T-minus one minute and we'll be off ...
Here we go, welcome to my monthly chat, there are some questions lining up and I'll get to as many of them as I can ...
Of course, the technique I used in this column was to "not name" President Donald Trump, but obviously, I did. Over and over again. I think it is remarkable, and sad, that more Republicans will not stand up against his divisive and racist comments, telling people of color (who are American citizens), to "go back" to where they came from. Um, they came from here. They're Americans. It is not surprising that the El Paso shooter was inspired by a president who refers to immigrants and migrants from other countries seeking asylum in the U.S. as "invaders." This is truly dangerous language coming out of the White House and it can't be allowed to become normalized.
Just as offensive is the lack of introspection and honesty from NRA-bought-and-paid-for Republicans who every time there is a new mass shooting find some new excuse to focus on other than guns, (especially assault weapons), and, in the El Paso case, white supremacy. This time it's mental health and video games. Give me a break. As I pointed out in the column, Trump has actually made it easier for those with mental illness to obtain guns. This is a travesty.
Look at any poll and the majority of Americans, including Republicans (at least those who are not elected), want to see common sense gun restrictions, from background checks to bans on high-capacity magazines to red flag laws that will keep guns from the mentally ill and domestic abusers. But the Republicans in the Senate will not act. This has to change.
Interesting question comparing KC to St. Louis. This has become quite common, particularly in light of the failure of Better Together. I don't know enough about Kansas City to know if the underlying premise of the question is accurate. BUT, here's some context: On Friday, a federal judge will sentence former County Executive Steve Stenger to prison for his epic corruption. How long? Likely in the 3-4 year range. But the sentencing memo written by U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith should really worry St. Louisans because of its mentions of the direct line between Rex Sinquefield and Steve Stenger. Stenger is going away. Sinquefield is not and he's still very active in St. Louis politics, from better together to the airport privatization effort (more on that in Wednesday's column).
St. Louis is going to have to deal with its underlying corruption issues and gain trust between its leaders and the voters if it is going to make progress when it comes to regionalization. I think new county executive Sam Page has an opportunity to be a leader there, but he's still got to climb out of the pile of corrupt rubble left behind by Stenger and that won't be easy.
Another thing about Kansas City worth noting: They had a very interesting mayoral runoff between two strong candidates, Quenton Lucas (who won) and Jolie Justus. That runoff came after a wide open primary between a bunch of candidates. I believe St. Louis would benefit by such a system and get better leaders who start their tenure with a larger base of support. Instead, we often have three or four way races for mayor in which the winner has barely more than 30 percent of the vote. That's a recipe for division, not unity.
This question here, from Betsy, is really important. I'm still sort of shocked by how few Republicans, when the president uses such language, and when his followers chant it at a rally, don't condemn such obviously racist behavior. By not doing so they condone it and that makes their party the party of white supremacy. Trump has become cultish that way. It was one of the reasons I wrote today's column the way I did: Pointing out that his closest followers get offended by any criticism of him. Why is it so hard to say "I support Trump on X, Y and Z; but I firmly denounce his racism?" That shouldn't be that difficult. But our politics are so broken right now, it apparently is for elected Republicans.
I normally ignore the trolls in these chats, but I'll let this one in, just because it's an important point. Yes, some of today's violent extremists are leftist. First, when you're talking political extremism, there isn't much distance between far right and far left. Think of political dialogue like a circle and they're right next to each other.
I've been thinking about this question a lot lately, with the 5-year "anniversary" of Michael Brown's death coming on Friday. I put anniversary in quotes because it's not something to be celebrated but remembered. A milestone is how David Dwight, director of Forward Through Ferguson, puts it. So, has there been a change? Yes, and in some ways for the positive. There are good people all across the region who are significantly more aware of this city's historic racial divisions than they were 5 years ago or longer. There are CEOs and political and civic leaders who talk seriously about racial equity and judge their strategies on whether they are achieving it. There are white Christian pastors like my own out in Wildwood who have intentionally preached on police brutality and race, and made efforts to connect a mostly white congregation with our black brothers and sisters so we can learn from each other. I believe real progress is being made but that much more must be done and that the struggle is a very long one.
But I also worry about the Trump effect. Some of the Ferguson progress was stilted because the Department of Justice under Trump no longer cares much about consent decrees or following through with some of the lessons learned in Ferguson and Baltimore, etc. Under Trump, we've seen a rise in white supremacy, and I'm afraid that the next generation will learn from some of their parents whose inner racism is suddently emboldened. This is an issue bigger than St. Louis, but in a city already struggling with racial equity, I worry that the Trump years have a potential to hold back progress.
Gotta cut this chat a bit short. Been 30 minutes and I've got a meeting to go to. Thanks for hanging with me today!