Category: Politics

Open Letter: Community Leaders Call on Mayor, Council to Improve Services for Unsheltered Residents

Homeless

The following is an open letter to Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Council Members, City Administrator Landreth and Staff, dated June 11.

Recently, about 30 groups focused on Lake Merritt have been meeting to discuss how to safeguard and improve the parks around Lake Merritt, the facilities within it, and the coordination of everyone’s efforts.

As you know, one of the issues concerning our groups has been the growing number of encampments throughout the parklands of Lake Merritt. We know that you receive complaints and worries from citizens.

We have come to the understanding that this is a time for everyone to pull together and work collaboratively to accommodate all our residents, whether regular park users, or people with no shelter.

Therefore, we urge your support and funding in the FY ’18-’19 budget for three efforts to address the city-wide encampment crisis:

1) Improve sanitation and health measures, as outlined by the Homeless Advocacy Working Group, for $1 million: Provide adequate water, hand-washing, health & hygiene facilities, shower capability, porta-potties, and rubbish removal services for all encampments of six (6) or more people-units

2) Support “green teams” established by the unsheltered residents, by providing debris bags, tools, and trash pickup. Establish a small stipend for participation (either through the city directly or through one of the nonprofits), as has been done in many other cities.

Several of these teams already exist and have made noticeable improvements in their areas; we should support this, and we should support the resultant involvement of residents in their communities and in better interaction with city workers.

3) Fund and facilitate three pilot projects of sheltered communities as suggested by the Homeless Advocacy Working Group, for $3 million.

At the request of homeless representatives, at least one of the temporary shelter communities should be a clean-and-sober-only area: Enable three (3) “pilot projects” of “alternative housing models” on City-owned land: (a) 2 to 3 small-home villages; (b) a village of converted shipping containers; (c) a 100-unit comprehensive campus of manufactured housing units, complete with gang kitchen, classrooms, computer room, storage, counseling, and job training.

We have come to agree that unless the unsheltered community members are themselves part of the effort, City efforts will not succeed.

We urge you to appropriate money wisely now, rather than incurring increased expenditures later on in remedial public works, social services, and health services efforts.

Thank you for your attention to our comments.

Endorsers, affiliations, for identification only

  • Dan Altemus, Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, Lake Merritt Advocate
  • Barbara Azad, Adams Point Neighborhood Group Leadership, LMA 
  • Richard Bailey, Former Director Lake Merritt Institute, Board Member LMI
  • Terry Boom, Lake Merritt Weed Warriors
  • Susan Casentini, Autumn Lights Festival, LMBC, LMA
  • Steven Cochrane, Ad Hoc Group for Rotary Nature Center
  • Susan Campodonico, Lake Merritt Institute Volunteer
  • Adrian Cotter, Community For Lake Merritt, Sierra Club, LMA
  • Kathy Dwyer, Friends of Lincoln Park, City Team Ministries 
  • Jennie Gerard, Measure DD Coalition, LM Weed Warriors, LMA Coordinator
  • C.J. Hirschfield, Children’s Fairyland Executive Director, LMA, LMBC
  • Pat Kernighan, Former City Council Member, District 2
  • Caroline Kim, Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt
  • John Kirkmire, LakeMerritt.org, LMA Coordinator, LMBC 
  • Kyle Milligan, LMBC, Children’s Fairyland Board, LMA, ALF
  • Mary Ellen Navas,LM Weed Warriors, LMA Coordinator
  • Katie Noonan, Lake Merritt Institute Board, LMBC, LMA, Ad Hoc RNC
  • Susan Porter, Lake Merritt Institute, St Paul’s School Teacher
  • Vivian Romero, Ad Hoc Group for Rotary Nature Center
  • Naomi Schiff, Measure DD Coalition, LM Weed Warriors, LMA, CALM 
  • Nancy Sherman, Measure DD Coalition, W. Oakland Walk, LMA, Ad Hoc RNC
  • Marcille Sibbitt, Oakland Lawn Bowling Club Director, LMA
  • Rob Stewart, Executive Director LM Breakfast Club
  • Bill Threlfall, Measure DD Coalition, Waterfront Action Co-Director
  • Sandra Threlfall, Measure DD Coalition, Waterfront Action Co-Director
  • Mike Udkow, Measure DD Coalition, LM Weed Warriors, Bicycle Trail Council
  • Sarah Van Roo, Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt, LMA
  • Susan Veit, Oakland East Bay Garden Center Inc.
  • Paul Vidican, Lake Merritt Weed Warriors, OPRF Board Member
  • Kathleen Williams, Lake Merritt Weed Warriors
  • David Wofford, Rotary Nature Center Ad Hoc

Councilmembers, Community Groups Push Mayor for Funding for Homeless, Job Training and Trash Cleanup

Members of East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods demand the city keep its promises to clean up trash and illegal dumping. Photos by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

As the City Council examines a “midcycle” revision of the city’s two-year budget, community groups are demanding the city allocate money to relieve the suffering of Oakland’s rapidly growing homeless population, clean up illegal dumping and trash in flatland neighborhoods, support job-training for low-income Oaklanders and fund social programs for vulnerable residents by reducing out-of-control spending on the Oakland Police Department.

The budget revisions were discussed at Tuesday’s special City Council meeting and  scheduled to be finalized before the end of June.

Mayor Libby Schaaf and the City Administration, in a move that dampened demands for new spending coming from the community and some councilmembers, released a report showing that the 2018-2019 budget includes a projected deficit of $11 million.

To close the deficit, the City Administrator has asked departments to cut two percent of their expenditures.

At the same time the administration is proposing cuts, it is requesting the council adopt $31.3 million in new spending, including $1 million for the homeless, $27.5 million for new appropriations for affordable housing, $982,000 for trash cleanup, $1.6 million to hire three new staff in the Human Resources Department and conduct a Fire Academy, and $167,000 for two new employees for the Oakland Animal Shelter.

No mention was made in the City Administrator’s report of going over the budgeted spending limit for police overtime by $17 million, which more than accounted for the hole in the city’s budget.

Most of those who spoke at the meeting—residents and councilmembers—called on the city to fund concerns and community needs that they said had been shortchanged or ignored when the budget was adopted last year.

Rebecca Kaplan presented a list of new expenditures she is supporting, including cleanup crews for illegal dumping hot spots, public toilets and expanded support for homeless sanitation, job training and apprenticeship programs and support for the Oakland Animal Shelter.

Kaplan also requested changes in administrative practices that would not cost additional money but would require new ways of relating to the community: proactive trash pickup based on focusing on hotspots, not just responding to complaints; working with congregations and community-based organizations to establish alternative homeless encampments; and utilizing less costly security guards instead of police for City Hall security that is being requested by the administration.

Noel Gallo

The city needs to adopt real homeless solutions that “don’t just push the problem from one underpass to the next, at great expense,” she said.

She was also skeptical of the new horse-mounted police unit OPD is reportedly organizing. She asked: who authorized the “ponies”, how much money is being spent and what fund is the money coming from?

Kaplan also raised concerns that the administration has repeatedly failed to carry out resolutions the Council has passed.

“We on the Council should consider that what actually gets implemented is so different than what we voted for,” she said.

OPD overspending for police overtime “essentially accounts for the entire (budget) gap we are talking about,” she said.

Councilmember Noel Gallo proposed that he and his fellow Councilmembers help pay for homeless and trash services by contributing as much as much half of the $600,000 a year each of them receives from the city to operate their offices.

He also said Mayor Schaaf’s office budget is over $3 million. “The mayor should at least contribute a million dollars from her budget,” he said.
A large group from East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods demanded full funding for their proposals to clean up flatland streets.

“Our children pass through piles of filthy, stinking garbage, human feces and the carcasses of dead animals to walk to school,” said Lidia, a spokesperson for the Congress.
“Some of you live in neighborhoods where this would never be allowed,” she said.

Carroll Fife, also speaking for the Congress, criticized the Mayor’s trash proposals.

“We see the proclamations the Mayor is making to the news media about the wonderful things that she is doing… to address the trash issue. We’re here to say it is not enough. It is not even real,” said Fife.

“You have to be honest with the residents of this city,” she said.

James Vann was one of the speakers with the Homeless Advocacy Working Group (HAWG), which is requesting $4.2 million to provide portable bathrooms, shower facilities and clean water at homeless encampments throughout the city.

The $1 million the Mayor is proposing for homeless services is “a pittance—that’s nothing, and it’s not (even) true,” said Vann.

He said the city’s proposed $1 million in new homeless spending is eaten up by the $500,000 the city owes for work on Tuff Sheds that is already completed. In addition, he said providing sanitary services at one site costs about $250,000 a year.

Speakers for the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) called for redirecting some of the money that currently goes to OPD, which accounts for about 43 percent of the general fund.

As little as $10 million taken from police spending would make a dramatic difference in services for the homeless and elimination of trash on the streets, ATPT speakers said.

Posted June 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Attorney and Activist Don Hopkins, 81

Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Don Hopkins.

By Post Staff

Donald Ray Hopkins, an attorney activist who worked for civil rights causes and served as district representative for Congressman Ronald V. Dellums for 22 years, died on April 22 after a year-long illness. He was 81.

Born on Nov. 14, 1936 in Tulsa Oklahoma, Hopkins was the fifth of six children of Stacy and Carrie McGlory Hopkins. He graduated from Sumnet High School in Kansas City, Kansas, where he was a member of the National Honor Society and class president.

Hopkins graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Kansas in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.  He went on to earn a master’s degree and a law degree from UC Berkeley.

He also attended Harvard Law School where he received an LLM focused on international law.

In New York City, he worked the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund on a number of civil rights cases, learning the value of close communication with communities and constituencies in order to advance equal rights agenda.

Using those skills, he worked from 1972 to 1994 as a district representative for Congressman Ronald V. Dellums, who represented the 8th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. In his position, Hopkins was the person constituents sought to help them take their issues and concerns to Congress.

Preceding him in death were his father Stacy E. Hopkins Sr., his mother Carrie McGlory Hopkins and his brother Rev. Stacy E. Hopkins Jr.

He is survived by his daughter and granddaughter, four siblings: Leo S. Hopkins, Richard M. Hopkins, Dr. Betty G. Hopkins-Mason, Anita J. Hopkins-Walker, their families and his loving and devoted companion Maria Bryant.

Published May 27, ,2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Mayoral Candidate Cat Brooks Pledges to “Turn the Tables” on Business as Usual in Oakland

Cat Brooks

By Ken Epstein

“It’s time to turn the tables” on the developer- and financier-led displacement agenda that currently runs Oakland, says mayoral candidate Cat Brooks, radio host, actor and justice activist, who wants the city to move in the direction of utilizing its resources to solve homelessness, promote education, build housing that regular people can afford and spend public safety dollars to eliminate conditions that give rise to crime.

Brooks formally kicked off her campaign May 1 on Radio Station KPFA, speaking to Brian Edwards-Tiekert, who until that morning was her co-host on the “Up-Front” driver-time public affairs program on the station.

Taking at least a six-month leave of absence from KPFA, she is focusing on organizing the majority of Oaklanders “who can’t afford to purchase power in City Hall,” she said in the interview.

Win or lose, she hopes her campaign will build “a base of 10,000 … to push to save the soul of the City of Oakland,” Brooks said.

She said her campaign will promote the voices of the unhoused, immigrants and poor people, “who in the last four years have borne the brunt of a neoliberal mayor who has put development over people.”

Central to her program is dealing with “the housing crisis like the epidemic that it is,” mustering the city-wide commitment to turning around the alarming rise in homelessness and uncontrolled rent increases that are displacing tens of thousands of Oaklanders.

“We need to deal with the unhoused crisis in this city like a bomb dropped in the middle of our city – because it did, a gentrification bomb,” she said, calling for the city to build 4,000 affordable units.

“We have to take a stand on the side of our most vulnerable residents,” she continued.

Not a fan of solving crime by increasing policing, Brooks said, “We should actively be walking away from militarized policing and incarceration.”

She said that police funding drains almost 50 percent of the city’s budget, including $30 million a year in unauthorized overtime. A significant amount of that money can be redirected to solve the city’s social problems, she said.

People in Oakland rightfully want to be safe, but the current approach is not working well, she said, adding that there are many car break-ins and burglaries, and the police department’s homicide solve rate is only a little over 30 percent.

Rather than increasing the numbers of police, the city can increase public safety by hiring “community ambassadors,” “training (people) for community safety,” she said, recognizing that “police should not be the solution to every single issue.”

“At the same time, (we should be) reforming and holding accountable the Oakland Police Department, finally for the first time in that department’s history,” said Brooks.

For information on Cat Brooks’ campaign, go to www.catbrooksforoakland.com/

Published May 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: Re-elect Desley Brooks to City Council

Desley Brooks

 By Dan Siegel, Oakland Justice Coalition

Dan Siegel

Desley Brooks deserves another term on the Oakland City Council because she has been a strong, creative advocate for the residents of District 6 and all the people of Oakland.

The only thing toxic about Desley Brooks is the campaign being waged against her by Mayor Schaaf and her allies determined to turn Oakland into Walnut Creek West.

At a time when the City Council majority is afraid to have lunch without the Mayor’s approval, Council Member Brooks has successfully fought for programs that benefit working people in Oakland and attract positive national attention.

In response to the rapid decline in the City’s African American population from almost half to barely a quarter of Oakland’s people, she worked to create the new Department of Race and Equity to ensure that people of color share in the City’s growing prosperity. She created the Cannabis Equity Program to create opportunities for Oakland residents to share in the profits from the exploding marijuana industry.

Desley worked to spur the revitalization of the Seminary Point business district and fought for $13.7 million to renovate the Rainbow Recreation Center.

She has worked hard to bring benefits and services to low income residents, including monthly food distributions and placing washers and dryers in area schools. She was the first to bring a farmers’ market to East Oakland.

Councilmember Brooks takes seriously the problems that are driving lower- and moderate-income people from Oakland.

She is leading efforts to increase affordable housing, including supporting the expansion of the Oakland Community Land Trust to create housing that will be permanently affordable.

She has been a leader in supporting the statewide effort to repeal the Costa-Hawkins law so that cities are free to establish their own rent control programs.

Desley was an early supporter of Oakland’s Living Wage Ordinance and is now focusing on creating good jobs for Oakland residents by increasing the availability of job training programs.  She supports efforts to create a People’s Budget for the City.

Mayor Schaaf has apparently decided that there is no room for disagreement among Oakland’s elected officials and that anyone who challenges her must be purged from City government.  She and other critics of Councilmember Brooks focus on her style and personality, but public service is not a popularity contest.

Voters who study her record and productivity will conclude that no-one on the City Council can match her record of advocacy and accomplishments for working Oaklanders, especially low- and moderate-income people.

Desley Brooks deserves another term on the City Council.

Dan Siegel is a civil rights attorney and co-chair of the Oakland Justice Coalition. He and his family have lived in District 6 since 1977.

Youth at MLK Freedom Center Join Struggle to Empower Voters

Sophia Quintana of Berkeley and active member of the MLK Freedom Center registers voters at July 4 naturalization ceremony in Seattle, WA.

Sophia Quintana of Berkeley and active member of the MLK Freedom Center registers voters at July 4 naturalization ceremony in Seattle, WA.

By Ken Epstein

Young people who participated in an intensive six-week voter registration and community engagement project this summer recently attended a labor breakfast celebration in their honor, where they talked about their efforts to register new voters and reflected on what they learned and how it transformed them.

The “Civic Engagement Pilgrimage,” organized by the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, which is based at Merritt College in Oakland took a diverse group of 65 young people, mostly high school students from Oakland and Washington state, on a journey from Washington to Portland to Bakersfield and Fresno in California, where they registered voters and had in-depth discussions with elected officials, community and tribal leaders in urban and rural areas and Indian nations.

The breakfast was held Aug. 4 at the offices of the Alameda Labor Council in Oakland, attended by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris and Peralta Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Jowel C. Laguerre, who are strong supporters of the work of the freedom center.

The young people said they heard the same words over and over from people in different communities: “Our voices don´t matter; nothing you do will change the system,” according to Laelah Jackson, a junior at Berkeley High.

“It is important to educate and be educated,” she said.  “What we´re doing is bigger than each of us. “It’s the ‘we’” that makes the difference.

“We learned that we live in very trying times night now,” said Angela Drake, a student at Castlemont High School. “We have to give hope to each other. No one is going to do it for us, but us.”

The young people said that in the course of their discussions with people and the classes and trainings among themselves they learned critical thinking, experienced growing self confidence and a sense of “love and solidarity” with each other and the people.

The Martin Luther King Freedom Center, which was created by Oakland’s MLK Day March and Rally Committee, began its work in 2001.  Executive Director Dr. Roy Wilson has led the organization for the past 10 years.

Based on the lessons of summer´s listening sessions and discussions in communities, the center plans to launch intensive voter education and registration efforts this year, including work in congressional districts in California´s Central Valley.
For more information on the Freedom Center, go to www.mlkfreedomcenter.org

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Post News Group

Noel Gallo Faces Viola Gonzales in Oakland District 5 Race

Noel Gallo and Viola Gonzales

Noel Gallo and Viola Gonzales

 

By Tulio Ospina

In the City Council race for Oakland District 5, incumbent Noel Gallo is facing off against Viola Gonzales, who previously served on the Oakland Board of Education as an appointee of then-Mayor Jerry Brown.

Gallo, who has been on the council since 2012, is a lifelong resident of the Fruitvale District and previously served on the Oakland Board of Education for 20 years. He also sits on the Life Enrichment, Public Works and Public Safety city council committees.

Gonzales was, until June 30, the chief executive officer of AnewAmerica, a non-profit that helps immigrants and refugees start small and micro-businesses.

According to Gonzales, she has the backing of Mayor Libby Schaaf, former Councilmember Ignacio de la Fuente and former Mayor Elihu Harris.

Councilmember Gallo has achieved broad popularity in the city for his strong role in supporting renter protection and a police commission—Measures JJ and LL respectively— which the City Council placed on the November ballot.

Gallo has also taken strong positions on recent city development decisions, arguing that Oakland’s city-owned land should not be sold to private developers and should, instead, be leased and remain public.

Referring to Oakland’s current housing crisis, Gallo told the Post, “Investors and developers are coming in from out of state and outside the country, and they’re here to make a dollar. They have no commitment to Oakland.”

“If there is to be development, it has to be considerate of the people who live here already. And we must keep public land for public good,” said Gallo.

In terms of the two landmark city measures that Gallo openly supported and is endorsing in November, he said, “The police commission is really important to deal with police discipline and Oakland needs a strong citizens’ body.”

“The housing situation is an emergency issue, too, because people are being displaced like crazy. Whole families are being displaced with children. We see grandmothers and children sleeping in their cars. Every democracy needs to take care of the people who live in it, and that’s what the renter protection measure does.”

According to Gallo, his number one platform priority is increasing public safety in his district.

For four years, he has organized and participated in weekly volunteer walks through the Fruitvale, picking up illegal dumping and cleaning neighborhoods.

An increase in public safety also means concentrating resources to meet the district’s infrastructure needs—building sidewalks, repaving streets and installing crosswalks.

Gallo is asking people to vote for the city infrastructure bond, which will be on the November ballot.

He also wants to increase police presence in his district to try to curb what he sees as an uptick in robberies and traffic violations.

Gonzales, meanwhile, is running against Gallo on a platform of bringing economic development and job creation to Fruitvale, based on her 15 years of experience as an executive of a non-profit.

“We need to create jobs in the community, and I think we can do more,” Gonzales said in an interview with the Post. “Oakland has the responsibility to create more jobs and help local businesses grow.”

Gonzales said she will not take a position on the renter protection and police commission measures, though she says she understands what is at stake and sees why the measures were put on the November ballot.

“I say let the voters decide. I feel like the obligation of the City Council is just to move quickly to do what the public asks and to stop dragging its feet, which is what it’s been doing,” she said.

“With the police commission, I think we’ve got to have accountability, but the commission itself isn’t enough to fix larger issues like racial profiling that permeate society. And with the renters’ issue, we have the Costa-Hawkins state law that limits what you can do.”

Gonzales said she has gained the public and financial support of Mayor Schaaf because she is able to make room for differences in opinion and bring public conversations into meetings. The mayor has contributed $700, the maximum allowed, to Gonzales’ campaign.

“She would not give endorsements unless she thought we could work together,” Gonzales said.

 

Commentary: Insurgents Trump and Sanders Send a Message

By Jesse Jackson

This has been insurgent summer in presidential politics. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have soared. They are raising issues that politicians in both parties can no longer duck.

Insurgent candidates gain traction when their campaigns resonate with voters. When I ran in 1984 and 1988, my campaigns surprised pundits because I was speaking to what many Americans felt.

Jesse Jackson visits Street Academy

Jesse Jackson visits Street Academy in Oakland

Reagan’s conservative reaction was on the march; Democrats were tacking to the right. But many Americans were left out of the equation. Workers suffered as jobs were shipped overseas.

The working poor suffered as investments in housing, health care, education and more were slashed. Many were dismayed at Reagan’s reckless new Cold War, and his idiotic covert war on Nicaragua.

Both parties had embraced top-end tax cuts, deregulation and corporate trade policies. Both supported apartheid South Africa and called Mandela a terrorist. Neither could see that Israeli security depended upon Palestinian statehood.

Democrats decided that they had to compete to be hawkish on foreign policy, corporate on domestic policy and timid on social policy.

My campaigns exploded in the vacuum. And while we didn’t win, we changed the agenda. A boycott was imposed on South Africa over Reagan’s veto. Congress ended support for the contras of Nicaragua. Years later, U.S. policymakers belatedly embraced the two-state solution in the Middle East.

And Bill Clinton ran on Putting People First, calling for tax hikes on the rich, investment in education, national health care and labor rights in trade accords.

In this election, Sanders and Trump have raised fundamental issues that challenge a bipartisan consensus that does not work for most Americans.

The first of these is the corrupting effects of big money in our politics. Sanders, funding his campaign with small donations, warns of the perils of big money directly. Trump, using his fortune to declare his independence, scorns his opponents as “puppets” of their donors.

Politicians in both parties better wake up: Clean up our politics or lose the respect of your voters.

The second issue is our corporate trade policies that are racking up deficits of $500 billion a year while shipping good jobs abroad and undermining wages here at home.

Sanders correctly indicts these policies as rigging the rules against American workers. Trump makes our “bad deals” a centerpiece of his appeal. The next president will have to change course, or this protest will grow.

A third issue is America’s endless wars. Both Sanders and Trump emphasize that they opposed Bush’s invasion of Iraq from the start. Both counsel caution about more interventions in Syria, Ukraine and Iraq.

Both are appealing to the vast majority of Americans who do not believe the U.S. can afford to police the world.

A fourth issue is taxes. Sanders tells billionaires “enough is enough.” He calls for raising taxes on the wealthy and shutting corporate loopholes to invest in rebuilding the country, making college free for all, expanding Social Security and investing in children.

Trump is more confused, but he earns applause for insisting that hedge fund billionaires should pay their fair share of taxes.

For years we’ve had paralysis in Washington on the key issue of immigration. Millions of undocumented workers live in the shadows, exploited by callous employers.

Sanders seeks a solution that will bring the country together; Trump has slanderously chosen to drive us apart. He’s tried to make immigration a Mexican issue, but that ignores reality. Threatening the largest deportation — 11 million people — in world history isn’t about Mexico; it’s about who we are.

Clearly we are paying a huge price for the cowardice of politicians unwilling to address this issue sensibly and that has to stop.

Single issues like these are markers for the bigger reality. This economy doesn’t work for most people. The rules are rigged to favor the few. Big money corrupts our politics to defend their privileges. Americans are looking for a new deal here at home.

Sanders and Trump, of course, are stark contrasts. Sanders is a thoughtful progressive; Trump an entertainer, offering postures, not policies. Sanders calls for a popular movement to transform America; Trump argues voters should trust him to do it.

But on right and left, among Republicans and Democrats, more and more are unwilling to accept politics as usual. Too many people are left out of that arrangement. The two major parties will have to change, or they are likely to be changed by voters who have had enough.

 Courtesy of the Post News Group, September 4, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Commentary: This Is the Difference Between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders

By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Ernest Hemingway once said that courage was “grace under pressure.” Two presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, have recently tested this proposition.

Donald Trump vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Donald Trump vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

And how each man responded revealed the type of person he is and the type of president he would make: Trump authored his own doom, and Sanders opened immense new possibilities as a compassionate person and serious candidate for president.

Here’s where it went fatally wrong for Trump. During the GOP debate on Fox, when Megyn Kelly famously queried him about his attitude toward women (whom he has called “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs” and “animals”) he hit back by threatening the questioner: “I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.”

Bad enough to alienate women in this way, but there’s even more insidious political crime here: attacking the First Amendment’s protection of a free press by menacing journalists. “I wouldn’t do that,” he said coyly.

If you wouldn’t do it, why bring up that you could? For no other reason than to stifle other journalists who might want to ask tough but reasonable questions. If Americans learned that a leader in another country was threatening reporters, we would be outraged.

Yet here it is. Right here. Right now.

During the first GOP presidential debate, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump about his insulting remarks toward women over the years. Here are five examples, from Rosie O’Donnell to Brande Roderick. (The Washington Post)

Later, after Trump had blamed her attitude on her menstrual cycle, Kelly went on what Fox says was a planned vacation. Nevertheless, Trump suggested he may have been the cause.

What kind of candidate takes credit for bullying the media? And last week, Trump allowed Univision reporter Jorge Ramos to be ejected from a press conference for asking questions about immigration without being called upon.

Ramos was later readmitted and permitted to ask about immigration, during which he said Trump could still deport immigrants compassionately. “I have a bigger heart than you do,” Trump replied. Trump’s non-specific answer to the question ended with a personal insult directed at the reporter.

Trump’s vendetta against the press extended to the Des Moines Register. When the paper issued an editorial calling for Trump to withdraw from the campaign, he refused to give the paper’s reporters credentials to attend his campaign event in Iowa in July.

He also called the paper “failing” and “very dishonest.” Other journalists he thinks have treated him harshly he refers to as “losers” or unintelligent, as if the definition of lack of intelligence is to not agree with him.

Attempting to bully the press to silence criticism of him is anti-American. He followed up this salvo on the First Amendment with a strike at the 14th Amendment, asserting that he’d like to deny those born in the country their citizenship.

The biggest enemy to the principles of the Constitution right now is Trump.

Trump’s rationale for avoiding Kelly’s debate question – that neither he nor America has time for “political correctness” – taps into a popular boogeyman.

The term “political correctness” is so general that to most people it simply means a discomfort with changing times and attitudes, an attack on the traditions of how we were raised. (It’s an emotional challenge every generation has had to go through.)

What it really means is nothing more than sensitizing people to the fact that some old-fashioned words, attitudes and actions may be harmful or insulting to others.

Naturally, people are angry about that because it makes them feel stupid or mean when they really aren’t. But when times change, we need to change with them in areas that strengthen our society.

It’s no longer “politically correct” to call African Americans “coloreds.” Or to pat a woman on the butt at work and say, “Nice job, honey.” Or to ask people their religion during a job interview.

Or to deny a woman a job because she’s not attractive enough to you. Or to assume a person’s opinion is worth less because she is elderly.

Or that physically challenged individuals shouldn’t have easy access to buildings. If you don’t have time for political correctness, you don’t have time to be the caretaker of our rights under the Constitution.

It’s easy to buy into the Trump mirage because his rising poll numbers indicate he’s actually doing well. But polls are historically misleading, and his supporters will eventually desert him.

Many, such as Tom McCarthy in the Guardian, have laid out the statistical reasons Trump can’t win, complete with graphs that show polls from past presidential candidates who were doing even better than Trump at this stage of an election, only to fade into political irrelevance, like Rudy Giuliani, Howard Dean and Ross Perot.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton was also a front-runner who unexpectedly got beat for the nomination by Obama.

Americans may flirt with the preppy life of the frathouse partier because he’s poked sacred cows, said stuff we all wish we could say (except that reason keeps us from doing it), and acted buffoonishly entertaining.

But when you wake up the next morning and he’s saying you’re now in a four-year relationship, reason comes rushing in, and it is time for the “it’s me, not you” speech.

With over a year until the elections, there are too many Republican hopefuls that dilute the polls. Once the herd thins out (Rick Perry seems out of money; Bobby Jindal out of breath; Huckabee out of touch), other candidates with more substance will have their voices heard.

And when it comes down to just three or four candidates, Trump’s blustering inarticulation and dodging of questions will seem untrustworthy.

Although each absurd, uninformed or just plain incorrect statement seems to give Trump a bump in the polls, there are only so many times supporters can defend his outrageous assault on decency, truth and civility.

Yes, a few will remain no matter what. (One 63-year-old woman told CNN that the Republicans were out to discredit Trump: “They twisted what the words were, because they’re trying to destroy him.”

No one has to twist his words because what he says is twisted enough. He speaks fluent pretzel.) But voters will eventually see the light.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders faced his own challenge at a political event this summer, when two African American women pushed in front of him to use the microphone to demand four and a half minutes of silence to honor the death of Michael Brown.

Sanders left the stage and mingled with the crowd. Later, Trump criticized Sanders as being “weak” for allowing them to speak, but truly he showed grace under pressure by acknowledging their frustration and anger. Instead of bullying their voices into silence or ridiculing them as losers, pigs or bimbos, Sanders left.

After all, it was not his event; he was a guest. Besides, his voice was not silenced, but came back booming even louder: The next day, Sanders posted a sweeping policy of reform to fight racial inequality. (The timing coincided with Michael Brown’s death and had nothing to do with the two women.)

The two approaches reveal the difference between a mature, thoughtful and intelligent man, and a man whose money has made him arrogant to criticism and impervious to feeling the need to have any actual policies.

Trump threatens to run an independent campaign (he won’t; that’s a negotiating ploy). Trump is a last-call candidate who looks good in the boozy dark of political inebriation.

There’s a lot of complaining about the lengthy process in the United States of winnowing candidates, but this year has shown its great strength.

It gives a wide variety of people the chance to have their voices heard, and it gives voters a chance to see the candidates over a period of time when their political masks slip. Some rise to the challenge, others deflate under the pressure of nothing to say.

Two roads diverged in a political wood, and one man took the road of assaulting the Constitution and soon will be lost forever.

The other will be a viable candidate who, regardless of whether he wins the nomination, will elevate the political process into something our Founding Fathers would be proud of.

 

Donald Trump’s reponse to this column can be read at https: www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/09/02/heres-how-donald-trump-responded-to-my-essay-about-him/

 

Courtesy of the Washington Post, September 2, 2015