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Thursday, January 19, 2017

All the good you can: the path forward in Donald Trump's America

He may not have actually said it, it turns out, but John Wesley, a cofounder of Methodism, is often credited with having imparted this wisdom: "do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." In the 2016 presidential campaign, this saying became the motto for Methodist Hillary Clinton's campaign.

As a volunteer on the Clinton campaign, I especially appreciated this slogan. The high school I attended, Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, Pennsylvania, also embraced this motto. The school was founded by Methodists so it made sense that this ostensibly Wesley-originating quote was prominently featured on Sem's campus.

Whenever I heard that message uttered at Sem - "do all the good you can" - I was reminded that there was a higher calling and a broader purpose to the grind of school, to the work I wanted to do. When candidates like Hillary Clinton don't succeed in elections, it's important for progressives, for Democrats, and for anyone who is concerned about the future of our country under President Donald Trump to remember that why we became involved in the first place. For me, part of that motivation was my community.

When I canvassed and made phone calls for President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign in the Wilkes-Barre area, I saw a side of my hometown that I had read about and understood intellectually, as much as I could at that point, but didn't get to see up close and personal much. Voters told me they were looking to support change because they struggled with medical bills, gas prices, and discrimination. To them, these issues and frustrations consumed their lives so much so that they couldn't be as fully productive and energetic as they wished to be. Working for them, doing all the good you can for them, in any way, is what the spirit of progressivism and being Democrats should be all about.

Within this community though there are imperfections. There are deeply troubling sentiments that pervade corners of our neighborhoods; to deny that the nativist Trump campaign preyed on those fears, in my community and other parts of our country, would be delusional. But John Wesley would not want progressives to turn their backs on the least of us. Our brothers and sisters who suffer in poverty, often through no fault of their own, should be treated with "malice towards none and charity for all," as an actually great Republican president preached, regardless of their imperfections.

On the other hand, hate must be rooted out, regardless of economic anxiety. That requires us to seek out the "bravery that resides in every heart," as NEPA's own Joe Biden extolled -- light it, overcome fear, and know that whether it be in your own community or online or in your private interactions, that strength will build your character and strengthen your values. These battles though, aiding the disadvantaged and battling bigotry, need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, the sun is setting now on a presidency that showed us just that as Barack Obama united Americans of all backgrounds, from the small city of Kingston, Pennsylvania to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, to his side to advance a more progressive America.

So what does this kind of path forward look like concretely? It means identifying the greatest needs in your community and addressing them in measurable ways. It means putting in the blood, sweat, and tears that local politics requires: getting the signatures to put a progressive on the ballot, knocking on doors for that candidate, and writing letters to the editor to make their voice heard -- or doing it yourself.

It means standing up to bullies in your own backyard, in speaking out, even in intimate settings, if you hear something that contradicts your values. It means investing in genuine public service, not just paying it lip service. It means putting your money where your mouth is so shared prosperity isn't just a pipe dream. It means doing all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. That's our path forward in Donald Trump's America.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What Obama meant to me

When you grow up with an unusual name in a homogenous community, you are bound to experience all sorts of intrigued reactions when you introduce yourself or even just exist in that universe. "Where are you from?" is a common refrain. (Or "where are you really from?") Responses can range from the genuinely curious to pure indignity.

People project on to you all sorts of emotions, feelings, and fears that have followed them through life, that are displayed regularly on their television screens, and that permeate our culture. It is that fear that produces suspicious sentiments like "this is America, please speak English."

But that reaction, I know, deeply, is contrary to our core identity; it was an American hero, Abraham Lincoln, after all who implored us to appeal to our "better angels." A strain of xenophobia in our history exists but so does a society that adapted, that welcomed immigrants in a way unlike most other advanced democracies, that made people like my parents feel like they are Americans. 

Nobody spoke more compellingly to that optimistic view of our country, in our modern political history, than Barack Obama. When he landed on the national political stage in 2004, he spoke in terms about our country, as Chris Matthews said, like no other politician had in decades, perhaps since Bobby Kennedy.

It wasn't that he brushed aside those stains on our culture. He accepted, acknowledged, and understood them but he embraced a version of American exceptionalism that demonstrated that we were unique because we actually were, and could be, better than all that. That capacity for self-improvement for a nation was demonstrated in our own progress in elevating Obama to power. People with "funny names," immigrants, their children -- there was a place in America for them, too. "Omeed's a pretty good name," said the most powerful person in our country.

It was the same country where others have denigrated me for my heritage and my ethnicity. Nevertheless, that attitude did not define us. It was the election, and the reelection, of President Obama that spoke more about us. Nothing can change the fact that that's part of our history; we still did that and we still appealed to the better angels of our nature. We stand out on the world stage for being one of the small handful of countries to have elected an ethnic minority to the highest office in the land.

For me, and millions of others in our country and around the world, the Obama presidency has been a deeply emotional journey, impactful in immeasurable ways. As our country strived to become a more perfect Union, my own progression, as I came of age in the Obama era, was one marked by renewed possibilities. "If our country is ready to elect Barack Hussein Obama as president, in thirty years, it can be ready for" an Iranian-American president, perhaps, my family friend (a two-time Obama voter) wondered aloud. 

I was interested in politics but with the rise of Obama, I became passionate about it because I could relate to him. His 2008 campaign was the first political campaign I got involved in, in fact. I am a liberal Democrat and I support his policies but my affinity for our first black president went beyond that. He and his campaign represented the notion that it was okay to be different, that we should celebrate and embrace that difference, rather than bully or mock it. It was a validation but so too were the actual, tangible accomplishments of the Obama era.

For Iranian-Americans, it was an "open hand," a message of Nowruz greetings, an agreement that both eliminated a potential nuclear weapon and improved dialogue. No U.S. president before understood Iran in the way this president did, with all of the complications, complexities and animosities that existed in these countries' histories with one another. But he also knew the deep appreciation and love, truly, that Iranians have for America, its people, and its democratic history. To see up close and personal Iranian-Americans, some of the most pro-American people you'll meet, dancing in front of the White House after the passage of the Iran deal, just blocks from my college campus? A powerful sight unthinkable just years before.

Barack Obama's personal qualities were immensely appealing too: his calm in difficult moments, his comfort in his own skin, his confidence in his own judgment, his discipline in his lifestyle, his focus on details, his selflessness in working as a community organizer rather than taking corporate gigs he easily could have landed and his loyalty to his family. As someone who was a teenager when Obama took office and is halfway through law school as he leaves office, having that kind of role model on a national stage was particularly meaningful.

In these ways, though specific policy achievements are at risk, there is a permanence to Barack Obama's legacy. The indelible impact of his leadership and of his promise, of all he symbolizes and exudes, is felt in my upbringing, is appreciated by millions, and is enduring in our society. His presidency brought into focus the "better angels" of our culture. 

Our collective identity is, and forever will be, one where "all things are possible" (said the then-president elect on that balmy November night in 2008), one where we can achieve what the "cynics said we could not do" (said the victorious black candidate in the heavily white state of Iowa), and one where, yes, even someone with a funny name can make it and make a difference. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Unsung Heroes of 2016

On this last day of 2016, it has become abundantly clear that this year was, for too many citizens across the world, a troubling, tumultuous, and turbulent year. Even the mere utterance of the year evokes melancholy, an understandable reaction in light of nightmarish events like the unanticipated election of madman Donald Trump.

The president-elect has devoted much of his fear-mongering campaign to attacking people with identities different than his: blacks, the LGBT community and their allies, low-income Americans, and women, among others. In seemingly small but selfless ways, these individuals prove President-elect Trump's provocations wrong everyday. That was my experience in 2016 thanks to unsung heroes who, in myriad manners, put me at ease in tense, unfortunate moments that ultimately were resolved thanks to these individuals' dedication.

There was the Philly-hailing Greyhound bus driver who went above and beyond the call of duty in retrieving my phone from a vent I had clumsily allowed it to fall into while on the bus. During this bus trip, it, for some time, did not seem possible that my phone was retrievable as it had fallen into a place where bus passengers all failed to retrieve it despite their best efforts. To my amazement, I found out after the bus trip ended that the driver went out of her way to work with manufacturers, folks who make things work behind the scenes, to utilize unique tools to physically pry my phone out of there. I am immensely grateful for her as she had no obligation to assist me in this endeavor but the kindness of her heart was evident.

There was the Orlando area Best Buy GeekSquad employee who, during Thanksgiving week, worked tirelessly to repair my broken laptop. He offered his personal email address so we can check continually on the progress made and he worked to expedite the mission because he knew we would be leaving within days to go back home. Ultimately, he was able to salvage the data on the hard drive of my laptop despite potential hazards with the motherboard of my laptop. He was a lifesaver in the weeks before my final exams as I had crucial notes from my classes on my laptop. He was uncommonly patient and explained complicated matters in easily comprehensible language thus putting my mind at ease.

There was the Wilkes-Barre area Motorworld employee who just today, upon realizing that my car was fraught with potential issues that I did not realize, was able to provide service to my vehicle's troubles so swiftly that it is already ready for pickup. I am leaving shortly for a New Year's Eve celebration in Philadelphia so the time crunch was agonizing but her diligence was much appreciated. She did not have to be so understanding but for her unusually swift assistance, I am extremely thankful.

Beyond these exceptionally altruistic individuals, there are dozens of other stories of unsung heroes in my travels of 2016 -- people of all walks of life, colors, and creeds who revealed their basic decency in ways that Donald Trump will likely never understand. They uncovered their humanity in small acts of kindness that reflect their character. Often, their work goes unnoticed while their identities are attacked as ignoramuses choose to believe that they do not add any meaningful value to this world. Unlike President-elect Trump, these individuals don't seek glory or fame or riches; it is fathomable that that's why he will never fully understand these peoples' toils and triumphs. In unheralded yet individually impactful acts, these individuals' enduring empathy towards others proves Trump wrong everyday. As such, they are unsung heroes of 2016 who made this difficult year calmer and better.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Case for Hillary Clinton

On November 8, American voters should elect Hillary Clinton, a deeply experienced and solidly liberal candidate, as the first woman president. The specter of Donald Trump, a dangerous demagogue and cavalier charlatan, leading our diverse, democratic country on the world stage should be sufficient reason to vote for Clinton. But beyond the frightening prospect of Trump's hand on the nuclear button, a truly devastating scenario that should scare every American, there is an affirmative case for Clinton that has to be made.

She is prepared, knowledgeable, qualified, intelligent, an incredible listener, and a fiercely productive worker; as such, she exhibits virtually all the hallmark qualities of a capable leader. With regards to her policy positions, she has long been a stalwart domestic policy liberal, particularly on issues that are elemental to the progressive movement: health care, child care, taxes, and even criminal justice.

It is a shame that she has to remind media outlets of this experience but it's true, as she said in January on MSNBC's Morning Joe, that she has a track record of fighting "inequality of all kinds." Dating back to her impressive career as a legal aid lawyer, working in the Children's Defense Fund and overseeing strong funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in the Carter administration, she's demonstrated genuine concern for underprivileged people.

Moving forward, she should be expected to uphold President Obama's core policy achievements, consequential laws and executive actions that have improved the lives of millions. Rightly, she's run proudly on Obama's record of progress. More specifically, she is in favor of ideas that are evidence-based, needed for this moment, and rightfully left of center.

Those proposals include Bernie Sanders' push for debt-free college, particularly salient in this time of high debt; experts have noted that such a policy actually fiscally assist the budget given the vast amounts already spent on various aid programs. Students' own fiscal house would also be in order. That way they can prepare more productively, with less hassle, for their futures, an outcome favorable for the broader economy. Importantly too, unlike her opponent (who called climate change "a hoax"), Clinton is ready to tackle climate change, a problem her record and her calls for further regulation of greenhouse gases make clear she takes seriously.

As if these issues were not enough, Clinton has also demonstrated a commanding prowess of health care policy, a realm she is familiar with in intimate detail. Her suggestions in this arena are laudable too. The Affordable Care Act, a major step forward in insurance reform, would be greatly improved with a government-run public option and more generous subsidies. These ideas would make health insurance more affordable for struggling families and they are ones Clinton has embraced. On immigration, she's also shown a willingness to go further than Obama as she's pledged to build on his protections from deportation for millions thus putting families at ease. On criminal justice reform, she's harkened back to her roots, as someone who went undercover to go after discrimination in education rights, to propose a compelling series of proposals (i.e. severely limiting mandatory minimums) to end mass incarceration.

Lastly, there is the issue of the Supreme Court. Whoever Clinton appoints will, in all certainty, be more progressive minded than whoever Trump puts on the Court. If voters arm Clinton too with a Democratic Senate majority, they can expect to see a justice who is in the mold of great, liberal jurists like Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- someone who is dedicated to advancing civil rights and rooting out injustices that have harmed our democracy like the Citizens United ruling and the case that gutted the Voting Rights Act. Such a justice would see the Constitution as it should be seen: a living, breathing document that must be interpreted in light of our ever changing society.

On the other hand, Clinton's radical opponent, the uniquely awful Donald Trump, sees the world a different way. Electing Trump would be a regressive shock to the system unlike one we've ever seen. He would gut Obama's accomplishments, as he promised recently here in the electorally all-important Philadelphia suburbs, thus sending into financial misery millions of Americans who are now insured, enjoying stronger wages finally after years of stagnation, and protected by the CFPB from the recklessness of institutions like Wells Fargo.

More importantly, Trump would fundamentally reshape and alter the identity of the country. We would no longer be as welcoming to immigrants, we would cease to have any regard for the enriching diversity of our beautiful country, and his very presence as our president would mean to the world that we accepted his brand of bigotry, misogyny, and recklessness in words and deeds. Ultimately, he is, as Clinton and Obama so often say, "temperamentally unfit" for the office, something he's proven again and again with how easily he is angered and how dangerously he asked three times in a one-hour meeting on security why we cannot use nuclear weapons at will.

In the end, this election, in my humble opinion, is a binary choice. Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. Given the impressiveness of Clinton's strong record and the strength of her policy proposals, and the unusual threat to our institutions and norms represented by Donald Trump, voters should pick Clinton for the sake of our country's survival, frankly, as we know it. It's true that Clinton has blemishes on her record.

She's more hawkish than Obama, as demonstrated in her vote for the Iraq war, and her handling of her email on a private server was inexcusable. But she's also shown a willingness to learn from these errors, calling such moves "mistakes," and, as such, she showed an attentiveness to criticism that her opponent would never consider. That key part of it should speak well about how she'll govern as opposed to her rival. Lest I say more? In the end, it is no contest. Vote. The world is watching.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The new Match Game is a very, very good revival. They finally got it right.

Gene Rayburn and the panel in the 1970s.
 Tonight is the fourth episode of the latest revival of Match Game, otherwise known to my friends as my favorite television program of all time. A reincarnation of the popular 1970s game show that lives on in GSN and BUZZR reruns, the classic show is back in full force on the primetime ABC Sunday and Fun Games lineup with Alec Baldwin as host. The results so far have been great in the sense that critics have provided resoundingly strong reviews and the ratings have been quite solid, beating the offerings on other major networks in the same time slot.

(I was even lucky enough to see a taping in person with my great friend Evan Feurstein in New York City. I should also mention that I am especially grateful to my wonderful girlfriend Erin and her parents who made time to watch the premiere episode with me recently when I visited Erin in Atlanta during her summer internship for The Carter Center).

However, when the revival was announced in April, a lot of Match Game fans, myself included, were excited but apprehensive. The nervousness is attributed to the fact that all previous efforts to revive the show disastrously failed. There was the anemic Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour - which barely survived a single season - that felt incredibly forced: a lame effort to fuse two shows that had little to do with each other.

That effort failed in no small part because the Hollywood Squares portion was hosted by Sha-Na-Na's Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, an individual who was simply not cut out to be a game show host. Then there was the short-lived 1990 revival, a noble ABC effort that had its positives, like bringing back Charles Nelson Reilly on the panel, but was plagued by an unfortunate time slot and dry hosting courtesy Ross Shafer. Towards the end of the 90s, an even worse attempt was made in the form of a syndicated version that also suffered from poor hosting skills, a bizarre panel, a low cash prize, unfunny questions, a lackluster set, and terrible time placements.

Alec Baldwin and the panel on the new Match Game.
To be fair, it is a difficult task to revive Match Game and that's because the 70s version was simply so freakin good. The chemistry between energetic host Gene Rayburn, the fun (drunk) celebrities, and the contestants was what made the show so entertaining. It is hard to replicate that unique interaction. But what's also true is that the show pushed the envelope for its time, featuring risque double-entrende fill-in-the-blanks that could be answered with "boobs," "derriere," and "making love," all permitted terms on CBS daytime. As TV's social standards have relaxed over the years, it's become harder to elicit the same shock value and humor.

But where other revivals miserably failed, this Match Game succeeded -- with flying colors. Of course, it still is no match for (no pun intended) the 70s version but it's at least a solid B+ show. For one, Alec Baldwin is a genuinely good host. He skewers contestants, a la Steve Harvey but also a la Rayburn himself, when their answers are bad, and he has a hilarious rapport with the celebrities that is genuine and whimsical.

Speaking of the celebrities, they are solid picks who viewers recognize and are entertained by, like Titus Burgess and Sherri Shepherd and Sutton Foster AND especially the talented Rosie O'Donnell (occupying the Brett Somers seat but replicating Richard Dawson in mastery of the head-to-head match), and these celebrities clearly are drinking a little between tapings so that makes it more enjoyable.

Further, the questions are topical, with figures like Donald Trump and Justin Bieber implicated, so that gives it a sort of Cards Against Humanity feeling that folks enjoy. The questions can also finally actually be answered with words like "penis" and "vagina," disallowed on previous revivals, and that's liberating in a way because it allows for more freewheeling, laugh-out-loud moments. In that way, this version is envelope-pushing in the same kind of way the 70s program was. Another vital update from those prior revivals is that the dollar amount of the top prize is finally at a higher level: $25,000; the 1998 version unthinkably kept the top amount at $5,000 (the same level of the 70s show).

Beyond that, this revival works too because it retained so much of what works from the 70s show like the catchy theme song and think music, the signature skinny microphone, essentially the same vintage set, silly format, and cool logo, and even the same kind of opening. Previous revivals tried to change these things for more modern or different styles and features that were, frankly, not appealing. Don't fix what's not broken!

In fairness to the previous revivals though, this one has succeeded actually partly because a newer, younger generation, including me, are familiar with the 70s Match Game now thanks to its reruns. That wasn't necessarily the case in 1990 and 1998 when previous revivals tried and failed; consequently, there are millions of new fans who are undoubtedly part of the audience of this revival.

Lastly, it is important that they put the show on in primetime on Sundays in the summer: a time when Americans are watching television and want to see something funny and relaxing before they head to bed for the week ahead. It helps too that it is part of a lineup of game shows that include Celebrity Family Feud and The $100,000 Pyramid as viewers stick around from the previous shows at 8 and 9 pm, respectively. As the celebrities and Baldwin become increasingly relaxed and even more comfortable in their roles, this Match Game will continue to succeed.

For more on Match Game, including an in-depth explanation of why previous revivals failed, check out my website. (Thank you to my great friend Jack Cartwright for giving me this website back in 2004 when he set it up for me).

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

In Defense of the Conventions

Barack Obama first rose to stardom as the 2004 DNC keynoter.
On Monday, MSNBC's Chris Hayes described the recent Democratic and Republican national conventions as "infomercials" for the parties. To some extent, this characterization is apt, as reflected in the feel-good videos Rachel Maddow highlighted from previous conventions. But the conventions are still important even though they no longer play as pivotal of a role as they once did in our presidential elections. In recent years, the conventions have proven highly effectual, unusually revealing, and surprisingly insightful.

The conventions can sometimes be flawed spectacles that are so highly scripted that they are inauthentic in the presentations of the candidates. However, they are generally a vital element of our presidential election campaigns because of how unique they are.

For one, the conventions are actually politically important in determining the trajectory and ultimate outcome of a presidential race. For that reason alone arguably, they are worth at least paying attention to because they could truly decide the fate of the country. That's because, if done right, conventions are pivotal to uniting party loyalists, including partisans across the country. As John Sides and Lynn Vavreck documented in The Gamble, the 2012 Democratic National Convention, widely praised by for how well it was orchestrated, was pivotal in rallying Democratic voters around President Obama. 

Indeed, Obama, still the most popular president among Democrats in history, won that year the highest percentage of Democratic votes of any nominee ever. Bill Clinton's famously articulate nominating speech, Elizabeth Warren's debut on the national political stage, and the enormously popular Michelle Obama's moving address all helped make that possible. A similar effect helped Al Gore in 2000 narrow a 15-point gap (from the summer of 1999) that dissipated after the DNC to produce a tight race that led to a narrow popular vote win. George W. Bush benefited tremendously from the 2004 Republican National Convention too thanks to a combination of the patriotic backdrop of New York City in the first presidential race after 9/11 and well-organized critiques of John Kerry

On the other hand, conventions could be disastrous, even if inadvertently so, for a party's chances. Mitt Romney famously forgot to mention Afghanistan, John Kerry's "reporting for duty" line was devastatingly used against him, Ted Kennedy's awkward handshake with Jimmy Carter portended party disunity, and the 1968 Democratic National Convention was genuinely a chaotic mess marred by violence. To varying degrees, these events were pivotal because they actually helped shape the election and, in turn, the fate of the nation -- and, contrary to popular belief, the conventions are (as such) historically more important in determining election outcomes than the debates are. 

More importantly, the conventions are actually one of the most substantive events of the cycle. Actually, they can be more substantive than even the debates because, unlike the debates, conventions actually allow for lengthy, detailed and comprehensive speeches that can dive into deep policy discussion. There is no better recent example of this than Bill Clinton's 2012 speech for Barack Obama; he even explained the GOP proposal to block-grant Medicaid

Obama's own 2008 convention acceptance speech proved to be a vital preview of his actual policies. With tens of millions of Americans watching, these speeches can grab viewers' attention in a way debates disallow; there aren't merely quick snippets and mere soundbites, or policy agendas jammed into fast responses, but instead real agenda-setting speeches.

As such, conventions can be objectively good in holding candidates accountable to the words they utter in those important speeches. For example, it was in the 1988 Republican National Convention that George H.W. Bush memorialized his "read my lips" pledge. When he violated this pledge, the videotape from the RNC was a staple of the 1992 Clinton campaign's advertisements attacking Bush. In his 1979 "crisis of confidence" speech, Jimmy Carter cited the promises from his 1976 DNC nomination acceptance speech to make the case regarding his leadership. 

Such speeches are also vital in framing the agenda of a party for the future and, as such, inspiring activists and party leaders to aspire to the words of those addresses in crafting proposals and actual policy. Conservatives today are still motivated by the words of Ronald Reagan's 1980 RNC acceptance speech and liberals are still moved by Mario Cuomo's 1984 DNC speech. Words matter. 

In that way, conventions are revealing but they are also revealing in another important aspect: introducing us to up and coming political stars like Ronald Reagan in 1976, Barack Obama in 2004, and Julian Castro in 2012. Their premieres on the national political stage in the conventions propelled their careers and, naturally, raised public awareness regarding their backgrounds, views, and agendas. 

Ultimately, all of these positive elements of the conventions prove that they are still useful civic events that are, at times, truly informative or at least politically noteworthy. It is a good bet that this year's conventions will prove to be at least the latter...yes, even, the Trump Show of Cleveland in ways we don't fully know yet. Tune in! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

When Trump insists his statements are just "suggestions," don't trust him. Here's why.

Donald Trump famously led the "birther" movement against President Obama.
When George H.W. Bush famously broke his 1988 signature election pledge to not raise taxes, his promise earned its storied place, in the annals of political history, among the legions of politicians' broken campaign vows. It is a well-worn trope of public discourse that presidential candidates routinely break their promises once they're in office.

That discussion is not entirely without merit and there are varying reasons, some more justifiable than others, for that. However, that prevailing public thought obscures the larger picture and that is that presidents - wait for it - typically do, or try to do, what they promised on the campaign trail. This statement might come as a shock to some readers who insist that politicians consistently disappoint them.

But the truth is that the historical evidence suggests that presidents usually seek out to accomplish what they run on, especially their high-profile policy proposals. Last year, Vox published a very compelling read on this exact subject; I was admittedly irked because it echoed what I was trying to say to friends all year but Vox beat me to it. With regards to Bush 41's "read my lips" pledge, Vox rightly noted that that pledge violation was a rarity thus why it's remembered.

The relevance of this pattern for this election cycle is that we, as the American electorate, should take presidential candidates at their word when they say they are going to enact, or attempt to enact, certain policies. Far too often I've heard from Republican voters, who claim they don't support all of Donald Trump's heinous proposals, that Mr. Trump likely won't build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border or that he likely won't ban Muslims from entering the U.S. despite his commitment to both of those ideas.

These voters explain their comfort level with their party's presumptive presidential nominee by insisting that the ostensible improbability of the enactment of those policies justifies overlooking them. Trump has fed into this mindset when he reportedly privately told The New York Times editorial board that the wall proposal was merely a starting "negotiating" position and when he more recently said his Muslim ban proposal was "just a suggestion." Not only did he say that the Muslim ban proposal was merely a suggestion but he also insisted that all campaign trail policy proposals, generally, are just that: suggestions and not promises.

Contrary to Trump's latest iterations and contrary to the suggestions of some, more moderate GOP voters, that is a problematic way of looking at the Trump campaign's proposals. Keep in mind that millions of Republican primary voters cast votes for Trump in part because he ran on those ideas; his remarks on Mexicans "bringing crime [and being] rapists" were delivered in his very first speech as a candidate. They define his authoritarianrace-baiting campaign.

A majority of GOP primary voters, in the states where Trump was victorious, support the Muslim ban. These supporters will inevitably hold Trump accountable to these promises if he's elected president. We've seen this pattern before as liberals held President Obama accountable to his signature promises and conservatives held President Reagan accountable to his most significant promises. You can bet that if a President Trump attempts to renege on these campaign ideas, he'll face the wrath of a right-wing base that's eager to see a president stand up for them.

Further, as aforementioned, the historical record suggests a President Trump would follow through on his big-ticket campaign statements because that's what presidents do as they know they'll be judged on whether they abided by their words. That would likely particularly be the case for Trump given that he has famously campaigned against politicians who are "all talk, no action." However, some observers insist that Trump's malleability implies he shouldn't he believed when he says he'll push these policies. But that analysis cuts against the reality that, though Trump is famously flexible, there is at least one component of his persona that's been consistent in his public life: his racism.

To paraphrase The Intercept writer Glenn Greenwald, anyone who's lived in New York City for the last couple decades knows Trump for what he is: an authoritarian. This is a man who engaged in discriminatory housing practices against blacks, took out a full-page newspaper ad for the death penalty against wrongfully convicted black men, wanted to pit blacks vs. whites on The Apprentice, and led the racially tinged birther movement against the first black president -- all before he ran for the Republican presidential nomination. He's not running as a racist only to appease ultra-right voters; he is and always has been a racist. It is fair to say a man with that history, and with other racially coded campaign rhetoric too, would further discriminatory public policy.

Nevertheless, there are those, still, who suggest that there's little cause for concern because a president is limited in power so Trump wouldn't be so dangerous unless he got supposedly unlikely congressional backing. First, if Trump wins, there'll likely be pressure from voters on the GOP congressional leadership to enact his agenda as he's certain to boast of a "mandate."

Second, there is a vast array of executive powers, even in domestic affairs and particularly in immigration (Trump's campaign focus), at hand for Trump to exercise. For precedent, look no further than the fact that Obama has used his executive authority domestically to shield immigrants from deportation, expand overtime pay, and enact sweeping environmental regulations, among other things. Presidents have enormous power and they, naturally, wish to use this power.

In fact, Trump has already pledged to seek the counsel of his friend Rudy Giuliani, no stranger to discriminatory policy, and, together, along with a cadre of other authoritarians, they'll surely use existing presidential power to toughen immigration practices. As such, even if Trump doesn't fully succeed in building a wall or banning Muslims, it's a good bet that he'll, at least, undo the administratively granted deportation relief for DREAMersfurther boost deportation efforts, make it harder to get asylum in the U.S., reverse the progressive executive progress of the Obama Justice Department's civil rights division, and toughen visa acceptances through administrative actions, appointments, and other means. He can do all of that without Congress.

So when Donald Trump says he's merely laying out "suggestions," voters, if they care about preserving our special status as a uniquely welcoming country for immigrants, should be skeptical. If you think America is already great, which it is, and that part of that greatness is our rich history of immigration, you should be skeptical.