Watershed Moment on Race? And: Is Trump a Farce or Face of GOP Base?

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By Mark Green

After cop videos, #blacklivesmatter, Charleston massacre/eulogy/flag -- oh, and a Black president -- Matalin and LaMarche debate if we're starting the biggest conversation on race since the Kerner Commission. Also, who will be the bloviating blond's Joe Welch or are Trump and GOP nativist base inseparable?

*Trump's GOP? Is he merely a joke or the Frankenstein created when a fringe Fox and extremist base come together? George Will says he's like a Democratic mole intending to sabotage his own party the party while Rush Limbaugh thinks he's a hero standing up to the "totalitarian elites."

Mary's more with Rush than George: "The party establishment is overreacting because voters aren't stupid. They knew of him from before and not as a Republican. And only because of him are we talking about Sanctuary Cities... I like his approach and the gift he's giving us" of expanding the debate.

Gara argues that he's the logical result of a GOP that shares his views on immigration and could help create a "death spiral', in Lindsay Graham's phrase, with the growing Hispanic vote. Mary responds that Hispanics vote based on many issues, especially the economy and... at which point the Host somewhat rudely interrupts: "rapists?" Mary: "Well, he walked that back... and when Walker and Kasich announce in the next few days, we'll be talking about them and not Trump."

Is Trump the white man's Sharpton, brilliant at media manipulation without any chance of becoming president because he's loathed by a large majority? (Pew reports that of 106 people who've run for president in past few decades, the two with the worst favorable-unfavorable numbers were Trump and Sharpton.) Mary balks: "There's no comparison. Trump's a successful businessman and Sharpton's a fraud!"

Host: It's embarrassing to have to treat this solipsistic serial liar seriously (remember his birtherism). Yet with only 15 percent in polls of a 30 percent party, he's dominating the news. Let's recall that Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann got to 45 percent and 24 percent respectively in some polls in 2012... but then they didn't have his resources to keep going and couldn't credibly threaten to run a third party candidacy destroying GOP chances. So who could be the boy saying this emperor has no clothes, pulling back the curtain on this one-liner of a candidate who might then be regarded by a grateful party as a giant-killer? Jeb defending the honor of his wife and tamping down any wimp factor? Christie if he gets in the debate and shows he's a Trump with content and experience? Tune in to Fox April 6... the exact 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and 45th of the Voting Rights Act. (Odds either will come up?)

*Sanders's Democratic Party? Do Bernie's crowds and sincerity indicate he could be a real contender? Can a "socialist" -- albeit less of a socialist than the Pope Francis -- pull Hillary "to the left" to her disadvantage, as Karl Rove has speculated?

Mary: "I love his accent, consistency, authenticity. He's a real politician and old-time Democrat when they were popular. Like me he's a anti-crony capitalist, though we part on redistribution." Gara isn't sure what "left" means since most of his economic populist positions are very popular, like a higher minimum wage and tax rates on the super-rich. LaMarche, however, assumes there's a natural ceiling on his candidacy because of Hillary's far greater appeal to minorities and women.

Matalin notes with some anticipatory schadenfreude that "he'll end up on the podium addressing his Convention like Buchanan did in 1992. Host: the chance that Sanders speech will "sound better in the original German", as Molly Ivins famously said of Pitchfork Pat, is not very great.

LaMarche smartly concludes the segment by pining for a Trump-Sanders General Election so it would pit a Queens accent against a Brooklyn accent (the winner getting a ticker tape presided over by a Mayor with a Boston accent?).

*Race and Rebel Flag. It marked the end of an error, but was the debate over the Confederate Flag merely a racial spasm or the start of a new, deeper "conversation" about race, racism and policy?

All of us agree that the flag should come down on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol and that this location is especially significant since this state was the first to secede -- Ft. Sumter is located there -- admitting it was over slavery... but Mary goes on to note that most of the confederate soldiers who died didn't have slaves and "you can't measure progress if you try to ignore the past." Yes the flag is part of the state's and region's heritage, but, notes Gara, it's a racist heritage that the current flag represents.

Now what? The House of Representatives this past week began to debate whether the Rebel Flag should come down in federal buildings and state cemeteries. Will, say, Mississippi take it not merely down from its capitol but take it off the official state flag itself? Matalin doubts it but the Host assumes once everyone gives the state some space and time and grace, Ol' Miss will want to move from the 19th to the 21st century and will do so.

Are there policies that can reduce racial discrimination after the cop killings, Charleston massacre and flag dispute? Governor Cuomo, or example, has designated a special prosecutor to investigate all cases when a police officer kills an unarmed civilian; President Obama is changing federal housing policy to make de facto housing segregation less likely.

There's a consensus: Mary and Gara think that there are educational and prison reforms that can help boost minority Americans...but no agreement on Gara's argument that the GOP is pushing voter ID laws that make it harder for eligible minority citizens to vote.

*Cosby. What can Cosby, his wife, friends and sponsors now do since it was disclosed that he admitted under oath using a drug to seduce a woman? Mary says that "I pray for him and hope he gets the space for personal reflection and redemption." Gara says he respects this Christian approach but, "reversing roles here," takes a more hard-line, law-and-order approach: "If someone's been accused of 40 rapes, it's best that receives justice from the legal system and then gets to show remorse and seek redemption."

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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