Bishop: Have an Alt-Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 24, 2016

 

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When Henry Gibson adopted the Hitler salute for his cameo as an Illinois Nazi in The Blues Brothers, there was nothing to do but laugh. Life imitated art last week when Richard Spencer and his white nationalist crowd followed suit. But one has to wonder if the joke isn’t on them.

Half the country appears ready to spend a Thanksgiving in fear of the alt-right, and the half they are afraid of wonders what the heck is the alt right.  Above all, it is such absurdist theater, it is difficult to take any of it seriously. Both those decrying it and those declaiming it are giving the alt right far more credit than it deserves – which is just the currency it trades on. It isn’t that there aren’t white nationalists who feel flush with victory, it is their sheer irrelevance that is hilarious.

Well before Richard Spencer coined the phrase in 2008, Rhode Island was at the epicenter of the yet unnamed alt right movement when Jason Mattera and fellow College Republicans at Roger Williams University instituted the first Whites Only Scholarship.

The State Republican Party threw a hissy fit and revoked the charter of the student group.  But here is where folks should have begun to suspect this pushback against political correctness wasn’t intended to circle the wagons of white privilege, but to poke fun at the extent to which multiculturalism and tribal solidarity excluded white culture. If the slightest vestigial expression on behalf of white Christian tradition was on its way to becoming a micro-aggression, why not just go all in for a macro-aggression?

Mattera’s scholarship was successfully designed, with a youthful lack of decorum, to goad critics into exasperated paroxysms, i.e. turn our guilt-ridden white folks red in the face.

That is the alt right – willing to say and do almost anything for shock value. Little wonder that this is the movement that spawned the “Dangerous Faggot Tour” for Milo Yiannopolus, the gay gadfly who has taken Spencer’s label and run with it.  While this pop culture icon doesn’t approve of the white supremacists who occupy a corner of the stage he has seized, he says of Spencer: ““I don’t see it as a bad thing that I surround myself with edgy people. . . . Because they’re interesting. I’m not going to not hang out with someone because the New York Times calls him racist.”

The mainstream media eat this stuff up like Halloween candy, yet with such earnest sincerity that fake news and real news merge. They seem to have no clue that within the tiny world of alt right trolls, the vast majority are just trying to get their goat. Yiannopolis hit pay dirt when Hillary Clinton, in her August 25th speech in Reno, Nevada ‘tying’ Donald Trump to white nationalists, cited two of his Breitbart stories:

Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy

Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer

Joel Stein who was watching the speech with Yiannopolis for a would be Bloomberg expose observed: “[Yiannopolis] wrote outrageous headlines trying to provoke liberals, and the world’s top liberal read them with head-shaking seriousness, falling for the prank.”

Richard Spencer takes himself very seriously . . . you object. But, no one else does!

Apparently, very few in the media have recovered from the rope a dope of the election and the alt right meme is full steam ahead in their coverage of the Trump Transition -- which promises to be every bit as incisive as their coverage of the election.

Now making the rounds on facebook: homage to Dan Rather who is in just the high dudgeon that pleases alt right provocateurs. “An American Treasure” a friend of mine crows about his lame same-old send up of all things Trump. How exactly is the man who kicked the legs out from under American journalism and let his own confirmation bias reign as the death knell for the mainstream media a national treasure?

For reasons of our Democratically dominated and intellectually ossified state governance and congressional delegation, GoLocalProv recently reported we may be the least influential state in the nation. Yet the Governor and Mayor of Providence seem intent on making their domains appear as if concentration camps of victims. If the alt right has its way, we’ll be laughing stocks to boot.

Council of Churches executive, Reverend Donald Anderson, emerged from the Governor’s recently convened group therapy session with religious leaders to opine that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act was what we all had to fear. Just what we need, an invitation for a council of the barely religious warning that devout Christians are a scourge on the earth. We too lie awake nights wondering whether the worst might come true and some bakery might refuse a cake for a gay wedding.

This is just the kind of thing that convinces people of good will that gay marriage is an attack on their norms and not an effort to bring dignity to sincere relations that poses no threat to tradition. If you pick culture wars like this, you have to expect people to fight back, because believing in one’s own traditions is not bigotry.

Indeed, liberal essayist Mark Lilla criticized the Democratic party’s reliance on identity politics in the wake of the election, writing in the New York Times: 

“The whitelash thesis is convenient because it absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored. . . .Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists. Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.”

If the Ku Klux Klan should rear its ugly head in Rhode Island, we will be the first to denounce it. But some small spate of unwelcome racial epithets sporadically tossed out by young men who go home to their parent's basement each night are hardly the stuff of race wars or slavery redux. There will surely be policies of the Trump administration that progressives will find unwelcome, but racism is not the calling card of this administration.

 

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Brian Bishop is on the board of OSTPA and has spent 20 years of activism protecting property rights, fighting overregulation and perverse incentives in tax policy. 

 

Related Slideshow: Winners and Losers - 2016 Election

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Winner

Joe Trillo and John DePetro

While most Republicans in Rhode Island were hiding in the bushes, Trillo (the former GOP lawmaker) and DePetro (the WPRO talk show host) were loyal advocates for Donald Trump from the beginning and through the rough spots.

Both could be big winners and could score slots with the administration -- want to go to the White House? You now know the rings you need to kiss.

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Winner

Donald Trump, President of the United States

The most unlikely candidate pulled off the biggest victory in Presidential history. The billionaire developer was underestimated which set forth much of his success during the primaries and in the election. The next four years will never be dull.   

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Winner

General Michael Flynn

The Rhode Island native and URI grad will have a major roll in the Trump Administration and America's foreign policy. As top GOP consultant Ian Prior wrote in GoLocal in July about Flynn when he was on the VP shortlist:

Of course, there are any number of national security experts that can prosecute the case against Hillary Clinton, but Flynn is unique. He is a registered Democrat that was appointed by President Obama in 2012 to serve as Director of the DIA. Even more importantly, he resigned two years later over what he believed to be a misguided approach by the administration as it concerned ISIS.

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Loser

Nellie Gorbea, Secretary of State

This year's election was one of the the most mismanaged in modern Rhode Island history. First, the Chief-of Staff of the Secretary of State's office gets into a battle with talk show host John DePetro on social media. The action seemed inappropriate at best for the head of the office administering the election.

Then, the state's Presidential election hit a number of rough spots with faulty equipment and a failed repair and triage system that lead to long lines and frustration in a number of communities across the state.

The job of Secretary of State has three major components:

1) Take care of the State's achieves

2) Maintain a database of businesses

3) Run the state's elections

She needs to assure voters that she understands the problems and correct the mistakes.

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Loser

Brandon Bell, GOP Chair

Both Democratic Congressional candidates won big. The GOP had a net loss in the legislature.

Bell went all in on taking out Speaker Nick Mattiello -- a pro-business legislator, instead of recruiting a large number of competitive candidates. If Mattiello delivers of paper ballots like his campaign claims - Bell will have wildly miscalculated at every level and will have left the GOP a weaker party.

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Losers

Cicilline and Langevin

A Trump win greatly increases the likelihood that Rhode Island will lose a Congressional seat in the next federal redistricting. Rhode Island will be more like Vermont and Delaware -- two Senators and just one House member. This will mean a big loss for Rhode Island's clout in D.C.

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Winner

Allan Fung, Republican Mayor of Cranston

Fung had just the kind of night he wanted to have. He ran up big numbers against Democrat Mike Sepe and put parkinggate in his proverbial rear window.

The margin of victory is impressive -- Fung ran up 68% of the vote and has established himself as one of the top Republicans in Rhode Island.

Now, the personable Fung is the GOP frontrunner to challenge Raimondo as it does not look like she is going to Washington, D.C. now.

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Loser

RI's Broken Technology Infrastructure 

No money, no car, and no vote.

Lets see if we got this right. You have to wait in line to vote in some locations for as much as two hours because not enough scanners were deployed. Some days you can't register your car because the Hewlett-Packard system is not deployed and the state is now suing the company. And, tens of thousands of folks most in need have not been able to get their most critical benefits (or the from benefits) because the UHIP technology was flawed despite hundreds of millions being spent. 

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Winner

Speaker of the House, Nick Mattiello

If Mattiello does hold on to his House seat, he will be a stronger Speaker than ever before. He has added more Democrats to his majority and was the architect to many of the Democrats victories. 

The simmering stress between Mattiello and Raimondo will turn into a vibrant boil over during the next two years. Raimondo was no help to Mattiello or House members -- they had to clean up for her truck tolls and absorb her unwillingness to release 38 Studios documents.

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Loser

Gina Raimondo, Governor

Raimondo's options and national political network just took a major blow. No longer can Raimondo jump to the Clinton Administration to avoid a difficult reelection. Moreover, national Democratic connections are now in Siberia as the Presidency, the House and the Senate are all in Republican hands.

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Loser

Peter F. Neronha United States Attorney District of Rhode Island 

In a short period, it is highly likely the Neronha and a few other high profile political appointees will be replaced by the Trump White House. 

The impact of Ray Gallison and others is an unknown.

 
 

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