Stir It Up: Stewing on Trump and Clinton

Oct 5, 2016 at 1:00 am

"They locking up a brother, let the white man go, for the same offenses it's a new Jim Crow," Mulenga Harangua sang while he tapped out a rhythm on the table with a knife.

"You're walking down the street they come and say that you're next, to take up residence in the prison complex," he continued. "You know they need a permanent underclass, to keep up the repression and for kicking your ass. Oh, oh, oh, it's a new Jim Crow."

I laughed so hard I almost cut myself. We we're sitting at my kitchen table cutting up squash and potatoes to make soup. It's not that I thought the song was so funny, but rhyming "underclass" with "kicking ass" was so right on I had to give it some props.

"Mulenga, that's great," I said. "Where did it come from?"

"I wrote it," he said. "It came to me the other night. I was thinking I needed an anthem just in case Donald Trump manages to win this election."

"But there's nothing new about Jim Crow," I said. "It's been with us for a long, long time. Even 'New Jim Crow' isn't new. It's the name of a book."

"That may be the case," Mulenga countered, "but if Trump gets elected it's going to a whole new level. He's talking about law and order, stop and frisk. I may need to live even more underground than I already am."

"I don't think that's going to happen," I assured him. "He's seven points down in Michigan. The New York Times projection is that Hillary Clinton has a 74 percent chance of winning the election. "

"Projection, prosmektion, Trump scares me," Mulenga said. "Every time he does something that would destroy most candidacies, it doesn't touch him. He's like that character in the movie The Revenant. Every time you think he's had it — mauled by a bear, going over a waterfall, riding his horse off a cliff — he just keeps on going. Drawing labored breath after breath. That heavy breathing thing Trump did at the debate was something he took straight from the movie. Clinton would be talking and he's doing that I'm-coming-to-get-you rasp in the background. He's like a zombie who never stops. Sometimes when I'm walking down the street, I get this creepy feeling and I look back to see if Trump is there."

"So I guess you're going to vote for Clinton then," I said.

"Hey, I'm a big Hillary fan," Mulenga said. "I figure anyone who has been dragged over the coals so much over the years by the right wing must have something good going for her."

I put the squash and potatoes in a pot with some lentils and water. We put the onions, celery, and garlic out to cut for the soup. "You don't care about Benghazi or the emails?"

"I don't care about any of that crap," Mulenga waved his knife in the air. "They've been after the Clintons for decades and nothing has stuck except for the Monica Lewinsky thing — and that wasn't Hillary's fault. The millions of dollars and hours that have been spent trying to take her down have all been for naught. The way I see it, if they couldn't take her down after all that effort, then there is nothing much to it. All they can claim is that she used bad judgment. That looks bad after spending all that money and hanging up Congress."

"I think they hate her because she's a smart, connected, and ambitious woman." My eyes were beginning to tear up from the onions I was cutting, and I wiped them with my sleeve. "I think they spotted that long ago and decided to try to take her down. President Obama sort of came out of nowhere, but they've had Clinton in their sights for a long time."

"Don't cry because they hate Clinton," Mulenga said.

"I'm not crying," I said. "It's these onions. But I tell you that Clinton nailed it when she pointed out that she is better prepared to be president."

"It reminds me of what my father used to tell me," Mulenga said as he crushed a garlic clove. "He always told me I have to be twice as good as a white guy at what I do in order to get over. I think the same thing goes for women. They have to be better than most men in order to get recognition."

"Not only do they have to be better, they have to be willing to put up with getting hit on all the time and lower pay," I said. "There's no way Trump will ever see a woman as his equal. Not with Roger Ailes whispering in his ear."

"So, is she prepared?" I asked.

"Hell to the yeah!" Mulenga indulged in a bit more knife waving and I decided to lean back a little bit. No use taking chances that my neck got slashed and I'd be reduced to Revenant-like heavy breathing for the rest of my life.

I tossed the rest of the vegetables in the pot. The soup was beginning to bubble.

"What I think is going down is that these are the dying gasps of the white Christian conservative bloc," I said. "They are losing the demographics game and simply can't rule everything because they're not the hands-down majority anymore. A lot of these poorly educated Trump fans fear actually having to compete with others. We shouldn't have to be twice as good in order to get somewhere in this world. Trump is their nostalgia for a good-old white guy to tamp down the competition."

"That's right," Mulenga said. "When Obama first became president, the right's whole strategy was to make him a one-term president. That didn't happen. Now is their next chance for a white guy comeback and a woman threatens to take that away from them. It's just too much. Based on the way incumbency has been going lately, if Clinton wins, it will be eight years before their next chance. That's practically forever."

"It's the reality we're living in," I said. "The problem is that poor conservative folks have been lied to as much as anybody else. The Republican Party courted them but didn't come through on stuff like stopping abortion and the gay rights movement. They didn't even come through on the economy."

"The problem is these poor folks feel like they're backed into a corner," Mulenga said. "While this may be the dying gasps of white Christian conservatism, it doesn't mean they won't have any victories along the way, or do something really crazy like elect a fascist who plays to their fears."

I sat back and took a deep breath. The savory smell of the soup hit my nose, but as comfortable as that was, it couldn't stop the chill of considering a Trump presidency from running up my back.

"It's going to be a little while before the soup is done," I said. "Let me get my guitar and see if I can work something up to go with those 'Jim Crow' lyrics. You never know when you're going to need a good song. I think it's got a reggae feel."