Part 11 – the Bathroom

Don’t start here! Start with Part 1.

After Steve Bannon brought up the Holocaust and Einstein, he mentioned Edmund Burke, Burke’s Compact, human agency and divine providence. I could only get the buzzwords down; I don’t know anything about Burke or what Bannon was trying to say. In Houston, according to Bannon, 50% of households can’t put their hands on $400 in case of an emergency. “Did we fight for this? Damn right I’m angry.”

It was almost over. Bannon ended with Mitch McConnell. “Mitch McConnell has got to go. Thank you.” They really are at war with the GOP establishment.

As the crowd cheered, I dashed out. I didn’t know where Emily was. But first, I had to use the restroom. You know how the women’s bathroom is at an event – you wait a long time if you don’t get there first.

I made it first, directly into a stall. I could hear other women coming in, and they started to chat. Just after I washed my hands, I heard one woman talking about the woman who interrupted the speech. I paused before leaving the bathroom so I could hear what they said. “That was so fake!” one woman exclaimed. A second woman said, “She was **definitely** a mainstream media plant!” Someone said, “How did she get in here?” I’m surprised that’s such a mystery. Obviously, she bought a ticket.

I understand where they’re coming from. Those in the audience who are conservative but not white supremacists are in an information bubble. They consume Fox, Breitbart, and other one-sided “news.” They don’t see what we see on the left – all the corruption, lies, and Russian connections with the Trump administration. Even when they **do** see it, they’re inoculated against those truths. #FakeNews, cries the right, when confronted with news they don’t like. No proof of error is needed when it’s the “Failing New York Times” or the “Amazon Washington Post.” Much of our populace has been turned against the fourth estate. They reject the very notion that makes a democracy work – the free press.

When I left the ladies room, I went back to the lobby. There were still not crowds in the lobby, which surprised me. I saw the two SLED agents, posted just where I had spoken to them earlier to tell them I appreciated their protecting us. I told them that the woman who was taken out is my friend and asked them where she was. They said she had likely been taken to jail. I thanked them and walked outside.

I really wanted to go across the street and see my friends and have some support if Emily had been taken to jail. I walked out and they were all gone. Across the street was deserted. That was a desolately lonely feeling. Was I alone here, about to be faced with the throngs of Bannon supporters while I waited for a ride home?

But then I looked just ahead and saw Emily. She was outside a police car under the awning of the Holliday Alumni Center. Two officers stood with her near the front of the car, and one officer was in the car. She left her blazer crumpled in the back of her chair, and I had brought it with me. It was cold, and she was wearing a t-shirt. I offered it to her, and she said she wasn’t cold, but she took it.

There was an officer, not one of those three, who was very kind. I spoke to him, and I asked his name, but, in all the stress, I cannot remember it. I’m not even sure what we talked about, but I remember thinking that he was being very compassionate. I wanted to know his name to thank him later. I don’t even know if he was police or security or what. I hope he reads this and knows how much I appreciated his kindness.

When they let Emily go, I asked an officer – a really large man, who (I think) Emily said was the head of security at the Citadel – to walk us to the car. The crowds still hadn’t let out, and I was afraid that someone in the crowd would be aggressive toward us. He did, and said he had already planned to walk us to the car. We were so appreciative of his walking with us, and we let him know it.

As soon as Emily and I were alone in the car, I experienced the rush of emotions from all of the previous several hours. Leaving my friends across the street after warm hugs and wishes for safety was really difficult. I really wanted to be with them. Waiting in line to be screened so intensely. Smiling and chatting when we knew we were in hostile territory was exhausting. These people really hate liberals. We knew the crowd didn’t have weapons, but they could do a lot of damage with words if we were discovered. The anxiety when I realized Emily had been the protester was physically and emotionally exhausting. I walked out to see my friend talking with the police, struggling with decisions.

I wanted to burst into tears, but, more than that, I wanted to get out of there before the crowd came out. Emily wanted to talk, too, but I urged her to get out of there and we could talk after we were safely away from the crowds.

Four days later, I’m still pretty emotional. Writing helps. As a psychologist, I continually urge people to write to manage emotions, and I sometimes get the chance to practice it myself. The stress was worth it. What I learned was invaluable. We need to send people to every single such event.

I saw this white supremacy from the inside. On the surface, it looks a lot like so many other parties and events I’ve attended. The people look the same, but some of the people here want an autocratic government. Some here think separating church and state is fine for all the **other** religions, but not for the Christians in power. Some think the media is made of crooked, evil people. Some believe that white people are literally superior to people of color and that women are inferior to men.

Out there, they blend in. Here, though, their hate for liberals and minorities could seep out. They voted for Trump, and some still defend him. Some of them don’t even know what they’re supporting, but abnormal things become normal when you’re fed a steady diet of propaganda. Fascism doesn’t leap, it creeps.

Follow Dr. Cleaveland on Twitter: @CHSPolitico

Part 10, Eleven-Eleven-Eleven

Don’t start here! Start with Part 1.

“On Billy Bush weekend,” Bannon bragged, he brought Bill Clinton’s accusers in. Gleefully, he reported how rattled Bill & Hillary both were at the debate. It’s amazing how many people, Bannon included, never heard from their Mommas that two wrongs don’t make a right.

Actually, I’m sure Bannon knows that Bill Clinton’s bad acts don’t minimize Donald Trump’s bad acts in any way. He’s also probably smart enough to realize that Hillary is not responsible for Bill’s actions. But Bannon **is** smart enough to realize that somehow his followers will believe what they want to believe — despite logic. Bannon, the brilliant manipulator, can get even evangelical Christians to accept a candidate who promised to release his taxes and then did not, who has been married and divorced several times, and who regularly calls people names.

Bannon promised a story that night or the next day about the collusion between the Democrats and the “Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post” to do a hit-job on Roy Moore. Bannon himself needed more evidence on Moore, despite four women already having come forward (and, as of this writing, five). Without more evidence, Bannon said, “I’m standing with him.” Oh, and he has a daughter who went to West Point, so he implied that he can’t be a misogynist.

My next note listed Columbus and Teddy Roosevelt. Next to it, I wrote “Don’t worry re: Confed Mon.” Confederate monuments have been a hot-button issue since the Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Those on the left, and many on the right, have had it with glorifying those who defended slavery. Columbus “discovered” America, nevermind that Native Americans had always been here. It apparently only counts when the Europeans arrive. And nevermind that those same Europeans decimated native people and waged a campaign of cultural genocide.

Bannon didn’t say Columbus is great, but he made fun of people who don’t exalt Columbus. It’s deniable racism. Bannon is smart; he knows the history. He also knows that many Americans don’t, and the white supremacists don’t care either way. Bannon manipulates, and he manipulates very, very well.

Among the “hobbits and deplorables” there’s “more decency, grit and determination” than among the Goldman Sachs donor class…said Bannon, the donor class Goldman Sachs alumnus. “We need to get angry,” as if they’re victims. Social psychology research, for decades, has known that a sure way to create group cohesiveness is to have a common enemy. Bannon and gang have created that enemy – liberals and even the Republican party are against them. The white Christian suffers so much. They are the true victims.

But all of that disappears as unimportant when you see what’s next.

Something Bannon said struck me. I didn’t understand it, but it stuck out. He said something about tomorrow (November 11) and the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. And he immediately referenced the Holocaust – I’m not sure he ever said the word “Holocaust” – but he spoke of 280 million people dead in death chambers and from starvation. He said it was “right after Einstein.” I’m glad there’s video, because we need to go back to this piece.

11-11 at 11. I asked my well-read history-loving husband about the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and he spoke of Armistice Day, the end of World War I in 1918. Just before the rise of the Nazis.

In part seven of this blog, we talked about the codes we use in daily lives in our language. Here, we’ll talk about what we classically think of as codes. My husband brought up last night that White supremacists love 88, for example, because it stands for Heil Hitler, since H is the 8th letter of the alphabet.

I started to do some research. White supremacists have all kinds of numeric codes. 1-11 is code for the Aryan Knights, because A is the first letter of the alphabet and K is the 11th. 12 is code for Aryan Brotherhood because A and B are the first and second letters of the alphabet. There are more.

But think for a minute about 11-11-11. You know the code. That’s right, since K is the 11th letter of the alphabet, 11-11-11 is KKK.

Bannon could, and probably would, say that he brought up 11-11-11 since it’s Veteran’s Day, so he was recalling Armistice Day. It was also the day before November 11. And, of course, there’s the possibility that Bannon is clueless. But I doubt it. Bannon is smart, and he takes cover where he finds it.

11-11-11 serves as a powerful clue to white supremacist followers, who know that he must deny white supremacy publicly. Other white supremacists would pick it up when his more mainstream followers wouldn’t. He gets to please both, while completely denying white supremacist ties.

Hate symbols research from the Anti-Defamation League.


Follow Dr. Cleaveland on Twitter: @CHSPolitico

Part 9, Nasty Woman

Don’t start here! Start with Part 1.

I couldn’t hear what my friend said, but I heard Bannon say, “I wanna thank one of my ex-wives for showing up.” I heard my friend yell “Free Speech,” and she was taken outside. My heart was pounding, but I continued to take notes as if nothing had happened. She obviously felt strongly enough to confront Bannon, so I was going to finish the job we came for. I wanted to hear Bannon through to the end.

I might have missed a few things while I took a few deep breaths and tried to refocus on the task at hand. The next thing I heard was that Trump ran because he loves his country. I think Bannon was saying that Trump didn’t need to subject himself to all the hate, but he did it for country.

I didn’t have time to think then, but now that simply sounds absurd. Ask any mental health professional. Hell, ask any person. Trump’s so narcissistic that he doesn’t care about anyone but himself, and possibly his close family members. Trump did not run for president for the country. He did it for himself, for the fame he craves, and probably for the money he could make off the election. I doubt he thought he could win, but I think when it looked possible, he realized how much money he could make as President. Not in salary, of course, but by leveraging his power.

“They’re trying to nullify the election,” Bannon continued. I left, said Bannon, because the GOP establishment was trying to nullify the election. (I thought Bannon was fired?) As evidence, he cited the Senate Judiciary committee and the House investigation. I wrote Senate again in my notes, and it seems he may have mentioned three Congressional investigations. I’ll have to look that up, because I thought there were two.

I haven’t watched the video of the event. Actually, I didn’t know it would be released. Most of the time, when you go to a talk or performance, you aren’t allowed to record. Still, I don’t regret being there. I learned so much. I learned that racists are open when they think they’re among friends.

Something else that bothered me is how far the protesters were situated from the event. There were numerous physical barriers and street in between. As a result, the crowd waiting in line to get in could not hear the protesters nor read their signs. I sincerely hope that this does not become standard operating procedure. I do realize that this event had more safety concerns than many events. I realize that recent attacks with trucks made security very wary of placing guests or protesters where a vehicle attack could happen. At the same time, when we give up some of our Constitutional values, we’re on a slippery slope. I hope that each security team going forward designates someone to advocate for protesters’ First Amendment rights. They should be balanced against security concerns.

But back to Bannon. He stated that he has no problem with looking at Russia, but that the Democrats lost because they had a terrible candidate. “I’ve got an idea,” Bannon quipped. “Run her again.” The crowd loved it. “We have to stop this nullification process.” Bannon said he argued against firing Comey. He thinks the committees should have a time limit for the investigation. Here, there was a lot I couldn’t understand. I hope someone captured it on video. Bannon said, “SHUT IT DOWN.”

Bannon is brilliantly manipulative. He says he doesn’t care if they look at the campaign’s connections with Russia, but minutes later he argues for time limits and for shutting it down. What he did not say is important. He didn’t say that the vote is a sacred aspect of our Republic. He didn’t say that voters must have confidence in the election process. He also didn’t say that any foreign interference into our election process, regardless of which party it helps, should be shut down. He said the investigation should be shut down.

Next up: the final bits of Bannon, and you won’t believe what happened in the bathroom.

Follow Dr. Cleaveland on Twitter: @CHSPolitico

Part 8: Manafort is Under the Bus

Don’t start here! Start with Part 1.

Pat Caddell, a former Democratic operative who’s now a Republican and a Charleston resident, predicted the rise of Trump based on 75% of the country believing that the country was on the wrong track. Bannon went on to speak of the “corrupt and incompetent elite.” He called Trump an “agent of change.” Bannon mentioned his “buddy” Corey Lewandowski.

Pat Caddell, a former Democratic operative who’s now a Republican and a Charleston resident, predicted the rise of Trump based on 75% of the country believing that the country was on the wrong track. Bannon went on to speak of the “corrupt and incompetent elite.” He called Trump an “agent of change.” Bannon mentioned his “buddy” Corey Lewandowski.

When Bannon dissed Manafort, the crowd laughed. They’ve already disowned him, I suppose. In fact, the woman whose comments I keep reporting said something about “Comrade Manafort.” It’s fascinating. The Trump Russia story is fake news, but Manafort is Comrade Manafort. I think they’ve convinced themselves Manafort is the whole Russian story.

I think much of the Republican public really, truly believes that Trump is not involved with Russia. If you only consume Fox or Brietbart, there’s no way to know what’s actually happening. A lot of everyday Republicans will be shocked when Trump is implicated, and possibly impeached. Of course, the #GOP establishment knows about Trump’s connections to Russia, but they don’t talk about this with their voters.

But back to the dinner, and to Hillary Clinton. Here’s Bannon’s take: “We had a candidate with complete authenticity” where the Democrats had “a complete phony.” Referring to Clinton’s book, Bannon quipped, ” What happened…You got your ass kicked.” The crowd roared their approval. Bannon praised Barack Obama’s campaign as an outsider effort with a grassroots coalition. Here’s the formula for winning, according to Bannon:

* Authenticity
* Big, actionable ideas
* Grassroots efforts, particularly ringing doorbells.

Bannon admitted that “We have not learned to govern.” He said the 16 #GOP candidates were “quality folks,” and then mentioned Ben Carson, Ron Paul, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina. Despite their quality, though, he believed none of the other candidates could have beaten the “Clinton machine.”

“It was the hand of divine providence” that elected Trump.

It was at this point that my friend, she said later, got ready to protest. I knew she had taken off her blouse and blazer, revealing her “blatant dissent” t-shirt. We were in the back of the room facing forward. It was relatively dark in the room. No one would see her shirt at that point.

As I said earlier, we went to document the event, and to listen to the insiders of the white supremacist, pro-fascist movement. How could normal people, people who love their families and country, how could they possibly vote for Trump? Before the election, we knew he sexually assaulted women and bragged about it. We knew he prevented black tenants from renting his apartments. We knew he mocked a disabled reporter. We knew he lied – constantly. How did people who consider themselves moral cast a vote for this man? It doesn’t make sense. What drives them?

I continued to watch Bannon and to take notes. “We were the island of the misfit toys.” Later, he called those in his movement, not nastily but including himself, “rubes, hobbits, deplorables.”

The mainstream media, he said, accused the campaign of colluding with Russia, but we couldn’t even collude with the RNC! Laughs. “Hey, Don Lemon, collude that.” Cheers. He made fun of being called “White Supremacist/White Nationalist Bannon.”

Bannon praised Nigel Farage and Brexit, saying that Farage had a “professionally run” tea party. Bannon took credit for Brexit, saying that if Breitbart London had not been created, “we wouldn’t have a Brexit.”

The working class is underestimated, argued Bannon, and he used the phrase, “take our country back.” He began talking about JD Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy, saying that there’s a correlation between lost jobs and the opioid crisis. The heartland is gutted. Sixteen percent of those who voted Bernie Sanders in the primaries voted for Trump and would do so in 2020.

All of these references are to white people. Although people of color in this country have been suffering economically forever, only the white working class gain the alt-right’s sympathy. Bannon is too smart to say that directly, but his examples betray him.

Bannon praised Judge Moore, who was accused this week of sexual abuse of a 14 year-old when he was 32. Judge Moore, who, despite the right’s claim that the Constitution is the bedrock of conservatism, has been twice removed from the bench for failing to obey the law.

He urged the crowd to read Chinese president Xi’s speech, calling China the “great new power.”

I agree with Bannon about one topic. He said that the Watson Center at Brown University released a study showing that we’ve spent $5.6 trillion since 2001 on the War on Terror. We’ve had 52,000 casualties. He didn’t say it’s too much; he didn’t have to. And I agree. Before dinner, a Citadel video played. Various Republican leaders, past and present, praised the Citadel: Nikki Haley, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan. And each Citadel graduate since 2001 killed in service to our nation was memorialized. We have lost so many.

Bannon continued to criticize US trade deficits and used the phrase “supplicants to NATO.” And then I wrote down a bunch of buzz words without much context. “Donor class.” “Consultants.” “More Virginias.” He said that “tonight or tomorrow” the mainstream media would release a story, and I have no recollection about what, but he did say what it was. I wish I knew shorthand.

He was back to election night, 2016. He said that the people think their country is “gone forever” if Hillary Clinton is elected. Like the military, the election comes down to 1 or 2 decisions, and “Donald J. Trump makes smart decisions.” The crowd applauded this line heartily.

Am I in an alternate universe? Well, yes, I think I was on Friday night. How could anyone believe Trump makes good decisions? He’s tweeting at the unstable leader of North Korea who has nuclear weapons. He brags about sexual assault. He tells gold star families he’ll send a check and then doesn’t. He uses his own charity for personal expenses. He’s been bankrupt FOUR TIMES and married three. Donald J. Trump does NOT make good decisions.

I suppose, though, that the right doesn’t believe any of those things. Bannon, in fact, said that Trump’s sexual assault talk was “locker room talk, versus Bill Clinton’s actions.” Nevermind that multiple women came forward to say that Trump did, in fact, reach out and grab their genitals.

Bannon, the great Patriot, also pointed at the media in the back of the room several times, making negative comments. But if you’re really a patriot…if you’re really a good American, you hold the Constitution in high regard. A free press is a bedrock of democracy, and it’s why our founding fathers protected the free press in the 1st amendment to the Constitution. Bannon emulated Trump in demeaning the media.

Next in my handwritten notes, I wrote, “Protester yells & crowd BOOS.” I turned to my left to joyfully say to my friend, “Look – a protester!” She wasn’t there.


Follow Dr. Cleaveland on Twitter: @CHSPolitico

Part 7, the Code

Don’t start here! Start with Part 1.

Before we go on, I have to point out something essential to understanding Bannon and the alt-right. But, really, it’s a building block to understanding all human interactions. We all know what I’m about to discuss, but we might only know it on a subconscious level.

Most of what we communicate comes not through the words themselves but through the context of the communication, through body language and tone of voice. If I’m at your house for dinner and you ask what I’d like to drink, I might answer, “sweet tea?” Though the words themselves indicate exactly what I’d like, the questioning tone also conveys information. I’m really saying, “sweet tea if you have it.” I could have said “sweet tea” without any question in my voice, and the meaning is similar, but more forceful.

Context is important, too. What if you and I have an inside joke. We don’t drink sweet tea. Maybe we’ve made fun of sweet tea drinkers many times in the past. My “sweet tea?” answer prompts connection between us at our shared joke, and we laugh together. Anyone watching the exchange, not in on the joke, would be perplexed at why this is so funny. You and I, however, communicated a vast amount with two small words.

If we do this when others are around, we exclude others. This might be intentional or unintentional, but the exclusion is a communication as well. It’s subtext. It’s classic in-group versus out-group psychology. We feel connected. Safe. “They” feel perplexed. Obviously, this particular example reveals only a very mild exclusion, but exclusion nonetheless.

If a third person in the room said, “What’s that sweet tea thing about?” Our choosing to let him in on our inside joke conveys meaning; we’re letting him into our circle. But if we deny that there is an inside joke, we convey another meaning entirely. In fact, since the meaning of “sweet tea” is all subtext, we could even deny that anything happened.

“What are you talking about? You’re oversensitive.”

“Yeah, I mean all she did is ask for sweet tea.”

This deniability is passive-aggressive. Gaslighting. And we could do it because the meaning of the interaction is all subtext.

We communicate in this way in both our positive and negative interactions. All day. Every day.

Sometimes the code is obvious to just about everyone. A wedding ring, worn (in the US) on the ring finger of the left hand, is code. It’s a symbol, and it conveys meaning.

Sometimes the code is hidden, and only a few people can decode it. For example, 88 is code for Heil Hitler – H is the 8th letter of the alphabet. If you want to communicate to other white supremacists but you don’t want a swastika tattoo, 88 is safer. It’s coded.

Before the dinner, I did some research into Bannon. He does not explicitly reveal a racist message. He doesn’t use the n-word. He doesn’t say that white people are the supreme race. But he doesn’t have to. He, and others like him, use code.

Alt-right, for example, is code for white supremacy. It’s coded, so it’s deniable. And I have no doubt that some people who say they’re alt-right do not mean that they’re bigoted. Because it’s coded, some people misunderstand the code. It’s deniable. They can even deny it to themselves, and they can call us crazy and snowflakes when we point it out. Because when you explicitly state the underlying message, reveal the code, they’re threatened.


Follow Dr. Cleaveland on Twitter: @CHSPolitico

Part 6, Bannon

Don’t start here! Start with Part 1.

A cheering, loving crowd greeted Bannon. He called this weekend an “Extended MAGA Holiday.” It’s Veteran’s Day weekend, but also the anniversary of President Trump’s election.

He talked about being in the “crack den” data center with Jared Kushner on November 8, 2016 when they got the exit polls from the “opposition party,” by which he meant the media. They said it was blowout, for Clinton, in all but two states. Bannon called Matt Drudge, who said not to worry.

Bannon, from memory, began to recite each state subsequently called for Donald J. Trump, noting that the “Deeeee-troit Free Press, god bless ’em” reversed their earlier announcement that Hillary Clinton had won the election.

“The working class finally came out,” for the first time since Reagan, “to vote for Donald J. Trump.” Bannon announced to great cheers. As Brian Hicks of Charleston’s Post and Courier notes in his November 12, 2017 column about Bannon’s visit, it was surreal to see this room full of rich, mostly white, arguably racist audience cheer for the working class. There is nothing working class about this audience, save for the very few servers who were not Citadel cadets.

Further, though the #GOP, and even the media narrative of the election is that the working class elected Trump, the truth is that Trump voters mostly looked like this audience: wealthier than average and white. It’s a populist elite uprising. It’s not economics driving the anti-establishment but fear – a fear of diversity and inclusion. They’re rich and white and they’ve been in control for hundreds of years. They’ve driven a wedge between themselves and any diversity of any kind, so brown people and non-Christians are an unknown, and the unknown is scary.

I have benefitted from white privilege every day of my life.

They insist that their success is built on their own talents, and they try hard to believe it. What they know, consciously or not, is that their family economic privilege and good-old-boy network plays a huge part in their success. It still takes exceptional talent for a minority to ascend to power. As a result, the black and brown people in the media, Congress, and in the executive suite are exceptional. The white supremacists are really afraid. They want to “take back” *their* country.


Follow Dr. Cleaveland on Twitter: @CHSPolitico

Part 5, Catherine Templeton

Don’t start here! Start with Part 1.

Next, Catherine Templeton spoke. She was Nikki Haley’s pick to run DHEC and is now a candidate for governor. She was introduced as someone who worked in a factory before working her way up, and eventually worked for DHEC and privatizing government functions. This is important, because the upper-class sees business opportunities. Big ones.

Whoever was introducing her – and I’m not sure if it was still Kevin Bryant or someone else – said that the Democrats called her a “buzz saw” and “dangerous.” The crowd loved it anytime Dems were criticized. They thrive on being criticized by Democrats, and this theme came up again and again. They’ve embraced “deplorables” and snark about being called racist. As you know, they’ve taken “Fake News” and made it their own. They even love calling racist those on the left, particularly Al Sharpton and Van Jones, but really anyone who talks about racial discrepancies.

I don’t remember if she said anything before she started introducing Bannon. But she noted that he came from a working-class family, served in the Navy, worked for the Pentagon, and worked in Hollywood and at Goldman Sachs. When she said he is the head of Breitbart, the crowd burst out in cheers. She got in a few buzz words – Fake News, “tantrums of the liberal media” and liberals are screaming at the sky, MAGA (to huge cheers), and “establishment politicians.” She finished her introduction with Bannon as the architect of “the conservative revolution that has just begun.”

Follow Dr. Cleaveland on Twitter: @CHSPolitico

Part 4, Kevin Bryant

Don’t start here! Start with Part 1.

The South Carolina Lieutenant Governer, Kevin Bryant spoke first. He was introducing Bannon. Right off the bat, he used the words “Silent Majority” to refer to Bannon’s supporters. He spoke of “personal assaults” when you stand up for your values. Bannon, he said, stands for limited government, traditional family values, and one other thing I missed.

He praised the crowd for standing for the National Anthem to honor veterans’ service. They served; the “least we can do” is offer them respect. The implication is that kneeling NFL players, with their protests, are disrespecting people who have served in the military. Of course, we know that the NFL players are protesting police violence against minorities, particularly African Americans. However, they continue to repeat the message that kneeling during the anthem disrespects the troops. If you want someone to believe something, and they want to believe it too, just keep repeating it. The propaganda works really well when its recipients are isolated from any other views, and I’m guessing many Fox/Breitbart viewers never heard the reasons for the protests. They probably never heard the numerous veterans saying they served so that people can speak their minds and work to improve the lives of their fellow citizens.

To me, the “silent majority” means the people who feel excluded from the national conversation because their views are unpopular. I hear a racist, homophobic message. These people in the crowd were white and privileged financially. If they’re silenced, it’s because society no longer accepts their bigoted views.

Bryant continued. “The Constitution is the bedrock of conservatism.” Conservatives believe in individual liberty, the free market, and they’re anti-establishment. Bannon’s movement is standing up to insiders, lobbyists, and the establishment on the left and the right. All Republicans need to vote conservatively. It’s the people versus the establishment.

He said something about protecting American jobs and about the protesters having a right to protest, and the woman with the white supremacist to my right quipped “They don’t have jobs.” This is a well-worn conservative trope. Of course, it was 6:30 on a Friday evening. None of the dinner guests were at work, either, but the illogic is of no consequence. She repeated it as easily as we say, “how are you” to someone we pass on the street – automatically, without really meaning to get an answer.

Bryant said he strongly supports everyone’s right to be heard, but more people should listen. In South Carolina, we say “Yes, Sir.” We hold doors for “ladies” and we pull over for funerals. It’s a bit strange to highlight our politeness in a room in which racist talk was rampant. But, let me be clear, the racist talk was not from the dais. It came from the participants. The speakers blew that dog whistle and said absolutely nothing overtly racist. It’s all coded, but it whips up the fear among the audience.

The concentration of power in the legislative branch must stop – and here, I think, but I’m not sure, he was referring to South Carolina and to Congress. He talked of the “Silent Majority” again, and lauded Trump, Cruz, and Evangelical voters.

Trump is real and authentic, and, referring to Hillary Clinton, “[the voters] can spot a phony a mile away.” Ironically, in a room at an event sponsored by the Maybanks and Edwin S. Taylor, both Charleston philanthropic families who have roads and fishing piers and other stuff named after them, at a $65 per plate event, he complained that it’s “their money against our grassroots efforts.” He criticized “slick ads” and “the donor class.”

I love my state. I do. But I always fall for the underdog. We are among the worst in education, in domestic violence, and just about any quality of life variable you could name. Bryant ended with “God bless you and may god continue to bless South Carolina.” If this state is blessed, something is clearly wrong.


Follow Dr. Cleaveland on Twitter: @CHSPolitico

Part 3, Racists

Don’t start here! Start with Part 1.

We sat at a table against the wall on the far left, back side of the room. The sound table was just behind us. My friend said later she chose the table because a female SLED agent was stationed right behind our table, and her presence made her feel safe. I think there were about three rows of 10-top tables, maybe six tables per row. People were dressed in business attire, mostly sipping wine. Cadets in dress uniform served dinner, and a few servers who wore black probably worked for the Holliday Alumni Center.

Before we even sat, Emily heard someone say, “Everyone blames it on the South, but Muslims had slaves, too.” As soon as we sat at the table, we introduced ourselves cheerfully. The man to my right almost immediately started talking about this week’s election results in Virginia. I can’t quote him verbatim, but he essentially said that the election went really wrong. He said that Trump should’ve fired all those people. I asked what he meant. He said that when Obama was elected, all the black people moved to Northern Virginia, in the DC area, for jobs and free things.

When he said the word “black,” he lowered his voice substantially, for that one word. I haven’t really heard that in decades, since my grandparents used to do it when they spoke of African Americans in public, usually in a derogatory sense.

Anyway, once the black people moved to Virginia, he said, the white people (of course) moved out to Maryland, leaving Maryland white and Republican. “Do you know that there are places in Northern Virginia where no one speaks English? Well, not no one, but almost no one.”

I felt dirty. I have made a decision within the past year not to let racist bullshit like that slide, but here I was, letting it go. I was undercover, a guest of a friend. I nodded and smiled, and I continued to ask questions and try to remember everything he said.

We were in a white space, albeit not an all-white space. But, more than that, this man believed that, because I sat there, because I was a Republican at this dinner, obviously I was okay with his racist speech, that I agreed with him. Is he right that everyone else who attends those things, who sees Steve Bannon, holds racist ideas? I doubt it. But I’m guessing that it’s a place where non-racists are in the minority. They probably don’t speak up.

Soon, I went to refill my wine. The bar was not in the main room, but in another room down a narrow hallway. Since virtually everyone was seated, the lobby was empty of guests, though it was still full of security. On my way to – or from – I don’t remember – the bar, I spoke to three very large SLED agents who wore khaki outfits with tactical vests (if that’s the right verbiage.) Two SLED agents were black men and one was white. I thanked them for keeping us safe, fixing my eyes toward the two black men. They were kind and appreciative. I couldn’t help thinking of how many men and women of color were first responders that night. Many were. What must it be like for them to protect the crowd coming to see Bannon, who pushes a nativist agenda? It is also Veteran’s Day weekend, and so many people who fight and die for our country are people of color.

I returned to the table in time for the National Anthem. Or maybe the anthem was prior to my leaving, I’m not sure. Everyone stood, hands on hearts. The crowd joined in for “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” The white supremacist to my right quipped, sarcastically, “That’s clearly racist.” I smiled at him, and I took out my notebook and wrote it down.

Does he know the following stanzas of the anthem? The ones that really ARE racist? Or does he have no idea, and is simply bewildered when people talk about the racism in the anthem? It’s hard to tell when the white supremacists are simply uninformed. If you only watch FOX and read Breitbart, you might never know that there IS a racist part of the National Anthem.


Follow Dr. Cleaveland on Twitter: @CHSPolitico

Part 2, The Resistance

Don’t start here! Start with Part 1.

I met my friend in the parking lot at Burke High School about 5:15.

I got to see my #resist buddies at the rally for a few minutes before I went into the Bannon talk. It meant a lot to see them and to stand, even for a moment, with other proud resisters. It was really, really hard to leave all of you to go across the street. Frankly, I’m a bit jealous that I couldn’t see the speakers and be there among generous, beautiful people who live love and compassion every day.

I had told my friend the crowd would be perfectly nice people and not a room full of Nazis. We were each half right. I’m glad I was the one seated next to the kindly old gentleman (at least that’s how he looked), who started talking to me pretty much immediately as if I was a racist, too. I’m glad my friend was seated next to a genuinely nice couple who probably were not white supremacists.

I took copious notes, but I think it’ll take me a few days to process it all.

We drove from the Burke High School parking lot across the street, via numerous downtown streets, since streets were closed all around the events. We had to show our tickets to get through checkpoints to park at Holliday Alumni Center.

My friend and I were dressed as Republicans. My husband said, “You’re a RICO; A republican in clothing only.” I can always count on my husband for a clever quip. I wore a white cotton button-down shirt under a red blazer and black wool pants. I wore a string of pearls, simple pearl earrings and a pearl bracelet. I made sure to paint my fingernails, and I wore makeup – even eye makeup, and spent quite a while rolling my hair and then plastering the resulting hairdo with hairspray. I guess this is what I think a Republican looks like. It’s funny, though, because I realize that the Republicans at this $65/plate dinner would look very different than many Trump voters. Driving through rural areas during the election, there were numerous dilapidated homes, junk in the yard, tall grass, and a proud Trump yard sign.

I would have worn a skirt, because I think Republican women wear skirts. I couldn’t find my long black skirt, so I wore pants. Ironically, I bought this red blazer for a day when women throughout the country wore pantsuits to honor Hillary Clinton. I didn’t wear a pantsuit, but I wore this very outfit that same day.

I met a woman prior to the rally who was handing out stickers that said, “Trump Sucks.” Aware that my purse would be searched, I told her I didn’t want to possess the stack of stickers she handed me. However, I took one, and I asked this stranger to stand in front of me while I put my hands down my pants to stick the “Trump Sucks” sticker on my bare ass. My friend had her “blatant dissent” shirt and I had secret. Only I, and she, would know it was there while I sat in on Bannon’s talk.

My friend wore a white blouse and giant pearls. She had a mid-length black skirt. It was a bit shocking to see her searched, as we all were, prior to the event. She had to spread her legs, which is not easy and very awkward in a slim skirt. The large, and very respectful, police officer at screening wanded her while the waiting crowd looked on.

But before this, we stood on a granite floor with large black tiles on white in a pattern I can’t identify, waiting to be screened. My friend was next in line, when one of the screeners, a very serious officer, said to her, “M’aam, I need you to hang tight on the black squares.” She was already on the black squares, not moving forward, but his tone was scolding.

Where she stood, there was one white square surrounded by black squares. We joked with each other, and with the man behind us, who looked to be a Citadel grad in his 20’s or early 30’s, that maybe that one white square was a trap door. When my friend moved forward, I stood on that one white square, lifting my arms straight up to see if I would fall through. The man behind me smiled. When I moved forward for screening, I looked back and he was standing on the white square smiling. It was a little thing. I don’t know his politics, of course, but it was a metaphor for resisting fascism.

None of us want to live under a fascist regime, despite our politics. Some recognize that fascism doesn’t leap. Fascism creeps.


Follow Dr. Cleaveland on Twitter: @CHSPolitico