Politics

How Social Media is Changing the Landscape of American Politics

President Donald Trump

What if I told you 3 years ago that our next American president would be elected primarily by using Twitter?

I think most people would reply, “Yeah, right.”

Until recently, we’ve all thought social media was useful for entertainment, showing selfies no one wants to see or posting what we ate for lunch. Donald Trump, however, saw a different potential and changed the world.

One controversial tweet in 2015 galvanized many in the country like no other:

“Billions of dollars gets brought into Mexico through the border. We get the killers, drugs & crime, they get the money”@realDonaldTrump, July 13, 2015

People were outraged from coast to coast, but suddenly everyone was talking about illegal immigration. The more the media mocked him, the more his influence soared.

Did his use of social media end when he became the leader of the free world? Nope. Consider just a few of his pronouncements in 2017:

  • The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People! (February 17)
  • Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism! (March 4)
  • Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer! (September 23)

President Trump’s use of social media has moved the world to action in historic ways. We are in the midst of an enormous cultural shift, 140 characters at a time, and from just one man.

Social media platforms offer viable ways to influence our world, but most people use them inappropriately. They take to Facebook spewing their latest rant but fail to achieve positive outcomes. In nearly every case, they only reach a few of their “friends” who think the same way.

Facebook has changed their algorithm recently to minimize political rants that do not engage social interactions that meet their criteria. These changes are intended to increase civil discourse on Facebook.

How can one use social media effectively in this politically-charged environment? Since people have passionate views on a range of issues, what are some suggestions for communicating those views in respectful ways?  

A recent article, What Can and Can’t You Do with Political Advertising on Facebook?, may provide some solutions for more responsible communication on Facebook.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Why Does a Civilian Need an AR-15?

AR-15 Gun

(Photo Credit: USA Today)

You can be a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment and not support civilians having access to an assault weapon like an AR-15. A weapon of war like an AR-15 isn’t needed for killing deer and squirrels, so don’t say assault weapons are necessary for hunting. Hunters will be successful without using assault weapons. If you’re really serious about ending mass shootings, then you will reach the responsible conclusion that federal legislation banning the sale and possession of assault weapons for civilians is required.

Err on the Side of Life

Although I’m not a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and not an active hunter, I’m a passionate champion of the 2nd Amendment. In fact, I agree with much of what the NRA has to say about gun rights. Also, as a pro-life individual, I believe in promoting the right to life, a culture of life. With an earnest pro-life advocacy, I, reminded of what President George W. Bush once stated in a different context, choose to “err on the side of life.” To “err on the side of life” in the current gun rights/gun control national debate means, from my perspective, to take whatever actions possible to save as many lives as possible.      

Assault Weapons Aren’t Necessary for Hunting and Personal Defense 

Since assault weapons aren’t essential to hunting and defending one’s person and property, these weapons shouldn’t be available to civilians—they should be reserved for the battlefield. Plenty of powerful guns will still be available to civilians. It’s not, therefore, a zany idea to advance federal legislation banning the sale and possession of assault weapons for civilians.

Conclusion

Democrats and Republicans need to exercise moral and political courage and face the gun lobby, the NRA head-on to foster a true culture of life in America. It’s going to be more and more difficult to attempt to articulate right to life positions while still permitting civilians to purchase and possess assault weapons.

If you’re going to be pro-life, then be pro-life regarding all issues.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

American Exceptionalism Made Possible by Exceptional Africans

President Donald Trump

(Photo Credit: USA Today)

When President Donald J. Trump favors lily-white Norwegian immigrants over those abject, wretched, in his view, black African and Haitian immigrants, he exposes his historical amnesia and attempts at black historical erasure. When white invaders arrived in America to rob Native Americans of their land, and, unfortunately, were successful in this theft, they soon captured and forced many Africans to come to America as slaves.

Most foundational phenomena crucial to the evolution of American exceptionalism were developed by these Africans, including the White House, however. Essentially, most celebrated historical buildings were built by Africans. Africans built America, and the nation flourished through a slave economy, an economy based on the free or cheap labor of exceptional African slaves. White folks didn’t build America; exceptional Africans did.

Africans Gave Real Meaning to the Declaration of Independence and Constitution

Even the cherished Declaration of Independence and Constitution, penned and conceived by white men, failed to achieve their true power, beauty, and significance while Africans were enslaved—and even while official Jim Crow existed. It was African humanity, African resistance, African rebellion that gave authentic meaning to the eloquent words expressed in those aforementioned founding national documents.

Through African “fightback,” to quote one of the greatest minds in world history and leading public intellectual Dr. Cornel West, whites were compelled to begin putting those words into action, action for all people—regardless of race, regardless of skin color, regardless of national origin—although all the content of those documents have not fully materialized for all. Without Africans, though, the descendants of these white men who authored these documents likely would have never completely understood the beloved documents’ real power, import, and possibilities.

Africanizing American Exceptionalism

Yes, America is exceptional. What really makes America exceptional, though? Despite every effort to efface blackness, to deny the value of blackness, to discredit the beauty and brilliance of blackness, blackness still reigned and reigns supreme. Blackness will not and cannot be defeated. Blackness speaks to what’s possible: anything. Anything for those willing to believe in and fight for possibilities, for the Blochian Not-Yet, for the principle of hope. This is what makes America exceptional. This is the real essence of American exceptionalism.  

Conservative Republicans love to promote American exceptionalism, but the centrality of Africans to the genesis of this exceptionalism is almost never mentioned. If American exceptionalism is to continue to have any power, any allure, any gravity, then the Africanness of it, the real (and not imagined) “Africanist presence” in it, to quote the incomparable Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison, must figure prominently in any discourse involving the concept.

President Trump’s racist comments about African nations and Haiti can cause conservative Republicans to lose any political efficacy in employing American exceptionalism in the future if they fail to resist him and fail to muster the moral and political courage to categorically denounce these abominable comments.

And, just a quick note on Haiti, it was the Haitian Revolution that demonstrated for blacks in America that liberation was possible. If you are a racist, a white supremacist, though, like President Trump, a pivotal historical moment in the black freedom struggle isn’t something you desire to know and remember.   

Conclusion

Instead of focusing on “Make America Great Again,” which her constant commitment to sin, to moral, social, economic, and political depravity has never permitted her to experience unadulterated greatness, let’s work on dismantling the vicious legacies of racism, white supremacy, discrimination, and injustice that persist to plague our nation.

“Make America Great Again” is coded language expressing nostalgia for the days when racism and white supremacy ruled, which, as one of the foremost cultural theorists Fredric Jameson contends, is, ironically, “nostalgia for the present.” We’ve never witnessed a day in America where “Make America Great Again” was not the ruling order, the ruling ideology.     

In short, American exceptionalism is the story of Africans ushering in the possibility of a nation and democracy as good as their promised.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Did Trump Teach You that God is the Supreme Ruler?

Trump Black Church

(Photo Credit: The Washington Post)

With the arrival of President Donald J. Trump, a “newfound” understanding of God as the supreme ruler of all has emerged. What’s most troubling about this, however, is the “novel” recognition is more about expressions of anger, protest, and resistance than it is about the truth of our sovereign God. Being “woke” should begin with the reality that God has been the sole ruler of all long before Trump—even long before George Washington. If you want to oppose, criticize President Trump, that’s more than fine. Please, however, don’t act like God just became the King of all of humanity and phenomena. The Lord’s supremacy should always guide all of our thoughts and actions, regardless of political party or ideological persuasion.

Psalm 82: God the Supreme Ruler

Psalm 82 states, “God presides in the heavenly council; in the assembly of the gods he gives his decision: ‘You must stop judging unjustly; you must no longer be partial to the wicked! Defend the rights of the poor and the orphans; be fair to the needy and the helpless. Rescue them from the power of evil people. ‘How ignorant you are! How stupid! You are completely corrupt, and justice has disappeared from the world. ‘You are gods,’ I said; ‘all of you are children of the Most High.’ But you will die like mortals; your life will end like that of any prince.’ Come, O God, and rule the world; all the nations are yours.”

Justice and Political Action and Discourse in the Era of Trump

Presidents come and go, politicians come and go, kings and queens come and go, but God is eternal. His kingship is eternal and it’s not based on human votes or anything else of the material world: He serves by the divine authority of “the heavenly council; in the assembly of the gods.”

Yes, as Psalm 82 makes clear, we’re to resist injustice and wickedness and champion the rights of the powerless, the voiceless (“the poor and the orphans…the needy and the helpless”). Without a true understanding and commitment to the already eternal supremacy of God, the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed, the marginalized will never find liberty from “the power of evil people.” If you, therefore, consider President Trump among “the power of evil people,” then a real sincerity toward God must govern your discourse, your approach, your resistance.

In short, God didn’t just show up on the scene when you surrendered your equanimity to the truth that President Donald J. Trump is your legitimate president of the United States—not simply to be called “45,”—but He’s always been the supreme ruler of all, for “all nations are yours,” even before any human was created.

Ground your protesting and resistance in the truth of God’s eternal supremacy, a supremacy that has always existed.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Travis Greene’s and Chrisette Michele’s Trump Inauguration Decisions: Victims of Misplaced Anger

Travis Greene and Chrisette Michele Perform at 2017 Presidential Inauguration

(Photo Credit: The Washington Post)

A decision to perform yesterday, January 20, 2017, at President Donald J. Trump’s Presidential Inauguration doesn’t constitute an endorsement. Although the thought of a Trump presidency is difficult for most on the Left to fathom, and unsettling for some on the Right, accepting an invitation to perform on Inauguration Day has never historically been viewed as a political act—certainly not an overt political act. Those who have had the distinct privilege to present their talent on this day do it not simply for the new president, but also the nation and world. Travis Greene, nominated in 2016 for a Grammy award for the gospel hit single “Intentional,” exhibited his great talent at one of Trump’s inaugural balls. He, lamentably, received crass attacks from many acrimonious black folks for his decision to sing at this event. Given that Greene prefaced his decision by expressing he seriously contemplated how Jesus would respond to this invitation, it’s reasonable to deduce that the artist isn’t a Trump supporter. For Greene, singing at the inaugural ball presents a prodigious opportunity to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Travis Greene, in a joint performance with Chrisette Michele, who was also viciously lambasted for her decision to sing at Trump’s inaugural event, ministered in song with high-energy and brilliance. Regrettably, for Chrisette Michele, Spike Lee upbraided her for choosing to perform at the event: he discontinued considering her music for his upcoming soundtrack to the Netflix television series adaptation of his 1986 film She’s Gotta Have It. Michele revealed how “heartbroken” she is by the numerous harsh, disparaging responses to her decision.

Both Greene and Michele are young national recording artists. Situated in a postmodern, late capitalist society, both artists must constantly seek imaginative ways to market themselves and their music. What better way to market their music and increase their reach than at a presidential inauguration while the world is watching? If most—if not all—of their disingenuous critics would have been in their situations and had an opportunity for a global audience to witness their talent, they wouldn’t have experienced a moment of reticence; they would’ve seized the extraordinary moment, the remarkable opportunity. Greene and Michele did. They deserve laudatory remarks—not childish invective.

For those believing President Trump is an evil man with nefarious intentions for blacks and other minorities, Greene’s desire to inoculate the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the inaugural ball would seem to be a ray of hope in a dark place. The Gospel calls all of us to seek peace, justice, and love. Wouldn’t this inaugural event be a fine place to proffer a message of peace, justice, and love? A Christian truly following the example of Christ has no problem meeting with and performing for a president he or she disagrees with on many issues.

These unfounded, precarious, censoriously abusive attacks on Greene and Michele exemplify misplaced anger. If one has a problem with Trump, then let Trump truly be the focus of his or her scorn—not two young black national recording artists elated to have enough talent and acclaim to sing for the president, the nation, and the world. As Bernice King, the daughter of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., posited at the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Commemorative Service held at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, “We still have to find a way to create…the beloved community,” the beloved community her father passionately championed until his odious assassination. Adopting a policy, a strategy of estrangement toward Trump will prove immature and ineffective.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Why Don’t We Complain?” by William F. Buckley, Jr.: A Brief Analysis

"Why Don't We Complain" William F. Buckley, Jr.

(Photo Credit: National Review)

In “Why Don’t We Complain?,” William F. Buckley, Jr. (1961), arguably the most influential modern conservative intellectual, proffers a clarion call to seize the power of purposive complaining. Too often, unfortunately, Buckley contends, people permit their milquetoast proclivities to render them silent, consigning them to toxic, vexing helplessness. For Buckley, this helplessness results in an increasing eroding of individual rights, abdicating these rights to government. No Luddite, disconsolate about technological change and innovation, the conservative intellectual links this helplessness to unhealthy technological dependency and burgeoning centralized economic and political power.

Writing in 1961, the latter part of the Civil Rights Movement, one may find the author’s frustration with many Americans’ reticence, their unwillingness to muster the courage to raise objections about matters ranging from the inconsequential to the consequential puzzling, especially given the tremendous social unrest and protest of the aforementioned period. Ostensibly, Buckley still sees, at the time of the essay, a general reluctance to expressing sentiments openly, especially vociferously, that may offend someone, permeating the nation.

The piece communicates that many would rather remain uncomfortable than frankly address the root(s) of the discomfort. He uses an example of everyone on a train experiencing agonizing heat, but no one on the train possessing the courage necessary to ask the train conductor to turn off the heater or modify its temperature.

Buckley explains that those willing to complain, to voice their opinions freely often discover their candor distresses many or most. Purposive complaining, therefore, can generate opposition, even acrimonious opposition.

While the intellectual understands not protesting uncontrollable phenomena, he exposes people who fail to address the controllable.

When only a limited number of individuals express themselves, those voices can become the dominant voices, which Buckley identifies as a grave threat to our democracy.

Although many, especially the heedlessly pious, eschew dissent, America thrives when she values it. Buckley leaves us with a dystopian vision of what can occur in a nation full of people apprehensive about dissent: “When our voices are finally mute, when we have finally suppressed the natural instinct to complain, whether the vexation is trivial or grave, we shall have become automatons, incapable of feeling.”

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

President-Elect Donald Trump Saves 1,000 American Jobs

Donald Trump Carrier

(Photo Credit: Huffington Post)

Even before President-elect Donald Trump’s first day in office, he saves 1,000 American jobs. Delivering on a campaign promise to Carrier employees in Indiana that their jobs wouldn’t be shipped overseas, Trump shows early signs of leading a strong and productive economy. While some are understating and overstating his successful deal for these Carrier employees, we all should be happy that these 1,000 individuals (and their families) will not face the hardships of unemployment. Cease from your partisanship for at least a moment to acknowledge that these jobs remaining in America is important. With this deal, America wins.

Trump, of course, understands that he will not be able to call each top executive of American companies desiring to ship jobs overseas and reach the same type of resolution, but it’s comforting to know that he’s open to negotiating with them. Past presidents, unfortunately, didn’t do anything significant to curb outsourcing. The saving of 1,000 Carrier jobs in Indiana signals that our incoming president is serious about making robust efforts to end outsourcing. As president, one must engage in not only microeconomics but also macroeconomics. A Wharton Business School graduate, Donald Trump, certainly knows this.

One black man who works for Carrier in Indiana and who passionately opposed Trump expressed gratitude to him for saving his job and ensuring the financial security of his family.

America needs a jobs-president. If Trump’s handling of Carrier is any indication of what he will do as president, then America can expect economic prosperity under his leadership. Time will tell, though.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison