The JFK Tie Clip Story: An Open Letter to President Obama about the Loss of Hope
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On election maps, Colorado looks simple—a four-cornered flyover, perfectly squared off. But the state is composed of many elements: a long history of ranching and mining; a sudden influx of young, outdoors-oriented residents; a total population that is more than a fifth Hispanic.
On Tuesday, Coloradans favored Hillary Clinton by a narrow majority, and they endorsed an amendment that will raise the minimum wage by more than forty per cent. They also chose to reject an amendment, promoted by Democratic legislators, that would have removed a provision in the state constitution that allows for slavery and the involuntary servitude of prisoners.
If this seems contradictory—raising the minimum wage while protecting the possibility of slavery—it should be noted that the vote was even closer than Clinton versus Trump. In an exceedingly tight race, slavery won Full disclosure: recreational. But during this election, while standing in a voting booth in the Ouray County Courthouse, at an elevation of seven thousand seven hundred and ninety-two feet, I experienced a sensation of vertigo that may have been shared by The election of disturbs me in many ways, and one of them is that I honestly cannot remember whether I voted for or against slavery.
This election has given me a renewed appreciation for chaos, confusion, and the limitlessly internal world of the individual. Most analysis will shuffle voters into neat demographic groups, each of them with four corners, perfectly squared off. For an unstable electorate, Trump was the perfect candidate, because he was also a moving target. It was possible for supporters to fixate on any specific message or characteristic while ignoring everything else.
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But when I spoke with individual supporters the dynamic changed: the person had a face, while the proposed action seemed vague and symbolic. Neither of the women, like most other Trump supporters I met, had any interest in the construction of an actual wall. It was hard to imagine a President entering office with less accountability.
For supporters, this was central to his appeal—he owed nothing to the establishment. But he also owed nothing to the people who had voted for him. Does yes mean yes, or does yes mean no? But he was the alpha male on the stage with all the other candidates. He was not afraid to say the things that we were thinking. You have to evolve as a human being. This is a serious project. All immigrants to the United States know and knew that if they want to become real, authentic Americans they must reduce their fealty to their native country and regard it as secondary, subordinate, in order to emphasize their whiteness.
Unlike any nation in Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force. Rapidly lost. And what then? Another black President? A predominantly black Senate? Three black Supreme Court Justices? The threat is frightening. In order to limit the possibility of this untenable change, and restore whiteness to its former status as a marker of national identity, a number of white Americans are sacrificing themselves. Much as they may hate their behavior, and know full well how craven it is, they are willing to kill small children attending Sunday school and slaughter churchgoers who invite a white boy to pray.
Embarrassing as the obvious display of cowardice must be, they are willing to set fire to churches, and to start firing in them while the members are at prayer. And, shameful as such demonstrations of weakness are, they are willing to shoot black children in the street. To keep alive the perception of white superiority, these white Americans tuck their heads under cone-shaped hats and American flags and deny themselves the dignity of face-to-face confrontation, training their guns on the unarmed, the innocent, the scared, on subjects who are running away, exposing their unthreatening backs to bullets.
Surely, shooting a fleeing man in the back hurts the presumption of white strength? Only the frightened would do that. These sacrifices, made by supposedly tough white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status.
It may be hard to feel pity for the men who are making these bizarre sacrifices in the name of white power and supremacy. Personal debasement is not easy for white people especially for white men , but to retain the conviction of their superiority to others—especially to black people—they are willing to risk contempt, and to be reviled by the mature, the sophisticated, and the strong.
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The confidence that you will not be watched in a department store, that you are the preferred customer in high-end restaurants—these social inflections, belonging to whiteness, are greedily relished. So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength.
These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble. On Election Day, how eagerly so many white voters—both the poorly educated and the well educated—embraced the shame and fear sowed by Donald Trump. The candidate whose company has been sued by the Justice Department for not renting apartments to black people. The candidate who questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the United States, and who seemed to condone the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally.
The candidate who kept black workers off the floors of his casinos. William Faulkner understood this better than almost any other American writer. Affronted, the Koch brothers, whose political spending has made their name a shorthand for special-interest clout, withheld their financial support from Trump. The few remarks Trump made on these issues during the campaign reflected the fondest hopes of the oil, gas, and coal producers.
He vowed to withdraw from the international climate treaty negotiated last year in Paris, remove regulations that curb carbon emissions, legalize oil drilling and mining on federal lands and in seas, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and weaken the Environmental Protection Agency.
These nonprofit groups purport to be grassroots organizations, but they run ads advocating corporate-friendly energy policies, without disclosing their financial backers. Among his clients are Koch Industries and Devon Energy Corporation, a gas-and-oil company that has made a fortune from vertical drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Ebell runs the energy-and-environmental program at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an anti-regulatory Washington think tank that hides its sources of financial support but has been funded by fossil-fuel companies, including Exxon-Mobil and Koch Industries.
Schnare is the director of the Center for Energy and the Environment at the Thomas Jefferson Institute, part of a nationwide consortium of anti-government, pro-industry think tanks. He is also the general counsel at the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, which has received funding from coal companies.
In , Schnare started hounding the climate scientist Michael Mann, who had been a professor at the University of Virginia, by filing public-records requests demanding to see his unpublished research and his private e-mails. But the composition of the group runs counter to a set of anti-lobbyist proposals that Trump released in October, to be enacted in his first hundred days. It called for a five-year ban on White House and congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave public office, and a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying for a foreign government.
If the leader of a government issues an order that men and women below him cannot, in good conscience, enact, what are they to do? In July, , Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, of California, who had stunned the political establishment by leveraging his celebrity and outsider status to reach disaffected voters, was in an embarrassing political predicament.
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Now the Democratic-led legislature was unable to agree on a budget. The order reached the desk of a bureaucrat named John Chiang, a former tax-law specialist who was the state controller. In that job, Chiang, a forty-six-year-old Democrat, was responsible for issuing paychecks and monitoring cash flow. Born in New York, to immigrants from Taiwan, he had grown up in the Chicago suburbs, in one of the first Asian families in the neighborhood. It was an uneasy mix.
After studying finance, and earning a law degree from Georgetown, Chiang started his career at the Internal Revenue Service in Los Angeles. In , his younger sister, Joyce, a lawyer for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Washington, went missing. Three months later, her remains were found on the banks of the Potomac. The death was ruled a homicide, but no one was charged. Moreover, he thought, it was cruel. It was the height of the financial crisis, and mortgage defaults were up more than a hundred per cent over the previous year. And to think that you take action that would endanger thousands of public servants just struck me as beyond the pale.
As the case wound through the judicial system, Chiang became, to some, an unlikely hero. The Liberal O. When General Dwight D.
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Because Chiang held an independently elected office, his latitude to resist was far greater than it is for most government employees. The consequences of resistance can be dire. In , nearly thirteen thousand air-traffic controllers challenged the new President, Ronald Reagan, by staging an illegal strike. Reagan fired them and broke their union. But Schwarzenegger, who had never held public office, proved incapable of reorganizing government, defeating labor unions, capping state spending, or weakening teacher tenure.
His relationship with the G. In , he left office with his public approval rating at near-historic lows. People have a sense of why they serve. The Supreme Court operates in counterpoint to the rest of the government.
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The Justices do not initiate; they respond. When Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed the New Deal through Congress, the conservatives on the Court, for a time, fought him to a standstill. When the civil-rights movement gathered steam, the Justices gave first a hesitant and then a fuller endorsement of the cause. But resistance from the Justices never lasts too long. The truism that the Supreme Court follows the election returns happens to be true.
Elections have consequences. In certain crucial ways, a majority of the Justices have upheld the work of the Administration, most notably in two cases that posed existential threats to the Affordable Care Act. In other cases, the Court has rebuked the President. In Burwell v. Over all, the Court has reflected the fierce partisan divisions in the country.
Conservatives won many cases striking down campaign-finance regulations and gutting the core of the Voting Rights Act , while liberals won others expanding gay rights and reaffirming abortion rights. George W. Bush, the previous Republican President, had to wait until his second term to make his first appointment to the Supreme Court. Trump will have a vacancy to fill as soon as he takes the oath of office. The voters mostly ignored this brazen defiance of institutional norms, but its consequences, as McConnell intended, have been enormous.