Would she be good at the job? Maybe. But the campaign would be a political nightmare...
This week author Tom Bower — who reportedly signed a six-figure book deal to write an unauthorized biography of Meghan Markle — spoke to British tabloid Closer about the Duchess' prospects in American politics.
While her husband Prince Harry would have to get his American citizenship to pursue political office — and could never be eligible for the presidency — as a natural-born American citizen, there would technically be nothing stopping Markle from running for any office, up to and including commander-in-chief. And Bower suspects that's exactly "where she sees herself going."
If she wanted to be president, she would, of course, have to renounce her title as Duchess of Sussex — because the emoluments clause of the US Constitution actually counts if you're a woman, a person of color, a Democrat, or all three in Markle's case. But considering the fact that she and Harry have already stepped back from their royal roles to live as private citizens in America, that doesn't seem like too big a hurdle.
But does Bower even know what he's talking about? In the interview, he claimed that that "the prospect of Meghan running for president is possible and I'd even say likely," but according to The Sun, he has a full year of research ahead of him, which he will spend "speaking to the star and husband Prince Harry's friends, foes and associates."
In short, he might not even have a good sense of Markle yet. And to the extent that he does, he might not be a particularly reliable source.
A Harsh Biographer
Bower is known for his scathing, sometimes questionable portraits of figures from billionaire Richard Branson to former Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Ghislaine Maxwell's disgraced father Robert Maxwell. If this is another "hatchet job," Bower may simply be painting Markle in what he considers to be the harshest light possible.
While he suggests that she would have "a good chance of getting into the White House," and could "have tea with the Queen one day as President of the United States," he also seems eager to emphasize an unflattering view of Markle as overly-ambitious and hyper-sensitive.
His assertions that she "masterminded" the so-called Megxit she and Harry made from royal life, and that she would "need to learn to take the heat" of public scrutiny as a politician, reflect a perspective that predominates in much of the British media. And his seeming acceptance of reports that Markle bullied staff — claiming that "she doesn't seem to be able to hold onto her team" despite Markle's insistence that said reports are a "calculated smear campaign" — suggest a willingness to side with her detractors.
Has Meghan Split the Royal Family? | Good Morning Britain www.youtube.com
While Markle is generally viewed in a favorable light in the US, that's not the case in Harry's home country, where the royal family is largely still beloved and Markle's damning Oprah interview was seen as out of bounds. The idea that she is eager for the opportunity to run for president plays neatly into a narrative that is already painting her as a selfish opportunist.
Still, according to a friend speaking to Vanity Fair, Markle might "seriously consider" running. So, just in case there's any truth to Bower's perspective, it's worth noting why a Meghan Markle presidential would be a terrible idea...
A Messy Campaign
At first blush she seems like a great option. A young, attractive, poised, and charismatic Black woman, with plenty of experience in the public eye, and close ties to the leadership of one of our nation's closest global allies, she certainly has what it takes to navigate a political campaign... But that campaign would be so awful.
For a start, Markle's "close ties" to Enlgand would not exactly make for smooth diplomacy. Many Britons see her as something akin to a usurper. Elevating her to the highest office in American politics — only after she discards her UK title — would be more likely to sour relations between the two countries than to improve them.
The British narrative would also be guaranteed to make its way over into the American press, with Conservative outlets all too willing to paint an ambitious Black woman as undeserving of her position. While this tactic is guaranteed to be deployed against basically any woman of color running for high office (see: Kamala Harris), the established narrative in the British press would give them a head start, and they would be brutal.
The fact that Markle's estranged and (possibly) envious white father and step-sister would love to play into that story and criticize Markle for doing more with her life than they think she deserved would make things all the worse.
A Royal Celebrity President?
Markle is no doubt aware of all this, and if she feels up to putting herself through such a grueling process — after being driven nearly to suicide by the British press — all for the opportunity to serve her country, good for her. But do we, as a country, really want to deal with that mess for the sake of putting another celebrity in the White House?
Maybe if the former Suits star starts out with a couple terms in Congress, she'll have a strong enough foothold in American politics to be more than just another famous person using their profile to run for high office. Maybe we'd all find out that she's actually great at navigating policy and politics. But until she's proven that, the whole "outsider president" thing is a bit played out.
While a role in the British monarchy is largely ceremonial, the Presidency requires real governance. And we've seen how poorly an amateur can manage that responsibility.
Okay, there's no way she would be this bad...
Finally, on the topic of the monarchy, the United States was founded with the express intent of severing our ties from that institution. Even so, we already have too much of a tendency to create political dynasties — think the Clintons, the Bushes, the Kennedys.
It may be a superficial objection, but the UK doesn't need a monarchy anymore, and we definitely don't need to get the actual British royal family involved in the presidency of the United States. The idea of Harry — the literal great, great, great, great, great, great grandson of the King George III against whom the founders revolted — moving into the White House as the first gentleman is just too weird to think about.
The K-Pop stars are using their platform to contribute to a broader conversation on the discrimination that breeds hate crimes.
K-Pop sensation BTS have added their voices to the concern around a recent spike in anti-Asian hate crimes in the US and elsewhere.
On Tuesday the band — who, along with their management company, donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter last summer — took to Twitter with the hashtags #StopAsianHate and #StopAAPIHate, sharing a message of unity and anti-discrimination, expressing "grief and anger" over violence and lives lost, and recounting some of their own experiences of anti-Asian racism.
The message refers to times when the group behind hit songs like "Dynamite" and "Black Swan" had "endured expletives without reason," "were mocked for the way [they] look," and "were even asked why Asians spoke in English." They expressed the harm that these experiences had done on a personal level — making them feel powerless — but acknowledged that they were "inconsequential compared to the events that have occurred over the past few weeks."
But of course, the past few weeks have only brought to light a trend that has been building since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Since that time, the fact that the virus originated in China has given bigots an excuse to target individuals as representatives of entire racial groups, and the incidents of hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have more than doubled in major American cities.
In an atmosphere reminiscent of the World War II era — when tens of thousands of Japanese Americans were treated as potential spies and forced into inhumane internment camps — American politicians have encouraged conspiratorial and xenophobic framing of the current crisis. Former president Donald Trump has been particularly guilty of this scapegoating, regularly referring to COVID-19 as "the China virus," and — on at least one occasion — as "Kung flu," openly and proudly conflating the deadly pandemic with unrelated aspects of Chinese culture.
In their effort to deflect their constituents' anger and resentment over economic and social conditions brought on by their mismanagement of the pandemic, they have highlighted false associations of the virus with people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent — despite the fact that far more white people have caught and spread the virus at this point. And they have lent credence to unfounded theories that the Chinese government created or intentionally spread the disease.
As a result, thousands have reported being directly affected by incidents of anti-Asian harassment and assault — with many likely going unreported -- and millions more have been living with the fear that they will be targeted next.
While this worrying trend had received some coverage previously — with particular attention to incidents of violence against the elderly — it didn't become major national news until March 16th of this year. That afternoon, a 21-year-old gunman in Atlanta targeted massage parlors staffed primarily by Asian employees, killing eight people — including six Asian women — at three spas, in a deadly spree which he reportedly blamed on "sexual addiction."
Yong Ae Yue Suncha Kim Soon Chung Park Hyun Jung Grant (maiden name Kim) Daoyou Feng Xiaojie Tan Delaina Ashley Yau… https://t.co/c8CpXaxMvT— Eugene Lee Yang (@Eugene Lee Yang)1616179564.0
Despite Georgia officials' reluctance to label the murders as a hate crime — with one police spokesperson being removed from the case after telling press that the shooter had "had a really bad day" — it clearly folds into the ongoing trend and has stoked pushback and protests against anti-Asian hate. But it also points to the fact that the current trend is part of an existing history of racism and hate.
The shooter's sense that Asian women working in massage parlors are necessarily sex workers and that this was more of a "temptation" that he wanted to eliminate than, for instance, the strip club across from one of the spas he attacked, tie into longstanding issues of race, immigration, and fetishization.
Whether or not he invested in the xenophobic framing that all Asian people are somehow to blame for the spread of the coronavirus, he was playing into a notion of Asian women as sex workers that dates back to the 1800s and the first federal immigration law.
Responding to "Yellow Peril" panic, the Page Act of 1875 imposed special restrictions on women trying to immigrate from East Asia, with the belief — as expressed by President Ulysses S. Grant — that "few [Asian women] are brought to our shores to pursue honorable or useful occupations." In case that wasn't clear enough, the law required Asian women intending to immigrate to answer a series of questions about sex work and undergo a medical examination to determine their "character."
Today, despite the fact that there is no evidence any of the women who were killed were sex workers, much of the media has carried on this history — covering the shooter's supposed motives with a credulous narrative of a sex addict killing sex workers. Clearly a broader conversation about anti-Asian racism is necessary.
We Need To Talk About Anti-Asian Hate www.youtube.com
So, while it's true that BTS members have not experienced the most dramatic, violent consequences of that racism, it's vitally important that they're using their popularity and their platform — with around 34 million followers on Twitter — to keep the conversation going and call out all forms of discrimination.
Because as long as our culture makes room for depictions of Asian people as disease vectors, fetish objects, hyper-foreign curiosities, or model minorities to be used as a cudgel against other marginalized groups — as anything less than complex individuals trying to live their lives — there will be room for anti-Asian racism, hate, and violence.
AOC and others have shared frightening first-hand details from the attempted coup on January 6th, 2021.
Update 2/2/2021: On Monday night, Representative Ocasio-Cortez once again took to Instagram Live to share her experience of the attack on the Capitol building in more detail.
She talked about the frightening moment when an unknown man made his way into her office shouting, "Where is she?" as she hid behind a bathroom door believing that he was likely there to kill her — "this was the moment where I thought everything was over,"
Even the realization that this man was a Capitol police officer didn't feel like a guarantee that he was looking out for her safety — an uncertainty which friendly interactions between police and attackers would later justify. She described sheltering in Representative Katie Porter's office as they received reports of bombs being found and made contingency plans for escaping out a window or into a safer office.
The intensity and detail of her account are striking, as is her decision to share a personal context for how she processes the experience, relating that she is "a survivor of sexual assault," and noting that "when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other."
But perhaps the most important moment of the stream was her comparison of recent calls for us all to "move on" from the insurrection — often from those who stoked the misinformation that brought it on — to "the tactics of abusers," saying, "this is at a point where it's not about the difference of political opinion. This is about just basic humanity."
On Tuesday night, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York's 14th congressional district took to Instagram Live to share her experience of last week's frightening events at Capitol Hill.
Ocasio-Cortez has made a point of making herself accessible to the public, sharing her cooking, her gaming, and even her struggle to find affordable housing through social media. It's a practice that has contributed to the adoration of her fans as well as the vitriol of her detractors. But she has never shared anything quite as personal and affecting as her experience of the attempted coup on January 6th.
The Nobel Prize committee has the chance to signal a better future for a prize with a fraught past.
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice — Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. "Letter From Birmingham Jail" 1963
Nominations have been announced for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.
Among notable nominees are Ivanka Trump's husband Jared Kushner, politician and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Depending on your political biases, you likely find at least one of those nominations offensive, though it should be noted that the list of nominees is long, and anyone can be nominated.
In this case, Black Lives Matter was nominated by Petter Eide, a member of Norway's parliament. As for Jared Kushner, he was nominated along with former Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz — the famed Harvard law professor, Trump sycophant, and defense attorney for O.J. Simpson and Jeffrey Epstein. Kushner and Berkowitz played central roles in brokering the Abraham Accords declaring, "Peace, Cooperation, and Constructive Diplomatic and Friendly Relations" between the US, Israel, Bahrain, and the UAE.
The Abraham Accords: The PR of the 'peace deals' | The Listening Post www.youtube.com
At face value many Americans would no doubt see the negotiation of a peace deal as more legitimate grounds for nomination than a protest movement that sparked violent confrontation with police and counter protesters around the country in 2020. And, if we look at the history of the Peace Prize, there is a sense in which they would be right — the prize has often been awarded for superficial diplomatic theater rather than the real and often messy work of addressing injustice.
The Fraught History of the Nobel Peace Prize
In 1928, Secretary of State Frank Kellogg received the prize for getting all the world's major powers to officially, meaninglessly renounce war...shortly before Hitler took power in Germany. Another Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, was selected by the Nobel Committee for negotiating a cease fire with Vietnam in 1973 — the same year it was revealed that he had masterminded a secret carpet bombing campaign in Cambodia, which is credited with giving rise to the genocidal Khmer Rouge.
More recently, in 2009, Barack Obama was given the Peace Prize just for being elected president — in a move Obama acknowledged as premature. And in 2020, Donald Trump's son-in-law and his buddy Avi were nominated for the award for arranging "peace" between nations that were never at war — with a substantial arms deal thrown in for good measure.
To put it bluntly, it would make nearly as much sense for Jared Kushner to win the Nobel Peace Prize as it did for a number of other recipients with dubious claims to peace work. By contrast, in 1948 the Nobel committee chose not to award anyone — rather than acknowledge Mohandas Gandhi's work in pushing for Indian independence from Britain.
Historically the committee has often erred on the side of the powerful — rewarding hollow and hypocritical displays of diplomacy over the controversy that tends to arise around grassroots struggles. So while it may be unlikely that Kushner and Berkowitz will receive the peace prize, neither would it really be surprising.
But with Black History Month kicking off, it's worth articulating not just why their diplomacy is underwhelming, but why the Black Lives Matter movement deserves recognition for advancing the global fight against injustice.
No Justice, No Peace
While extensive efforts have been made to paint the Black Lives Matter movement as violent, anti-White, and at the political fringes, in reality it is the largest and most racially diverse protest movement in American history. And considering the thousands of demonstrations that have taken place, involving many millions of individuals, the relative lack of violence from the protesters is much more worthy of note than a handful of dramatic scenes.
Compared to the January 6th Trump rally, where a crowd of around 30,000 spawned a violent insurrection — which was handled with kid gloves by the police and led to five deaths — the 15 million plus who participated in BLM marches in 2020 were remarkably peaceful. The same cannot be said for far too many of police who patrolled those marches and gave proof to the brutality that inspired them.
A compilation of videos that captures how police officers incite violence. How are they responding to protests ag… https://t.co/7rBOh3OHMP— Simran Jeet Singh (@Simran Jeet Singh)1590893613.0
And though regrettable incidents of arson and violence have undeniably taken place in connection with BLM demonstrations, the alternative was not "peace."
What is often overlooked in discussions of peace is the reality of social and political injustice as among the most prevalent forms of violence on Earth. When millions of people, targeted through no fault of their own, are systemically dehumanized — their lives and their contributions devalued and their opportunities for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness both deliberately and incidentally truncated for centuries — that is violence that destroys lives on another scale altogether.
For Black Americans that obviously means slavery and its aftermath, as well as segregation and the continued legacies of practices like redlining. But it also means a so-called "war on drugs" that treats addiction as a crime rather than an illness and disproportionately targets and locks up Black Americans, depriving too many children of their parents.
It means racist police procedures like Stop and Frisk, as well as the implicit (and often explicit) racial biases of the officers themselves. It means making it nearly impossible for people convicted of felonies within this unjust, racist system to live within the bounds of the law, depriving them — as well as millions of Black Americans who haven't been convicted of anything — of the right to participate in democracy and change the system that treats them so cruelly.
And none of this even covers the immense wealth inequality that makes life harder for almost all Americans — though, again, the harm is leveled disproportionately against Black Americans. All of these ordinary and unacceptable aspects of American life are violence — "the negative peace which is the absence of tension."
They destabilize communities, families, and individual lives. And that violence came to a head in June, following the horrific killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer over a suspected counterfeit $20 bill.
While far from the only evidence of systemic racism in America, the murder of unarmed Black men, women, and children by police and by racist vigilantes who — more often than not — are allowed to walk free, is perhaps its most blatant and disgusting expression.
And the names of the slain — Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Philando Castille, too many more to mention — have become rallying cries.
A Black Lives Matter protester carrying a counter protester to safety in London
With all the domestic resistance the protests met from people who insist on spitting "all lives matter!" (as if fighting for the value of Black lives implied otherwise) and "blue lives matter!" (as if the safety of police officers depends on their ability to shoot unarmed Black men, women, and children without consequence), it would be easy to lose sight of how much support the movement has received overseas. While the movement was started in America, the impact has been global.
"Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere"
The reality of living as a dehumanized minority in a bigoted society is sadly all too common in the world. And while not everywhere is as bad in this respect as America, the recognition sparked protests of solidarity and of common cause around the world.
Like the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Black Lives Matter has continued the fight for America to live up to its promise. Because right now "the land of the free" is home to a carceral state where more people are imprisoned than anywhere else on Earth, and citizens are killed by police at a higher rate than in any comparable nation.
Because the systems that were deliberately set up to keep newly freed Black citizens oppressed following the Civil War were never truly purged — have been covertly bolstered and supplemented ever since.
That is not peace. Only a stable form of violence.
A cartoon from the 1960s My father wasn’t beloved by America. In ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail,’ he responded to 8… https://t.co/ygwaqnWoO9— Be A King (@Be A King)1611017549.0
In 1964 the Nobel committee opted not to side with power. It was the same year the FBI sent a harassing letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., urging him to commit suicide.
He was considered by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover — and many others in positions of power within the American government — to be an enemy of the state. There is even reason to believe that these forces were directly involved in his 1968 assassination.
His protest movement was disruptive to the normal order of American life that most white Americans were content to maintain. Many balked at the idea that it could be called peaceful. But the Nobel committee selected him for the honor of the Nobel Peace Prize. It was a serious signal that the world was watching how America handled peaceful dissent.
Did that make a difference in passing the voting rights act of 1965? Who can say? But the Nobel committee has a similar opportunity this year.
What Black Lives Matter has been fighting for in recent months is the "positive peace" King spoke of as "the presence of justice." With that in mind — and with some uncertainty remaining as to how a decentralized, leaderless movement of millions can receive an award — the Nobel committee should take seriously the option of selecting Black Lives Matter.
Martin Luther King Jr. Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech www.youtube.com
There are no doubt many nominees whom the committee could select for the Peace Prize — including Jared Kushner. And some who would even be worthy — including Stacey Abrams.
But the significance of acknowledging a grassroots fight for justice that was centuries in the making (in a nation which — for all its flaws — continues to shape culture around the world) is too powerful to deny.
Erasing the reality of our troubled history — and our divided present — is not true unity.
Back in early September of 2020, when fewer than 200,000 Americans had yet died as a result of COVID-19, reality TV "businessman" Donald Trump was somehow the president of an entire country.
And he wanted everyone to "love" that country as much — and as selectively — as he did. So when Nikole Hannah-Jones' 1619 Project with The New York Times began winning awards and being taught in classrooms, he knew he had to act.
It was bad enough with people protesting in the streets against racialized violence today, but trying to place that injustice in a context of an ongoing pattern of racialized oppression was too much. Establishing an advisory committee to promote "patriotic education," Donald Trump tasked his 1776 commission with combatting the 1619 Project's unflattering focus on chattel slavery and its continued legacy.
The 1619 Project details the legacy of slavery in America www.youtube.com
Four months later, 200,000 more Americans have died of COVID-19, and Joe Biden has been elected to replace Donald Trump. An attempted coup failed to overturn the election, and many of the same political figures who stirred up the sentiments of insurrection — and still refuse to acknowledge Biden's legitimate victory — have been calling for "unity."
Those calls were echoed in Joe Biden's inauguration speech, but there has remained a question of what kind of unity they mean. And in that context, the 1776 Commission — which Biden has pledged to disband — released a report in the lead-up to inauguration day, clarifying what kind of "unity" they mean.
It's a unity not of solidarity, empathy, and shared struggle, but of erasure, appropriation, and myth. The report's primary contention seems to be that a more critical perspective on America's history is necessarily both skewed and harmful. That perspectives like Hannah-Jones' are actively and deliberately destructive of our "united" American spirit, and lead us, somehow — inexplicably — toward tyranny.
The Founding Fathers: Context and Contradictions
The report argues that — given the context of their horrifying and disturbing time period — we should be in awe of the fact that the Founding Fathers could recognize and articulate a concept of universal rights, even if they didn't quite live by their stated principles. And that America eventually achieved a society where universal rights were properly enshrined and should have stopped trying to fix apparent injustices decades ago.
It's clear that the report is referring to the 1619 Project — and similar work centering the experiences of oppressed and ignored groups in America's history — when it talks of "deliberately destructive scholarship." According to the report, this kind of scholarship, "shatters the civic bonds that unite all Americans."
It's better to focus on stories like George Washington's virtuous decision to finally, posthumously free the dozens of human beings he kept enslaved for so many years. Like the parable of the cherry tree, it almost doesn't matter that Washington's decision to grant them their freedom was never truly carried out... almost.
It's taken for granted that looking seriously at the crimes of our nation's past — and noting the continued legacy of those crimes — is divisive. That the only way to unite is to focus narrowly on what inspires "reverence and love" for our history and to refer to that narrow focus as "viewing our history clearly and wholly." To do otherwise "silences the discourse essential to a free society by breeding division, distrust, and hatred among citizens."
It's certainly true that a close look at the enslavement of millions of Black men, women, and children in what may be history's most extensive and systematic project of dehumanization does not tend to inspire the kind of reverence Donald Trump wanted Americans to feel for their country — and for him.
Unearthing Sally Hemings' legacy at Monticello www.youtube.com
The 1776 commission doesn't want you to ask why Washington didn't grant those people their "unalienable" freedom while he was alive. Or why other founding fathers — like Thomas Jefferson, who enslaved hundreds — didn't make even this lukewarm gesture toward emancipation.
Being offered now as a corrective to more serious scholarship, it repeatedly insists that our nation's founders — who drank more beer than water, wore powdered wigs rather than bathing, and enslaved their own children of rape — should be viewed with "reverence" and as "heroes."
According to the report, it is at once necessary to understand them in the context of a time period in which enslaved people were a foundational part of America's economic system — a system which served those founders well — and to ignore what that foundation might say about a country asserting natural rights as the reason for its very existence. Note the context. Ignore the contradictions.
Myths, Fallacies, and Hypocrites
As for its take on that historical context, the report continually perpetuates myths and fallacies that cast a positive light on America's early history. King George III, for instance, is held up as the Declaration of Independence's caricature of "a despotic king who violated the people's rights and overthrew the colonists' longstanding tradition of self-government."
In reality, England had long since adopted a constitutional monarchy in which the bulk of decisions were made by the parliament. Framing those decisions as — in the report's words — "the capricious whims of a tyrant," made for a better story.
In reality, the American colonists — particularly the wealthy merchants and plantation owners among them — resented being governed and taxed by distant politicians elected without their consent. It's a reasonable objection, though it's painful to note that the same objections can now be made by the residents of Puerto Rico and other American territories.
Puerto Ricans voted for statehood. Will it happen? www.youtube.com
If those American citizens — subject to taxation without representation — framed that relationship as tyranny, would the 1776 commission treat calls for liberty or statehood with the same reverence? Based on the report, it seems more likely that the commission would dismiss them as telling a story "of oppression and victimhood."
While it's no doubt true that America's founders were hugely influential in the history of political thought — and that the documents they wrote formed a foundation for the advancement of civil rights both at home and abroad — it would be foolish to treat their ideas and their motivations as pure. They applied their high-minded principles primarily when it served their interests to do so.
Another way to put that would be to say that they were hypocrites. But when the report talks about the blatant contradictions, words apparently speak louder than actions: "What is momentous is that a people that included slaveholders founded their nation on the proposition that 'all men are created equal.'"
We are to take it for granted that this sentiment was simply on a delay when applied to women and particularly to the people who were bought, sold, branded, bred, and worked like livestock.
An understanding of how that same dehumanization was carried forward not just in sharecropping and Jim Crow, but in Confederate memorials, the war on drugs, and predatory loans — in "welfare queens," "superpredators," and "all lives matter" — would be far less flattering.
"Equality of Opportunity" and "Shared Heritage"
Instead, the commission's report consistently conflates efforts at restorative justice with the evils they are intended to address. On the topic of affirmative action and identity politics, the report says, "This new creed creates new hierarchies as unjust as the old hierarchies of the antebellum South, making a mockery of equality with an ever-changing scale of special privileges on the basis of racial and sexual identities."
Better to ignore the ways in which historic injustices persist — the fact, for instance, that white families have nearly eight times the wealth of Black families. Whitewash those details and sell a story of meritocracy and "equality of opportunity," ignoring outcomes that fundamentally imply that Black Americans have less merit.
Better to talk about a "shared heritage." Better to ignore how the progeny of the enslaved have yet to share in the advantages left to the progeny of the wise and noble white thinkers who enslaved them.
Even when addressing the injustices of sharecropping in the reconstruction era, the report avoids the idea that vulnerable people were horribly exploited — as that sort of reasoning could likewise be applied to the dynamics of wage labor today. Instead, the report indicates that the system "enmeshed freedmen in relationships of extreme dependency," echoing conservative attacks on social programs that serve our nation's most disadvantaged.
Co-Opting MLK's Dream
Worse still, for a report released on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is the way the commission abuses the message of the civil rights era — and King in particular.
When discussing the concept of identity politics — that oppressed groups must work together to advocate for their interests — the 1776 commission claims that this ethos"values people by characteristics like race, sex, and sexual orientation" and is thus "the opposite of King's hope that his children would 'live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.'"
Of course this is patently absurd. King and other civil rights leaders of his era plainly believed in the importance of people united by a shared struggle fighting for equality. And just as concepts like poll taxes and literacy tests were once used to disenfranchise Black voters — without explicitly mentioning race — there are aspects of our society that selectively disadvantage certain groups without expressly stating that aim.
That means over-policing of Black and Latinx neighborhoods, women receiving less pay for equal work, or school funding being inexplicably tied to property values. There is nothing about the affected groups organizing for their interests that is in conflict with King's values, nor with the principles of America's founding.
Martin Luther King Jr.: 'The Economic Problem Is the Most Serious Problem' www.youtube.com
On the contrary, that struggle is inherent in the "unalienable right" to the pursuit of happiness and enshrined in the first amendment. And pretending that oppressed groups are past the need for this kind of action or the protection it can win only sets us back. When the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, it brought us right back to the era of poll taxes, with a surge of voter suppression that doesn't mention race, yet manages to target Black voters "with almost surgical precision."
As is so often the case, the report ignores the true history of Martin Luther King's unpopularity among white Americans of his time. They treat him in death as uncontroversially loved, appropriating his message to evoke a false contrast between the current protest movement — which is portrayed as disruptive and divisive — and the movement of the 1960s.
If you were to believe the report, the latter "presented itself, and was understood by the American people, as consistent with the principles of the founding." In reality — the movement's relationship to the principles of the founding aside — Martin Luther King was never particularly popular in America. And in the years before his assassination, one Gallup poll showed that 63% of Americans held an unfavorable view of King, compared to just 33% with a favorable view.
This was due in part to protests which rankled the same type of person offended by Colin Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter — white moderates whom king described as preferring "a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice." But it was also in response to King's harsh criticism of American activity in the Vietnam war and to his advocacy for a multiracial "Poor People's Campaign" uniting working class Americans to correct the injustices of capitalism.
King and Guthrie — This Report Erases Socialists
But of course the 1776 commission would be unlikely to acknowledge that King once described himself as "much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic." They had to erase that aspect of his life in order to appropriate him for their skewed, elitist version of individual liberty.
After all, according to the report, socialism "leads down the same dangerous path of allowing the state to seize private property and redistribute wealth as the governing elite see fit." As opposed to wealth being distributed only as the billionaires see fit…
As foolish as this mischaracterization of King is, it is hardly the commission's most absurd omission. That distinction goes to the report's invocation of Woody Guthrie's classic song "This Land is Your Land," as a song for patriotic Americans to enjoy on the fourth of July.
In reality, that song was first penned as a Marxist critique of the notion of private property — in direct opposition to the narrow notion of freedom the 1776 report venerates. Woodie Guthrie — of "This machine kills fascists" fame — would not only have vehemently opposed the sort of "patriotic education" advocated by the commission, he vocally opposed Donald Trump's father for racist housing discrimination practices in a song he penned called "Old Man Trump."
This Land is Your Land www.youtube.com
It seems there is no Left-wing activity the 1776 commission won't co-opt for their reactionary purposes. Take for example their list of "great reforms" which places "anti-Communism," and "the Pro-Life Movement" alongside abolition, women's suffrage, and the Civil Rights Movement.
Never mind the fact that anti-abortion advocacy treats a pregnant person's sovereignty as secondary to that of a fetus that doesn't even have a central nervous system. What "reforms" have ever been associated with "anti-Communism?" McCarthyism? The erosion of social safety nets?
Throwing Obstacles in the Way of a Complete Education
But of course this report is propaganda. It shouldn't really come as a surprise that a commission established by a billionaire president — who wanted to ban muslims, labelled protestors terrorists, and called undocumented immigrants rapists — is deeply biased against calls for racial and economic justice.
It makes even more sense when you learn that the chair of the commission, Larry Arnn — president of conservative Hillsdale College — once complained that state officials had come looking for "dark ones" after his school was charged with violating the Michigan DOE's standards for diversity. His co-chair, Carol Swain, once compared Black Lives Matter to the Ku Klux Klan.
This is what "patriotism" and "unity" mean to people like Trump, Arnn, and Swain. They mean stop criticizing. Stop finding fault and stop standing up for yourself — just be grateful for the status quo.
It's the kind of "unity" that divides the poor white workers against poor black workers to prevent a working class movement, and it's not remotely surprising that these people would share such a remarkably skewed, incomplete, and ahistorical perspective. That they accuse every social justice movement past the 1960s of seeking special favor and imposing anti-majoritarian bigotry — e.g. affirmative action is the real racism — is likewise to be expected.
What is nonetheless shocking is how fervently they project that fault onto the other side while co-opting and mischaracterizing Left-wing figures and movements. There is, for instance, a bitter irony in the moment when the report cites early feminist icon Elizabeth Cady Stanton as saying "to throw obstacles in the way of a complete education is like putting out the eyes."
This pays off when the report goes on to attack universities for offering anything more than the most simplistic, rose-tinted view of the founders. As with the attack on the Capitol, they want to achieve unity not by embracing a shared understanding of our complex and often deeply painful history, but by agreeing as one to deny it. By moving on.
Nation as System and Myth
They believe that a nation is a myth of pure ideals — a myth of a people unified by principles — more than it is a system that should serve its citizen's sustainable happiness. And that patriotism — rather than pushing the system to improve — means worshipping the myth as dogma.
There is a huge difference between defending and working to improve a flawed system that broadly benefits you and the people you love — in ways that you may take for granted or not even notice — and devoting yourself to a mythic sense of noble community. The latter will always have such a huge advantage in terms of the picture it paints and the passion it invites — it almost doesn't matter that it's make-believe.
But the fact that it isn't real makes it far too malleable. The most gripping myths and stories have villains, and if patriotism is built on a myth of belonging, then our national myth can easily be molded to unite patriots against the "villains" outside our borders.
This form of unity and of patriotism is undoubtedly more exciting — more fun — than the version that focuses on highlighting problems, legislating policy to fix those problems and slowly improving our bureaucracy. But we should all see by now how these myths drift too easily into the dark side of nationalism — into xenophobia, warmongering, and fascist violence.
Even as President Biden signals the end of the 1776 commission, this report will live on. Its sentiments will remain in our national conversation,, and its deception will likely be read in classrooms across the country.
With that in mind, we should come away from this text with one clear message: "Unity" with people who favor myths and lies over difficult truths is not worth pursuing.
Whether as a Pokémon, a Force ghost, or a cable news pundit, we can expect to see a lot more of Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, Donald Trump addressed a gathering of his followers at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland for the final speech of his presidency.
Preparing to leave behind the position he called his "greatest honor and privilege," he told his followers that they are "amazing people," and that he will "always fight" for them. He went on to wish Joe Biden's administration "great luck and great success" to a tepid response, but when he told them "we love you, we will be back... in some form," the cheers were raucous.
It was as though he'd announced the return of the McRib, but marinated in Rick and Morty sauce and doused in Shamrock Shake. You could almost hear the salivating for another chance to slurp some processed food-style slurry from Trump's infected teet.
'We will be back in some form': Trump vows return in final speech www.youtube.com
Is it good for them? Hell no. They eat it up anyway. But the question remains, what "form" is Donald Trump likely to take when he returns.
Sadly, like an after-credit scene that teases the sequel to the worst movie ever, that speech whet the appetite's of the MAGA crowd without giving them much to go on. It may be some time before we find out what "form" Donald Trump intends to take.
Until then, the best we can do to prepare ourselves is to look at his options and consider which direction he might choose. With that in mind, these eight scenarios represent the most likely directions for Donald Trump to make a comeback.
An unprecedented inauguration for unprecedented times.
After a mob attacked the Capitol on January 6th and over 400,000 U.S. deaths as a result of the pandemic, this year's inauguration is going to look a little different.
Crowds will be small or nonexistent, events will be moved online, and security will be tougher than ever. It will be a day of historic firsts, both good and bad.Some things will change, but the important things will stay the same. The Vice President and President will take the oath of office, and it will be the same oath it always is: An oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
1. Minimal attendance
The actual swearing-in ceremony is the most important part of Inauguration Day. And for the most part, it will proceed normally. As dictated by the Constitution, President Biden will be sworn in at noon on January 20th. He will continue the tradition of being sworn in on the Capitol steps.
It'll be no less star-studded than usual, with Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks, among others, expected to perform. There will be the normal recitation of poems and prayers, all concluding with a speech from the newly inaugurated president.
However, instead of giving this speech to the crowd of hundreds of thousands that usually populate the National Mall on Inauguration Day, Biden will give his speech to around 1,000 people and more than 191,500 flags.
Instead of the usual 200,000 tickets distributed to members of Congress and passed out to their constituents, organizers released just over 1,000 tickets — one for each of the 535 members of Congress and one guest each.
To make up for the minimal attendance, the Presidential Inaugural Committee planted more than 191,500 American flags on the National Mall, meant to represent the American people who can't attend Biden's inauguration.
Flags are placed on the National Mall, with the U.S. Capitol behind them, ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Washington.AP Photo/Alex Brandon
2. Virtual inaugural events
Inauguration Day is usually packed with events, all of which are usually packed with people. On a normal inauguration day there is not only the swearing-in ceremony but also a luncheon with lawmakers, a parade through DC, and finally the inaugural ball held at the White House. In a year where so many Americans have died of the novel coronavirus, the inaugural committee has decided to change how these events will be held.
The Inaugural Luncheon is usually a grand affair where all the members of Congress gather in the capitol for a three course meal immediately after the swearing-in ceremony. The tradition began in 1953, but this year it has been cancelled entirely.
The next event is the inaugural parade where marching bands, first responders, military units, and other proud Americans accompany the new president in his historic march from the Capitol to the White House. There has been some sort of formal inaugural parade since 1809, when James Madison was inaugurated.
This year, the parade will go virtual. Joe Biden will still make the trip from the Capitol to the White House, but there will be no cheering crowds. Biden will get a presidential escort there, which will include representatives from every branch of the military, as well as the drumlines for the University of Delaware and Howard University — Biden's and Harris' alma maters. But the main event will be the virtual "Parade Across America," featuring performances from all 56 states and territories.
The final events of the day are usually the swanky inaugural balls. The city is usually taken over by both "official" and "unofficial" balls. Official ones are sponsored by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, and guarantee that the president and his spouse will show up. Normally the whole city is taken over by donors, supporters, and celebrities celebrating the new president.
This year, instead of an inaugural ball, there will be a primetime television event. The "Celebrating America Primetime Special" will be hosted by Tom Hanks and feature an impressive celebrity lineup. Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Ant Clemons, Bruce Springsteen, John Legend and Foo Fighters will all perform. And Kerry Washington, Eva Longoria, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, José Andrés, Lin-Manuel Miranda and other big names will also be featured in some way.
Tom Hanks to host televised inauguration special featuring Justin Timberlake and Demi Lovato.Getty Images
3. Historic moments
This inauguration will be particularly notable because of its historic firsts. Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the first woman, first woman of color, first Black American and first Asian American to be vice president. Harris' husband, attorney Doug Emhoff, will also make history as both the first male and first Jewish spouse of a vice president or president.
Donald Trump is also making history on Inauguration Day–by not attending. Trump plans to fly to Mar-A-Lago the morning of the inauguration and will not attend the ceremony or welcome the Biden family to the White House. It has been 152 years since a President refused to attend his successor's inauguration.
The last president to refuse to attend was Andrew Johnson in 1869, and he was also an impeached, one-term president. Vice President Mike Pence will be in attendance for the inauguration, as will former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.
Kamala Harris accepts the Democratic nomination for as first Black female vice presidential candidate in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 19.Erin Schaff / NYT via Redux file
4. Higher security
Inauguration security is always taken very seriously by the secret service, but after the riot that breached the capitol and delayed the election certification on January 6th, this inauguration will have unprecedented levels of security. The FBI has warned of threats to D.C., including to lawmakers and federal monuments, and all of Washington is well aware of the possibility of armed groups demonstrating in the District on Inauguration Day.
Inauguration viewers should expect a visible military presence, since a total of 25,000 National Guard troops are authorized to help secure the inauguration. There is also a seven-foot-high, unscalable, razor-wire fence encircling the Capitol.
Unlike usual inaugurations, several Metro stations are closed, a large portion of the city will be restricted for drivers, and a number of bridges that cross the Potomac River and Anacostia River will be closed.
There are also security checkpoints throughout the city. Those checkpoints have already resulted in several arrests, including a Virginia man who had fake inauguration credentials, a loaded gun, and more than 500 rounds of ammunition.
The U.S. Capitol is seen behind a fence with razor wire during sunrise on January 16, 2021.Samuel Corum / Getty
This will be an unprecedented Inauguration Day, but after seemingly countless months of "unprecedented times," what else could we possibly expect?
The future looks pretty grim.
It seems fitting that the Trump administration would go out with a bang. It also seems fitting that the bang would be unbridled white supremacy and blatant racism.
After the white supremacist insurrection at the Capitol, tensions have been high in anticipation of the January 20th Inauguration, with the whole country waiting on edge to see what how the transfer of power will go.
For a while, it looked like they'd have to drag Donald Trump out of the White House by his platinum wig. For a moment, it looked like there would be a coup. But the reality is much less dramatic but more insidious. Trump loyalists, it seems, are spending their last days seeping as much vitriolic rhetoric into the country (and presumably the White House floors judging by the news of a pre-Biden deep clean) as they possibly can.
Outgoing Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, took to Twitter on his last full day in office to say, "Woke-ism, multiculturalism, all the -isms — they're not who America is. They distort our glorious founding and what this country is all about. Our enemies stoke these divisions because they know they make us weaker."
Woke-ism, multiculturalism, all the -isms — they're not who America is. They distort our glorious founding and what… https://t.co/aKWpDCy5iT— Secretary Pompeo (@Secretary Pompeo)1611066600.0
The image attached to the tweet reads: "Censorship, wokeness, political correctness, it all points in one direction — authoritarianism, cloaked as moral righteousness."
There's so much to unpack here.
The basic logic of his argument is hard to parse. From the tweet it seems that he believes that multiculturalism is a divisive tool used by "our enemies" to "distort our glorious founding" — though who he refers to and what our founding entails he does not specify.
The ensuing logic, however, makes claims that denounce authoritarianism and moral righteousness. In Pompeo's mind, multiculturalism somehow does not align with the individualism he thinks will save us from authoritarianism.
To pick apart the nonsense of his argument would be redundant, so it is instead easier to call it what it is: racist.
The tenuous thread of his logic rests on the shoulders of white supremacy. The narrative is familiar but no less frightening. Pompeo tells a short story of how our country was, and could be, so great if not for the threat of the encroaching "other" contaminating the nation's proverbial purity.
The ensuing language may be vague, but the purist sentiments of his rhetoric are clear. His focus on "multiculturalism" is a signpost that signals his issue is not just with the left, but with BIPOC communities.
Beneath his cacophony of buzzwords, the dangerous, fascist sentiments of the past four years are all encapsulated into a reminder that the Trump administration and the people who perpetrated the harm and violence of it does not stop with Trump.
Whatever Trump was saying, it was definitely not that funny...
In truth, the barely concealed violence of Pompeo's rhetoric is engrained so deeply into the fabric of the United States that he might be right: Despite its insistence to the contrary, the US has purported to be a multicultural nation but has always been ruled by white supremacy.
Though this country claims to be about diversity and inclusion, so much of its history points to the opposite. But this is not the argument Pompeo is making.
There are valid claims about how, occasionally throughout US history, multiculturalism and the famous "melting pot" end up diluting people's cultures into a vague shadow of what they used to be. Pompeo, as a descendant of Italian immigrants, is a direct result of the dilution of Italian culture for the mantle of whiteness that he is so secure inside.
However, Pompeo is not calling for a more nuanced understanding of race, culture, and ethnicity.
He's calling for the same thing Donald Trump called for that brought on the Capitol siege, the same thing that has allowed racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy to persist as ruling bodies of this country — a scapegoat.
His vague language is intentional. It invites dissatisfied, disaffeced white people to substitute their ideals and their issues for the distortions and divisions he mentions, while uniting them against "multiculturalism."
While similar rhetoric has been spouted by this administration in various forms, its usual targets are the general left, or progressives and democrats. The focus on "multiculturalism" bypasses the white liberals he could be appealing to for unity against the "divisions" in our country.
The invocation of "woke-ism," a convenient neologism he makes up to orchestrate this tweet, fabricates another giant to distract from the actual "isms" most people would turn to … like, racism.
In fact, just deleting the first two words of the tweet makes a different argument altogether. Yes, I do agree that "all the -isms" distort the ideal vision of the country, but we have different "isms" and different ideals.
What's most frightening about this sentiment is that Mike Pompeo reportedly has ambitions to run for President in 2024. His key to winning: taking over the MAGA mantle.
Pompeo's sentiments coupled with his ambitions serve as a reminder that Trump's legacy is not going away with a Biden Presidency.
Despite Biden's calls for "unity," Trump loyalists do not want unity between all Americans. They want the vitriolic energy that put them in power to persist so that they can stay in power.
So far, Biden has elected a historically diverse cabinet, one which seems to exemplify multiculturalism at its best. But to make it its best, it's important that we do not take multiculturalism to mean tokenization, but rather the active process of representation, celebration, and learning that it should be.
The attempted coup that took place at the Capitol building on Wednesday was equal parts terrifying and hilarious.
In times of crisis and chaos, it's important to keep a clear head and stay on top of the facts.
It's important to acknowledge that this was an unprecedented breach of security that could easily have been avoided and that it resulted in the deaths of at least four people.
But once you've processed the horror that entails, it's equally important to allow yourself a break from the tension and anxiety. Now and then it's essential to look at things from a different angle and just laugh at the absurdity.
Wednesday's attack on Capitol Hill was a great reminder of that lesson. Amid images of fascists and white supremacists taking over the Capitol building to disrupt the functioning of the federal government, chase legislators into hiding, and delay the confirmation of Joe Biden's clear victory over Donald Trump — waving the confederate flag, smashing things, stealing things, and generally getting away with it — there was also an abundance of clownish, hilarious behavior.
Some of the absurdity involved people being intentionally funny, while some of it displayed a raw, natural talent for being obliviously laughable. But all of it provided potent relief from the sense of American democracy falling to a movement of delusional bigots led by a petty conman (though that's still a disturbing possibility).
So as we move forward and focus on action to ameliorate the risk of further violence — anti-coup protests, impeachment, the 25th amendment — it's worth looking back at some of the highlights of absurdity that sprouted from Wednesday's waking nightmare.
At any rate, with all this absurdity, you have to laugh...or cry...or both, simultaneously while huddled in your closet.
"President Kennedy never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon...Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they always made me glad." -Malcolm X.
The attack on Capitol Hill was another example of how President Donald Trump has emboldened white supremacy. His term in office has given racism and fascism a bigger platform and an official advocate. He proved that, at his command, MAGA fanatics will assemble to do his bidding.
As the world watched the descent of democracy, many were appalled at the visual. This was an attempted coup two weeks before the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. News outlets and politicians questioned how we, as a country, got to this point. But for Black Americans, this has always been our country.
Terrorists takeover Capitol Hill
The violence witnessed on Capitol Hill was a scene all too familiar for Black people. The difference was that we weren't the direct targets. Trump's base has antagonized and threatened violence against Black people while law enforcement abuses its power when interacting with us. The confrontation between the two entities responsible for our oppression was unexpected, but not surprising.
Many Trump supporters and members of law enforcement are cut from the same cloth. In fact, many members of law enforcement voted for him. Their belief in excessive force under the guise of law and order gives them what they feel is the right to harm anyone who goes against their authority. They are loyal to a flawed system and a man that keeps them in power and not to the country and its citizens seeking progress and peace.
Throughout this presidency, both sides have pledged their allegiance to each other. MAGA supporters have backed the Blue Lives Matter movement. Police officers have demonstrated leniency when dealing with unruly Trump disciples at rallies and protests. Both believe they are the good guys trying to make things great again.
Trump supporters scaling the Capitol Building
Black people have had to do battle with both. We've had to listen to the various lies spewed about the Black Lives Matter movement from supporters of the president while fighting police brutality daily. The assault on Blackness was a cause that unified them. Black people have warned the world of the dangers these factions were capable of for years. Those claims fell on deaf ears, until yesterday when they turned on one another.
For many Black Americans, yesterday was the manifestation of this country's inability to address domestic terrorism. Peaceful protests and resistance against police brutality are viewed in the same light as the insurrection. The anarchy and mayhem that GOP pundits accuse BLM of inciting was a direct order from their leader.
Their ignorance and arrogance gave them the courage to lay siege to a government building. But if angry Black protesters attempted the same actions, many lives would've been lost.
The same reason why the police routinely kill Black people is the same reason why the police are routinely unprepar… https://t.co/Rc3yWRZ2PA— Ibram X. Kendi (@Ibram X. Kendi)1609964271.0
Suddenly, Trump supporters view themselves as oppressed. Their reign over the country is coming to a not so graceful end. Rather than humbly accepting defeat, they want to dismantle the establishment. The same establishment that helped empower them over the last four years.
Somehow this attack was yet another revelation for white Americans. Before Trump's election, the idea of police officers displaying a lack of regard for the lives of Black people was inconceivable to white Americans. The thought of parts of our government upholding systemic racism was unfathomable.
Last night, after a year of reckoning with the racism built into America's system, white Americans were forced to once again look at the enormous part white privilege plays in policing. But for Black people, it was simply a clear visual of America's decision on November 8, 2016, coming home to roost.