Have You Noticed? Obama Is Not A White Christian American

Steve and Cokie Roberts’ columns appear regularly in the Joplin Globe, and I confess I often pass them by because I’ve found them to be somewhat bereft of the kind of toughness necessary to combat the other conservative columnists the Globe runs.

But when it comes to pummeling Glenn Beck, the husband-wife commentators have written quite forcefully.  In March, they wrote a column that ended with this:

…Beck is worse than a clown. He’s more like a terrorist who believes he has discovered the One True Faith, and condemns everyone else as a heretic. And that makes him something else as well — a traitor to the American values he professes so loudly to defend.

I don’t remember if that particular column appeared in our Joplin paper, but today’s edition did feature the Roberts’ latest effort to define Glenn Beck for what he is:

Listen carefully to Beck and his pals on right-wing radio, such as Rush Limbaugh, and their message is unmistakable. Obama is not “one of us.” He’s “the other.” He’s “un-American.”

But that sentiment itself is deeply un-American. The great genius of this country is that it welcomes all colors, creeds and nationalities. Unlike the British, say, or the French, we don’t have one image or archetype that defines our identity. Barack Hussein Obama is as American as Glenn Lee Beck, but Beck cannot seem to accept that and neither can his followers who crowded the Mall on Aug. 28.

Citing the sentiments of a Beckerhead at the D.C. rally—”I want our country back“—and Limbaugh’s hilarious reference to our President as “Imam Hussein Obama” and Beck’s pre- and post-rally comments about Obama’s affection for Marxism, the Roberts’ write:

Beck and Limbaugh have built a fire under a boiling stewpot of resentment, and they’re tossing in every incendiary innuendo they can put their hands on. Their critique might be incoherent but their mission could not be clearer: to brand Obama as a devil, not just a Democrat. He’s not just misguided; he’s a Marxist, a heretic, an apostate. 

And who are the true believers? The real Americans? Why the good white Christians who showed up at Beck’s rally, of course. “America today begins to turn back to God,” he assured his followers, “For too long, this country has wandered in darkness.”

So what? many of you may say.  These crazies are only influencing a small number of folks, most of them who wouldn’t have voted for Obama even if the Holy Spirit endorsed him.*  But read on:

This drumbeat of denunciation — this deliberate distortion of the president’s background and beliefs — is having an effect. The Pew Research Center found that 18 percent of Americans now think Obama is a Muslim, up from 11 percent at the start of his presidency, and only 34 percent can correctly identify him as a Christian. 

The correlation of religious views with political views is stunning. Sixty-seven percent of those who say Obama is Muslim disapprove of his presidency; 62 percent of those who call him a Christian like his performance.

What is even more stunning to me is the brazenness with which Republican politicians play on the ignorance of intellectually lazy voters.  Never mind the Becks, Hannitys, O’Reillys, and Limbaughs, who depend on such ignorance and indolence to put more cars in their garages.  Politicians, who are striving to get back in power, are sending definite, if sometime subtle, racially-loaded messages to fact-challenged white voters.

In April, Newt Gingrich said this at a—are you ready?—at a Southern Republican Leadership Conference, as reported by CBS News:

“What we need is a president, not an athlete,” Gingrich said during a question and answer period after his speech. He added: “Shooting three point shots may be clever, but it doesn’t put anybody to work.”

Now, among others, Norah O’Donnell on Morning Joe suggested there might be a hint of race-talk in there somewhere, for which she was subjected to some derision.  But let’s look at some other things Gingrich said in that speech before his Southern brethren:

Mr. Obama is “the most radical president in American history,” Gingrich said. “He has said, ‘I run a machine, I own Washington, and there is nothing you can do about it.'” [...]

“On every front,” he said, “they’re increasing government” and trying to “micromanage our lives,” raise taxes, increase government power and strip citizens of their power. 

“This is a fundamental fight over the core definition of America,” Gingrich said. He told the crowd they should be talking about culture, not politics. “The more we make this a choice about the nature of America, the weaker they are,” he said…

The debate should be framed, he said, not as “Obama vs. Anti-Obama, but America vs. a secular socialist machine.”

There it is: “This is a fundamental fight over the core definition of America.”  “This is a choice about the nature of America. ” “America vs. a secular socialist machine,” led by Obama.

Now in that context one can read his post-speech comment about Obama as an “athlete” and fairly conclude that Gingrich is saying something to his audience that has less to do with Obama’s alleged inattention to the economy and more to do with the uppity negro’s role in the Great Culture War, which many Republican politicians are apparently jockeying to command.

Meanwhile, there’s no doubt that much of the angst in America is related to the sluggish economy and its slow resurrection from its near-death experience caused by over-exposure to Republican economics. 

But there is also no doubt that what is fueling the enthusiasm of many, many voters who can’t wait to stick a fork in President Obama this fall and in 2012 is a fear of this strange black man, a fear began and perpetuated by white culture-war conservative commentators and politicians, whose fortunes depend on keeping alive the idea that Obama is not one of us—not  one of us white Christian Americans.

_______________________________

* Yes, of course I know the Holy Spirit only endorses Republicans. It’s just hyperbole.

[Roberts' photo: Max Hirshfeld for USA WEEKEND]
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22 Comments

  1. Duane,

    ‘Tis the season for demagoguery all right. It is more shrill than I ever recall it to be, especially from the right wing. But, maybe that’s because I had less time for politics when I was working, and especially when I was in the Navy (although I am proud to say that I have never missed a state or national election, often voting by absentee ballot from a ship.) One would like to think that voters ponder and weigh the issues, but I fear it is like Anson described in his Right and Left post, a tribal knee-jerk reaction.

    In a perfect world the solution would be better education – every child raised to think rationally and act accordingly. Limbaugh and Barnum have much in common, IMO, including success. :sad: Sigh.

    Jim

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    • Jim,

      Look, I understand why folks don’t always have time to “ponder the issues.” As you allude to, they are busy working and raising their families and such. And that’s why it is important that they at least understand what it means when someone puts a D or R by his or her name and runs for office. I speak, of course, of the independents because about 40% of the public have decided that the Democrats best represents their views, and about 40% have decided Republicans do.

      What I don’t understand, I suppose, is how that remaining 20% of independents can have paid a minimal amount of attention the last ten years and still express a willingness to support Republicans this fall, so soon after their utter failure in running the country.

      I will argue that there hasn’t been such a clear example of nearly undiluted political blame attached to one party in my lifetime. Even if you are a believer in Republican economics, which would require Mother Teresa-like faith and devotion, the Republican malfeasance abroad is staggering, given the incredible instability in the Middle East resulting from the two wars, one that shouldn’t have materialized and the other that shouldn’t have been neglected for so long.

      Iran, our sworn enemy for over 30 years now, is relatively stronger than it has ever been in that region since the radicals took over; Iraq will teeter on the edge of a civil war as far as the eye can see, especially with Iranian interference; Afghanistan has become nearly a hopeless situation, Obama’s “surge” being the last attempt to make something positive out of our considerable investment in blood and treasure there.

      These aren’t issues that require much time to sort out, but I’m afraid the strategy of obstruction and obfuscation and misinformation related to the economy has worked this cycle because the severity of our economic problems are beyond the usual remedial efforts to correct. That fact alone—that Republicans left the economy in such condition—should be enough to steer people away from that party for at least a generation of politicians.

      But I guess people are just too busy and too frustrated to think it through. It gives me little consolation now to know that what Republicans have done—from the beginning of his presidency—to soil Obama’s image will one day come back to haunt their party. Demographics will ensure that the kind of politics we see today will change. I just hope we’ll still have a capitalist economic system when it does.

      Duane

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  2. Duane,

    You imply that the issues are too complex for the average citizen to sort out and that we had best place our trust in the ethos of one political party. That is unsatisfying to me because I see the log in the eye of the D’s as well as the R’s. At this stage at least I prefer to stand back and see which politician at least tries to address the important issues in a sensible way, even to telling the body politic some uncomfortable truths.

    That, for example, is why I voted for McCaskell – I perceived that she often tried to do what was right despite politics. I can forgive some party-line positions if the bulk of actions seem right – I’m not naive enough to think that isn’t necessary sometimes. So far I’m not sorry I voted for her. But all my instincts preclude giving up my Independent stance.

    The real character of Congress is soon to be tested, after the November elections. The nine hundred pound gorilla in the room, entitlement reform, can’t be ignored much longer. (Have you seen my latest post?)

    At least I hope it is addressed. The worst thing that could happen, IMO, is to ignore it. The nation’s economic fate hangs in the balance. If the pols don’t fix it, the GR may look like a minor speed bump in retrospect.

    Jim

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    • Jim,

      I have read your post on the entitlement issue. I assume by what you wrote that when you say “entitlement reform,” you mean Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but as you can see from the chart you posted on the “risks of growing entitlement spending,” the biggest problem is with increases in Medicare—health care—spending. Social Security’s problems—still a ways off—are by many accounts relatively easy to fix.

      And the interest to GDP ratio is also fixable in the long term, which is why the deficit commission was commissioned. Tough choices await us, but that is yet to be determined. Your chart goes all the way to 2080 with a big scary red stripe. I don’t put much faith in those kind of forecasts, as it would have been impossible ten years prior to the 2008 collapse to predict that catastrophe. In any case, I have previously posted a blog on the long-term interest scare here, so I won’t bore you with the details. But suffice it to say that some long-term fixes are in order to get us going in the right direction, but there is no need to panic today. The cliff is not yet on the horizon and there is time, if not yet the political will, to get things right.

      But none of that long-term stuff has anything to do with stimulating the economy in the short term. Compared to the kind of debt you are talking about in several decades, spending today what is necessary to ensure the economy doesn’t sputter and stop again is a very tiny percentage of the total. In a real sense, it doesn’t have much to do with the problem you and Anson are worried about. We need to get ourselves out of this morass and then deal with the future.

      Duane

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  3. libertyphysics

     /  February 24, 2011

    HAVE YOU NOTICED: Unemployment is officially 9.5% (but if you calculate it the way they did in the 1930s it’s at least 17% or maybe even 20%). The Federal Reserve Chairman has predicted that it will take five or more years before we return to pre-recession employment levels. Several States are facing bankruptcy. Public employees, in the spirit of civility, call the Gov. of Wisconsin Hitler, Mussolini and Mubarak for asking them to contribute a small amount to their own medical and retirement programs rather than face massive layoffs. Federal spending is exploding exponentially, literally. The public debt is so high that the US bond rating has been degraded and other countries are calling for the end of the US dollar as the international reserve currency. The Fed is printing money (quantitative easing) to deal with our debts. As a result, gold and precious metal prices are skyrocketing. Food prices went up 20% in 2010. Oil just spiked. The projected, unfunded mandates of the Federal Government are over $100 TRILLION compared to a GDP of a few Trillion. This can’t be covered even if we tax every American 100%.

    But the big problem we have is, apparently, Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck and the fact that they ridicule a politician. I wish they could be as civil as those Wisconsin teachers or treat the President with respect, you know, like we did George Bush.

    Grow up.

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    • Liberty,

      Perhaps you have been slumbering.

      The current unemployment rate is an unacceptably high 9.0%, not 9.5. And I agree that a better way of measuring it is by including those who want full time work but can only find part time work. Those folks are essentially partially unemployed. Also, if we could track them, include those who have given up. But that’s not the way it is done.

      Contray to your assertion, our bond rating has not been degraded, but don’t take my word for it. How’s the Wall Street Journal‘s credibility? Here’s an article from last month:

      The U.S. currently has the highest possible credit rating and a stable outlook at both raters, but both have warned repeatedly in recent years that the government’s long-term budget headaches must eventually be addressed.

      And the Fed is not using QE2 to “deal with our debts,” but to keep interest rates low enough so consumers can afford mortgages and cars, etc., which creates jobs, and also so businesses can borrow and expand and create jobs, all of which is at the heart of the problems you mention. You see, it’s about creating jobs. Jobs will help alleviate our deficits by putting people on the tax-paying side of the ledger.

      But your comment on the Wisconsin nonsense is what I find the most disheartening. It is crystal clear that the issue is not union concessions on health and pension contributions—they have already conceded—but killing unions forever.

      You seem like a serious person, I just wish you were better informed.

      Duane

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      • libertyphysics

         /  February 24, 2011

        I apologize for the mistake on our credit rating and unemployment. I stand corrected. My statements were based on a faulty memory of a threats to our rating from several months ago and the fact I didn’t look every number up. That doesn’t change my point and arguing over the percentages doesn’t make the problem go away.

        I disagree with you regarding QE2. Quantitative easing may keep interest rates low, for a time, but the biggest debtor is the US Government, and that’s a big reason for the easing, not just consumer credit. If rates rise we will not be able to service the debt to China. I don’t even want to imagine what the results of that will be. It’s WHY we had to do the easing instead of just paying our bills that bothers me.

        That inflation rates are increasing for many commodities and consumer goods, especially food and oil, is a dangerous development, maybe caused by the easing, that could wipe out life savings and undo whatever economic gains we’ve made in the last two years.

        The unemployment rate is a debatable number and I admit I misspoke. However the 9% rate was accomplished by messing with the denominator, changing the number of available jobs. Ironically, if the economy improves and people start working the additions to the labor force could make the unemployment number increase again, falsely. This posting at the Calculated Risk Blog points out my real concerns, particularly the graph of employment versus time:

        http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2011/02/january-employment-report-36000-jobs-90.html

        I know the talking point is that the Wis Gov is trying to break the union. But what brought all the public workers out, acting like spoiled brats having a tantrum was the bill in the legislature that is asking for modest changes in compensation and a limit to collective bargaining for work rules. This wasn’t done arbitrarily. The Wisconsin debt is greater than New York’s with a much smaller population. Their bills can’t be paid. What will happen to State workers, teachers, cops, road crews, administrators and more, if the state can’t make payroll?

        But children don’t want to hear that mommy and daddy can’t afford a new bike. And a little brat doesn’t want to offer any constructive solution to the financial crisis. No, it’s sufficient to call the governor Hitler.

        They have the whole legislature to appeal to, not just the governor. But, the legislature and the governor were elected by the taxpayers to solve the debt problem. The legislature and the governor are answerable to the taxpayers not the teachers.

        If the teachers don’t like the solution in the bill, and they have a better idea, then they should offer it up to their legislators. Instead, they engage in chanting and beating drums and calling people names, not to mention fraudulently taking sick days abetted by lying physicians.

        And I’m very aware of all the denial going on about how the money is really there and how we should tax the rich, whoever they are, and so on. If the money were there these states would not be in debt. If simply raising taxes would solve the problem then the previous, Democrat, administrations would have done that. We’ve run out of rope and we’ve run out of other peoples’ money.

        Regarding union busting. Maybe that is also what’s going on. So? FDR, among others, did not approve of public sector unions. Who are they negotiating with? I’ll tell you. Usually they are negotiating with Democrats they got elected to office through union PACs funded by mandatory dues payments from wages payed for by tax payers. The taxpayers aren’t even at the bargaining table. But the tax payers are losing their jobs, dealing with a weak economy along with a bunch of fat cat union members, making 40% more than private sector workers and who refuse to let the tax payer up for air.

        Neither I nor most of the rest of America have any sympathy whatsoever for the union members. That’s why we voted to sweep Democrats out of state legislatures and governors’ offices across the country. If the Republicans fail to act like adults we’ll sweep them out next and I think they know it.

        Whether or not all my details are accurate, there is no debate that we are facing a domestic economic crisis based on unemployment, inflation and debt. And internationally we have the Mid-East and Africa imploding and Iran and North Korea developing nuclear weapons while China increases the size of it’s military.

        The details, like a 0.4% error in official unemployment, is beside the point that you seem to think the biggest threat to our nation is Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck, who don’t even hold an elected office.

        You are not alone in this. Progressives have, for years, created straw men, targets for smears, to avoid any discussion of their ultimate goals and any real solutions to problems. It’s all about passing torches and pitchforks around and storming the castle to teach the fat cats a lesson they will never forget.

        George Bush was Hitler. Beck is evil. Limbaugh should die of a heart attack. And the Koch brothers should be put in prison. Swell. Let’s focus on that and not what to do about a constant threat of terrorism that Pres. Obama was going to solve through charisma. Let’s not talk about how to keep Social Security and Medicare from becoming insolvent in the very near future. Let’s not talk about how California, New Jersey, Wisconsin and other states can’t pay their bills nor if a nuclear Iran is a threat. No, let march on Haliburton. Who’s with me?

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  4. anomalousUser

     /  February 24, 2011

    The Pew Research Center found that 18 percent of Americans now think Obama is a Muslim . . . and only 34 percent can correctly identify him as a Christian.

    I think this actually means that only 66% of the population understands what Christianity teaches.

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  5. Liberty,

    Since you took the time to respond at length, I will pay you respect and do the same.

    1) At this point, let’s don’t argue about the numbers. We both agree they are bad, although much better than at the low point. And we both want a better economy and greater growth, which would create more jobs. However, the Republican budget would actually reduce growth, according, at least, to John McCain’s former economic adviser. But what does he know, he backed the wrong guy in 2008.

    2) I will concede that the Hitler references—which were not widespread, as you know—were off-putting and those folks give the movement a bad name. I hope you were as critical of the teapartiers who did the same thing, and worse. Somehow, I don’t think so.

    3) The unemployment graph is disturbing, no doubt. I post it to show how disturbing it is:

    That’s why the 2008 recession is called the Great Recession. Most of us have never experienced anything like it. That’s why states are having such a hard time with their budgets. It’s nearly unprecedented. And that is why it necessitated much more fiscal input (stimulus), although not enough was appropriated. Monetary policy alone, which usually solves most recessions, wasn’t enough. However, the time has passed for a robust stimulus plan. Politics and previous indebtedness has made that impossible now. Thank you, Republican Party.

    4) It’s more than a talking point that Gov. Walker is busting the union. I’ve been on this story almost from the start, and I can assure you that the folks out in the streets weren’t there because they are “spoiled brats”—again, I hope you saw tea party protesters in the same demeaning way—but because they rightly perceived that what the Governor and Republican legislators are trying to do was nothing short of the end of the unions.

    And now we know from the “Koch” tapes that it is part of a larger plan. So, we have a situation in which the unions have given in to his fiscal demands, yet he continues to pursue his ideological strategy—destroy the unions and thereby cause turmoil in his state. There simply is no excuse for it. But you blame the workers and their unions. Go figure.

    5) Teachers and policemen and firefighters and other public workers are taxpayers, too. And their “solution” to the budget problem is to concede the increases in health care and pension contributions. So, I don’t quite understand your point. They have done their part, as far as I can tell. The crisis in Wisconsin and elsewhere was not the fault of public employees or their unions. Or maybe you think it was, in which case you can stop reading. I can’t help you.

    6) As far as taxes, you say, “We’ve run out of rope and we’ve run out of other peoples’ money.” No, we haven’t. We are taxed less now (at the federal level) than at any time since 1950, in terms of revenue as a share of GDP. I don’t know Wisconsin’s history, but I’m guessing it’s comparable. And the Governor cut taxes recently to the tune of $117 million, even while claiming there was a tremendous budget shortfall. Some of us just don’t understand that. Maybe you do.

    7) Your argument about public employee unions deserves attention, because it is a common one coming from the Right. First, you said,

    Who are they negotiating with? I’ll tell you. Usually they are negotiating with Democrats they got elected to office through union PACs funded by mandatory dues payments from wages payed for by tax payers.

    Would to God that Democrats controlled all the municipalities and governorships around the country, but unfortunately they don’t. Thus, those unions frequently have to negotiate with Republicans. And my question is, What are Republicans afraid of?

    You also said,

    The taxpayers aren’t even at the bargaining table.

    Wrong. I have heard several Democratic governors and mayors this past week talking about the many fights they had with the unions. Former Pennsylvania Governor Rendell, for one. It’s something of a conservative myth you stated, just like the following:

    But the tax payers are losing their jobs, dealing with a weak economy along with a bunch of fat cat union members, making 40% more than private sector workers and who refuse to let the tax payer up for air.

    There are plenty of people who will dispute your claim, a common one. In fact, here is Joseph Slater, a labor law and union history “expert”:

    Study after study show that public sector workers are, if anything, paid less than private sector workers. There’s studies on that, specifically on Wisconsin workers. As to pensions which are also often cited as a problem for budgets, in the vast majority of jurisdictions, including Ohio or Wisconsin, most or all rules about pensions and pension benefits are not subject to collective bargaining. Instead, they’re set by statute.

    The article cited goes on to quote Keith Bender, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee:

    In a study last year for the National Institute for Retirement Security and the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, Bender and co-author John Heywood, also a UWM economics professor, assert that wages for typical state workers are 11 percent less than those in the private sector with comparable education and in comparable jobs. Local workers earn 12 percent less, they say…

    The truth is that there are some places where public workers fare better, some where they fare worse, as the article points out. It’s not universally the case either way. And when we talk about “averages,” that’s problematic. Starting salaries for, say, teachers are much lower than you might think. Shamefully lower, in my view.

    8.) You wrote,

    Neither I nor most of the rest of America have any sympathy whatsoever for the union members.

    “Most of the rest of America”? That is demonstrably false, but I think you know that. Such hyperbole is born of frustration, just like the following:

    That’s why we voted to sweep Democrats out of state legislatures and governors’ offices across the country. If the Republicans fail to act like adults we’ll sweep them out next and I think they know it.

    I’m glad you wrote that. You think you are part of a historic and lasting movement, don’t you? Well, liberal Democrats thought that too. Just about two years ago. The truth is that if (hopefully, when) the economy returns to robust growth, you and your tea party friends will fade away into just another subgroup of the electorate. You are not a majority. You just think you are. And there’s nothing special about your particular group, except maybe the bigoted arrogance of its leaders, exemplified by Beck and Limbaugh and Hannity and O’Reilly and Coulter and…

    9) I’m not sure the above stars of the right-wing would appreciate your calling them straw men. But I can assure you they are important because they reach a lot of people and fill their heads with falsehoods, which they then repeat to others. That’s why they are worth the time to occasionally call out for their foolishness and demagoguery.

    10) Finally, your ending. You know, the Bush was Hitler, Beck is evil, Limbaugh should die of a heart attack nonsense. Talk about your straw men. You bring those things up and attack me as though I said them. Yeah, right.

    And do you really think Obama thought he could cure terrorism via his charisma? Oh, wait, that’s Limbaugh’s line. I heard it a lot. You can’t out-Limbaugh me. I’m a veteran, a former dittohead, a Professor of Limbaughnics, who left his Limbaugh University for Advanced Conservative Studies.

    As for your other concerns, stay tuned. Obama’s God-given charisma will cure them, too.

    Duane

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    • libertyphysics

       /  February 26, 2011

      Thank you for the response. We’ll just have to disagree about the facts concerning public sector unions and the rest. I don’t know much about the public pay studies you site. My information comes from sources such as USA Today:
      http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2009-04-09-compensation_N.htm
      and Rasmussen:
      http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/february_2011/48_back_gop_governor_in_wisconsin_spat_38_side_with_unions
      And, by the way, RECEIPTS are lowest since WWII, because the recession is the deepest since WWII, but tax RATES are relatively high. It’s the rates that are problematic for economic growth.

      But let me try to stick, from now on, to what bothers me about Cokie’s article. It has nothing to do with debatable facts and everything to do with tone.

      I hope the economy improves and I hope we all live prosperous lives without a depression or hyper-inflation. I hope terrorism subsides. And I hope Tea Party people can go back to raising their families instead of defending their childrens’ future. My original comments were made because I see unmistakable signs of us going Greece. I happen to believe that the recent riots in Europe were caused by governments making promises they could not keep. You and Cokie must believe that the US and several States can not only keep all their financial promises but take on more entitlements. After all, we can just raise taxes on the rich, or tanning salons or somebody I guess. For proof look at all the studies you can trot out to show you are right.

      So, according to Cokie’s side, it has to be meanness, pettiness, selfishness and racism on our part that makes us oppose her or the President. On top of that, we are susceptible to Limbaugh because we are not as educated or as well informed as her. Her side went to an Ivy. We went to community college. If she reads the Constitution she’s concerned about human rights. But, if we read the Constitution it must mean we are part of some hate-spewing militia group. Her faith in government is thoughtful. Our faith in free markets is childishly naive.

      What else could explain her refusal to take our concerns about the future seriously and attribute them to some petty bigotry.

      That’s why our tone is important but not the tone of the Left. That’s why it’s ok to take more from taxpayers but criminal to take from a union. That’s why it’s ok to call concerned citizens “teabaggers” and racists but calling President Obama a socialist is over-the-top hate speech. That’s why it’s ok to advocate for the policing of talk radio and conservative blogs but not the New York Times editorial page.

      Of course, it could not be possible that someone has brain-washed Cokie or that her critical thinking skills aren’t as sharp as she fancies. And it could not be possible that her adversaries have read, not only Marx, Engels and Keynes, but also Bastiat, Friedman, Hayak and Sowell, in addition to the Federalist Papers or history of rights theories. It’s simply not possible that our side has its share of well-meaning, educated and intelligent people. No. Impossible!

      And if some of us dare to join a group to protest policy or to advocate for lower taxes and spending, my betters are shocked, shocked! Don’t we teabaggers know that only the Left is allowed to protest? Only the Left’s agenda is sacred. Wanting Constitutionally limited government is EXTREMISM! Wanting government control of auto companies, banks and medicine is just reasonable. Union pay and benefits are a matter of rights. But we must be mentally ill or racists or something to want to keep more of the money WE earn.

      No problem, thanks to the fact that our concerns are not philosophical or informed but, rather, superficial and petty, we’ll all go back under our rocks when Pres. Obama gets us all those jobs in alternative energy he’s been promising. Bread and circuses for the dirty mob. That or we’ll be sent to the gulag. We racists deserve that.

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      • Liberty,

        Thanks for the reply.

        There are plenty of conflicting analyses of private versus public pay. Let’s leave it alone, as you say.

        Real quickly, on the issue of tax rates, marginal tax rates are at a post-WW II low. Up until Kennedy, they were about 91% or so (from my memory only) and were lowered to 70%, then under Reagan went down even further, until they were raised in 1993 under Clinton, which produced surpluses. They were cut again in 2001 and 2003, and along with a couple of wars, unfunded, and the Homeland Security behemoth, unfunded, Medicare Part D, unfunded, those tax cuts have helped—helped—cause our deficit problems. (And I don’t remember any tea party mania during the Bush years.)

        Payroll taxes have remained relatively high, despite the temporary cut in effect this year. But the truth is that if you look at revenues since about 1980 or so, Americans are paying less in taxes today than then. Thus, our problems.

        In any case, I want to address your criticism of the Roberts’ column. You wrote:

        So, according to Cokie’s side, it has to be meanness, pettiness, selfishness and racism on our part that makes us oppose her or the President. On top of that, we are susceptible to Limbaugh because we are not as educated or as well informed as her. Her side went to an Ivy. We went to community college. If she reads the Constitution she’s concerned about human rights. But, if we read the Constitution it must mean we are part of some hate-spewing militia group. Her faith in government is thoughtful. Our faith in free markets is childishly naive.

        You’re a smart person and you know good and well that no one is saying that all of Obama’s tea party critics are petty or selfish or racists or naive. That’s absurd. What some of us are saying is that Limbaugh and those like him count on the ignorance of their listeners to execute their money-making strategy of liberal-bashing and are poisoning the well of discourse. And if you don’t think there is a strong racial component (a component, not the whole thing) to the off-the-chart anti-Obama sentiment out there, then you are mistaken. Of course, there is.

        Now, I know that there are ignorant people who vote for Democrats, and there are some people on the left who are mean-spirited bigots. That’s not the point here. It is that Limbaugh and Beck reach millions of people every day and that makes them more important than obscure leftists who shout that Republicans are Nazis. There simply isn’t anyone comparable to Limbaugh and Beck and Hannity and so on, in terms of their demagogic appeal to large audiences. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be worth writing about. And that’s the main point.

        As for the “teabagger” term, as a description of the movement, it was originated by a teapartier, by the way. And I have stopped using the term out of respect for those reasonable folks in the movement who have finally got the joke but are offended by it. I can’t remember the last time I used it.

        In any case, I want to say that I don’t think merely referring to Obama as a socialist is “over-the-top hate speech.” It’s just nonsensical, that’s all. Obama is a bleeding-heart capitalist, like most Democrats, so it’s really false to call him a socialist—unless anyone who believes in a social safety net can be called a socialist (which, in this sense, I, and likely you, are socialists, too, which is okay with me). But when someone calls the President a Kenyan Marxist or Communist, that is over the top, whether or not it is accurate to call it “hate speech.” And when Limbaugh claims that Obama wants America to fail, that he wants to destroy it, then are we just suppose to ignore that, even though it is broadcast to millions of adoring dittoheads? Huh?

        Also, I don’t know one single lefty who resented the act of protesting by teapartiers, only the quality of the content often heard at those events. Such content as this, which you wrote:

        Only the Left’s agenda is sacred. Wanting Constitutionally limited government is EXTREMISM! Wanting government control of auto companies, banks and medicine is just reasonable.

        Government control of auto companies? That’s false. The companies are running themselves. And the auto bailout was begun under that well-known lefty, George W. Bush.

        Banks? False, once more. As liberals know all too well, the banks are running themselves and are back to robbing us all over again.

        Medicine? The biggest laugher of all: Obama, instead of putting in place a real public health care plan, has merely doubled down on the private, employer-based insurance system. Some socialist he turned out to be.

        These kind of misstatements of reality are what we lefties complain about. It’s hard to give credence to views so far removed from the way things are. And it’s hard to have a reasonable debate with someone who, like you I’m sure, really and earnestly believe such things. The problem for me is, why do you earnestly believe them?

        It would be one thing if President Obama had fought for and won a single-payer health care system. Then you could say government is taking over the system and I would have to agree. It would be one thing if Obama were telling General Motors or Chrysler how to run their companies on a daily basis. Then you could say he took over auto companies and I would have to agree. The same with banks. Surely, you know that liberals are furious with Obama for what they see as capitulation, for the most part, to banking interests, right? Did you ever ask yourself why are liberals so mad at him for that? How could he be a socialist and have a lot of lefties upset with him?

        Finally, you wrote:

        Bread and circuses for the dirty mob. That or we’ll be sent to the gulag. We racists deserve that.

        There you go again. Gulag? Nice commie reference. Racists? Did anyone call you a racist above? Here is what I wrote at the end of the original piece:

        Meanwhile, there’s no doubt that much of the angst in America is related to the sluggish economy and its slow resurrection from its near-death experience caused by over-exposure to Republican economics.

        But there is also no doubt that what is fueling the enthusiasm of many, many voters who can’t wait to stick a fork in President Obama this fall and in 2012 is a fear of this strange black man, a fear began and perpetuated by white culture-war conservative commentators and politicians, whose fortunes depend on keeping alive the idea that Obama is not one of us—not one of us white Christian Americans.

        Obviously, you resent expression above because you don’t fall into the group of “many, many voters” who I think have a problem with Obama’s race or his cultural significance. That’s good.

        And I realize that using those terms are somewhat weaselly. But I don’t know how else to characterize it. As I said, there are anti-Obama folks who are racists; there are anti-Obama folks whose rhetoric, if not racist, is racially-tainted; there are anti-Obama folks out there who have a misplaced fear of what they think Obama stands for, particularly in terms of the overthrow of white cultural dominance.

        But it’s no better for you to deny such things (if you are) as it would be for me to claim that all anti-Obama folks are racists, which, of course, I don’t believe. So, if you could recognize that at least some relatively significant part of the angst over Obama has a lot to do with his race or a perceived threat to the white-European moorings of our country (see Pat Buchanan’s writings), then perhaps we could make some headway. It’s just that it is not all economics. (For your information, I have spent much more time on my blog critiquing the economic claims of tea partiers than anything else.)

        As for me, I appreciate your efforts to at least communicate your frustrations with the way you think we liberals view tea partiers. I admit there are unfair characterizations from time to time, but nothing compared to the right-wing media machine.

        Duane

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  6. ansonburlingame

     /  February 25, 2011

    To all,

    Interesting discussion.

    First the “graph”!!! Holy Cow??? The only thing that I took away from reviewing it is that “things go up, then down then back up again. Today it seems we have gone down quite far and the “going back up” is problematic.

    Almost all Americans, based on 234 + years of history expect “bad” graphs to go back up. Things will get better, my kids will have a better life than I had, etc. That is the American way for our entire history.

    Well ask Egyptians or Romans or Greeks or Germans, or Japanese, or Russians how it feels when curves DO NOT go back up. Someday our American curves will not go back up if history is a guide. Those curves will go down and stay down for America and someone else’s curves will go up.

    Muslims for example may well believe their curves are in the going up stage and at least as measured by popular unrest in the Arab world today, they may be correct. The concensus in America today is that the unemployment curve may well “stay down” for a long time now.

    I believe and have written about that belief that the flat world is driving that curve in America today as shown by a $5,000 per month worker trying to compete with a $300 per month employee, world wide. I still await a liberal response to that observation.

    I do feel strongly today that for damn sure Democrats have no idea how to start our curves and keep them on track going up in the coming decades. I am not sure at all that Republicans have a solution as well from observing the trends in the decade 2000-2010.

    I DO KNOW for sure that if the debt and deficit curves continue as PREDICTED by President Obama himself, prevail, then the “cliff” looms ever closer.

    Because Republicans do NOT produce multi-thousand page budget documents today, I have no idea how their predictions might look or for sure “pan out”.

    Now look at the debt and deficit curves just before and immediately after WWII. Show me a way to make our future curves to look like that and I will back off my “cliff” concerns.

    But I see NO PROPOSALs, budgets, political plans, to make that happen or come even close today.

    And that scares the living hell out of me, not necessaryily for myself, but for sure for my kids and grandkids.

    And all the naysayers on the left that suggest such will never happen, baloney. Show me why is my challenge to you.

    I do know however that simply cutting the living hell out of spending may well be a quick fix for the debt and deficit curve.

    I have observed “personal” financial curves such as our national curves today with different numbers at stake. And invariably the successful “fixes” were to cut the hell out of spending, on a personal level.

    But liberals say…….?

    Anson

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  7. Anson,

    I’m sorry you are so pessimistic about America’s fortunes. I can’t go there with you. I don’t know who you think will take our place as the world’s preeminent power, but I don’t see any nation capable of it.

    In any case, I am in St. Louis at a union conference, which I’m sure delights you, so I don’t have time to answer thoroughly.

    More later.

    Duane

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  8. ansonburlingame

     /  February 27, 2011

    Well Duane,

    I am sure you and yours in St. Louis this weekend are trying to figure out how to win the public mind, nationally, over what is going on in Wisconsin. I doubt that you are discussing tactics to further INCREASE union wages and benefits at least for the moment, though of course that is your ultimate goal for union workers.

    I look forward to reading new blogs with new strategies in your current and future efforts. In doing so I will remain focused on things like liberty, competition in a flat world, and other matters along those lines

    Maybe if we together can focus on the long term and do something constructive about education, we will find SOME common ground, MAYBE. But remember when I focus on education I look only at the knowledged gained by students and then used constructively for society.

    You might well just argue for the unions, teachers in this case. I hope not.

    Now please, when you have time, read Taking a Step Back to more clearly understand the basis of my pessimisim.

    Anson

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  9. ansonburlingame

     /  February 27, 2011

    duane,

    As for who will take out place if we “fall”, I have no idea. Probably no one. Look what happened when Rome fell, finally.

    It took over 1000 years for any kind of progress in human affairs to regain its footing after Rome did it not?

    What form of government ultimately arose out of those ashes on a global scale? I would argue ENGLAND and the “philosophy” of the “English speaking people” which we perpetuate for now.

    Go read the introduction of Churchhill’s “History of the English Speaking People” for a premier on that subject. From the Magna Charter to today’s Constitution, do you have any better evidence of such progress from any others over a long period of time.

    In recent time Das Capital was the approach espoused by many. Today it is the Koran for many, in it’s most despicable interpretations by some.

    Don’t like either of those philosophical forms to live, fine. Now go try Socialism, a la Europe today.

    Any other alternatives for now?

    Anson

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  10. ansonburlingame

     /  February 27, 2011

    Opps,

    One last point. Obviously you and yours do not LIKE our own Constitution AS WRITTEN. Thus you “interprete it” to meet you demands.

    I’ll stick for now with our WRITTEN Constitution, as amended over time some 25 times. Want to make it “better”, the Constitution, fine. Now go change it, not twist it for your concerns.

    ALL MEN are CREATED equal. I will gladly “give you ” women as well without any constitutional changes. But where such “created” men and women (and how now we define “created” in the abortion debate) ultimately wind up is NOT a constitutional guarantee as I read the document. And government should have little say in the matter as well, in my view.

    So there we depart. And if we keep on departing in that philosophical debate well, the Dark Ages happened once before, did they not?

    Anson

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    • Anson,

      Too late tonight (this morning) to deal with your straw-man arguments. I only hope I can get to sleep before I slit my own throat out of frustration.

      Duane

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  11. ansonburlingame

     /  February 28, 2011

    I have a very sharp knife to lend in any effort to restore sanity to liberal ideas!!!

    Lovingly,

    anson

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    • Anson,

      I would assume you would lend me a dull knife, to make it all that more painful. It would end all too quickly with a sharp one. Don’t get me wrong, as you tend to do, you would misrepresent the knife as a sharp one, but when I tried to use it, I would find it had lost its edge.

      Duane

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  12. ansonburlingame

     /  February 28, 2011

    Well duane,

    Can we at least agree it would not be a “straw” knife? See my Straw Man blog.

    Anson

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    • Anson,

      First, I read your post. A straw man argument is a case in which a person misrepresents an opponent’s argument, usually for the purpose of making that argument easier to attack. For instance, I may say that some tea partiers are racially motivated. You then might restate my argument by saying that I said all tea partiers are racists, which is easy to attack and defeat. In other words, you created a defenseless straw man and then set about defeating him. You do that to me sometimes, though not always. I’m guilty of it, also. The best at it on television is Glenn Beck, who I have called the Braveheart of straw man warfare.

      Second, you said I was wrong in my quotations of tax rates. I gave the commenter those numbers off the top of my head (as I stated). And I don’t expect an apology, but for the most part I was right, just from memory. With the exception of five years from 1988-1992, the current top marginal tax rates are lower than any time since 1932. Go here and look for yourself. Or here is the table:

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