The Morning Jolt


Ilhan Omar Accuses Trump of Emboldening Racists

Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar speaks at her midterm election night party in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. November 6, 2018. (REUTERS/Eric Miller)

Making the click-through worthwhile: A newly elected Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota declares that President Trump is ultimately responsible for a higher number of hate crimes in the past year; the last U.S. Senate race of 2018 ends with a Republican win and a potentially tougher road ahead for Democrats; a new report suggests that low-income workers are having a more difficult time finding housing.

Minnesota Congresswoman: Trump Emboldens Racists to Acts of Violence

Ilhan Omar, the newly elected Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, has wasted no time finding President Trump responsible for hate crimes, writing in the Minnesota Star Tribune:

Hate crimes in this country are continuing to increase at an alarming rate. According to the FBI’s annual report released this month, the number of incidents increased about 17 percent compared with last year. That is the largest increase in these types of cowardly acts since 2001. The culture of intolerance spread by President Donald Trump has clearly emboldened racist individuals to acts of violence.

Trump says a lot of obnoxious, incendiary things. But it’s fair to ask where Omar or anyone else would draw the line separating a “culture of intolerance that emboldens racist individuals to acts of violence” from acceptable and heated political rhetoric. For all of his myriad flaws, Trump has never encouraged anyone to shoot up a synagogue or mail bombs to people, and it’s unfair to insinuate or suggest that he has. This is denouncing a demagogue with more demagoguery.

Trump has gotten blamed for a lot of awful crimes that turned out to not be connected to him at all. You may recall those early 2017 bomb threats called in to Jewish Community Centers across the country. Eight were committed by  Juan M. Thompson, a former journalist for the Intercept, who called in the threats in an attempt to frame a woman whom he had previously dated. Dozens more were committed by a 19-year-old Jewish Israeli-American named Michael Ron David Kadar, who was diagnosed with mental-health issues. And the shooter at the Pittsburgh synagogue believed that Jews controlled Trump, wrote that he hadn’t voted for him, and that he had never “owned, worn or even touched” a MAGA hat.

The man who yelled “Heil Hitler” and did a Nazi salute at a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” in a Baltimore theater said he did so to protest Trump and that he’s a staunch opponent of the administration. He also said he had been drinking heavily.

At least in those cases, there was no sinister anti-Semitic thuggery awoken by the Trump presidency. As many have noted, Ivanka’s conversion to Judaism and Trump’s relationship with Jared Kushner complicate the argument that Trump harbors some lingering anti-Semitism. His outspoken support of Israel doesn’t fit the simple narrative, either.

Why do people commit hate crimes? There are a lot of reasons, but one simple and glaring one is that they’re idiots. They have few reasons for personal pride, so they seize upon their ethnic identity as a reason for pride (as if they somehow chose or earned their allegedly superior ethnic heritage). They need to feel powerful, so they attack the powerless. They need to feel strong, so they seek to intimidate others. They’re likely consumed by shame that their lives are such failures — bad relationships, difficulty finding or keeping jobs, few friends or social-support networks, general alienation from the community around them — and need to externalize that bubbling self-loathing into hating other people.

Did those guys holding the tiki torches on the University of Virginia campus back in the summer of 2017 really look all that menacing, lined up in their polo shirts? A bunch of them looked barely older than the old stereotypes of Dungeons and Dragons players, or an impromptu glee club recruited from guys lingering too long in the magazine section of a convenience store. If you have to put that much effort into looking intimidating, you’re not that intimidating.

Do you do something like that if you’re genuinely happy and confident and at home with yourself in the world? Think about their rallying cry: “Jews will not replace us.” Replace them how? Who’s stepping into their jobs and roles?

Doesn’t their rallying cry sound more like a desperate cry of self-flattery, that they’re in some sort of position of power and wealth and influence, and that interlopers are trying to steal something from them?

Who the hell would ever want to be them?

The Last Senate Race of 2018 Ends with a GOP Win

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, the appointed GOP Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith won election to a full term last night, by a 54 to 46 percent margin, or about 70,000 votes.

Thad Cochran resigned from the Senate in April over health issues, and Hyde-Smith was his appointed replacement.

CNN described the race as “a contest that centered on her actions and comments evoking the state’s dark history of racism and slavery,” and Democrats are boasting that this was their best performance by a Senate candidate in 30 years.

Indeed it was, but the difference was less dramatic than one might think. This year Mississippi had a separate second U.S. Senate election, and Republican Roger Wicker won, 59 percent to 39 percent, against a little-known, underfunded Democratic opponent. In 2014, Cochran won reelection with just under 60 percent, and in 2012, Wicker won with 55 percent, and a similar margin in a 2008 special election.

The end result is a 53 to 47 Republican majority in the Senate, which is a taller order for Democrats in 2020 than they expected. From this early perspective, Democrats have a shot at flipping control of the Senate, but not a great one. If Trump wins reelection, they’ll need to win four seats; if Trump loses, they only need three.

But begin with the fact that Doug Jones is up for reelection in Alabama. If the Republicans don’t nominate another Roy Moore, they should have a good chance of picking up that seat, particularly with Trump atop the ticket. If Jones loses, Democrats need to win five (if Trump wins) or four (if Trump loses).

In Arizona, Jon Kyl, the appointed replacement for John McCain, is expected to retire (again). Kristen Sinema’s victory in this year’s election suggests that this is now a purple state.

In Colorado, incumbent Republican Cory Gardner is proved to be a strong candidate in 2014, but his state is pretty purple and looks pretty blue some years. One wonders if he may follow something like Pat Toomey’s path in Pennsylvania in 2016 — running and winning with a different, more heavily suburban coalition than the president.

The close finish in this year’s governor’s race in Georgia will spur Democratic hopes that they can knock off incumbent GOP senator David Purdue. If Stacy Abrams ran for Senate, she would presumably have a “payback for the stolen election” narrative driving the progressive grassroots and a national fundraising base.

In Iowa, Joni Ernst is up for reelection. Democrats thought they had a good shot at picking up that seat and lost by eight points in 2014.

Undoubtedly, Democrats’ top target will be Maine Senator Susan Collins for her vote in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight. Collins, too, has dashed Democratic hopes in quite a few past cycles, but her Democratic challenger is virtually guaranteed to have massive funds.

North Carolina wavers between being a classic purple swing state or its past status as reliably Republican for the past few cycles. Obama won the state in 2008, with Kay Hagan beating Elizabeth Dole in the U.S. Senate race that year. But the Obama campaign didn’t seriously contest the Tarheel State four years later, and Romney won, 50 percent to 48 percent. In 2014, Republican Thom Tillis beat Hagan in the Senate race, 48.8 percent to 47.2 percent. In 2016, Trump improved on Romney’s margin slightly, beating Hillary Clinton in North Carolina, 49.8 percent to 46.1 percent. But the same year, Democrat Roy Cooper won the governor’s race by two-tenths of a percentage point. Bottom line, the presidential race, the Senate race, and the gubernatorial race are all likely to be hard-fought and come down to the wire.

Democrats may talk themselves into believing that they have a chance to unseat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. They believed that last time, too, and he won, 56 percent to 40 percent.

You have to wonder if Nebraska’s Ben Sasse will face a serious primary challenge for his perceived apostasy of Trumpism. Nebraska’s probably a sufficiently Republican-leaning state to keep this seat in GOP hands, but . . . Democrats have a good record of capitalizing on GOP divisions in red states such as Alabama and Arizona.

Can Federal Policies Make the Working Life More Rewarding?

One shouldn’t be surprised that a worker making the minimum wage can’t afford much; after all, it’s the minimum wage. We tend to think of minimum wage workers – fast-food employees, store clerks, temps — as teenagers, or people who don’t have to support themselves. But society has people who didn’t start out their working life quite right, and who find themselves in minimum-wage jobs well into adulthood, with adult responsibilities.

A new report finds that someone working a full-time minimum wage job cannot afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country. The report calculates that in Arkansas, the state with the cheapest housing in the country, a worker would need to earn $13.84 an hour — about $29,000 a year — to afford a two-bedroom apartment there. The minimum wage in Arkansas is $8.50 an hour. And lest you think this reflects unrealistic expectations for housing, “a one-bedroom is affordable for minimum-wage workers in only 22 counties in five states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.”

A report like this usually spurs calls to raise the minimum wage, but we know how that can lead to layoffs and increased incentives for automation. But there are other ideas.

I don’t know if I agree with every detail of Oren Cass’s new book and general proposal for wage subsidies — using taxpayer money to add a “Federal Work Bonus,” additional pay as a bonus for working — but I like the motivation behind it: Let’s make work as rewarding as possible, and make public assistance as unappealing as possible.

ADDENDUM: Former president Obama: “Suddenly, America is the largest oil producer . . . That was me, people . . . What are you complaining about? Just say, ‘thank you,’ please.”

To quote a popular phrase from a few years back, Mister President . . . “You didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

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