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Marc Lamont Hill: Trump Is Counting on His White Nationalist Base & Supreme Court to Win Reelection

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Less than a week out from Election Day, we look at President Trump’s call for poll watchers in battleground states like Pennsylvania that he needs to win. Trump is “framing this all as a left-wing conspiracy to take away his presidency,” says Marc Lamont Hill, professor of media studies and urban education at Temple University in Philadelphia. “When he calls for people to come and form this sort of 'army,' when he calls for people to be his security force, he’s calling in his white nationalist base. … Trump very clearly knows the numbers are against him.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Election Day, talking about possibly something different, or not. In the final week of this election season, both presidential candidates are heavily campaigning in battleground states, like Pennsylvania, where you are, where the Supreme Court ruled Friday mail-in ballots with mismatched signatures cannot be rejected. The ruling is seen as a victory for voting rights and Democrats. Republicans in Pennsylvania are now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up their case, attempting to block the counting of mailed-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day. So far this week, Trump has held three campaign rallies in Pennsylvania. At a rally in Allentown Monday, he accused Democratic Governor Tom Wolf of making it hard for him to campaign in the state, and suggested voters cannot trust their ballots will be counted.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Think of it. So, we have a venue. And the governor, that counts the ballots, right? The governor counts the ballots. And we’re watching you, Governor, very closely in Philadelphia. We’re watching you. A lot of bad things. A lot of bad things happen there with the counting of the votes. We’re watching you, Governor Wolf, very closely. We’re watching you.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. has taken to social media to call, quote, “able-bodied” people to join an election security “army” for his father.

DONALD TRUMP JR.: The radical left are laying the groundwork to steal this election from my father, President Donald Trump. They are planting stories that President Trump will have a landslide lead on election night but will lose when they finish counting the mail-in ballots. Their plan is to add millions of fraudulent ballots that can cancel your vote and overturn the election. We cannot let that happen. We need every able-bodied man, woman to join Army for Trump’s election security operation.

AMY GOODMAN: Pennsylvania’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro has warned Trump’s reelection campaign representatives to stop filming voters dropping off their ballots. Shapiro said in a statement, quote, “Pennsylvania law permits poll watchers to carry out very discrete and specific duties — videotaping voters at drop boxes is not one of them.”

For more, we’re continuing with Marc Lamont Hill, professor of media studies and urban education at Temple University in Philadelphia. Again, his forthcoming book is We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest, and Possibility.

Marc, is the president sanctioning voter intimidation? Clearly, the courts now are moving against him on Pennsylvania.

MARC LAMONT HILL: That’s exactly right. You know, Trump has been weaving a kind of really interesting narrative about what’s happening in Pennsylvania and in Philadelphia. He said that Mitt Romney got zero votes in Philadelphia, kind of — although he got 15% — framing this all as a big left-wing conspiracy to take away his presidency.

And so, when he calls for people to come and form this sort of army, when he calls for people to be his security force, he’s calling in his white nationalist base. This is the favor he’s calling in. This is the “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by” kind of part two, right? He’s calling them in to engage in voter intimidation and also to create chaos on Election Day.

Donald Trump very clearly knows the numbers are against him. After the court decision for Pennsylvania, he sees that the courts are against him in some of these swing states. He looks at the early ballot, and he sees that it’s a lot of young folk voting, a lot of people who are not his demographic voting. The early ballots are against him.

And so, what he’s trying to do is create enough chaos and hope that he can get a photo finish that he can then allow the Supreme Court to bring him home into another — into a second term, because he knows, on the ground, ultimately, if everybody votes, he doesn’t win, and they lose the Senate. And so, he is going to do everything he can to create chaos and crisis to make some Americans even stay home. And he hopes that his cult-like base will come out and continue to push him toward victory.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Marc, both the president and Joe Biden have been repeatedly now in Pennsylvania over the last few weeks. And Trump often talks about how the suburbs — how he needs the suburbs, that they don’t show him any love anymore. Could you talk about how the suburbs of Philadelphia have so dramatically changed? I lived there many years ago for about 15 years. And the suburbs there — Montgomery County, Bucks County, Delaware County, Chester County — were almost all white. How have the suburbs around Philadelphia changed in the recent decades?

MARC LAMONT HILL: Oh, yeah, and it’s not just in Philadelphia. All around the country we’ve seen suburbs shift. We’ve seen the suburbanization of poverty. We’ve seen sort of — we’ve seen people in the city pushed out because of gentrification and other factors. So, a place like Darby or Upper Darby, which is right outside of Philadelphia, which may have been white even 20, 25 years ago, is now largely Black, and they’re voting Democrat, because of a set of — and there’s a set of economic policies that have pushed them there.

And so, Trump, at one point, would have hoped that, “Yeah, I’ll lose Philadelphia, I’ll lose Pittsburgh, but I’ll get everything in the middle of the state — what they call Pennsyltucky — and I’ll get the suburbs of these urban sites, right outside of Pittsburgh and right outside of Philadelphia.” But that’s no longer the case. It’s not a conspiracy, but rather a set of neoliberal economic policies that have pushed people out. And we have to remember the word “suburb” doesn’t mean white and idyllic. Compton is a suburb. Ferguson was a suburb. And now we see these other places that are suburbs, and they’re not serving Trump’s interests. But again, Trump’s problem is not the suburbs of Philadelphia. Trump’s problem is that people in Philadelphia, in Pittsburgh, people within Ohio, people in places like Cleveland are seeing economic policies that have not benefited them. They’re seeing they’re dying from COVID, and their friends are and family members are. They don’t have access to living-wage jobs. And that’s why they’re having the problem.

But one more thing on Pennsylvania, what you are going to see is an interesting conversation in the middle of the state around fracking. And this is why, you know, Trump is coming back. That’s why Biden is coming back and trying to walk that tightrope on environmental issues, because he understands that the middle of the state may have a very different political disposition than what we’re seeing in Philadelphia, and because of that, Pennsylvania could still be up for grabs. I think Biden wins this by a couple hundred thousand votes, but it’s still up for grabs in terms of the political debate.

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