Progressives Need To Go Beyond Usual Political Language This Year

The writer Glenn Greenwald, who ruthlessly analyzes American politics as he pinpoints its disappointments and foibles, probably has the best take so far on the current and changing political milieu in the world, and it could apply to the current conservative moment in Oklahoma as well.

Greenwald, who has written for Salon and other publications and sites and helped found Intercept, said in a recent interview with Slate that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is a dangerous politician but the response to his threat and support have been somewhat misconstrued. In the interview, Greenwald notes:

Do you think the people voting for Donald Trump because they feel their economic future has been destroyed, or because they are racist, or because they feel fear of immigrants and hate the U.S. elite structure and want Trump to go and blow it up, give the slightest s—about Ukraine, that Trump is some kind of agent of Putin? They don’t! Just like the Brexit supporters.

The interview, which I linked to above, is wide-ranging and nuanced. Greenwald devotes a lot of his words to the recent Democratic National Convention email hack release by Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, but I want to focus on the above quote because I think it can be applied here in Oklahoma as well.

Too often, the national media and even progressives think that by simply calling out someone as a racist, sexist or liar will have some type of impact on changing people’s minds or on an election. There have been some cases, usually involving scandal, where that has been the case, but, as Greenwald notes, Trump supporters just don’t care about the larger ramifications of his presidency. They just want to “blow it up” in the figurative sense and see what happens.

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The Right Question

So the latest U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe statement that’s percolating in the media is that he believes students are getting brainwashed into believing in global warming.

Inhofe made this statement in a radio show interview last week:

You know, our kids are being brainwashed? I never forget because I was the first one back in 2002 to tell the truth about the global warming stuff and all of that. And my own granddaughter came home one day and said “Popi (see “I” is for Inhofe, so it’s Momi and Popi, ok?), Popi, why is it you don’t understand global warming?” I did some checking and Eric, the stuff that they teach our kids nowadays, you have to un-brainwash them when they get out.

Note the Trump-like bragging—“I was the first one,” etc.—and, of course, also note the “un-brainwash them" remark. Inhofe has been a notorious denier of the impact of climate change on the planet, calling it a hoax created by liberal scientists intent on bringing down the fossil fuel industry.

As ThinkProgress pointed out in its post on the remarks, and as I’ve pointed out here before, Inhofe has received around $2 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. Does anyone think that really doesn’t influence his crusade against basic science? It’s a matter of caring, not believing, here in Oklahoma. A majority of voters here simply don’t care.

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Strange Days Indeed

This has been the freakiest, weirdest political season I’ve ever experienced both nationally and locally in Oklahoma, from the rise of the nationalistic Donald Trump to the gross fiscal mismanagement by Republicans dealing with our state budget.

Add to that the violence on the streets here in this country and around the world, and it gets too easy to wrap it all up under some sort of dystopian philosophy or end-of-the-world outlook. But that would be wrong. They’re simply different components in this drama, separated both by importance and substance.

Let’s take Trump, for example. I try not to write about national politics too much because as a proud progressive Oklahoman I don’t get much say in who becomes president of this country. The state’s conservative voters here do that by voting against their own interests because their conservative ministers tell them to do so. It has been a freaky political presidential race, for sure, but I’m betting Trump will win handily here . . . maybe? It’s really a time of uncertainty.

What has really struck me, however, is the rancor of SOME (note the all caps) of the supporters for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a capable, intelligent person who lost to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, the first woman to receive the nomination from a major political party.

To be clear, I’ve tried to stay neutral in the Sanders-Clinton wars on social media, but once the convention started and it was clear Hillary would get the nomination, I wandered into the fray, hoping to send a small message of unity and reconciliation. That was a mistake, I guess, because Wikileaks, which was founded by Julian Assange, an Australian who has ties to Russia and faces sexual assault charges in Sweden, has released emails—apparently obtained by Russian hackers—from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that purportedly show the organization sided with Clinton in her presidential bid. The place names alone are enough to make one dizzy.

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