Peter Certo

Peter Certo: The huge U.S. hypocrisy about Venezuela

Anti-government protests in Caracas.

Anti-government protests in Caracas.

For some months now, Venezuela’s socialist government has lurched through a series of escalating crises — hyperinflation, mass protests, political violence — while both the government and its opposition have flirted with authoritarianism.

It isn’t pretty — and to hear the right wing tell it, it’s the future the U.S. left wants for our own country. As if to prevent that, the Trump administration is now fomenting a coup in Venezuela.

They’ve publicly recognized an unelected opposition leader as president, discussed coup plans with Venezuela’s military, and sanctioned oil revenues the country needs to resolve its economic crisis. They’re even threatening to send U.S. troops.

They’ll tell you this about restoring “democracy” and “human rights” in the South American country. But one look at the administration officials driving the putsch perishes the thought.

Take Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who recently spoke at the United Nations calling on countries to stand “with the forces of freedom” against “the mayhem” of Venezuela’s government.

This fall, the same Pompeo shared a photo of himself beaming and shaking hands with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince — just as the prince’s order to kill and dismember a U.S. resident journalist was coming to light. The same prince is carrying on a U.S.-backed war in Yemen, where millions are starving.

Does this sound like a man who gives one fig for democracy, or against mayhem?

Or take Pompeo’s point man on Venezuela, the dreaded Elliott Abrams. Pompeo said Abrams was appointed for his “passion for the rights and liberties of all peoples.” More likely, it was Abrams’ history as Reagan’s “Secretary of Dirty Wars” (yes, that’s a real thing people called him).

A singularly villainous figure, Abrams vouched for U.S. backing of a genocidal Guatemalan regime and Salvadoran death squads in the 1980s. And when a UN report cataloged 22,000 atrocities in El Salvador, Abrams praised his administration’s “fabulous achievement” in the country.

Abrams was convicted of lying to Congress about U.S. support for Nicaragua’s brutal Contras, but that didn’t prevent him from serving in George W. Bush’s State Department — which backed not only the Iraq war but an earlier coup attempt in, you guessed it, Venezuela.

“It’s very nice to be back,” Abrams told reporters. I bet!

Finally there’s National Security Adviser John Bolton, who recently took a cute photo with the words “5,000 troops” written on a notepad. Bolton still thinks the Iraq war was a good idea, and he’d like one with Iran too. Do we think it’s bread and roses he wants for Venezuela?

For all its faults, Venezuela achieved tremendous things before the current crisis — including drastic reductions in poverty and improvements in living standards. Mismanagement and repression may have imperiled those gains, but that’s no justification at all for the U.S. getting involved. In fact, U.S. sanctions have worsened the economic crisis, and U.S. coordination with coup plotters has poisoned the country’s political environment even further.

The future of Venezuela’s revolution is for Venezuelans to decide, not us. All that can come of more intervention now is more crisis, and maybe even war.

Instead of regime change, the U.S. — and especially progressive politicians (looking at you, Nancy Pelosi) — should back regional dialogue and diplomacy. While Democratic Party leaders appear to back Trump, a few representatives — such as Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) — are bravely backing a diplomatic course.

For all the right’s warnings that the left wants to “turn the U.S. into Venezuela,” we should pay careful attention to what the people who gave guns to death squads and destroyed the Middle East want to do with it. Because unlike the left, they’re already running our own country

Peter Certo,’s editor ,Froworked as a researcher for Right Web, an Institute for Policy Studies project that studies neoconservative foreign policy figures.

Peter Certo: GOP's mid-terms campaign depended on lies, fear-mongering and rule-rigging

This 1874 cartoon by Thomas Nast is considered the first important portrayal of the Republican elephant.

This 1874 cartoon by Thomas Nast is considered the first important portrayal of the Republican elephant.


I can’t be the only one who spent the night of the mid-terms tossing and turning. Though I managed to shut off the coverage and try to sleep, spasms of anxiety woke me repeatedly throughout the dreary hours.

Ultimately, Republicans picked off several Red State Senate seats while Democrats won back the House and at least seven governorships.

A Democratic House will serve as a badly needed check after two years of aggressive Republican monopoly, but I can’t help feeling uneasy. For one thing, I can’t shake the last days of the campaign.

For a while, Republicans “merely” lied about their policy agenda.

Rather than campaigning on the $2 trillion tax cut for rich people they actually passed, they promised a middle class tax cut they never even had a bill for. And after spending all last year trying to throw 20 million to 30 million Americans off their health care, they (unbelievably!) promised to defend Americans’ pre-existing condition coverage — even as they actively sought to undermine it.

But the lies took a much darker turn as the White House took hold of the narrative.

Led by the president, GOP propagandists turned a few thousand refugees — over a thousand miles away in southern Mexico — into an “invading army.” The White House put out an ad about it so shockingly racist and false that even Fox News stopped airing it.

Unashamed, President Trump kept repeating the obvious lie that the homeless refugees were funded by Jewish philanthropist George Soros — even after a refugee-hating extremist murdered 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Such vile hatred may have been key to Red State Republican gains in the Senate. But where that wasn’t enough, it was backstopped by voter suppression and gerrymandering.

Suppression may have helped the GOP governor candidates fend off strong challenges in Florida and especially Georgia, where tens of thousands of voters were scrubbed from the rolls and lines in Democratic precincts ran up to five hours long.

And thanks to gerrymandering, it took an extraordinary effort for Democrats to win even a slim House majority. They’re up only a few seats despite decisively winning the popular vote by at least 9 points. Had it been “only” a 4 or 5 point win, Vox’s Matthew Yglesias estimates, the GOP might have retained its majority.

Also worth noting: Democratic Senate candidates actually racked up over 10 million more votes than Republicans, even as Republicans picked up Senate seats on a GOP-tilting map,

To me these results show that Republicans can’t win with their actual policy agenda — not even in many Red States, judging by some ballot initiative results.

For instance, Red State voters in Missouri and Arkansas raised their minimum wages against the wishes of state Republicans. Missouri also legalized medicinal marijuana, along with deeply conservative Utah, and Purple State Michigan voters brought legal recreational marijuana to the Midwest.

Along with Utah, ruby red Idaho and Nebraska expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, a big win for health care.

These progressive policies are far more popular than their right-wing alternatives. So Republicans rely on a potent combination of lies, fear-mongering, and rule-rigging to win.

If Democrats ever hope to really come in from the wilderness, they need to support a host of radical pro-democracy reforms.

In that they can take inspiration from a stunning movement in Florida, where voters re-enfranchised over 1 million of their neighbors with felony convictions. And from Michigan, Colorado, Utah and Missouri, which all passed initiatives to support citizen-led redistricting. And from Maryland, Michigan, and Nevada, which all made voter registration easier.

Uneasiness is part and parcel of drawing breath in 2018. But if I sleep a little better tonight, it’ll be thanks to movements like those.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and the editor of

Peter Certo: If only people in America's far-flung colonies could vote for U.S. president and Congress

Sailing into San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Sailing into San Juan, Puerto Rico.


Few people regard Southwest Ohio as a particularly exhilarating place. But every two to four years, just drawing breath there felt like a rush for a kid drawn to politics.

It’s a purplish region of a perennial swing state, which means our often-overlooked corner of the world periodically assumes an outsized importance. This year’s crucial midterm elections are no exception.

For the 23 years I lived there, I found it so thrilling. Voting felt important. So did organizing, and learning whatever you could all year long.

It’s no small irony that the political passion I learned in Ohio led me to Washington, D.C. — which, despite what you might expect, is the most politically marginalized place in the mainland United States. For the better part of a decade I’ve made a living out of engaging the issues, but the thrill of participation has dwindled.

The 700,000 or so taxpaying residents of America’s capital district outnumber the residents of entire states like Wyoming and Vermont, and could soon overtake Alaska. Yet unlike those states, we’re awarded precisely 0 senators and 0 voting House members to represent us in Congress.

Here in the heart of the beast, we enjoy the same congressional representation as U.S. nationals in our far-flung colonial acquisitions — Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Which is to say, virtually none.

Of course, there’s more at stake than whether I or other transplants get to enjoy voting in national elections.

For one thing, your elected representatives often overrule our own. On many occasions, Congress has intervened to overturn democratic decisions made by D.C. voters.

For instance, when 69 percent of D.C. voters voted to legalize medical marijuana years ago, Congress blocked the District from spending its own tax dollars implementing it.

When 65 percent of us voted to legalize recreational use in 2014, some Maryland Republican forbade Washingtonians from setting up storefronts, denying us the full economic boons of legalization and keeping the black market open. To this day, elected D.C. representatives can’t even hold hearings on the issue.

America’s disenfranchised territories share one unmistakable demographic similarity: Most of their residents are people of color. Puerto Ricans are overwhelmingly Hispanic, Virgin Islanders mostly black, our Pacific territories Asian and Pacific Islander, and D.C. a diverse blend of black, white, Hispanic and Asian.

Contrast that with the small but overwhelmingly white populations of Wyoming and Vermont, which between them get two House members and four senators.

These imbalances affect all Americans, regardless of your state or race. The ramshackle, undemocratic systems we use to elect our House members, senators, and presidents vastly over-represent small states that are rural, white, and conservative, while under-representing everyone else.

This was the system that let Donald Trump become president despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots.

It was the system that led to a 52-48 Republican Senate majority, even as Democratic Senate candidates running that year got 11 million more votes than Republicans.

And it was the system that let senators representing just 44 percent of Americans confirm Brett Kavanaugh, a judge most Americans opposed, to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.

A system that actually permitted one vote for one person would look radically different. But even absent a genuine popular vote system, some of the imbalances favoring smaller, whiter states could be offset by extending statehood — and real votes in Congress — to the more diverse 4.5 million residents of D.C. and America’s other non-voting territories.

The people who vote — or can’t vote — in Congress shape the country for all of us. That’s as true for my neighbors here in D.C. as it is for my family and friends back in Ohio.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and editor of

Peter Certo: Nobody in White House is part of 'The Resistance'

“Storming of The Bastille’’ (July 14, 1789), by Jean-Pierre Houel.

“Storming of The Bastille’’ (July 14, 1789), by Jean-Pierre Houel.


This week, the White House continues its furious hunt for the anonymous official who proclaimed him or herself part of “The Resistance” in a New York Times op-ed. Unsurprisingly, the president is “obsessed” with it, CNN reports.

What really set Trump off — perhaps understandably — was the suggestion that aides were deliberately undermining orders. “We want the administration to succeed,” the author said, before describing a coordinated effort to “thwart parts of [Trump’s] agenda and his worst inclinations.”

But not all of that agenda. The author praised Trump’s commitment to “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, [and] a more robust military,” and even complained about “near-ceaseless negative coverage” obscuring those supposed accomplishments.

The president’s behavior in pursuit of that agenda may be “detrimental to the health of our republic,” the author admits, but assures readers: “There are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening.”

This helps the rest of us understand what’s happening, too: Career Republicans are riding right along with someone they themselves describe as “anti-democratic,” “reckless,” and “erratic.” And they’ll do it just as long as he cuts taxes for billionaires, deregulates the corporations they own, and keeps the spigot open to the military-industrial complex.

He’s doing that.

So, what’s he doing wrong? The author specifies only Trump’s “preference for autocrats and dictators” such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.

Trump’s admiration for those figures says a lot about his disdain for democracy. But the response the author describes sounds more like an effort to shut off diplomatic openings with nuclear-armed rivals than to curb Trump’s anti-democratic impulses. Feel better?

Beyond this, the author offers few specifics on what they’d actually like to prevent.

Pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accords? Not a problem, apparently. Deregulating the banks that caused the financial crisis, and the fossil fuel companies causing climate change? Go right on ahead.

Giving corporations and billionaires a $2 trillion tax break, then trying to cut food stamps, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? Trying to throw 24 million Americans off their health care?

The author describes precisely no concern about any of these things, because virtually any Republican would have done them.

Remarkably, the author actually complains that Trump “shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives.” But it sure sounds like he’s governing as one.

Sure, Trump has made unique his own contributions to modern conservatism — alliances with white nationalists, concentration camps for babies, etc. But our anonymous “adult in the room” offers no objection here either, even as down-ballot Republicans increasingly embrace those extremes.

I can believe that White House staffers really do find the president unstable and dangerous. But instead of constitutionally removing him by the 25th Amendment, they’re keeping him around so they can cut billionaires’ taxes, put over half of every taxpayer dollar into the military-industrial complex and coddle corporations that loot the country and pollute the planet.

The writer pines for the late Sen. John McCain, calling him “a lodestar for restoring honor to public life.” McCain was surely more honorable than the president he feuded with, but even he voted with Trump 83 percent of the time. Do we really think Trump’s pathologies reside entirely in the other 17 percent?

If Trump implodes, they’re going to act like his personality was the problem — not the policy agenda he’s executing on their behalf. They’ll say we haven’t gotten enough “real conservatism.”

Sorry, but I think the amazing social movements behind the real “resistance” would disagree. They’re not trying to roll back 17 percent of what this White House has done. They’re trying to transform it — and much of what came before it — 100 percent.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Peter Certo: News media ignore scandalous defense budget

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which is actually in Kittery, Maine.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which is actually in Kittery, Maine.


On an otherwise sleepy August day, President Trump signed the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act. Named for the dying Arizona senator who’s championed military budgets for his entire career, the bill increases U.S. military spending to an astonishing $717 billion.

According to my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Lindsay Koshgarian, that’s about double what American taxpayers were spending at the end of the Cold War, and upwards of $300 billion more than what we spent before the War on Terror.

The bill also contains language encouraging a confrontation with Iran, while also making it possible for the administration to continue offering weapons and support to the Saudi-led coalition that’s bombing Yemen. (Where, the very week the bill was signed, they bombed a school bus, killing 51 people — 40 of them children.)

You’d expect a bill of this magnitude to generate lots of critical coverage — and you’d be right! But only kind of.

The most controversial thing about this bill, to hear most of the media tell it, is that the president refused to thank John McCain when he signed it.

Countless outlets, from Newsweek to TIME to the Washington Post, reported the omission as a “snub” against the bill’s namesake senator, an occasional Trump critic. CNN’s Jake Tapper used an entire segment on his show to scold the president about it — and even sanctimoniously thanked McCain himself.

The New York Times ran the numbers: Trump spoke for 28 minutes about the bill, with 0 mentions of McCain.

I ran some numbers of my own: A Google news search on the story turned up nearly 150,000 pieces like this. That’s almost 3 times the number of results I got when I searched the same story, but replaced “John McCain” with the actual price tag of the bill: $717 billion.

To put it kindly, this is garbage.

If the media deems a petty snub more controversial than a massive, war-mongering spending bill, you can be sure Congress will follow. The bill passed by huge bipartisan margins in both the House and Senate.

I can assure you, Trump’s not going to speak more kindly of John McCain as a result of this coverage. But more school buses are probably going to get blown up — and so are more pressing human needs in our own communities.

For instance, my home state of Ohio has, by some measures, the most student debt of any state. According to Koshgarian, taxpayers there spent $15.5 billion on the Pentagon base budget alone this past year. For that money, we could’ve funded nearly 700,000 four-year Pell grants.

For Texas, the most uninsured state in the union, their $45 billion in Pentagon dollars could’ve covered 15 million adults and 16 million kids. That’s the entire state — and then some.

Flint, Mich., taxpayers, Koshgarian calculates, spent some $38 million. That could’ve paid for nearly 700 infrastructure jobs to fix things like, say, lead in their water pipes.

Nationally, that money could’ve provided solar power to the entire country. Or funded universal health care. Or debt-free higher education. Instead, we’ll be shelling out more money on fruitless, destructive wars and boondoggle weapons systems like the F-35 (which McCain himself has called “a scandal and a tragedy”).

The real scandal is that such expenditures aren’t deemed controversial — not by our lawmakers, and not by many of the outlets that cover them. Next time they say McCain’s name, they should report what his bill costs the rest of us.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and the editor of


Peter Certo: On tax 'reform,' GOP in Congress reports to campaign donors, not the general public


Sometimes I have to remind myself that people in “real America” with “real jobs” don’t while away their mortal hours reading about politics. But God help me, if you’ve suffered through any coverage of the Republican tax plan, you’ve probably heard three things.

First, it’ll dramatically slash taxes on corporations and billionaires, raise them for nearly a third of us in the middle class, and blow a $1.5 trillion hole in the deficit.

Second, it’s unpopular. Less than a third of Americans support it, Reuters reports. That’s worse than Trump’s own approval rating, which remains mired in the 30s.

And third, the Republicans who control Congress believe it simply must pass.

In fact, this third point sets the tenor for the entire debate. “Republicans are desperate to rack up a legislative win after a series of embarrassing failures,” TIME observes. “If tax reform doesn’t pass, many in the party fear an all-out revolt in 2018.”

“All of us realize that if we fail on taxes, that’s the end of the Republican Party’s governing majority in 2018,” South Carolina Republican  Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News recently. In fact, “that’s probably the end of the Republican Party as we know it.”

If the tax giveaway doesn’t pass, adds Utah Republican  Sen. Mike Lee, “We might as well pack up our tent and go home.”

The thing is, that doesn’t make any sense. Gallup polls have shown over and over that most Americans think rich people and corporations should pay more, not less. Even a majority of Republican voters worry about what this wealth grab will do to the deficit.

If they were looking for a win, then, Republicans would be running against their own plan. So what gives?

Well, New Jersey Republican Congressman Chris Collins recently offered a clue: “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.'” Ah!

Many voters in Collins’ high-tax district will likely pay more, since the GOP wants to end federal deductions for state and local taxes. But it doesn’t have a lick to do with voters. It has everything to do with the affluent donors who bankroll GOP campaigns.

A similar dynamic played out in the healthcare debate. GOP leaders trotted out plan after plan that would eliminate coverage for anywhere from 20 to 24 million Americans — plans that never topped the low 20s in public support.

But those plans would have reduced taxes on the wealthy. So they had to pass.

“Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who has been deeply involved in health policy for years, told reporters back home that he could count 10 reasons the new health proposal should not reach the floor,” the New York Times reported back in September, “but that Republicans needed to press ahead regardless.”

When those bills met their righteous demise, elite GOP fundraising took a huge dive. Senate Republicans lost $2 million in planned contributions alone, The Hill noted this summer. Fundraising in those months fell some $5 million below where it had been in the spring.

So there it is, team: Follow the money. It’s no wonder Princeton researchers found a few years ago that rich people matter to Congress, but ordinary folks generally don’t. That’s probably why many of us prefer to tune it out entirely.

It’s also exactly why we do have to pay attention. Especially in those rare moments when members admit exactly what’s going on.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and the editor of 


Peter Certo: CIA is well practiced in subverting elections


Even in an election year as shot through with conspiracy theories as this one, it would have been hard to imagine a bigger bombshell than Russia intervening to help Donald Trump. But that’s exactly what the CIA believes happened, or so unnamed “officials brief on the matter” told The Washington Post.

While Russia had long been blamed for hacking e-mail accounts linked to the Clinton campaign, its motives had been shrouded in mystery. According to The Post, though, CIA officials recently presented Congress with a “a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources” that “electing Trump was Russia’s goal.”

Now, the CIA hasn’t made any of its evidence public, and the CIA and FBI are reportedly divided on the subject. Though it’s too soon to draw conclusions, the charges warrant a serious public investigation.

Even some Republicans who backed Trump seem to agree. “The Russians are not our friends,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, announcing his support for a congressional probe. It’s “warfare,” added Sen.  John McCain.

There’s a grim irony to this. The CIA is accusing Russia of interfering in our free and fair elections to install a right-wing candidate it deemed more favorable to its interests. Yet during the Cold War, that’s exactly what the CIA did to the rest of the world.

Most Americans probably don’t know that history. But in much of the world it’s a crucial part of how Washington is viewed even today.

In the post-World War II years, as Moscow and Washington jockeyed for global influence, the two capitals tried to game every foreign election they could get their hands on.

From Europe to Vietnam and Chile to the Philippines, American agents delivered briefcases of cash to hand-picked politicians, launched smear campaigns against their left-leaning rivals, and spread hysterical “fake news” stories like the ones some now accuse Russia of spreading here.

Together, political scientist Dov Levin estimates, Russia and the U.S. interfered in 117 elections this way in the second half the 20th Century. Even worse is what happened when the CIA’s chosen candidates lost.

In Iran, when elected leader Mohammad Mossadegh tried to nationalize the country’s BP-held oil reserves, CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt led an operation to oust Mossadegh in favor of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The shah’s secret police tortured dissidents by the thousands, leading directly to the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

In Guatemala, when the democratically elected Jacobo Arbez tried to loosen the U.S.-based United Fruit Co.’s grip on Guatemalan land, the CIA backed a coup against him. In the decades of civil war that followed, U.S.-backed security forces were accused of carrying out a genocide against indigenous Guatemalans.

In Chile, after voters elected the socialist Salvador Allende, the CIA spearheaded a bloody coup to install the right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, who went on to torture and kill thousands of Chileans.

“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people,” U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger purportedly said about the coup he helped orchestrate there.

And those are only the most well-known examples.

I don’t raise any of this history to excuse Russia’s alleged meddling in our election — which, if true, is outrageous. Only to suggest that now, maybe, we know how it feels. We should remember that feeling as Trump, who’s spoken fondly of authoritarian rulers from Russia to Egypt to the Philippines and beyond, comes into office.

Meanwhile, much of the world must be relieved to see the CIA take a break from subverting democracy abroad to protect it at home.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and the editor of 


Peter Certo: The KKK is but part of America's new ruling racist coalition

Movie poster in 1915. The movie is often cited for reviving the Ku Klux Klan.

Movie poster in 1915. The movie is often cited for reviving the Ku Klux Klan.

An election that might have marked the ascension of America’s first woman president has instead proven historic for an altogether different reason. Namely, that Americans voted for the unabashedly anti-democratic alternative offered by her rival.

And they did it despite his almost cartoonish shortcomings.

Trump didn’t just offend pious liberals with his hard line on immigration, disdain for democratic norms, and disinterest in policy. He transgressed standards of decency across all political persuasions.

He bragged about sexually assaulting women. He disparaged injured war veterans. He was endorsed by the KKK. And now he’s America’s voice on the world stage.

How could that happen? Here’s one theory you might’ve heard:

After years of seeing their jobs outsourced, their incomes slashed, and their suffering ignored, the white working class threw in their lot with the candidate who cast aside political niceties and vowed to make their communities great again.

It’s a nice story — I even used to buy a version of it myself. But while Trump surely did clean up with white voters, the evidence simply doesn’t support the idea that they were as hard-up as the story goes.

For instance, pollster Nate Silver found during the GOP primary that Trump supporters pulled in a median income of $72,000 a year — some $10,000 more than the national median for white households. And while many did come from areas with lower social mobility, they were less likely to live in the stricken manufacturing communities Trump liked to use as backdrops for his rallies.

So if it wasn’t the economy, was it Hillary?

Clinton was clearly unpopular, in many cases for defensible reasons. She was cozy with Wall Street. She backed poorly chosen wars. Apparently people didn’t like the way she e-mailed.

But when you consider that we chose to give the nuclear codes to a man whose own aides refused to trust with a Twitter account over a former secretary of state, it hardly seems like Trump voters were soberly comparing the two candidates.

Instead, Vox writers Zack Beauchamp and Dylan Matthews poured through scores of studies and found a much more robust explanation — and it isn’t pretty.

It’s what pollsters gently call “racial resentment.”

That is, Trump’s core supporters were far more likely than other Republicans to hold negative views of African Americans, Latinos, and Muslims. They overwhelmingly favored the mass deportation of immigrants. And they were the most likely Republicans to agree that it would be “bad for the country” if whites comprised a smaller share of the population.

What’s more, another study found, racially resentful voters flocked to the GOP candidate regardless of their views about the economy. Their views on race drew them to Trump, not their job prospects.

Scores of other data back this up. Despite years of job growth and the biggest one-year bump in middle-class incomes in modern history, another researcher found, Republicans’ views of both African Americans and Latinos nosedived during the Obama years.

Not even a slowdown in immigration itself staunched the venom. Net migration between the U.S. and Mexico fell to 0 during the Obama years, yet Trump still launched his campaign with an infamous tirade against Mexican “rapists” and “murderers.”

None of that is to accuse all Trump voters of racism. But even if the bulk of them were just Republicans following their nominee, the social science strongly suggests that one of our major parties has been captured by whites so anxious about the changing face of America that they were willing to vote alongside the Klan.

That fringe has turned mainstream. The Trump years to come may herald any number of horrors, but the scariest part may be what we’ve learned about ourselves.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and the editor of  Distributed by

Peter Certo: Americans' absurd exaggeration of the terror threat against them


One in 3.5 million: That’s the risk you’ll die from a terrorist attack in the United States, Ohio State Prof. John Mueller estimates. Rounded generously, that chance comes to 3 one-hundred thousandths of a percent.

That’s not how most Americans see it, though.

In a recent Gallup poll, 51 percent of respondents said they’re personally worried about becoming a victim. If you’ll forgive my amateur number crunching, that means we’re overestimating the terrorist threat by factor of about 1.7 million.

No wonder people play the lottery.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is trying hard — with mixed results — not to get pushed into another Middle Eastern war. But that’s a tall order when Americans are more fearful of attacks than at any time since 9/11 — and when politicians like Ted Cruz are calling for bona fide war crimes like “carpet-bombing” Syria.

Obama tried hard to walk that line in his final State of the Union address.

He dismissed critics who likened the fight against the Islamic State to “World War III,” and insisted (correctly) that the group poses no existential threat to the United States. But he also assured listeners that the militants would be “rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.”

To that end, Obama boasted, American planes had already launched 10,000 airstrikes on Iraq and Syria.

This appeal to the carpet-bombing constituency was Obama’s attempt to break the political taboo against counseling modesty about the threat of terrorism. Unfortunately, it only illustrates a much deeper taboo against admitting that foreign terrorism against our country is almost always a response to our foreign policies.

You know, policies like launching 10,000 airstrikes.

Political scientist Robert Pape should know. He’s studied every suicide attack on record.

Pape argues that while religious appeals — Islamic or otherwise — can help recruit suicide bombers, virtually all attacks can be reduced to political motives. “What 95 percent of all suicide attacks have in common,” he concludes, “is not religion.” Instead, there’s “a specific strategic motivation to respond to a military intervention.”

In the years before al-Qaida pulled off the 9/11 attacks, for instance — and since, for that matter — Washington propped up repressive regimes in places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which ruthlessly subjugated Islamist and liberal challengers alike. It armed and enabled Israel, even as the country bombed its Muslim (and Christian) neighbors in Palestine and Lebanon.

And in between its two full-scale invasions of Iraq, Washington imposed devastating sanctions that caused well over half a million Iraqi children to die from a lack of food or medicine.

In his letter explaining the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden mentioned all of these things and more to argue that U.S. intervention in the Muslim world had to be stopped. That’s an opinion shared by plenty of people who aren’t mass murderers.

Similarly, before it expanded to Syria, the infamous Islamic State emerged out of a Sunni rebellion against the repressive Shiite government Washington set up in Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein. To the extent that it’s engaged in international terrorism, ISIS has mostly targeted countries — like France, Turkey, Lebanon, and Russia — that have plunged into Syria on the side of its enemies.

None of this excuses terrorism in the least. But it strongly suggests that senseless wars only increase the risk of attack — especially when there’s not a bomb on this planet (much less 10,000 of them) powerful enough to put Iraq and Syria back together. Diplomats may do that someday. Carpet-bombing won’t.

Until then, a 0.00003 percent risk of terrorism is high enough. Why multiply it by acting rashly?

Peter Certo is the editor of Foreign Policy In Focus and the deputy editor of OtherWords at the Institute for Policy Studies.