In Democratic Individuality, I argued that at a high level of abstraction, modern conservatives, liberals and radicals believe that the best economic, social and political institutions foster each person’s individuality. Their differences are largely empirical or social theoretical. All clash with modern authoritarians. I will take up practical issues such as torture and the lineage of the neocons and link them to larger issues in how we conceive a decent regime, locally and internationally.
The murder of Jo Cox, Racist Terror, and Donald Trump
Last Thursday, at a campaign rally in the Batley and Spen district in Yorkshire, a racist murderer stabbed and shot Jo Cox, a recently elected Labor Party member of Parliament with a family and a bright future. Cox had long worked for Oxfam, campaigned for receiving Syrian refugees into the UK, and fought for the withdrawal by Israel from the illegally and immorally Occupied Territories of Palestine. In her initial speech in Parliament, she eloquently described her own constituency:
“Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages. Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
The murderer screamed out “Britain First.” That is the name of a racist organization which attracts a part of the following for the withdrawal of Britain for the European Union. There will be a referendum on “Brexit” this coming Thursday.
But many ordinary people in Europe have also genuinely been hurt by the EU. The common currency, as originally adopted, tripled prices while wages did not increase. So when I was in Toledo with my family to give a course on toleration in medieval Cordoba and Grenada, there was a march of 4,000 workers on a Sunday. Everything was shut down. That day, there were three-quarters of a million working class marchers in Madrid…
Spanish workers were protesting crass exploitation by Eurocrats and capitalists who dominate the “European” Union. And in this, their grievances parallel those of many ordinary Americans who have lost their jobs to globalization/trade agreements like NAFTA and the TPP…
Further, since there is no European financial instititon like the Fed with the power to print money – nor European-wide programs of government spending or tax cuts to get local economies going again, domestic governments which get into debt to big banks, including Goldman Sachs, strangle the people through “austerity.” They cut budgets horrendously for programs that serve a common good (education, pensions, unemployment insurance, health care and the like) to funnel money to billionaires. That is what the Greek crisis, since 2008, is about. Midway through the crisis, one 75 year old man, who had been eating out of garbage cans and protesting, shot himself in front of the Syntagma (parliament). See here. Huge demonstrations from below followed, brutalized by police, as they have throughout increasingly barbaric rule of the .0001%. See here.
A strong motivation anywhere for voting against the Union is that it is a vicious form of class conflict from above imposed on the workers who are looked down on in the corporate European media. In this respect, the EU is like the trade “deals” in the United States – NAFTA, under Bill Clinton and the TPP under Barack Obama – which have cost ordinary people, particularly in the Midwest, jobs on which they could support their families. Both Bernie Sanders intelligently and Donald Trump opportunistically, have made this an issue in the 2016 election; there is now, rightly, a popular revolt against such trade “deals.” Even Hillary Clinton has also reversed herself, having spoken of the TPP as the “gold standard,” to call for revising some of its nasty effects on jobs and the environment. Representing a villainous corporate establishment, she is, of course, not quite believable about this…
One of the most significant features of the Bernie Sanders campaign in the United States is to reach out – from an anti-racist position – to white workers who are hurt by glitzy American/global capitalism. Sanders wants a decent life – a common good – “for all of us.” In contrast, the Democratic Party under Bill and Hillary Clinton and its corporate media entourage spit on workers. White people who complain about globalization are “backward,” “ignorant” – talk about what Carl Jung psychologically named projection – and likely supporters of Trump.
Consider the reporting on West Virginia primary where 80% of Democrats – often white, present or former coal miners and their families – voted for Sanders. CNN and MSNBC pundits oozed sarcasm – “obviously,” they implied, this was a racist vote.
But that is a lie. The vote for Sanders was not, and has not been anywhere in the country. It was a vote for all of us, that we are all in this together. Sanders proposed a serious Keynsian jobs program Clinton and Paul Krugman, who forgot himself, arrogantly, contemptuously, in a cowardly way, pooh-poohed this, but what Sanders argued for is, in fact, a reasonable solution to America’s problems. In contrast, Donald Trump is not supported mainly by working people. The median income of Trump supporters is $72,000. See Dave Anderson here and below:
“Nate Silver, in a May 3 posting on his FiveThirtyEight website, says Trump voters are economically better off than most Americans:
‘The median household income of a Trump voter so far in the primaries is about $72,000, based on estimates derived from exit polls and Census Bureau data. That’s lower than the $91,000 median for Kasich voters. But it’s well above the national median household income of about $56,000. It’s also higher than the median income for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters, which is around $61,000 for both.’
Naomi Klein also rightly pointed to this oppression of workers in her remarks at the Chicago Summit of progressives this past weekend. But horrific, sneering patronization of working people stamps corporate media marketing of Trump, a monster, whom t he media have been made the nominee of the Republican party For Trump has received enormous publicity. And his call for barring Muslims, attacking American Muslims and Arab-Americans, and building a wall against/deporting Mexican immigrants has been greeted mainly without insisting on its name: racism.
In contrast, the same media have fought to suppress Sanders campaign, often with remarkably dishonest reporting on Sanders’ victories and positions – see for instance here.
Now, parallel to Trump, Britain First organizes to keep immigrants out of Britain and to do violence to anti-racists like Jo Cox. They seek to preserve supposedly “pure” English communities, For despite its rapacious, capitalist economic alliance, a great aspect of the European Union is that everyone admitted to Europe can go to any country without a passport.
Further, Angela Merkel, the Prime Minister of Germany, has stood out irrationally for austerity, and imposed a brutal crisis on ordinary Greek working people. See here. At the time of Arab Spring and Occupy, revolt swept Europe, including in Greece, Spain and students in England, who faced with rising personal debt, destroyed the headquarters of the Tories – Prime Minister Cameron’s Party – in London. That is coincident with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labor Party, Podemos, and long struggles in Greece.
But in contrast, Merkel has also responded with admirable statespersonship, compassion, and even risk to her remaining Prime Minister to the Syrian refugee crisis.
Emigration throughout Europe also means that students can and do choose to go to Universities in many different countries. This is still mostly paid for by governments on the commendable thought that the future of democracies rests on the education – the democratic education – of its citizens. And the future of young people should not be mortgaged, as in the United States, to a form of debt-slavery by banks…
Striking down American parasites – Goldman Sachs, AIG, corporately owned or identified-politicians (the Republicans but the DNC and many Democrats as well) – is a prerequisite for restoring American citizenship, that is, for a reasonable financial future for every ordinary citizen.
Jo Cox was for remaining in Europe for decent reasons, including welcoming those driven from the Middle East by American aggressions, occupations, and immoral and losing attempts at regime-change.
Thomas Mair, the man who murdered Jo Cox, was no friend of working people. He was a racist. Mair was a devotee of the National Alliance in the United States from which, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he purchased pamphlets including on weapons making between 1999-2003. William Pierce, the author of the creepy Turner Diaries was the leader of the National Alliance. The Turner Diaries celebrate Adolf Hitler, the “greatest leader of the twentieth century.” They speak of genocide as “an unpleasant inconvenience” to white murderers. Pierce inspired the slaughter of children in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh.
Jo Cox’s murderer also followed the SA [South African] Patriot put out by white RHINO, an apartheid group from South Africa. Britain First, the National Front, the National Alliance, Golden Dawn in Greece – Hitlerites in Europe and America – are tied to those in the former British and Dutch colonies of Africa, particularly Zimbabwe (the former Rhodesia) and South Africa. They have links with the Right Front in the Ukraine. The movement, as Richard Cohen, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center, rightly says, is global. See here.
But it is also very American. The murder of Jo Cox was a year to the day following Dylan Roof’s murder of 9 people at the historic, anti-racist AME Methodist Church in Charlestown. Roof was also a lone wolf. But tied in to the same global racism, he wore insignia from the SA Patriot and Rhodesian racists.
Oddly, however, admirers of Hitler are not spoken of as terrorists in the American and British media. Mair, as Glenn Greenwald reveals below, was said to be “not a violent man.” Even when the Times caught up with the Southern Poverty Law Center story a day later, it still did not refer to racist murder as terrorism. Why?
Lynching is the great, modern form of terror in the United States, involving the murder of at least 4,000 named individuals (h/t Brian Stephenson and the Equal Justice Initiative) and many more namelessly slaughtered. And the history of slavery and segregation – for instance, those killed in the Middle Passage – dwarfs anything so far committed by Al-Qaida.
But American genocides are masked by what I call Founding Amnesias. Still, for terrorism, one can’t beat the US army’s repeated slaughters of indigenous people also across the country, emblemized by Sand Creek and Wounded Knee.
Thus, murders by white racists in the United States are not terror because the murderers are…white. Worse yet, even the Southern Poverty Law Center refers elliptically to “white nationalists” or “white power” as if this were an honorable idea or practice. But black nationalists, like the Black Muslims, have lynched no whites, enslaved no whites, engaged in no racist terror. The first thing to notice about this international society of murderers is that they perpetrate racist terror and often admire Hitler.
Further if you want to understand where racist ideas come from, look closely at the American corporate media and corporate politics. A repressed homosexual and abuser of his wife like Omar Mateen is supposedly a “radical Islamic” terrorist, as Trump and Clinton suggest, but Thomas Mair is no racist terrorist (Hillary, however, did issue a statement mourning Jo Cox…). Now, both individuals were troubled. It may be wrong to blame the action of either on their supposed affiliation (actually, much weaker in Mateen’s case). But the differentiation in corporate media propaganda, the stigmatization of one as a “radical Islamic terrorist” and the other as a “troubled individual,” is racist, protects and forments racist terrorism.
For as Glenn Greenwald argues here and below in the Intercept, there is no reason to speak of Matteen as a terrorist and not Mair. In fact, there is even more reason to see Mair as part of a tradition of racist terror, if the term terror is to have any meaning.
Donald Trump utters pointed racist statements. Last year, for instance, Trump spoke of supposed dangers to police in certain areas of London, a stereotype he learned from reading/knowing about Britain First and the English Right. Trump was praised for this by Britain First which urged its supporters, on Facebook, to vote for him. Trump has awoken great enthusiasm from KKK organizer David Duke who endorsed Trump as a “glorious leader.” Trump did not reject Duke’s endorsement out of hand since, after all, what is wrong with the KKK? Surely, not lynching…
Interestingly Fred L. Trump, a New York construction magnate and father of little Donald, was involved with the Klan. Woody Guthrie rented from him, and wrote two songs about his racism (h/t
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project”
There was also this:
“Beach Haven ain’t my home!
I just cain’t pay this rent!
My money’s down the drain!
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven looks like heaven
Where no black ones come to roam!
No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!”
(these songs were found in 1950s Guthrie notebooks by Will Kaufman, a professor at the University of Central Lancashire). See here.
Donald Trump, who oozes bigotry, learned to hate from his father. And when Donald Trump says, “bar Muslims,” “profile Muslims,” “build a wall against Mexicans,” “the President is not an American,” he speaks as part of this global racist movement. Two white thugs beat an elderly latino man in South Boston; “When arrested, one of the thugs told police, ‘Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.’ See here. Trump refused to condemn them.
Trump also incites beating people at his rallies. He attacks judges like Gonzalo Curiel for their nationality – Curiel oversees the lawsuit against the phony Trump University – and even his supporter Paul Ryan, a racist himself, says this is stereotypically racist. Trmp also undermines for personal gain, the independence of the judiciary.
The Republican party has appealed to racism since Nixon (replacing segregationist Democrats with its Southern Strategy). Republicans have been endlessly willing to summon it up against President Obama, or as Jimmy Carter put it, “I think there’s a heavy reaction among some of the racially conscious Republicans against an African-American being president.” See here. Trump just names this more candidly than others.
There is thus a largely hidden symbiosis between the Klan/Nazi Right and Trump. But once again, the American corporate media will not call this by its name: a racist terror with roots in Hitler’s vision of a parasitic, settler Aryan race.
Later this week, I will put up a post on Hitler’s eugenics. Though I have taught about IQ testing and eugenics for 30 years, I have only learned recently that Hitler’s eugenics focused on the Wild West – what the American Frederick Jackson Turner called “the frontier” and Hitler “Lebensraum,” and the murder of Native Americans. In his Table Talk, Hitler called the Soviet Union soldiers “redskins” and aimed to conquer and colonize “the Wild East.”
Now racist terror and more deeply, genocide toward nonwhite people has been central to American history and, again not well known, to the World Wars of the twentieth century. The “Wild East” of Poland and Russia – Lebensraum both for the powerful Pan-German League at the turn of the Twentieth Century and especially for Hitler – is a mirror of the Wild West and American “Manifest Destiny,” an insight suppressed in American universities and the press during and after the Cold War. Since 2012, Carroll Kakel here and I, among others, have begun to unearth it.
Trump mainlines the pure stuff. Because racist terror is real in the world – the United States helps back it in many countries, including the Right Front in the Ukraine. And these ideas kill to this moment. If Trump is “elected,” there will be much more death and brutality to come…
Why is the Killer of British MP Jo Cox not being Called a Terrorist?
BRITISH LABOUR MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered yesterday. Although the motive is not yet proven, there is mounting evidence that the detained suspect, 52-year-old white male Thomas Mair, was motivated by political ideology. Cox was an outspoken advocate for refugees. At least two witnesses say Mair, as he carried out the attack, yelled “Britain First,” the name of a virulently right-wing anti-immigrant party. He has years of affiliation with neo-Nazi groups: what Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “a long history with white nationalism.” [“white nationalism” is racist killing and oppression] The U.K. is in the midst of a bitter and virulent debate about whether to exit the EU — Cox opposed that — and much of the pro-Brexit case centers on fear-mongering over immigrants.
Despite all of this, it’s virtually impossible to find any media outlet calling the attacker a “terrorist” or even suggesting that it might be “terrorism.” To the contrary, the suspected killer — overnight — has been alternatively described as a gentle soul or a mentally ill “loner”:
Both rags that did most to fuel an atmosphere of hate want you to know he was a ‘loner’ and no one else is to blame. pic.twitter.com/UawOIduKdT
This stands in stark contrast to a very similar incident that took place in the U.K. in 2010, when a British MP, Stephen Timms, was brutally stabbed and almost killed by a woman angry over his vote in support of the Iraq War. In that case, British media outlets almost uniformly called the attack “terrorism”; The Guardian, for instance, described it as “the first terrorist attack to injure someone on the U.K. mainland since 7 July 2005.” The headline of the British tabloid Mirror called the attacker a “woman terrorist.” And just yesterday, another tabloid, The Sun, reported on Timms’s comments about Cox and, in its headline, referred to him as “Terror Stab Survivor.”
The difference is obvious: Timms’s attacker was a Muslim of Bangladeshi descent, while Cox’s alleged killer … is not. As I’ve written repeatedly, the word “terrorism” has no real concrete meaning and certainly no consistent application. In the West, functionally speaking, it’s now a propaganda term with little meaning other than “a Muslim who engages in violence against Westerners or their allies.” It’s even used for Muslims who attack soldiers of an army occupying their country.
It’s certainly true that there are some suggestions that Mair — Cox’s alleged killer — had struggles with mental illness. But exactly the same was true of Omar Mateen, who slaughtered 49 people in an Orlando LGBT club last week, and he was instantly decreed to be a “terrorist” by essentially every media outlet despite those mental health issues and his obvious struggles with his own sexual orientation.
Again, the difference is painfully obvious. As Reza Aslan put it today about Mair: “He suffered from mental illness is now terror shorthand for ‘he wasn’t Muslim’ … even if he was a fucking Nazi!” At this point, it is not hyperbole to note that the real definition of these terms is best captured by this screen shot from Family Guy:
Those who instantly and reflexively call Muslims “terrorists” struggled with how to process this latest attack. As The Daily Mail’s Dan Hodges noted, a Breitbart writer indignantly complained just four days ago that the media were refusing to assign collective guilt to Muslims for Mateen’s attack and instead were blaming mental illness — “The media are trying to spin that this was a ‘lone wolf’ attack by an unbalanced individual while ignoring the Islamic beliefs of the attacker” — while another Breitbart writer yesterday said exactly the opposite about Cox’s killer: “Are we seriously being expected to believe that this act of violence by a deranged loner represents a statement on the political climate of Britain of which we should all take note?” As The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman put it:
It really is something seeing the same people so quick to blame Islam for other killings cry now “We don’t know the motive! Mental illness!”
To be very clear: I’m glad when the media withhold judgment about a killer’s motives or goals before there is sufficient evidence to know that with reasonable certainty. I have no particular objection to their refraining from applying the “terrorist” label to Cox’s killer before more evidence is available. And, as I said, the term “terrorist” at this point has so little cogent meaning that debates about how to apply it seem quaint and completely academic. The scholars Remi Brulin and Lisa Stampnitzky have spent years documenting how the term, from the start, was little more than a propaganda tool designed to legitimize one side’s violence while delegitimizing its enemies’ violence.
The issue is that this journalistic restraint is extremely selective. Does anyone have any doubt at all that if Cox’s suspected killer had been Muslim, yelling “Allah Akbar” instead of “Britain First,” then every media outlet on the planet would be describing him forever as a “terrorist”? The fact that they are not doing so here sheds great light into what this word really is.
“Trump exposes liberal ignorance of the working class
The working class is invisible in this country much of the time. But in election years, the white folks in this demographic are discussed ad nauseam by political reporters. This discussion is rather annoying to Jack Metzger, a core member of the Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies and a retired Professor of Humanities from Roosevelt University in Chicago.
Metzger says that when the discussion of class migrates from social scientists, “with their ‘operational definitions’ and facility with math” to the pundits, you get a lot of “loose stereotypes and class-prejudiced assumptions.” It has turned into “a low-level one-sided cultural class war” where “the narrating class” surmises that working-class whites are “America’s perpetual bigot class.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning progressive columnist Connie Schultz has said many reporters and columnists associate Donald Trump and his buddy Sarah Palin with white working-class ignorance and bigotry. A Cleveland Plain Dealer writer proclaimed: “Thanks to Trump, the entire Palin clan is now back in the spotlight they so crave. Come July, Republican National Convention organizers should house the whole dysfunctional family in a trailer park in Ashtabula [Ohio].”
This angered Schultz since both of her grandmothers lived some of their lives in trailer homes in Ashtabula. She noted that “since Donald Trump’s charade of a candidacy caught fire, I have heard many fellow liberals freely toss around the terms ‘white trash’ and ‘trailer trash.’ These are people who would never dream of telling a racist joke, but they think nothing of ridiculing those of lesser economic means. Every group has its ‘other.’ For too many white intellectuals, it’s the working class.”
Metzger says that, unlike Schultz, “most of the narrating class are from solidly middle-class backgrounds with little or no experience of working-class people of any color.” He says, from his reading and experience, the outright classist remarks are “relatively rare” and “for the most part class-prejudiced assumptions are based on professional middle-class ignorance and misunderstanding.”
Metzger argues the mainstream commentators are sloppy and superficial. For example, they tend to define “working class” as people without bachelor’s degrees.
Metzger says many of these commentators don’t realize that nearly 70 percent of all adult whites don’t have bachelor’s degrees. They assume that most whites are college educated like themselves and that white people who have graduated from college are less bigoted and narrow-minded than people who have not. He says, “As a college professor, I very much hope this assumption is valid, but I could find no solid evidence that it is.”
Metzger says there is a class-based blame-shifting (“It’s not us, it’s those rednecks!”), which helps perpetuate racism and other systems of oppression. The rather invisible but “well-documented institutional racism that involves banks denying mortgages, employers not hiring blacks, and landlords refusing and/or exploiting black renters is not generally carried out by poor and working-class whites, but by white middle-class professionals.”
Nate Silver, in a May 3 posting on his FiveThirtyEight website, says Trump voters are economically better off than most Americans:
“The median household income of a Trump voter so far in the primaries is about $72,000, based on estimates derived from exit polls and Census Bureau data. That’s lower than the $91,000 median for Kasich voters. But it’s well above the national median household income of about $56,000. It’s also higher than the median income for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters, which is around $61,000 for both.”
Republican voters are wealthier overall than Democratic voters and richer people are more likely to vote, particularly in primaries and caucuses. Silver said that that while turnout considerably increased overall from four years ago, there’s no sign of an especially heavy turnout among “working-class” or lower-income Republicans.
The median income for Clinton and Sanders voters — $61,000 for both candidates — was close to the overall median income in each state. Silver estimates that about 27 percent of American households had incomes under $30,000 last year. By comparison, 20 percent of Clinton voters did, as did 18 percent of Sanders supporters. But only 12 percent of Trump voters have incomes below $30,000.
Almost all of Trump’s voters were non-Hispanic whites. The median household income for non-Hispanic whites is about $62,000, still quite lower than the $72,000 median for Trump voters.
Silver says that “although about 44 percent of Trump supporters have college degrees, according to exit polls — lower than the 50 percent for Cruz supporters or 64 percent for Kasich supporters — that’s still higher than the 33 percent of non-Hispanic white adults, or the 29 percent of American adults overall, who have at least a bachelor’s degree.”
Nevertheless, economic anxiety is widespread. Big majorities of Republicans in every state said they’re “very worried” about the condition of the U.S. economy, according to exit polls, and these voters have been more likely to vote for Trump.
Meanwhile at America’s most prestigious conservative magazine, The National Review, people are going into conniptions over Donald Trump and his support by lesser breeds. Kevin Williamson expresses utter contempt for people living in “downscale communities” in Appalachia and the Rust Belt. He talks about welfare dependency, drug and alcohol addiction, and family anarchy using the same type of language which was deployed against black “welfare queens” by Saint Reagan:
“Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. … The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles.”
This country is full of “downscale communities.” For decades, incomes have stagnated and more people are looking for fewer jobs. This election year, Americans — both working class and middle class —want this to be discussed. *** The Washington Post
The unbelievable story of why Woody Guthrie hated Donald Trump’s dad
Woody Guthrie, folk singer supreme, is known for the magisterial portraits he painted of Dust Bowl America and his sweeping indictments of social injustice. What’s not there in the beautiful imagery of his song “This Land Is Your Land” — the ribbon of highway, the endless skyway, the diamond deserts — is right there in the slogan often affixed to his guitar: “This machine kills fascists.”
But artists who traffic in grand themes are also allowed to get specific. In one of the strangest stories yet to emerge from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, it appears that, more than half a century ago, Woody Guthrie penned lyrics condemning the candidate’s father, Fred Trump, for racism.
“Donald did inherit his father’s racism, and was probably actively coached in his father’s racism, and worked with his father to perpetuate it,” argued Will Kaufman, the professor of American literature and culture at Britain’s University of Central Lancashire who unearthed the scoop, said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post. “He picked up the mantle and ran with it with his father at his side. That’s why people are interested in this I think.”
Trump has been repeatedly accused of racism after his comments about Mexicans and has repeatedly denied such charges. “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” he has said.
The story begins with Kaufman, the author of one book about Guthrie already at work on another and a performer of the folk hero’s music, sifting through the Guthrie archivesin Tulsa last year. There, in one of Guthrie’s notebooks — which contain pages upon pages of lyrics never set to music — he found these lines, written in the early 1950s:
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project
There was also this:
Beach Haven ain’t my home!
I just cain’t pay this rent!
My money’s down the drain!
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven looks like heaven
Where no black ones come to roam!
No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!
“Beach Haven,” it turns out, was an apartment building erected by Fred Trump — that is, “Old Man Trump,” who died in 1999 — in New York to house large numbers of veterans returning from World War II. Guthrie, who served in the Merchant Marine, was among them. As Kaufman recounted in a story first published at the Conversation, the singer moved there in 1950.
“When Guthrie first signed his lease, it’s unlikely that he was aware of the murky background to the construction of his new home, the massive public complex that Trump had dubbed ‘Beach Haven,’” Kaufman wrote. “Trump would be investigated by a U.S. Senate committee in 1954 for profiteering off of public contracts, not least by overestimating his Beach Haven building charges to the tune of US$3.7 million.”
But this wasn’t just a story about a developer behaving badly. It was a story about a developer behaving really badly. In Kaufman’s telling, Old Man Trump followed federal guidelines against “inharmonious uses of housing” — as one Trump biographer put it, “a code phrase for selling homes in white areas to blacks.” Thus, Beach Haven was an oasis with a “color line” where “no black ones come to roam,” as Guthrie put it.
“These writings have never before been published; they should be, for they clearly pit America’s national balladeer against the racist foundations of the Trump real estate empire,” Kaufman wrote.
Will Kaufman. (Courtesy Will Kaufman).
One need not unearth a lyric from an era before the Eisenhower Interstate System to find people accusing Donald Trump of racism. He’s been called that by hecklers,writersand other critics.
But the argument to which Kaufman — and, from the grave, Guthrie — give voice is less often discussed in the large amount of media coverage devoted to Trump in the past six months. Some have made the point that the Donald abandoned Old Man Trump’s commitment to middle-class housing; the argument that the Trumps’ entire housing enterprise, which was investigated for discriminating against black tenants in the 1970s, has racist roots is, perhaps, less often discussed.
“It’s not a case of the whole apple not falling far from the tree,” Kaufman said of candidate Trump’s alleged shortcomings. “The apple is still connected to the tree.” Asked whether Donald Trump’s alleged sins were as bad as Old Man Trump’s alleged sins, Kaufman said: “I think he’s sneakier.”
From left: Fred Trump, boxing promoter Don King and Donald Trump in 1987. (Associated Press)