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Clarence Lusane, Is the Racial Storm Coming?

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When it comes to demonstrations and the former president of the United States, it matters greatly just who is doing them. Recently, Donald Trump attacked campus demonstrations against genocide in Gaza this way: “These are radical-left lunatics, and they’ve got to be stopped now.” He also called the police action on Columbia University’s campus in response to peaceful demonstrations there “a beautiful thing to watch.”

Back in 2017, however, he had somewhat different feelings about the nature of demonstrations. In fact, only recently he compared the ongoing campus protests of the present moment to the unforgettable 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. You remember that one, don’t you? White nationalists, Ku Klux Klan members, and neo-Nazis, many celebrating Trump’s presidency, protested the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee by chanting, among other things, “Jews will not replace us.” And speaking of peaceful protests, one of those white nationalists (later convicted of murder) ran his car into a 32-year-old counter-protester, killing her. At the time, asked about the demonstration, President Trump all too infamously claimed that there “were very fine people on both sides,” and later, he would insist that, in saying so, he had “answered perfectly.”

Oh, and recently, just in case you missed it, he also insisted that the 2017 horror in Charlottesville was just “a peanut” compared to what’s now underway on college campuses nationwide. With all of that in mind, let TomDispatch regular Clarence Lusane, author of Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice and Democracy, explore Trump’s true feelings when it comes to his Black MAGA supporters whose numbers, if you believe recent polls, are rising. Tom

Black MAGA Is Still MAGA

Trump’s Racism and Authoritarianism Should Be Disqualifying

Consider Donald Trump to be in a racial bind when it comes to election 2024. After all, he needs Black voters to at least defect from Joe Biden in swing states, if not actually vote for him. Yet, more than ever, he also needs his white nationalist base to believe that a second Trump term will be even more racist than the first and he's been openly claiming that he'll address the ghost of anti-white racism. Not surprisingly, his evolving strategy for the Black vote has been high on empty symbolism and viral moments, but distinctly low on specific promised policy benefits for the Black community.

Milkshakes and far-right policies are all the presumptive Republican presidential candidate has recently offered Blacks. Take his orchestrated photo op at a Chick-fil-A in Atlanta a preview of things to come. The event was organized by Black MAGA supporter and Republican operative Michaelah Montgomery, who recruited some young African Americans, probably students from nearby historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), to cheer for Trump when he entered the place. He proceeded to buy milkshakes for everyone. Montgomery herself gave Trump a picture-perfect hug and, to the glee of MAGAworld, stated, “I don't care what the media tells you, Mr. Trump. We support you.”

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Andrea Mazzarino, Anger and the MAGA Movement

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When some government program fails utterly, you’d think top officials would consider transferring at least part of the taxpayer funds they’re spending on it to programs that might actually do some good. When it comes to the U.S. military, however, as TomDispatch regular Andrea Mazzarino makes all too clear today, no such luck. And really, it just couldn’t be stranger.

At this point, the U.S. spends more money on its “defense” budget than the next nine countries (mostly allies) combined, a mind-boggling figure. Yet that budget (as well as the larger national security budget) only continues to expand. And here’s the truly odd thing: though the U.S. has poured unbelievable sums into its military since the 9/11 attacks and the launching of what quickly came to be known as the Global War on Terror, it hasn’t won a war or much of anything else in this century. And now (thank you, Donald Trump and crew!), the country itself seems to be in danger of coming apart at the seams.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the invasion of Afghanistan soon after the 9/11 attacks, resulting in a two-decade-long disaster of a losing war, or the invasion of Iraq, which cost so much and led to so little. It hardly matters where you look, in fact. As TomDispatch‘s Nick Turse recently pointed out, in Africa, where the U.S. has fought a lower-level struggle against terrorism: “In 2002 and 2003, according to State Department statistics, terrorists caused 23 casualties… Last year, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a Pentagon research institution, attacks by Islamist militants in the Sahel alone resulted in 11,643 deaths — an increase of more than 50,000%.”

And yet, as Mazzarino makes clear today, the money just continues to flow into the national security state, while insecurity in this country and the potential chaos that goes with it only increase by the day. Tom

Shooting Alone

America’s Social Priorities Shaped by Decades of War

An acquaintance who hails from the same New Jersey town as I do spends his free weekends crawling through the woods on his stomach as part of a firearms training course, green camouflage paint on his face and a revolver in his hand. He considers this both a way to have fun in his free time and to prepare for the supposed threat from immigrants everywhere. (“You never know when something could happen,” he tells me.) He's never gun-less. He brings his weapon to diners and dinners, to work meetings, and always on walks in his quiet neighborhood, where he grumbles “this is America!” whenever he hears Spanish spoken by neighbors or passersby. The implication, of course, is that the United States has become both less American and, to him, by definition, less safe in these years.

He spends his other weekends right-swiping on dating apps to try to find a new partner (he's being divorced) and watching -- yep, you guessed it! -- Fox News. He can be counted among a growing population of White, rural Americans who are lonely, lack people to count on as confidants, and feel poorly understood, not to say excluded from this country (at least as they imagine it).

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William Hartung, Democracy Versus Autocracy on America’s Campuses

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I was by nature the mildest and least courageous of young men. And yet, in April 1968, I well remember standing with two friends on the Boston Common, amid a large demonstration of young people, and turning in my draft card to protest America’s brutal and bloody war in Vietnam about which I had been feeling increasingly outraged (as so many students today are by Israel’s nightmarish set of crimes in Gaza). I then returned to my apartment and promptly wrote a letter turning down a National Defense Foreign Language Fellowship for which I had previously applied to study the Chinese language and history. In that moment, fearing I would be called up and sent to Vietnam, I had no idea whether I would end up in Canada, in jail, or indeed in the U.S. military. It was my striking luck that five women, who called themselves Women Against Daddy Warbucks, would later break into my draft board and destroy many of its 1-A files, including my own.

From that moment on, I was mobilized into a version of antiwar activism, like so many students horrified by the nightmare in Gaza today. In some strange fashion, the horror of that all-American war (and set of war crimes in a distant land) would quite literally change my life — I was then a graduate student in Chinese history — and turn me into an activist. So, I remember well how the feeling of needing to do something — anything! — can drive you into another world. That’s a reality (or perhaps I mean a surreality) so many of the students now getting arrested across this country are undoubtedly experiencing in a distinctly up-close-and-personal fashion.

Today, TomDispatch regular William Hartung, a leading expert on the U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex, considers his own years of student activism in the context of what’s happening now. He reminds us of just how a gut sense of what’s right and truly wrong on this planet of ours can mobilize us, whether we ever meant to be mobilized or not. Tom

Reflections on Student Activism

And the Struggle for a Better World

I've spent most of my life as an advocate for a more peaceful world. In recent years, I've been focused on promoting diplomacy over war and exposing the role of giant weapons companies like Lockheed Martin and its allies in Congress and at the Pentagon as they push for a “military-first” foreign policy. I've worked at an alphabet soup of think tanks: the Council on Economic Priorities (CEP), the World Policy Institute (WPI), the New America Foundation, the Center for International Policy (CIP), and my current institutional home, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft (QI).

Most of what I've done in my career is firmly rooted in my college experience. I got a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Columbia University, class of 1978, and my time there prepared me for my current work -- just not in the way one might expect. I took some relevant courses like Seymour Melman’s class on America's permanent war economy and Marcia Wright’s on the history of the colonization of South Africa. But my most important training came outside the classroom, as a student activist.

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