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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Jerome Cartillier

Washington (AFP) — Under a photo of Barack Obama carried by demonstrators in a town rocked by racially-charged protests, the appeal to America’s first black president is loud and clear: “Please come now.”

The poster is among those waved by demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white policeman nine days ago, touching off days of unrest.

It summarizes, in part, the huge hopes stirred in the African-American community by Obama’s historic election win.

But it also touches on a question that has loomed large since Obama took power in 2009: should he get more directly involved when a local incident raises the issue of racism.

The United States is a country where segregation was abolished only half a century ago in some southern states, but now has a black president walking a fine line on still highly-charged issues.

Obama spoke out Monday on the latest unrest.

In a carefully worded speech, he urged law enforcement forces to show restraint and the demonstrators to avoid violence, which he said weakens any quest for justice more than it strengthens it.

– ‘Gulf of mistrust’ –

But when he was asked whether he planned a personal intervention in a drama that has gripped the nation for more than a week, Obama appeared to rule out anything so dramatic as a visit to Ferguson.

Nevertheless, clearly uncomfortable, he did address broader issues.

“As Americans we’ve got to use this moment to seek out our shared humanity that’s been laid bare by this moment,” he said.

“I’ve said this before, in too many communities a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement,” he added.

“In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear.”

But he also warned that fighting racial discrimination is a long term project that America has been working on for 200 years, as if to play down the idea that he alone can be some kind of savior.

Since the end of his first term, Obama, elected thanks to strong support from minorities, has warned against expecting too much.

“I never bought into the notion that by electing me, somehow we were entering into a post-racial period,” he told Rolling Stone magazine in April 2012.

– Time for a strong message –

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the legal arm of America’s largest civil rights group, said it was right for the president to keep a certain distance from day-to-day events.

“We have to be very careful about getting addicted to asking the president to speak into every moment,” she said.

Ifill added that the White House in recent days has supported a federal civil rights probe of the Ferguson killing and a separate autopsy separate from the one being done by local authorities.

During the campaign leading up to his first presidential victory, Obama did address relations between African-Americans and whites.

In a speech in March 2008 amid controversy over divisive remarks made his former pastor Jeremiah Wright. Obama said racism is a problem that the United States cannot afford to ignore.

But, after he took power, things got off to a messy start.

In July 2009, Obama was forced to apologize after he labeled as “stupid” the arrest of a black friend and speculated over racial motivations, without having all the facts in hand.

A turning point came in the case of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black male shot dead in February 2012 in Florida by a member of a civilian anti-crime patrol while walking in residential neighborhood.

After a trial in which the defendant was acquitted, having pleaded self defense, Obama spoke in very personal terms.

While not criticizing the verdict, he spoke of the “pain” the decision caused among blacks. “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” he said.

Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St Louis chapter of the NAACP, said events in Ferguson justified Obama turning “his focus on dealing with the plight of the disenfranchised population of this country.”

“Now is the time for an extremely strong message to be put out,” Pruitt said. “Now some of the focus has to be shifted to the people who are Michael Brown’s neighbors.”

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

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Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]