Schoos: Our Institutions Must Save Our Democracy & Save Us From Trump

Sunday, January 21, 2018


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Donald John Trump is an unabashed and unapologetic racist. His recent comment directed toward the nation of Haiti and to the continent of Africa are his most recent contribution to his list of outrageously racist statements. He has described Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers. He undermined the credibility of a federal judge because of his Mexican descent. He attacked a Muslim Gold Star family. He targeted immigration bans against specific racial, ethnic and religious people. He mocked Nigerians claiming that they live in “huts.” He purchased racially charged full page ads directed at the innocent Central Park Five. He was the most vocal supporter of the birtherism crusade against President Obama. 

Donald Trump has proven beyond all contestation that he is an outright racist. Let’s not forget that Trump’s real estate business was twicesued by Nixon’s Department of Justice for race based housing discrimination. Put another way, Donald Trump was too racially vile for even the Nixon administration. 

When I was young, my parents took us on our family vacation to Daytona Beach Florida. The national highway system was not yet completed so we traveled south via old US routes 301 and 17. These routes cut through rural farm country with various roadside billboards urging folks to stop integration and join the United Klans of America and to stop Earl Warren by joining the John Birch Society. 

Along the roadside were other billboards advertising “whites only” motels and restaurants. In Daytona, we discovered that all African-Americans had to be off the peninsula by sunset or risk arrest, incarceration, and court the next day, where they would be fined about $10, money that was a substantial portion of the worker’s weekly wage. Those who couldn’t pay the fine were sentenced to a few days labor in the local jail where they “worked off” their fine. 

Some years later, my family moved to Daytona Beach where I attended high school for about a year and a half before returning to Rhode Island. While I was at Seabreeze Senior High School (located on the peninsula) the Volusia County School Board voluntarily decided to integrate both County high schools. Mainland High School was located across the Halifax River on the mainland. It was decided that one black student would attend Seabreeze while five black kids attended Mainland.  The rationale for the low number of kids to begin the integration process was, according to the chair of the School Board, to see if they survived. If they did, then the next year would be more robust. The good news is that after a year of being ostracized and marginalized, all the kids made it through. 

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated for his leadership on healing the racial divide in America. This was a hate crime. I’m certain that James Earl Ray didn’t recall King’s admonition that all people should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. All Ray saw in his site was a black man and he pulled the trigger. Forty-seven years after the King assassination, Dylan Roof walked into the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and shot and killed nine people belonging to a weekly bible study group. All evidence suggests that Roof did care that the people in that church were black.

Over the past fifty years, racial animus has been, with a few notable exceptions, submerged. Like an infectious disease, racism bides its time until conditions make it possible, or call forth its reemergence. Over that time, we ignored that our poverty rolls, due to housing and employment practices, disproportionately contained African Americans. De facto segregated communities continued to exist. Urban schools that were predominantly black received fewer resources. In 2010, 45.8% of black kids under the age of six lived in poverty. 

It has often been said that racism is America’s original sin. I agree that it is, and it has yet to be cleansed from our national soul. In 2008, America elected its first African-American President, a hopeful sign that America had entered a post-racial period. But the echoes of Obama’s Inaugural Address hadn’t died down when people sought to contest the validity of his right – his right – to hold his office. Chief among these “birthers” was a self-promoting, bloviating, TV show numbskull named Donald Trump. And as they say, the rest is history. 

On June 15, 2015 Trump announced his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States. Many discounted his candidacy as a political carnival act, one that spewed racial invective at every turn. It soon became obvious that he had no grasp on issues. He had no sense of history. But perhaps most important, he had no connection with our time-honored civic virtues of equality, inclusiveness, openness, and justice.

Trump has attempted to lay waste to the ties that bind and instead has pitted us against each other. He has demonstrably and verifiably lied from January 2017 to January 2018 over 2000 times. He has attacked the legitimacy of the courts, cajoled his Department of Justice to criminally investigate a former political opponent, now a private citizen, and demeaned the free press as “Fake News.” He has accused a former president of wire-tapping his home and offices in New York. He has placed people in positions of authority who by training, experience, education and temperament have no business in those positions. 

In his inaugural address, Trump created a dystopian version of America, one where violent crime ran rampant and the economy was in ruin. All prior history was made by incompetent fools who negotiated away our resources to foreign adversaries, and ran our economy into the ground. By word and deed, he has declared war on everything from science to the poor. 

And now comes this “sh*thole comment related to immigration. That would’ve been bad enough, but he coupled it with a statement suggesting the need for more desirable immigration from countries like Norway. The implication couldn’t have been clearer had he dropped the “N” bomb. 

Trump did everything but physically put the “Whites Only” signs of my youth on Ellis Island.

Lincoln once wrote that if America was to be destroyed, the destruction would come from within. Donald Trump proves that admonition true. Trump is not merely incompetent, he’s a danger to us all. He’s racist, misogynist, white nationalist, and a narcissist.  He is a two-bit wannabe authoritarian, who would be even more dangerous if he wasn’t so incompetent. Thank God that stable genius mind of his hasn’t kicked in yet. 

It is time for our institutions to act to save our democracy. They now are the only bulwark between preserving our hard won democracy and a man with the emotional maturity of a five-year-old who is working to tear it down.

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Geoffrey A. Schoos, Esq is the past President of the former Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy.      


Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017

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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

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Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don't know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

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Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don't know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don't know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don't know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don't know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?

Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

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Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

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Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

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Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

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Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%


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