INTENSE ANIMOSITY BETWEEN TRUMP AND CLINTON CAMPS

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Stephen Kaiser's picture

PART ONE …. December 8, 2016

    Beginning on November 21, a small group of MIT faculty members  prepared a joint statement they planned to circulate on the Internet.  The statement was designed to allow other MIT personnel to sign on if they agreed with it.   Ten days later a political managers conference was held at the Harvard Kennedy school.  Both Cambridge events showed high levels of residual animosity that remain almost a month after the election.

    The focus of the MIT faculty statement was a criticism of top appointees announced by President-Elect Donald Trump.  It included a blanket condemnation of  “every form of bigotry, discrimination, hateful rhetoric, and hateful action, whether directed towards one’s race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability, citizenship, political views, socioeconomic status, veteran status, or immigration status.”  The statement also opposed those who denied “the widespread scientific consensus on climate change."   

    In the first week of posting, the statement received 366 signatories, and by the second week had 587 signatures.  The total as of December 8 was 594.  It appears the final number of signatories could exceed 600 .  The group at MITValues.org also opened up a separate account for other members of the MIT community (including undergraduate students) and reported over 500 signatories within a few days.

    The text of the statement is as follows :
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    “The President-elect has appointed individuals to positions of power who have endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry, and denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change.   Regardless of our political views, these endorsements violate principles at the core of MIT’s mission. At this time, it is important to reaffirm the values we hold in common.”

    “We, the undersigned faculty at MIT, thus affirm the following principles:

        “We unconditionally reject every form of bigotry, discrimination, hateful rhetoric, and hateful action, whether directed towards one’s race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability, citizenship, political views, socioeconomic status, veteran status, or immigration status.

        “We endorse MIT’s values of open, respectful discourse and exchange of ideas from the widest variety of intellectual, religious, class, cultural, and political perspectives.

        “We uphold the principles of the scientific method, of fact- and reason-based objective inquiry. Science is not a special interest; it is not optional. Science is a foundational ingredient in how we as a society analyze, understand, and solve the most difficult challenges that we face.

    “For any member of our community who may feel fear or oppression, our doors are open and we are ready to help. We pledge to work with all members of the community – students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers, and administrators – to defend these principles today and in the times ahead.”

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    Press reports paid special attention to one of the signers, well-known emeritus Professor Noam Chomsky, but in fact he was signatory #238 on day 3 of the text circulation.  Another notable signer was Tim Berners-Lee, recognized as one of the key inventors of the Internet.   Over 90% of the signers were Professors at MIT.

    Newspapers who picked up the press release included the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Boston Magazine, Inside Higher Ed, The Tech, and several Blog sites.

    Individual comments came from Professor of Economics Jonathan Gruber (active in the drafting of  National Health Care legislation) :

        “Public policy discussions have moved away from facts to conjecture and opinion.  The only way to reverse this dangerous trend is to reaffirm the scientific method and its sound application to the important policy issues of the day.”

    One of the original initiators of the petition, Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Nancy Kanwisher, noted :

        “It is important to draw the line between the very wide range of legitimate political debate that we encourage at MIT, and the deliberate denial of scientific fact. Many of those appointed by the new administration are not conducting business as usual, but sharply departing from respectful public discourse and from scientific consensus.”

    As further explanation of the MIT Values group, specific objections to individual personnel are offered as background information on the website, separate from the actual statement itself.  

    “The President-elect has appointed individuals to positions of power who have endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry, and denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change”

    “President-elect Trump appointed Stephen Bannon as his senior counselor and chief strategist on November 13, 2016. Bannon previously served as executive chair of Breitbart News, which has featured racism, misogyny, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic rhetoric. As executive chair, Bannon endorsed Milo Yiannopoulos, widely known as a voice for the Alt-Right movement. While at Breitbart under Bannon’s supervision, Yiannopoulos penned articles such as this one suggesting a cap on the number of women studying STEM disciplines.”

    “President-elect Trump appointed Myron Ebell to lead his Environmental Protection Agency transition team in September 2016. Ebell has claimed that “the so-called global warming consensus was not based on science.” These appointments do not require confirmation. Furthermore, the new White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, has confirmed that climate change denial will be the default position of the Trump administration.”

    “Additionally, it has been announced that President-elect Trump will nominate individuals with records of racism and religious bigotry to senior positions of government. These include Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), who was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 for his “gross insensitivity to questions of race,” and General Michael Flynn (National Security Advisor), who publicly described Islamism as a “vicious cancer” inside the body of all Muslims that “has to be excised.”

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    On Thursday December 1, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government held a presidential campaign manager conference, intended as a place for the various campaign directors to meet and reflect upon the results of a recent Presidential election.   The Boston Globe reported that “the conference quickly took a remarkably combative turn, highlighting just how deep the enmity between the Trump and Clinton camps remains.”

    The conference was led by three national political reporters and lasted 2 ½ hours.  The level of controversy was probably reduced by the fact that Steve Bannon, designated Trump strategist and a supporter of Alt-Right perspectives, canceled out a few days before the conference.

    Jennifer Palmieri, Communications Director for the Clinton campaign, told the Trump representatives that “If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am proud to have lost.  I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.”

    Kellyanne Conway, Trump's campaign manager responded, “Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform?'  Palmieri respond, “You did, Kellyanne, you did.”   

    Between the MIT letter and the conference at Harvard, there is a level of residual animosity over the past campaign which appears to be more bitter than any election since the Civil War.  How the healing process will proceed is an open question.  Whether true healing does occur appears to have a very limited chance of success, based on the agitation which still exists one month after the election and as we have witnessed in Cambridge over the past two weeks.

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References :

Boston Globe, December 2, 2016,  "Fury from campaign reignites," pages A1, A9 

The Tech, December 1, 2016.   "Statement opposing Trump nominees to cabinet attracts 458 faculty signatories,"  pages 1, 2

MITvalues.com website