Monday Musings: Celebrating MLK amid Trump’s white nationalism

January 20, 2020 5:00 am

Donald Trump a campaign rally in Fountain Hills in March 2016. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Today, we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – the most important civil rights leader in our nation’s modern history.

Dr. King and the U.S. civil rights movement will be commemorated with the traditional marches, prayer services, festivals, awards events, and cultural activities.

But as a political columnist, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge that our current president is not only working against many of the principles espoused by Dr. King, he is also indirectly soliciting white nationalist political support.

Not since former Alabama Gov. George Wallace ran for president in 1968 have we seen a presidential candidate – let alone a sitting president – stoke the fires of white supremacy. 

Recently we were exposed to racist emails from Trump’s top advisor on immigration policy, Stephen Miller. (Early in his career, the extremist Miller worked in the congressional offices of Republicans Michele Bachmann and Arizona’s John Shadegg.)

Trump himself has appealed to the white nationalist movement from the moment he entered the 2016 presidential campaign – Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists, he announced –  and he continues to do so

As Philadelphia Inquirer’s Will Bunch says, “The failure of Trump and his government to acknowledge the growing threat of white nationalism is both feckless and dangerous for the citizens he once swore on a Bible to protect. … It would take too long to chronicle all the times that Trump himself has embraced racism, xenophobia and violence.”

Do white nationalists matter? FBI Director Chris Wray has told us that the majority of U.S. domestic terrorism cases are linked to white supremacy

The threat of white nationalistic violence appears to be rising. As Donald Trump’s re-election campaign continues its previous outreach to white supremacy proponents, the chances of violence will only increase. 

There are many solid reasons to defeat Trump in 2020, including corruption, the threat to the Affordable Care Act, hollowing out such critical federal agencies as the State Department, the appointment of Attorney General Bill Barr, his immigration policies, and the fact that he ignores climate change. 

But on this MLK holiday, the single best reason to defeat Trump in November is his dedication to stoking racial resentment and history of flatly racist statements. It doesn’t get any worse than that. 

So if you happen to attend any MLK events today – particularly the formal gatherings elected officials attend to honor the ongoing struggle for civil rights – look around for Arizona Republican incumbents.

You won’t find many, if any. Why? Because it’s now Trump’s Republican Party – and the white nationalist ideals he embodies and his party has embraced stand counter to everything MLK stood for, fought for and died for.

Eye-popping political stats for purple Arizona 

Check out these 2020 political projections for our state (based on my conversations with Arizona political consultants, along with analysis from Politico and ABC15 reporter Garrett Archer):

  • Presidential advertising spending in AZ (primary and general):  $141 million
  • Arizona U.S. Senate race spending (primary and general):  $150 million
  • Total votes to be cast in the 2020 Arizona general election:  3.1 million
  • 2020 Arizona general election voter turnout:  79-80 percent

If these projections turn out to be accurate, all will set Arizona records. The voter turnout number will be the highest since Reagan’s 1980 presidential election victory (80.1 percent).

It’ll be a humdinger of a year for Arizona political junkies. And the for-profit Arizona media outlets will make a fortune from campaign advertising revenue.

So much money to be spent. So much at stake. 

Where do I sign the Invest in Education Act petition?

So, #InvestinEd provides nearly $1 billion of new K-12 dedicated funding annually from an income tax surcharge on the upper 1% of Arizona taxpayers. And the income tax bill of those super-wealthy Arizonans remains below the national average. Where do I sign a petition?

Bravo, Warren and Klobuchar!

At last week’s Democratic presidential debate, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar were superb. The two women outshone the four men on the stage. 

Since 1950, 87 countries have had women presidents or heads of state. The United States has had zero, nada, zilch! Unbelievable. 

It’s time.

‘Church Ladies’ at the State Capitol

The “Church Ladies“ are at it again.

It may be 2020, but Dana Carvey’s iconic SNL “Church Lady” comedy skit is still playing at the Arizona State Capitol. 

The “Church Ladies” – Sen. Sylvia Allen, Rep. Kelly Townsend, Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy and Sharon Slater of Family Watch International – are leading the charge to restrict the teaching of sex education in our public schools.

The ongoing attempt to impose their moral values on public education is tiresome and scary, but at times humorous. 

Townsend wants books banned, Herrod wants homosexuality portrayed a certain way, and now we have Allen trying to prohibit any sex education classes before the seventh grade, legislation that Slater crafted. 

Seriously? In 1961, I had a sex ed class in 6th grade at Phoenix Madison #1 school – too early, according to the senator from Snowflake!

Dana Carvey would brand my 6th grade class irrevocably damaged.

This is all foolishness. But in the 2022 Superintendent of Public Instruction election campaign, this “family values” issue will be used as a club, by the likes of the “Church Ladies,” to beat up on incumbent Democrat Kathy Hoffman.

Well now…isn’t that special?

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Chris Herstam
Chris Herstam

Chris Herstam has four decades of experience at the Arizona state Capitol. He has been an elected lawmaker, a gubernatorial chief of staff, a lobbyist, director of the Department of Insurance and president of the Arizona Board of Regents. Find him on Twitter at @chrisherstam.