Led by Eric Schneiderman of New York, Attorneys General from 17 states and the District of Columbia have filed suit against the Trump administration for its plans to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census. (Photo: Eric Schneiderman/Twitter)
Attorneys General from 17 states and the District of Columbia are suing the Trump administration for its decision to ask about immigration status on the 2020 census, a move denounced by immigrant rights advocates as an effort to “undercount communities of color.”
Led by Eric Schneiderman of New York, the state attorneys—along with legal representatives from six cities and and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors—filed suit (pdf) in hopes of requiring the Trump administration “to enforce the federal government’s constitutional obligation to conduct an ‘actual Enumeration’ of the national population every ten years, by determining the ‘whole number of persons in the United States.” Continue reading →
Each day, Catherine Caldwell hauls three gallons of bottled water to her bathroom and two to her kitchen. She and her family use the water for flushing the toilet, washing hands, and— after heating it on the stove—cleaning dishes and cooking. For bathing, they head to her mother-in-law’s house a few blocks away.
The 44-year-old Caldwell, her husband, and two young grandchildren have been living without running water in their Detroit home for over four months. Every two weeks, they receive a delivery of water from a local nonprofit, We the People of Detroit. It’s the second time they’ve been without water services in the three years they’ve lived at the current residence. The short of it is this: They can’t afford to pay the bill, and the water company shut off their water. Continue reading →
After a weeks-long standoff with federal and Oregon state police, 16 members of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation have been arrested, one wounded and another killed. The occupation’s leaders, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, are among those in custody.
Although some of the foot soldiers remain on federal land, the occupation’s end is inevitable. But the end of the siege will do nothing to reduce the increasing threat from America’s radical right wing.
The official response to both this current takeover and last summer’s standoff at the Bundy ranch in Nevada has been subdued. Given that in both cases the radicals were heavily armed and threatening to kill anyone who tried to arrest them, the fact that only one militant has lost his life is startling.
I have spent 14 years studying terrorism and extremism in conflict. The militants in Malheur aren’t, in my view, currently terrorists, but groups like theirs have performed acts of domestic terrorism in the past. I believe the country’s leadership needs to work quickly to stop that from happening again.
‘Act or do nothing’ is a false choice
Burns resident Jen Hoke. Burns, Oregon, January 30, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
In Waco, the siege ended with a full-scale assault on the compound, four federal agents killed and 16 wounded. Eighty-two members of the Branch Davidians were killed, including 17 children.
Ruby Ridge ended with a U.S. marshall killed along with two members of the Weaver household, and two more wounded. One of the dead was Weaver’s 14-year-old son, and one of the wounded was his pregnant wife.
Even noting the double standard, the degree of restraint shown in Malheur is still admirable. The current U.S. domestic strategy for countering violent extremism correctly recognizes that while violent or armed responses are occasionally needed, they are usually more effective at driving further violence than at ending it. Threat reduction should focus on preventing the cause of radicalization rather than attempting to crush the symptom. That means focusing on inclusive governance, ending social marginalization and focusing on community policing instead of violent reaction.
In the current political climate, however, restraint also has a dangerous edge. It gives the impression of leaving the field to emboldened extremists, who are now claiming victory. That’s a dangerous precedent, especially as such groups are showing a shift toward direct action that the U.S. hasn’t seen for a long time.
Between President Obama’s election in 2008 and 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the number of right-wing extremist groups operating in the U.S. increased by over 800 percent. While we’ve seen a slight decrease over the past year, the U.S. now faces a perfect storm of conditions for resurgent growth.
As the tone of the presidential election has proven, the prevailing American emotion is anger. Mistrust of government is at record high levels, along with several beliefs that make the problem worse.
First is the belief among extremists that the government is not simply untrustworthy but actually an enemy.
In addition, the perception by the Christian right wing is that they are fundamentally threatened with extinction by changing American demographics.
And the double standard in federal response to extremism on the left and right is driving an increase in tension on the nonwhite side as well.
It could get worse
All of this amounts to fertile ground for growing extremists. The presidential election is only adding fuel to the fire.
A Hillary Clinton victory would be seen by right-wing radicals as entrenching the same liberal sentiments that extremist organizations like the Oath Keepers – involved at both the Bundy ranch and Malheur – already hold up as the enemy. Bernie Sanders calling himself a socialist makes him seem even more alien.
On the Republican side, GOP candidates and officeholders alike have failed to condemn the occupiers. At least one – Representative Andy Holt of Tennessee – has made explicit statements of support. Not only does this legitimize the right wing, but it also sends an ominous message to non-Christian and nonwhite America.
The GOP as a whole has become more radical from top to bottom – to the point where an article written in bipartisan collaboration between Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein (the former with the liberal Brookings Institution, the latter with the conservative American Enterprise Institute) labeled the entire party an “insurgent outlier” in American politics.
The party faces a growing divide between its white, Christian base and a population that bears it less resemblance by the year. They have sought to bridge that divide by inviting more and more of their own fringe to the table, to the point where extremist “sovereign citizens” and “patriot militias” now find themselves close to the party’s mainstream. Nativist xenophobia coming from the GOP presidential candidates lends an air of legitimacy to language that should have been universally denounced as political extremism long ago.
All of this means that the U.S. government finds itself in a catch-22: becoming more assertive, having previously backed down, is likely to fuel aggression from right-wing radicals. On the other hand, if the government doesn’t become more aggressive, the trend toward direct action will continue.
Victory means navigating the narrow ground between violence and capitulation. It means avoiding the double standard and applying consistent restraint to everyone, regardless of color or religion. The perfect storm can still be averted, but course corrections need to be set in motion as soon as possible.
There is little more dangerous than an extremist who feels betrayed, as Timothy McVeigh taught us.