Post-California Updates: Trump Security, Progressive Strategy, What ‘He's a Mexican!’ Meant

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Three updates on the morning after Hillary Clinton clinched the nomination and Donald Trump delivered a subdued-sounding from-the-prompter speech.

1) Journalists vs. Trump security. Over the weekend I published the observations of a retired school teacher who was inside the Donald Trump rally in San Jose, California, at which scuffling broke out.

Today the San Jose Mercury News published an op-ed by that reader, whose name is Robert Wright, about what he saw and experienced there. His article is called “Faced with Donald Trump, journalists need to stand their ground,” and it explains why Wright was the only person left taking videos inside the Trump rally:

The Trump security guard (Robert Wright)

Trump security assumed I was a journalist, and because I was out of the press pen, they demanded I leave the rally. I refused. They put their hands on me and tried to shove me in the direction of the exit but I stood my ground and told them I would only submit to arrest by a police officer, and until that happened, I wasn't moving and they were not to touch me….

During the course of his speech, there were about 10 protesters who were ejected, some with excessive force. The excessive force was usually applied in the last 20 feet before they exited the side door. That area was out of view for the media, who were restricted to the press pen.

Because I’m not a journalist, I was able to wander around the convention hall and record video of these ejections with my iPhone, and I was the only one doing so.

A press pass used to give a journalist greater access to news events. In the Trump universe, a press pass does the Orwellian opposite. It imposes a severe restriction.

Worth reading in full, and acting on. If and as Trump becomes a major-party nominee, the press cannot accept being muscled out from his appearances. I offer congrats, respect, and thanks to Robert Wright.


2) Choices for progressives, now that it’s Clinton-v-Trump. A reader in Canada writes:

For progressives, some precedents to ponder include:
- 1964 when they united behind unlikable LBJ, despite Vietnam, to defeat Goldwater;
- 1968 when they failed to back centrist Hubert Humphrey and helped elect Nixon;
- 2000 when enough of them voted for Nader or stayed home to help elect Bush. 

Some Sanders supporters may be tempted to stay home or park their vote with Gary Johnson's Libertarians. That would really be tragic if it helps elect Trump. One thing to watch is whether Johnson can gain the 15 per cent poll support needed to participate in the main TV debates. Third parties can play spoiler roles in U.S. elections: Teddy Roosevelt helped elect Taft; Ross Perot helped elect Bill Clinton; Nader, Bush; etc. 

Of course, it’s just as likely that the Libertarians will hurt the Trump GOP ticket. Johnson’s social liberalism (e.g. legalizing pot) comes along with a bunch of extreme economic laissez-faire and isolationism.
Sanders seems to be hoping that something like an email indictment will derail Clinton before the convention, but it's more likely the delegates would draft Biden in that event. That would increase the likelihood of progressive desertion or third-party votes with potentially disastrous consequences. 

Five months of roller-coaster drama ahead, I think.


3) What “he’s a Mexican!” really meant. A reader originally from the UK, now part of the tech industry in the US, writes about Trump’s much-discussed comments on Judge Curiel:

My reaction to Trump’s ‘Mexican’ interview on CNN (thanks to time capsule #12) was that he was being intentionally doubled-tongued. He was pandering to a racist audience with the appearance of racism, while careful choosing his words so as to be able to later make a defence a la “look closely at what I said—it wasn’t racist.” Specifically, his logic would be:

  1. The judge has strong ties to Mexico
  2. The judge is proud of those ties
  3. I am building a wall to keep out Mexicans
  4. Such a wall is an affront to Mexican pride
  5. Any person proud of Mexico would be affronted by my action
  6. The judge is a proud Mexican, so would be affronted by my action
  7. A judge who is affronted by my actions could not give me a fair trial

He wouldn't use those words, I’m sure. But that’s the “defence back-up plan” I heard in that interview. Of course point #7 is logically flawed, but not in way that is directly racist.

Specifically the non-sequitur at 00:17 where he says, “Look, he’s proud of his heritage. I’m building a wall,” is otherwise suspicious. 

What he pathologically and knowingly ignored is that the very appearance of being racist causes the same harm to society as actually being racist. I.e. when one appears to be racist in front of an audience that may include people who are marginally racist, one re-enforces their racism. Among an audience of 300 million that harm is huge. No amount of later back-pedaling the logic can undo that.

What he clearly mis-judged was that for a presidential candidate the very appearance of being racist, no matter it's potential back-pedalability, would also be harmful to his campaign. 

Thanks to all.