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Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com

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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Donald Trump Knows How to Push Our Buttons

New York Times (Opinion) 
By Thomas B. Edsall
August 03, 2017

Last week, when President Trump called on the police to use rough justice in dealing with violent Latino gangs, there was a clear method to his madness.
 
Addressing patrolmen and officers assembled in the Van Nostrand Theatre on Long Island on July 28, Trump was fully aware that his remarks would prove incendiary:
 
When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, please don’t be too nice. (Laughter.) Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay?
 
Underlying Trump’s defiance of law enforcement norms is a calculated strategy advocating the use of force, with the twofold goal of pushing liberals back on their heels and affirming the instincts of his most avid supporters.
 
The same design underpins such recent actions as his endorsement of legislation to cut legal immigration in half and his administration’s apparent plans to pursue “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions” in opposition to affirmative action.
 
Trump’s repeated attacks on liberal orthodoxy highlight how Democrats are themselves bound — hogtied is not too strong a word — by the conflicting needs and goals of the various constituencies in their multiracial, multiethnic coalition — a coalition that has been vulnerable to wedge issue attacks for 50 years.
 
Trump’s Suffolk County speech came four days after the announcement by Democratic House and Senate leaders of their newest economic proposal “A Better Deal,” the recent attempt by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to recoup Democratic majorities lost in the 2010 and 2014 midterms. This “better deal” is explicitly designed to appeal to the “many American workers who have been left behind and left out of the economic recovery” — and to reduce the political salience of issues touching on ethnicity and race.
 
In an attempt to target swing voters, the proposal calls for “a major infrastructure investment program, a national paid family leave program, rules to ensure fair work schedules” along with “apprenticeships and work-based learning programs” and “a New Tax Credit to Employers to Train and Hire New Workers.”
 
All of these items poll well, and most have been suggested before, including some in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 platform and some in Trump’s own proposals.
 
These issues are key to the Democratic struggle to get back in the good graces of white, non-college voters — a constituency that shifted by the millions from casting Democratic presidential ballots in 2008 and 2012 to casting Republican ballots in 2016.
 
A recently released study by the House Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC, concentrates on this constituency. It is based on polling from June 27 to July 13 of 1,000 likely 2018 voters, all of them white, 25 and up, without bachelor’s degrees.
 
The Majority PAC survey, conducted by Expedition Strategies and Normington, Petts and Associates, describes the profound suspicion of Democrats among these voters.
 
The survey asked whether seven statements apply more to Democrats or Republicans — “will take the right approach on health care,” “understands what it is like for regular Americans;” “will fight for people like you,” “will reduce the power of special interests in Congress,” “will cut taxes for the middle class,” “will do more to ensure that people are rewarded for hard work” and “will help improve the economy and create jobs.”
 
Democrats held the advantage on one of the seven, health care, and that was by four points. Republicans were ahead on every other issue. Most important, Republicans led Democrats by a solid 19 points on ensuring that people are rewarded for hard work and by a devastating 35 points on improving the economy and creating jobs — just what “A Better Deal” claims to do.
 
A recent survey of white working class voters found that Congressional Republicans were favored over Democrats on 6 of these 7 bread-and-butter issues. Figures are the net advantage for each party in percentage points.
 
Will take the right approach on health care
 
Understand what life is like in U.S. for regular people
 
Issues where parties are most competitive
 
in boldface
 
Will fight for people like you
 
Will reduce the power of special interests in Congress
 
Will cut taxes for the middle class
 
Will do more to ensure that people are rewarded for hard work
 
Will help improve the economy and create jobs
 
Will take the right approach on health care
 
Issues where parties are most competitive
 
in boldface
 
Understand what life is like in America for regular people
 
Will fight for people like you
 
Will reduce the power of special interests in Congress
 
Will cut taxes for the middle class
 
Will do more to ensure that people are rewarded for hard work
 
Will help improve the economy and create jobs
 
When Schumer, Pelosi and other Democrats seek to make the case for a “better deal,” they face an audience primed to disbelieve every word they say.
 
I asked Pete Brodnitz, the founder of Expedition Strategies, one of the firms that conducted this survey, whether he thought there was a link between Trump’s emphasis on immigration, Latino gangs, and crime and the Democrats’ efforts to shift the agenda to economic policy.
 
“This has been building for months but it has become pronounced recently,” he wrote in an email. The Trump administration hopes “Democrats will react by defending immigration and look ‘soft on gangs,’ ” aware that “if they push the envelope on this issue they can get coverage for their efforts and drown out Democratic efforts to change the topic.”
 
Brodnitz described Trump’s tactics as offering “ideas that sound really outlandish but that they believe have popular support — at least with their core voters” and that the Long Island speech was based on “the hope that Democrats would look more concerned about criminals than about crime and its victims.”
 
To put it mildly, it has been difficult for the Democrats to recruit key white voters to consider an economic agenda in the face of concerted efforts by the Trump campaign and his administration to shift the focus to crime.
 
Gallup found in October 2016 that the percentage of Americans who said they had “great respect” for the police had risen from 64 percent in 2015 to 76 percent in 2016. The poll was conducted three months after the killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge and five officers in Dallas in July and a steady barrage of headlines spotlighting Black Lives Matter, along with allegations of excessive force by police and several high-profile killings.
 
I asked a prominent political scientist — a man with generally moderate views — for his reaction to Trump’s comments in the Long Island speech. His answer surprised me. Requesting anonymity in order to speak candidly, he replied:
 
I think, yeah, a lot of people, whites anyway, think that the police are too constrained. When I watch the anarchists tear up Oakland, which happens pretty regularly, a part of me thinks “where are the 1968 Chicago police when we really need them?” These thugs behave the way they do in part because there are no consequences. Also, we see a lot of cases on TV where someone is resisting arrest, the police wrestle him down and hit him a few times, and then there are complaints about excessive force. Heavens’ sakes, if someone doesn’t comply with an order, what are the police supposed to do?
 
Trump made no secret of his views during the 2016 campaign, and not only received the overwhelming support of non-college white men, 71-23 (as has been widely noted), but also carried white men with college degrees by a smaller but still hefty margin, 53-39.
 
“Trump is endorsing the lex talionis — an eye for an eye,” Jonathan Haidt, the author of “The Righteous Mind” and a professor of ethical leadership at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business, wrote in an email. In his own surveys, conducted at YourMorals.org, “only a subset of people on the right endorse such beliefs; it’s basically the authoritarians, not the Burkean or ‘status quo’ conservatives.”
 
One question Haidt’s survey asks respondents is whether they agree or disagree with the idea that “a criminal should be made to suffer in the same way that his victim suffered.”
 
Haidt said “progressives strongly reject it, and it correlates fairly well with politics — the farther right you are, the more you endorse it.”
 
Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, argues in his book “The Better Angels of Our Nature” that “violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence.”
 
What, then, does Pinker make of Trump’s Long Island speech?
 
It appeals to one of our worst angels, the desire for “rough justice” — quick and brutal revenge inflicted on a suspected wrongdoer. The ultimate evolutionary rationale for revenge, vendettas, blood feuds, mob violence, summary justice, lynching, vigilantes, deadly ethnic riots, the code of the streets, and other forms of rough justice is deterrence: if a person anticipates getting beaten up for exploiting people, he’ll think twice about exploiting them.
 
Trump, in Pinker’s view, has focused on the most primitive and regressive emotions among voters:
 
So yes, Trump is wisecracking about overturning millennia of progress in taming our brutish instincts for instant retaliation, and discarding the norms and institutions of justice that our better angels have crafted and perfected.
 
Pinker sees this as part of an ongoing struggle.
 
The appeal of regressive impulses is perennial. The forces of liberalism, modernity, cosmopolitanism, the open society, and Enlightenment values always have to push against our innate tribalism, authoritarianism, and thirst for vengeance.
 
And yes,
 
at times in history the darker forces prevail — the two world wars, the American crime wave from the 1960s to early 1990s, the rise of civil war in the developing world over that same period. These darker forces, moreover, are not just raw instincts, but often rationalized in ideologies.
 
The connection may not seem obvious at first, but Pinker’s comments are directly relevant to the Democratic Party’s attempt to counter Trump with liberal economic policies.
 
Not only is their adversary a man ungoverned by rule or tradition, but he is a man who has taken “our impulses of authoritarianism and tribalism,” to quote Pinker one last time, and constructed “an edifice of rationalization around them.”
 
This puts the Democrats in a dangerous position. The more they succeed in pushing Trump up against a wall, politically speaking, the more they risk the possibility that the he will inflict real damage, whether it is hostile engagement abroad or increasingly aggressive attacks on democratic institutions at home.
 
It is ominous that Trump has already hit upon the use of force as his preferred solution when confronting domestic law-and-order issues. One hates to think of what a man with his mind-set can do with a nuclear arsenal and the world as his stage.
 
Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona and the author of a new book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” has not yet fully demonstrated the sincerity of his concern, but he has articulated the seriousness of Trump’s transgressive impulses. In an excerpt that was published by Politico, Flake describes
 
the strange specter of an American president’s seeming affection for strongmen and authoritarians created such a cognitive dissonance among my generation of conservatives — who had come of age under existential threat from the Soviet Union — that it was almost impossible to believe.
 
Conservatives
 
have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued. To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties.
 
What Flake recognizes, and what Democrats are only coming to realize, is that Trump represents a systemic assault on the legitimacy of America’s democratic processes, an attack that needs to be countered by far more that a modest collection of economic policies organized under the rubric “a better deal.”

Flake’s open defection is an important step. If it is to become a serious problem for Trump, Flake’s Republican colleagues — Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Lisa Murkowksi, Rob Portman and Ben Sasse come to mind — will have to join him and not just one vote at a time. For a challenge to Trump to be effective, Republicans’ “unnerving silence” will have to crack.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

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