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Letter sent on Aug 6, 2016

Untold Stories for the week of Aug. 1, Paul O’Neal edition

Happy Saturday! Here’s a rundown of what we’re reading in the wake of a very, very busy first week of August. I’ll focus on crime and politics here but it’s not a (total) rehash — I want this to serve as a backdrop, with adequate context, for what’s happening in Chicago and around the country.

One note ICYMI: see how a key commission tasked with trying to clean up Chicago’s sordid police torture era has concerns about what’s going to happen now that police-related torture claims will be open to everyone in Cook County, not just those abused by the so-called Midnight Crew and those under former Cmdr. Jon Burge. Related: NPR’s Planet Money explored the case of Darrell Cannon, originally reported by John Conroy years ago, and what his settlement means for the city.

Crime

On Friday, Chicago police released nine videos of the moments that led up to the police shooting of unarmed teen Paul O’Neal who, was shot in the back and killed on July 28 as he fled police in the South Shore. O’Neal was unarmed but had evaded police in a stolen Jaguar.

The videos, per the Chicago Tribune, don’t depict the actual shooting, and police officials have said the officer who shot O’Neal was wearing a bodycam that was not functioning at the time of the shooting.

Late Friday and going into the weekend, police were on high alert. A Black Lives Matter protest is scheduled for Sunday.

The shooting and videos come months after the release of videos that showed another teen, Laquan McDonald, being gunned down by police in a manner that contradicted the police department’s original narrative. In that case, it took months of squabbling and lawsuits to see the release of damning dashcam videos. Those revelations sparked mass protests and an ongoing U.S. Justice Department civil rights review.

In this case, the release of the O’Neal video came just eight days — a fast turnaround in response to public pressure — after the shooting. Three officers involved in the accident had already been stripped of their badges and placed on leave. The videos show why, at least in part: an officer unholsters his gun well before he encounters O’Neal’s car and shoots at the speeding car, which is against department policy. The Daily Beast’s Justin Glawe documented this exchange in the videos:

“Bitch ass motherfucker,” the Chicago police officer says as unarmed 18-year-old Paul O’Neal lays dead or dying on the ground.

“Get your hands behind your back. Fucking shoot at us…”

One question I think remains: why are police standing around after the shooting with O’Neal handcuffed and not delivering first aid? Many are also commenting on the high-five officers give each other with O’Neal lying on the ground, shot in the back.

More news:

  • Chicago saw 65 homicides in July, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
  • The New York Times editorial board heralded the choice of an outside special prosecutor to look into the coverup around the Laquan McDonald shooting and urged the new prosecutor to get to the bottom of it. No one will be holding their breath more than Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
  • IPRA had no record of six police-involved shootings, a watchdog report found, according to the AP.
  • Dean Angelo, head of the police union, said the city is burying cops in paperwork for routine stops and that’s contributing to the spike in Chicago violence, according to DNAInfo.
  • The Guardian reported on how a group of Chicago police officers known as the ‘Skullcap crew’ have evaded punishment after years of what residents of the city’s former public housing projects called constant harassment and physical, violent tactics.
  • Because of reporting by The Guardian, protesters have descended on Homan Square, which the newspaper called a police black site, to demand its closure, the Atlanta Black Star reported.

Politics

94 days until Election Day Nov. 8. No one’s counting but that’s 8,121,600 seconds, 135,360 minutes, 2256 hours, 13 weeks and 3 days or 25.68% of 2016.

To sum up: it was a bad week for Republican nominee Donald J. Trump, primarily coming out of his comments about the father and mother of a Muslim U.S. Army officer killed in Iraq who spoke at the Democratic Convention. Then he said he wouldn’t endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan but then back-tracked and did. He kicked a baby out of a campaign event. He confused a wealthy Virginia suburb with having the economy of somewhere in the Rust Belt. He said he watched a secret video of a U.S. money transfer of $400 million, and then his campaign said it wasn’t so secret. He made some confusing comments about sexual harassment.

It’s been enough to set Twitter on fire. USA Today has a pretty nice rundown.

Here’s a few of the more under-covered nuggets:

  • Worth noting about politics and elections with all of our sweeping rhetoric: just 9 percent of Americans voted for either Clinton or Trump in the primaries, NYT notes.
  • A Salon piece about how Donald Trump will destroy the GOP in order to save it hits some nails on the head but missed a broader point about what the supposed demise of the Republican Party under Trump means for the future.

I was glad to see writer Sean Illing take on the importance of the Southern Strategy in the GOP’s overall messaging:

Since Richard Nixon’s administration, the GOP has walked a thin line: They wanted to be the party of racists and ethno-nationalists without actually being racist or ethno-nationalist. It was called the “Southern Strategy,” and it was a smashing success. The party of Lincoln absorbed the segregationist white South and the GOP became the default option for nativists and cultural discontents. It was a risky long-term bet, but the string of electoral victories made it immediately rewarding.
And then Donald Trump happened.
Trump has violated the unwritten rule in Republican politics: You court the racists, but you do it discreetly. Trump has put his racism front and center, and it earned him the most primary votes in the history of the Republican Party. After 50 years of flirting with the “silent majority,” the GOP now has an intractable demand-side problem, and the election results prove it.

The piece goes on to argue that the GOP will shed the old culture wars and become closer to libertarians, “a fiscally conservative and socially liberal candidate who accepts LGBT Americans, doesn’t race-bait, affirms the separation of church and state, wants to end the drug war, and has no interest in legislating morality,” he argued.

My issue with this argument is that the party has been pushed in this direction for years and there’s a reason they haven’t gone in this direction. Those efforts started well before the GOP’s infamous autopsy report that concluded that the party needed to court Latinos and pass immigration reform, for example, in order to stay relevant and win presidential elections in 2016 and beyond. None of those suggestions came to pass.

And that is not by accident. The 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney stood on a stage and accepted the endorsement of Donald Trump, considered a coup at the time. Trump has spent years delegitimizing President Obama by questioning whether he was a Muslim or whether he was really born in America, among other conspiracies that have gained more mainstream acceptance than many like to admit. There is a reason that Trump is the GOP nominee: more moderate Republicans have quietly but happily allowed and encouraged his race-baiting and fear-mongering from the sidelines, in hopes of rallying the base to put Obama out of office and “their” candidate in the White House. These moderates probably never realized the fringe would overtake “their” party. Oops.

Why have those arguments held muster? Because Republicans, moderates or not, didn’t rebuke Trump then and they haven’t now. Ryan, although he’s criticized Trump at times, has still endorsed him. While plenty of the regular GOP faces have sworn off Trump and didn’t show at the convention — Romney and the Bush family among them — plenty still showed up. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attended in support. So did Ryan.

If Trump loses this year, the more moderate hand-wringers will make the same argument they did in 2012 about a more moderate party. But history is more likely to repeat itself. The far right of the party, including the tea party, doesn’t view victory as the ultimate prize, and why should they? U.S. House members in particular have cater to gerrymandered districts, radical by nature. They’ll continue to drive the party in that direction.

These aren’t politicians acting as statesman, figuring out what is best for the party and country in the long-term. They’re trying to win this election, no matter the costs.

And that embrace of Trump and everything he stands for — the Southern Strategy wing of the GOP — is unlikely to change after Nov. 8. The GOP will continue to be divided between the Trump wing of the party and that wing will only be emboldened by what they’ve seen over the last year. As Ryan and others push them toward the middle or to court other constituencies, why should they buckle?

Trump won the primary for a reason.

  • Depressing finding of the week in The Atlantic: new research that found that despite Denmark spending significant sums on education, social mobility isn’t much better than in the United States.

Read more about what we mean by the untold story, an ideal and a destination, here. Contact me with any advice, tips, arguments at borden.jeremy@gmail.com.

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