social Safety Net Begins With $35 Million Cut To NYCHA

The federal government has slashed $35 million from NYCHA’s budget, immediately imperiling the city’s already unsteady public housing authority, which has only recently begun to take steps towards a financial recovery following years of neglect from Washington. These cuts are taking place even before the nation’s Republican-controlled government begins to iron out a budget which will certainly see even deeper cuts to the social safety net, including public housing and Section 8 vouchers.

NYCHA says that the cuts include $27.7 million in operating funds, and 7.7 million for section 8 vouchers.

“This fits right into the right-wing conservative vision of dismantling the urban safety net, at the heart of which is public housing,” said City Councilmember Ritchie Torres, the chair of the Committee on Public Housing. “This represents the first salvo in Donald Trump’s war on public housing, on the poor, and his war on New York City.”

Torres told the Voice that the budget cuts were made when HUD “manipulated” the formula that allocates already-budgeted funds to NYCHA, that he was briefed on the cuts a week ago. He says the cuts will bite into NYCHA’s current budget immediately.

“This is going to destabilize the operations of an unstable public housing authority. NYCHA has been so savagely starved of operating capital funding, that it cannot afford to absorb a new level of budget cuts,” Torres said. “It was on a precipice before Donald Trump. Donald Trump will now throw it off the precipice.”

In a statement, Scott Stringer, the city’s comptroller, said “And so it begins. We all have long known that leadership in Washington seeks to shred the social safety net by slashing funding for those who need it most…Now, it’s happening — and it’s starting with NYCHA. The White House is actively targeting our most vulnerable citizens. It’s wrong.”

As of 2015, the authority had already posted a staggering capital debt of $17.1 billion. In response, the de Blasio administration launched its NextGen Neighborhoods program, which sought to sell off underutilized land owned by NYCHA for market-rate and affordable development. That plan has already met fierce resistance from NYCHA tenants who believe the program won’t come close to filling NYCHA’s budget gaps, while, in turn, speeding up gentrification of the surrounding neighborhoods.

In the short term, Torres feels that NYCHA can hand over more responsibilities, like sanitation and sidewalk repairs, to the city government, helping to alleviate its financial burdens. But even then, he admits, “there’s no magic bullet.”

“Infill and NextGen faces fierce resistance from tenants already,” Torres said. “I’m skeptical that it would generate the revenue that it promises. It’s a one-time infusion. It’s a marginal improvement, but hardly the future.”

NYCHA is already bracing for more cuts once the budget process plays out in Washington, but with city services sure to be slashed across the board, there might not be enough money to plug the gap that HUD has already blown.

Over the first fifty days of his presidency, Donald Trump has cost taxpayers $56.6 million to protect Trump Tower in Manhattan, as well as over $3 million for every trip he takes down to Mar-a-Lago for weekends.

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“Women Are At A Breaking Point”: The International Women’s Strike Is Tomorrow

Thousands of women across the United States and abroad are expected to go on strike tomorrow, building off a storied tradition of women getting shit done.

Organized by the International Women’s Strike, the strike will include women withholding paid and unpaid labor, abstaining from gendered housework such as childcare, or, for some, simply wearing red in solidarity. IWS’ strike is happening in tandem with A Day Without a Woman, a sister event organized by the women behind January’s mammoth Women’s March. That event has also called for participants to avoid spending money at businesses, with exceptions for small, women and minority-owned businesses. At least one school district in Virginia has preemptively canceled classes for Wednesday after over 300 teachers indicated that they would not be coming to work.

“Women’s outrage has been catalyzed by Trump, but the factors that have been making women’s lives hard predate him,” said Sarah Leonard, a senior editor at The Nation and member of the IWS national planning committee. “We’ve seen falling wages at the same time the safety net is shredded. Women have to do more work outside the home and more care work inside the home. Women are at a breaking point [and] are not willing to be shock absorbers of bad policy.”

The effort was inspired by a series of women’s strikes in places like Poland, where thousands went on strike in Warsaw last October to protest an abortion ban (days later, legislators rejected the plan) and in Argentina, where hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets in protest of “femicide,” the murder of a woman because of her sex. Here at home, three black women started the Black Lives Matter movement, a force of organized dissent that protests, among other things, the deaths of unarmed black men and women at the hands of American police officers.

IWS’ platform emphasizes intersectionality (a focus some critics said the Women’s March lacked) and demands an end to state and personal gender violence and the protection of reproductive rights for all women, including transgender women (under threat by Republicans’ Affordable Care Act replacement bill, announced yesterday, which would defund Planned Parenthood). They are also calling for a restructuring of the American social safety net — specifically universal healthcare and continued social security benefits. While tomorrow’s strike was organized independently of the Women’s March, Leonard said that the lessons of diversity were important for any collective action interested in resisting Trump.

“What we’re trying to build is a coalition that looks like the women of this country and is led by people most affected by current, terrifying policy,” she said.

Still, the strike has already been criticized for supposedly excluding all but the most financially privileged women who can afford to miss work, or those who can hand off their domestic duties to someone else. But Leonard cites a history of marginalized working women banding together to demand higher wages and basic labor rights as their model, and pointed to a broad definition of a strike as a workaround for those who cannot or don’t want to walk off the job.

“Working women of color, immigrant women, are calling on you to strike in whatever way you can. Saying no to that call is a privilege,” said Leonard. “You don’t just strike because something affects you personally, you strike because other people are asking you to join them and that’s what is happening here.”

She added: “I would like to know if someone who said that has offered to watch anybody’s kids…talk to National Domestic Workers United and ask if striking is a privilege. Ask if restaurant workers are privileged.”

Calls for strikes in the U.S. have increased since the election of Donald Trump. Grassroots organizers attempted a general strike — rare in America — on February 17.

In New York City, over a dozen strike actions have been organized for tomorrow by various groups, including legal workshops, lectures on economics, women in film and organizing, sign-making parties—even self-defense classes. There will be rallies at 12:30p.m., at the CUNY Graduate Center, at 3:00p.m. at Columbia’s Low Library, and the main event will begin at 6:00p.m. in Washington Square Park.

The strike has also garnered support from a host of immigrant, activist, legal, religious, and cultural organizations, as well as traditional labor unions including the Movement of Rank and File Educators, a caucus within the United Federation of Teachers, the New York State Nurses Association, and the SEIU Lavender Caucus.

Leonard says participating in traditional modes of activism, including calling state and national representatives is important. But she is quick to add that “the Democrats are not going to save us from Trump or increasing inequality.”

“Women taking leadership to [fight] bad leaders here and abroad is important because things that affect women then become important to the whole movement itself. History bears that out.”

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The Inspiring Life and Tragic Death of Bakary Darboe, Immigrant From The Bronx

For a brief moment, the tragic demise of a Gambian immigrant named Bakary Darboe was big news.

On February 2, he was murdered in his Bronx apartment building in the Melrose neighborhood under circumstances so horrific that the Daily News shouted from its front page: “MUSCLE MADMAN: Elevator Opens and Hulking Psycho Beats to Death Innocent Dad of Six.”

In the early evening of that Thursday, Darboe, 46, was heading out to night class at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry. Realizing that he’d forgotten his wallet, he took the elevator back to his ninth-floor apartment. On the way back down, the doors opened on the seventh floor, where an addled ex-con named Junal Jordan had been shadowboxing.

Authorities allege that Jordan dragged Darboe into the hallway and beat him to death with his fists and a cellphone, a scene captured on surveillance footage. The two had no prior relationship. Jordan then fled. He was apprehended a few blocks away by police. He faces murder and manslaughter charges.

The crime hit the airwaves at the height of the debate over the White House’s “Muslim ban” executive order, but nobody much noticed that a central aspect of Darboe’s life story was applicable to our historical moment: He was a political refugee from an unstable Muslim-majority country who developed into a model citizen worthy of emulation. Bakary Darboe was the embodiment of an American ideal, a rebuke to Trumpian paranoia about the malign intentions of those fleeing the instability of the old homeland for the possibilities of the New World.

“He was one of those immigrants whose contributions to this country are underestimated,” said Lamin Drammeh, a Gambian in the Bronx who was close to Darboe. “He was an inspirational leader for us. Bakary had a love for this country. He would’ve made a better leader than Donald Trump. That is an indisputable fact.”

In 2004, Darboe, then 34, packed up and fled his home in the West African nation officially known as The Gambia, which was in the grip of the repressive rule of dictator Yahya Jammeh. Darboe, an active member of an opposition political party, was worried he was about to be arrested or killed by the government forces, which was standard procedure for anyone who was thought to pose a threat to Jammeh’s rule.

The New York Daily News Cover the day after Darboe's death.
The New York Daily News Cover the day after Darboe’s death.

By January 2005, he reached New York with a few thousand dollars in his pocket. Living with a cousin in the Bronx, he struggled to find work until he was approved for political asylum in March 2006.

Darboe made a home for himself in the community. He was one of the founders of the Jarra Association for Cooperation and Development – many Gambians in the Bronx are from the Jarra region – and secretary general of the Gambia Islamic Center, the second-floor mosque above a dentist’s office on the Grand Concourse. He initially worked as a security guard at Whole Foods but he soon earned the educational credits to work in the health care field. He was able to bring his wife and six children over from Gambia, finding a home in the mid-rise building on East 156th Street at the corner with St. Ann’s Avenue.

“He was a very hard worker,” said Momodou Sawaneh during a Gambian Independence Day celebration at the Golden Palace banquet hall in Parkchester, struggling to be heard over the booming strains of “Senegambian” dance music. “He took care of his family. He was always smiling and he loved to debate. He didn’t keep to himself.”

Many partygoers were outraged over the failure of the legal system to keep Junal Jordan off the streets. Since the murder, Jordan’s parents and wife have come forward, claiming that they sought to have Jordan institutionalized in three separate hospitals during recent months.

“Why was he walking around on the streets in the first place?” asked Tom Gaye, a 29-year-old Gambian-American who works as a mail carrier for the US Post Office. “They knew he wasn’t stable, that he was mentally unstable. Once somebody is gone, he’s gone. If that was my family, I would freak out.”

At the time of his death, Darboe was employed as a lab technician at NYU’s Langone Medical Center while pursing advanced studies at Mercy College. On Saturdays, he traveled up to the Rosary Hill Home, a hospice in Westchester County, where he worked as a nurse’s aide, caring for those who are near death.

“With Bakary, when you met, you always got a big hug, a big smile,” said Anthony Donovan, a co-worker at Rosary Hill for eight years. “I can’t remember him in a bad mood. He had a very infectious smile.”

Donovan, an independent filmmaker, interviewed Darboe for a film about the history of anti-nuclear activism but the battery on the camera gave out after less than a minute, preventing Darboe from completing his thoughts. “Africa as a whole doesn’t need weapons of mass destruction,” Darboe said in the 2013 interview. Instead, Africa needs sound agriculture, improved education, economic assistance, and good governance “to get rid of the dictatorships.” Darboe was among those Gambians who were overjoyed at the downfall of Yahya Jammeh, who lost a democratic election at the end of 2016 and has since fled to Equatorial Guinea.

Donovan worked with Darboe for the last time on Saturday, Jan. 28, five days before Darboe’s death.

“At lunch together, we had an animated discussion of our shared concerns, about Trump’s seeming cruelty and thoughtlessness with our refugees, immigration,” Donovan recalled. “We saw the protests as positive, hopeful that democracy was coming alive. He was so grateful for this land.”

“I said, ‘Bakary, our motto is no fear and no hate – from the Left or the Right,’” Donovan continued, expressing his belief about the proper response to the Trump presidency.

“‘We have to be vigilant within ourselves. That’s our enemy, fear and hate.’ He had his big, bright smile, completely in synch and enthusiastic with that message, echoing throughout the day, ‘Yes, no fear, no hate!’”

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New Yorkers Will Gather At Stonewall Tonight To Protest Trump’s Attack On Trans Americans

A coalition of civil rights activists — led by transgender speakers — will gather at the historic Stonewall National Monument tonight to protest the Trump administration’s rollback of a federal guideline that allowed transgender students in public schools to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity.

The guideline, passed under the Obama administration, invoked Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination. The reversal, enacted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, was justified in the way many other civil rights advancements have been targeted: by invoking states’ rights.

Sessions, who has a long history of opposing any expansion of civil rights protections, said in a statement that the previous directive “did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX.”

As such, the order was considered  to have been written “without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy,” according to a joint memo issued by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education.

DeVos reportedly opposed the reversal, but when pressed by both Sessions and Trump, relented. The previous order was stayed by a federal judge last August; after it was issued, Texas and several other states (including North Carolina, which passed a notorious “bathroom bill” that was met with economic boycotts) immediately challenged it. The Trump administration withdrew a motion originally filed by the Obama administration challenging the injunction last week.

The rally begins at 5:30p.m. at West 4th Street and Christopher Street.

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I Don’t Trust “Real Democrats,” And Neither Should You

With Donald Trump in the White House and ICE agents lurking around New York City courthouses gearing up for body-snatching season, this might be a good moment to reflect on how we got here.

I got here when my pregnant mom rode into this country in the trunk of a car. A Colombian-born social worker who worked with Bolivian miners during a brutal dictatorship, she, like many others, wanted a better life. She came up through Central America until she paid “coyote” smugglers a few thousand dollars in exchange for the American dream. A few months later, she brought me to New York.

The first time I was stopped by a cop I was 12 years old. A few of us got patted down behind a basketball court. No one asked why. It’s part of life when you’re Black or Latino in New York.

As we got older, my friends and I started getting caught with nickel bags of weed. The stakes got higher (pardon the pun). When I was 19, a cop wrote me a $50 summons after I spit in the subway. He kept me there for 20 minutes, making me late for my soul-sucking, minimum wage job at CVS.

For my mom, who went from a professional career to cleaning houses in Manhattan, her constant fear was that immigration agents would kick in the door, Biggie-style. She was looking over her shoulder for ICE while I was looking over my shoulder for the NYPD.

In 1994, the year of that first stop, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Rudy Giuliani rolled out Broken Windows. Vendors, squeegee men and the homeless got hit hardest. Giuliani, a Republican, was helped by an infusion of extra cops thanks to the Safe City Safe Streets program of his Democratic predecessor, David Dinkins. Nationally, a Democratic majority in congress pushed the 1994 Crime Bill to the desk of President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, who signed it into law.

In college, I read about the Broken Windows theory of policing. It made a ton of sense: I was the broken window, and cops were going to keep breaking me forever.

The policy brought cops down on our necks for every transgression or sign of “disorder,” hitting us with arrests and court dates. The ’94 crime bill added thousands of cops and prisons across America as the Clintons talked about “super-predators” and both sides of the aisle cheered.

Republicans and Democrats built the police state.

In 2014, Bill de Blasio, our first Democratic mayor since Dinkins, brought back Bratton and re-embraced Broken Windows. We protested, of course, confronting local politicians, all Democrats.

When Eric Garner was killed by a Staten Island cop, groups started organizing, in part, to end Broken Windows. We crashed Mayor de Blasio’s fundraisers and shut down the City Council in 2016 when they thought it was a good idea to add nearly 1,300 cops to the NYPD. Those extra cops, particularly the new anti-protest Strategic Response Group, now harass protesters who consistently honor the lives of those who’ve been killed by the police.

We’ve been at war with these Democrats for a few years. So when another group of protesters showed up outside a forum on Broken Windows this month to protest a Brooklyn State Senator, Jesse Hamilton, to tell him to get in line with establishment Democrats in Albany, you can imagine how hard my palm hit my face. The protesters, most of whom, though not all, were white, say a breakaway group of Democrats, known as the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), should realign with the party. Hamilton is one of them.

Anti-IDC protesters outside Brooklyn State Senator Jesse Hamilton's meeting <a href="/news/brooklyn-state-senators-broken-windows-meeting-hijacked-by-angry-protesters-we-dont-want-fake-democrats-9688638" target="_blank">in Sunset Park last week</a>.
Anti-IDC protesters outside Brooklyn State Senator Jesse Hamilton’s meeting in Sunset Park last week.

Let me just say that I don’t know Hamilton. Apparently, he’s taken on a position against Broken Windows, maybe to deflect from the criticism being thrown his way. I could be cynical about that, but I was much more annoyed with these protesters.

Everyone wants to be part of “the resistance” in the Trump era. Everyone’s a protester, even the mayor of New York City. The Democratic machine has the most to gain as they rebrand themselves. However, the fact that deportations had already been happening in our oh-so-liberal town under deporter-in-chief Barack Obama gets ignored. Similarly, the risks that constant police contact through Broken Windows imposes on immigrants is only now, under Trump, slowly being acknowledged.

And yet it seems no one wants to come to grips with the Democrats’ role in how we got here. So when this “No-IDC” mosh pit of liberal self-righteousness throws a tantrum because Democrats won’t act like “real” Democrats, I gotta ask: who are the “real” Democrats? De Blasio, the self proclaimed progressive standard-bearer of big city mayors? Hillary Clinton?

Are they Brooklyn Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and Daniel Dromm in Queens? Dromm is leading some of the anti-IDC rallies in Jackson Heights and Menchaca is egging on the protesters in Sunset Park. They seem to be a significant part (dare I say “source”) of the anti-IDC rallies. Has anyone taken these two Democrats to task for voting for the extra cops last year and for supporting the mayor’s developer-friendly “affordable housing” scheme? For acting like, well, establishment sellout Democrats? Did any of the protesters know, or care, when Menchaca gave an award to one of Sunset Park’s most notorious cops?

Perhaps local Democrats are using the IDC drama to deflect from the fact that they have no answers for Broken Windows or that the IDNYC municipal identification program they voted for might actually help the federal government find and deport New Yorkers?

When IDC member and State Senator Jose Peralta, the focus of the rallies in Queens, was clamoring for the city and NYPD to clean up Roosevelt Avenue from the “dangerous characters” (code for Broken Windows enforcement) before he joined the IDC, did anyone care?

But it’s easier to play Democrats vs. Republicans than it is to tackle policing or gentrification. When you get down to it, quality-of-life policing and displacement benefits urban white liberals most of all.

A cop sweeps away that homeless person so that Sara can get from her loft to Starbucks undisturbed. The plainclothes officer will arrest that Black kid dancing on the train because what’s perfectly normal for some of us (b-boy-ing, selling loosies, loud music) is a nuisance to some of our more affluent neighbors. A rowdy Salsa block party in Williamsburg 20 years ago would’ve been perfectly normal. Today, it’s a 911 or 311 call waiting to happen.

Since their protest in Brooklyn, some anti-IDC protesters, perhaps sensing their privilege, have tried to straddle both sides. They say they can be against Broken Windows and also pressure rascally rebellious lawmakers to go back to being loyal Democrats. A Democratically-controlled Albany, they say, could pass the DREAM act or create more “Sanctuary Cities”, which are obviously so effective at protecting us. When Democrats are in power, the argument goes, they can pass bills that help us people of color.

Yeah, tell me how the Democratic party, the graveyard of social movements, will save me. Give me a break. The flavor of the IDC isn’t new. Whether you rail against the IDC or “blue dog” Democrats in Congress, striving for political order is just another example of liberals wanting to play fair.

If well-meaning white people want to help us, start by turning off MSNBC and grabbing a MetroCard to swipe in poor people so that we don’t get busted for fare-evasion, the top Broken Windows arrest. Take action. De Blasio says he can’t afford a subsidized-fare program for the poor, yet he and the council found the money for more cops.

Better yet, let’s have our white allies stage some protests at the ICE processing center on Varick street. Make a human wall. Shut it down. Wiggle those fingers, Occupy-style. Do whatever you want. Just don’t talk to me about “real” Democrats. We’re at war with both parties, the “real” Democrats included. People are being displaced and criminalized all around you. Keep your eyes on what matters.

Josmar Trujillo is an activist and writer based in Spanish Harlem. He organizes with the Coalition to End Broken Windows.