Why Democrats Should Thank Phyllis Schlafly

Yesterday I thanked Bill O’Reilly for contributing to the chaotic mess that is now the Republican Party. Today I want to thank the venerable Phyllis Schlafly.

Schlafly, born right here in Missouri, will be 90 years old this year. She hit the national political radar way back in 1964, after writing a book supporting the candidacy of Barry Goldwater. Conservapedia—the right-wing version of Wikipedia—says that the book, A Choice, Not An Echo,

detailed how the liberal “Rockefeller Republican” wing of the Republican Party had manipulated the Republican Party’s choice of nominees in several elections to nominate people like Wendell Willkie and Dwight Eisenhower, and called on conservatives to rally against the liberal wing and offer a true conservative for the nomination.

Sound familiar? Yes. After 50 years these people are still fighting the Republican establishment. You gotta hand it to ‘em, they never give up!

By the way, speaking of Conservapedia (which calls itself a “trustworthy encyclopedia”), it was founded by Schlafly’s son, Andrew. Reactionary politics runs in the family.

File:Phyllis Schlafly by Gage Skidmore.jpgThe fight over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s made Schlafly famous. In 1972 she founded Eagle Forum, an anti-feminist, evangelical Christian, “pro-family” (!) lobbying group that does all it can to make the country safe for white people who vote Republican. A fact that leads me to why Democrats should thank her for her latest efforts.

Last year, after Republicans began talking—and so far it has all been talk—about being kinder to Latinos, Schlafly said on a conservative radio show that it was “a great myth” that Hispanics who come into the country would vote for Republicans. “There is not the slightest bit of evidence that they’re gonna vote Republican,” she said. Then she added:

The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes…the white voters who didn’t vote in the last election and there are millions of them. I think when you have an establishment-run nomination system, they give us a series of losers, which they’ve given us with Dole and McCain and Romney, and they use people who don’t connect with the grass roots. So, I think the propagandists are leading us down the wrong path. There is not any evidence at all that these Hispanics coming in from Mexico will vote Republican.

Well, well, well. So much is revealed in that short comment.

First, how strange it is that a “pro-family” evangelical Christian, leading hordes of other like-minded followers of Jesus, doesn’t really give a damn about Hispanic families because some significant portion of them might want to vote for Democrats. Is that what Jesus would do? Or is that only what GOP Jesus would do?

Second, because lots of folks out there still don’t believe the Tea Party-controlled GOP is consciously fashioning itself as the last refuge of white folks worried about their cultural dominance, Schlafly does us all a favor by making it clear what, or whom, the Republican Party stands for: “white voters.” In August of last year she came out in favor of Republican-enacted voting restrictions in North Carolina, the logic of which Miranda Blue of Right Wing Watch explained:

The new law is not politically motivated and won’t keep Democrats from voting, Schlafly claims…before adding that the law’s main virtue is that it is politically motivated and will keep Democrats from voting.

And if Schlafly had stopped there, she would have done enough to deserve the thanks of liberals and Democrats around the country for shining a bright light on conservative motivations. But nope. She makes another contribution to understanding what makes right-wingers tick, especially as the debate heats up in the Republican Party over what should be done about our broken immigration system. Eagle Forum has published a new report:

eagle forum immigration report

It should come as no surprise that Eagle Forum’s report reached exactly the same conclusions about immigration that Phyllis Schlafly had already reached. And I suppose it should come as no surprise that the Tea Party right has embraced those conclusions. The first publication I saw feature the anti-immigration report was National Review, which posted an article by Schlafly highlighting Eagle Forum’s America-shattering finding:

There is nothing controversial about the report’s conclusion that both Hispanics and Asians, who account for about three-fourth of today’s immigrants, generally agree with the Democrats’ big-government agenda. It is for this reason that they vote two-to-one for Democrats.

And that is what is driving the right’s nuttiness on the immigration issue. She says,

While it seems that much of the Republican-party leadership has not actually looked at the policy preferences of immigrants, everyone else who has looked at the polls comes to the conclusion that significant majorities of immigrants and their children are big-government liberals.

Mind you, Schlafly is not just talking about undocumented folks here. She is talking about all immigrants, those who come here legally and those who don’t. And she is talking about Latinos and Asian-Americans. But wait. Don’t go and get the idea that she is just picking on pigmented people here. She wants you to know that ain’t so:

Immigration in general — not race — is the issue. The limited data for other immigrants — including Europeans and Muslims — indicate that they, too, generally hold views well to the left of the average American voter. In fact, as discussed in our new report, for reasons largely outside the control of conservatives, immigrants and their children gravitate to left-wing parties in almost all Western countries. The problem for conservatives is not race or ethnicity but immigration as such.

So, you see? Race isn’t the issue at all, despite what she said last year:

The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes…the white voters who didn’t vote in the last election and there are millions of them.

Schlafly really isn’t fooling anyone, except those already fooled. This is all about the browning of America, a phenomenon that is increasingly driving white conservatives crazy, and a phenomeon that can’t be stopped, although Schlafly is adamant there is a way to stop it:

Our new report makes clear that for conservatives, there is no issue more important than reducing the number of immigrants allowed into the country each year. If legal immigration is not reduced, it will be nearly impossible for conservatives to be successful on the issues we care about.

If the Republican party is to remain a party that is conservative and nationally competitive, it must defeat amnesty and any proposed increases in legal immigration. Further, we must work to significantly reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country from the current level of 1.1 million a year. There is nothing inevitable about immigration. The level and selection criteria can be changed by Congress.

Looking at the political motivation of the groups pushing higher immigration and amnesty, it’s obvious that the Democrats promote large-scale immigration because it produces more Democratic votes. If the Republican party is to remain conservative and nationally competitive, it must defeat amnesty and proposed increases in legal immigration.

That last line, which was (accidentally?) repeated in those concluding paragraphs, is a problem for the Republican Party. The truth is that if the GOP wants to remain “nationally competitive,” it has to abandon the kind of conservatism that people like Phyllis Schlafly are promoting. And the so-called establishment Republicans, who are only slightly less extreme at present, know that, which is what makes this intraparty fight so enjoyable to watch.

And that is why I am grateful that this nearly 90-year-old conservative activist from St. Louis is still around to do her part.

[photo: Gage Skidmore]

Sometimes Liberals Overreact Too, And Miss The Real Problem

So, I tune in to HuffPo today and on its famously sensationalistic front page I find this:

richard cohen headerWow! I thought. Who the heck did that at The Washington Post? So, I clicked on the link and found this headline:

Richard Cohen Writes Yet Another Racist Column

Dammit, Richard! Can’t you behave? Didn’t you learn anything the last time, and the time before that? Liberals are very sensitive about such things and you should know better.

Because I don’t often read Cohen’s columns, I thought I would at least pay him the courtesy of reading his “racist column,” before I pronounced him a racist. That’s fair, isn’t it? I mean, even though the mothership of left-leaning news and opinion aggregators has pronounced him a bad guy, I want to be fair and see why that is. I’m funny that way.

It took me only one sentence to find out how HuffPo missed the boat on Cohen’s column. The most offensive thing in the piece had to be the parenthetical in the opening sentence:

The day after Chris Christie, the cuddly moderate conservative, won a landslide reelection as the Republican governor of Democratic New Jersey, I took the Internet Express out to Iowa, surveying its various newspapers, blogs and such to see how he might do in the GOP caucuses, won last time by Rick Santorum, neither cuddly nor moderate.

Chris Christie is a “cuddly moderate conservative”? Are you kidding me? Can you see how awesomely awful that description is? There’s not really much of anything cuddly or moderate about Christie’s ideology, as we have previously discussed on this blog, but compared to a non-cuddly and non-moderate nut like Rick Santorum, he looks that way to some observers. I sort of understand the reason for that spasm of false relativity among straight news reporters—they like the guy a lot—but for left-leaning columnists, calling Christie a moderate conservative represents an unacceptably distorted view of the landscape.

Just because the right-wing of the Republican Party is moving further and further into both absurdity and obscurity, doesn’t mean that rigid conservatives like Chris Christie get to be called “moderate.” I’ve also recently heard people refer to Ronald Reagan as a moderate conservative, a description that is also false. Trust The Erstwhile Conservative on this one, richard cohenbut as one of the Gipper’s biggest fans in the old days, I didn’t cheer him on because he was a moderate. Just the opposite. Even though he had to, of necessity, make deals with Democrats, he remained a die-hard conservative at heart. So, it’s just plain wrong to put the word moderate in the same sentence as either Reagan or Christie. And the editors of HuffPo, if they wanted to go after Cohen, should have criticized that gaffe.

But nope, the focus of the sensational headlines was Cohen’s alleged racism. Well, let’s take a look at the offending passage, cited in the HuffPo story (and, by now, widely excerpted and criticized all over the leftish sites):

Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

These comments were labeled “incendiary” by HuffPo. Huh? Incendiary? Hardly. The worst thing about this paragraph, when it is read in the context of the entire column, is that he definitively, without any qualification, says, “Today’s GOP is not racist.” We know for a fact that some fraction of the GOP is racist, although no one thinks the entire party is. But that’s not the point. Some liberals, as far as I can tell, are calling Cohen a racist mostly because of his use of the phrase, “People with conventional views,” which, they say, is wrong because conventional views on interracial marriage have changed. The HuffPo piece cites a Gallup poll showing 87 percent approval for such marriages (30 years ago it was at 43 percent; 50 years ago it was less than 10 percent).

Now, I don’t see how misusing the term “conventional” makes one a racist, and even a cursory reading of the column should have made it clear to anyone that Cohen is attacking the Tea Party and its anachronistic views: “If this is the future of the GOP, then it’s in the past.” And Cohen ends his piece with some advice to Chris Christie about not becoming a Tea Party guy who could win the rabidly conservative Iowa caucuses because then the “Joisey” governor would become “anathema to the rest of us.”

There wasn’t a damn thing racist about Cohen’s column. Essentially he is discussing what I have often labeled “white cultural angst,” the feeling among conservative Christian palefaces that they are losing their traditional stranglehold on the country. When Cohen says these folks don’t much recognize the country these days, he’s right about that and he’s not a racist for saying so.

But even though there was no racism in the column, there was something very offensive about it, at least for anyone who has looked at Christie’s conservatism objectively, without comparing it to the worst elements of his party. The offense is in assuming that a President Christie would hold policy positions that would be all that different from your average teapartier. Besides Christie’s record, as evidence for my claim I submit to you the following famous quote uttered in 2011 at that annual gathering of wingnuts known as the Conservative Political Action Conference:

If we don’t run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we’ll lose.

That wasn’t some milquetoast moderate who said that. It was the female version of Rush Limbaugh, the mean-spirited, liberal-hating Ann Coulter. She later told Fox, her home away from home, “I don’t care if [Chris Christie] wants to run, his country needs him, it appears.”

That was in 2011. Now, I admit that it is hard to take Ann Coulter seriously as a pundit, but many right-wingers love her, which is why they have made her wealthy by buying her books, and why Fox frequently books her as a guest on TV and radio. Thus, she makes noise in the right’s echo chamber that some hear as music, even if it’s mostly chin music. In any case, Coulter’s love for Christie wasn’t just a whim in 2011. In May of this year—this year, after the 2012 Christie-Obama love fest that pissed off nearly every teapartier in the country—she had this exchange with Sean Hannity on the radio:

COULTER: I’ve told you before: I have eyes only for Chris Christie.

HANNITY: Your buddy Chris Christie is out there sucking up to Obama this week. Don’t defend him.

COULTER: There seems to be a concerted movement by both liberals and conservatives to lie about Christie and make him seem more liberal than he really is.

Ann Coulter may be a lot of things, a lot of unseemly things, but she knows that Chris Christie, should he get elected president, would favor the kind of conservatism that Ted Cruz would love, especially if Christie governed with a Republican House and Senate. Oh, I know that lately she has fallen out of love with the New Jersey governor (she tweeted in June, “@GovChristie’s dead to me”) and withdrawn her support, but to further prove my point, look who she supports now:

coulter on cruz

Case closed. If Ted Cruz and Chris Christie are both suitable candidates for a liberal-hater like Ann Coulter, then obviously there are no significant ideological differences between them. And if Richard Cohen deserves any criticism from the left for his recent column, it is for assuming Chris Christie is some kind of moderate conservative we can all live with.

Because a lot of folks would find it very hard to live under President Christie and a Tea Party-dominated House and Senate.

White Guilt And The Black Guy In The White’s House

Last night Sean Hannity referred to the IRS mess as the “IRS enemies-list scandal.” The only thing you can say about that particular phrasing is that the man who said it is, well, nuts. He’s nuts with Obama-hate. He and other Republicans will not rest until they turn Barack Obama into a darker version, literally and figuratively, of a White House-fleeing Richard Nixon.

And speaking of nuts and Obama-hate, yesterday Rush Limbaugh, speaking of all the non-scandals going on, said,

The real danger to me, though, is not one or two rogue employees at the IRS or the NSA or the CIA. The real danger is having a rogue administration. And we do, I think. This is the primary challenge that we face.

Yes, that’s nutty. But not as nutty as something else Limbaugh presented to millions of right-wing worshipers:

obama regime

In his IQ-draining monologue, Limbaugh advanced his long-held and long-articulated theory of how it is that Barack Obama is able to remain relatively popular and get away with all these scandals and governmental malfeasance and socialist destruction:

White guilt.  Race…In addition to everything else in the Limbaugh Theorem, the fact that there is so much guilt, white guilt that’s behind the election of Obama, that that same white guilt is simply not gonna show up and hold him responsible.  Not you and I.  I mean, we voted against Obama, so we don’t have white guilt, but there’s a lot of white voters that voted for Obama simply because of racial reasons, hoping to get rid of racism or wanting people know they weren’t racists or whatever, but it’s all oriented towards how Shelby Steele has described it, and I think brilliantly, white guilt. 

…It’s why he’s not going to be held responsible for anything.  The whole reason for his existence — and he’s exploiting it, by the way, and knows it — is that enough people in this country feel so guilty over slavery and the civil rights violations that whatever is necessary to assuage that, they will do. 

I mentioned to you two weeks ago, maybe longer, that, in my view — and I’d like to be wrong about this — but I can’t foresee any circumstance where the first African-American president be removed from office.  Can you tell me who in the Congress is gonna make that move?  Give me a member of the House of Representatives that is gonna make that move and then be joined by enough other members to make it a reality?  Tell me who’s gonna do it?  Nobody’s gonna do it.  And why aren’t they gonna do it?  If it were ever justified, if it were ever something that were truly constitutionally justified, still not gonna happen because of race. 

There you have it. Barack Obama is able to destroy America because there are too many white people out there paralyzed with guilt over how their ancestors treated black folks. If we white folks could only get rid of our white guilt the way Rush Limbaugh has, we would see the world as he sees it.

Enlightening commentary from the most popular pundit in conservative media, a man whom Republicans dare not challenge.

Why Conservatives Need Rush Limbaugh’s Permission To Pass Immigration Reform

There are a lot of conservatives out there in denial about the racist component of the fierce and sometimes weird opposition to President Obama. I’ve written about it often, and while I obviously don’t think all or even most of the opponents of Barack Obama are outright racists, there is a rather large group of folks on the right, the white right, who resent the browning of America.

Along those lines, Mother Jones, which has been doing great journalistic work, published today this article:

mother jones and white nationalists

You can read the article and draw your own conclusions, but I have argued that a lot of the fuel that fires up the irrational hate-Obama movement is a fear that white culture—whatever that is—is being overrun by a foreign one, or many foreign ones.

Defending a white nationalist group, one of the conservatives featured in the Mother Jones piece, James B. Taylor, said:

You’ve got the NAACP and B’nai B’rith. Why not something for white people?

That nationalist group that Taylor was defending is this one:

npi

Here is part of the NPI’s “about” page:

npi about

Look at that nice white American family, those beautiful white children. The white culture these images are meant to represent is what a lot of people on the right are fighting for, indeed, have been fighting for long before anyone ever heard of Barack Obama.

And although the cultural angst that some white folks feel didn’t start with our black president, unlike any American president before him he has the pigmented credentials that serve so well to feed the fear and paranoia that is today a part of the conservative movement.

Speaking of that fear and paranoia, isn’t it ironic that Republican Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents were Cubans and whose ethnicity Republicans are strategically, if not cynically, using to appeal to a broader base of Americans, today had to go before none other than Rush Limbaugh, the whitest of white Obama-hating conservatives, to essentially get his blessing on immigration reform.

And Limbaugh during his interview on Tuesday seemed to give Rubio permission by saying,

Well, what you are doing is admirable and noteworthy.

Ain’t that nice?

But Limbaugh asked him after that :

LIMBAUGH: This legislation that you’ve admitted is not written, but you’re here on the radio today, you’ve been doing a lot of media, who are you trying to reach with this?

RUBIO:  In terms of the –

LIMBAUGH:  The bill.  You talking Hispanics, illegals, are you talking the American people, who are you talking to?

Ahh. You see? “The American people” and “Hispanics” are not really the same thing in the mind of Rush Limbaugh, a man so powerful in the Republican Party that its most prominent Hispanic leader feels the need to get the radio host’s permission to pass immigration laws.

“As Christianity Fades, The Birth Rate Falls And Third World Immigration Surges”

The White establishment is now the minorityThe demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore.”

—Bill O’Reilly, November 6, 2012

y now we’ve all noticed that some of the adults in the Republican Party are talking about the party doing some soul-searching, making it more appealing to women, Latinos, young people, and, yes, even African-Americans.

These Republican grownups, folks like political gurus Steve Schmidt and Mike Murphy, realize the electorate is changing before their eyes and know that Republicans have to change too.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Not only are the extremists in control of the Republican Party not going to change—can anyone imagine Rush Limbaugh embracing immigration reform, for God’s sake?—it makes no sense for them to change, given what it is that really animates most of them.

There are two major forces that serve to energize the base of the Republican Party today. One is fundamentalist or quasi-fundamentalist religion, which is waging war against Constitution-blessed secularism. The other is an increasingly acute cultural anxiety over the browning of America.

Those two forces meet and merge in the mind of Pat Buchanan, who wrote three years ago:

In what sense are we one nation and one people anymore? For what is a nation if not a people of a common ancestry, faith, culture and language, who worship the same God, revere the same heroes, cherish the same history, celebrate the same holidays, and share the same music, poetry, art and literature?

…The European-Christian core of the country that once defined us is shrinking, as Christianity fades, the birth rate falls and Third World immigration surges.

You see, to people like Pat Buchanan—I give him credit for honesty—a diverse nation is not a nation at all. True Americans must all have European blood and belief. All others represent an existential threat to the country.

About one-half of all American children under five have Buchanan skin, a fact that makes Buchanan’s thin cultural skin crawl. And there is evidence that Americans are slowly embracing the secular nation that our Constitution establishes.

Thus it is that those in the Republican Party who care deeply and disturbingly about the threat to the “European-Christian core of the country” —those misguided but earnest folks who nominated Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, for instance—are not going to tolerate any talk of moderating the party’s positions on the social issues.

The Republican Party platform in 2016 will look much like it did this year, a document that reeks of uncompromising extremism, such as the party’s stance on reproductive rights and the status of homosexuals. The party primary process will continue to produce extremist true-believers who honor that extremist document.

Because people who are moved by faith and fear, folks who are on a mission from God or who are defending their waning cultural dominance, will not be deterred by an unfavorable election outcome. They will not be coaxed or coerced into compromise by people in their party who don’t share their enthusiasm for lost-cause crusades.

So it is that we will continue to see Tea Party-types dominate the Republican Party until such time that there is nothing much left to dominate, at least on the national scene. Republicans will always have a voice at the local and state level, even a voice in the Congress, but with uncompromising crusading conservatives in charge of its national prospects, it will one day become irrelevant as a governing national party.

When that happens, when the browning of America forces Republicans into waging only regional and state and local battles, then perhaps the adults can take the party back.

And America would be all the better for it.

Obama Doesn’t Have A White Problem, Whites Have An Obama Problem

Weeks ago, while a group of us were out registering voters on behalf of Claire McCaskill and Barack Obama, I knocked on a door in a low-income housing complex here in Joplin.

A young woman greeted me. There was the noise of a little one in the background, and I heard the voice of a young man, presumably the woman’s husband or boyfriend. I told her why I was there and she said she wasn’t interested. I turned away and walked down the stairs and on to the next apartment.

Through their open patio door someone heard the man say:

You should have told ‘em we ain’t votin’ for no damn nigger.

That wasn’t the first time I ran into such bigotry while doing the little work I did on the 2008 and the current campaign.

I pass on that story not because I think it is typical of the opposition to Barack Obama this campaign season or last. I pass it on because it is part of that opposition, part of the equation of the 2008 election, part of the reason the 2010 midterm election brought too many bigoted extremists into power.

And it is part of why President Obama is having a hard time convincing a majority of voters that he is a better choice this time than a man who has constantly lied during this campaign, who has misrepresented both himself and Mr. Obama, who has abandoned all pretense of honesty.

And the bigotry we found that evening in Joplin is a large part of why there still is a large number of Americans, mostly Republicans, who don’t believe Obama is either Christian or American, who don’t believe he sees or loves America the way they think—they imagine—they do.

How big a part does such bigotry, such racism play? Beats me. I just don’t know. But it’s a part. It needs to be accounted for. It needs to be addressed. As does more mild forms of race-based opposition to the President.

An AP poll released on Monday showed a depressing result:

In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.

And Hispanics don’t escape the withering eye of whites either:

In an AP survey done in 2011, 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57 percent in the implicit test.

All of that has real electoral consequences:

Overall, the survey found that by virtue of racial prejudice, Obama could lose 5 percentage points off his share of the popular vote in his Nov. 6 contest against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But Obama also stands to benefit from a 3 percentage point gain due to pro-black sentiment, researchers said. Overall, that means an estimated net loss of 2 percentage points due to anti-black attitudes.

In an election as close as this one, 2 percentage points may as well be 20.

Before I go on, I want to note another finding by the AP study, a finding that should disturb those of us who believe we are on the side of the angels:

The poll finds that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans. Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent).

So we Democrats have some work to do. No, given we are Democrats, we have a lot of work to do.

As I write this, the latest Obama-Romney pre-election polling confirms the disturbing racial polarization extant in America. While it’s not surprising that a Democrat will, once again, not receive the support of a majority of white voters—none has since Lyndon Johnson in 1964—it is, at least to me, a little surprising that, after Mr. Obama’s rather robust showing among white voters in 2008 (43%, two points more than John Kerry in 2004), a Washington Post/ABC poll now indicates that only 38% of whites support Obama, while 59% support Romney.

One has to ask why Obama has, according to the latest polling, kept or increased his numbers among blacks (95% in 2008) and Latinos (66% in 2008), who have been hurt more than whites by the sluggish recovery from the Great Recession, but lost a lot a ground among whites. Is it mere identity? Or is it that Romney, mostly through his surrogates, has subtly (and not so subtly) exploited white angst and turned off non-white voters? Come on. You know the answer to that.

But one seriously has to ask why it is that Obama performs so poorly among working class whites. Obama lost them by 18 points last time, and in 2010, House Democrats collectively lost working class whites by 30 points to the House Republicans, according to NPR. That reportedly was the largest margin since, uh, 1854, the year the Republican Party came into being. What is it among this group of folks that turns them off from Democrats, even white ones?

And Obama isn’t doing well particularly among white men, as this headline a few days ago from CBS demonstrates:

In 2008, white men represented about 36% of the electorate, according to exit polling, and John McCain got a whopping 57% of their vote, Obama only 41%. But Obama’s 41% was the best showing by a Democrat since 1976. Today, polling shows that Romney is leading by an unbelievable 65-32 margin. What accounts for that?

As I have said for more than three years now, what accounts for some of that, and what accounts for some of the lack of white support for Obama generally, is white angst, the feeling that the culture, dominated from the beginning by white faces, is slipping away.

Oh, don’t take my word for it. Or don’t take the word of a xenophobic Republican like Pat Buchanan, who has written extensively on the subject. Try the much respected Michael Barone, a conservative who worked for years at US News and World Report and who now, among other things, appears on Fox as a commentator and holds a job as senior political analyst for the right-wing rag Washington Examiner.

Barone wrote on National Review Online on Monday:

Why are whites more partisan than just about ever before? Maybe because they’re constantly being told that they’re headed toward becoming a minority of the electorate. Self-conscious minorities tend to vote more cohesively. Or because they’re the objects of racial discrimination in, among other things, university admissions, as documented by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor in their recent book, Mismatch. Republicans are often told that their party is headed toward minority status because of the rising numbers of heavily Democratic non-whites.

There it is, all you lurking conservatives who don’t want to admit it. Michael Barone, one of your own, defined the angst among white people and gave us a reason why that angst translates into votes for Romney, for perhaps the last great white hope.

All of which brings me back to that bigot in Joplin who called Barack Obama a racist name, knowing that we could hear him. Is he one of those white people who is experiencing the white angst I have written so much about these past three years? No, I don’t think so. He’s just a run-of-the-mill racist, a punk kid with a mind full of intolerance, a head full of hate. He would be an Obama-hater under any circumstances, even without the threat of losing cultural control.

But he is part of the problem, part of why there is such racial division in America. Unfortunately, the larger part of the problem, to a degree  not easily measurable, are those white folks who would never allow a stranger hear them call the President a nigger, or entertain in public the idea that their opposition is based on what Barack Obama represents.

But in the privacy of the voting booth, these white folks would cast a vote against him out of an unspoken, often unacknowledged, racial anxiety, but call it something else, something less offensive, something less revealing.

Whether President Obama wins another term, or whether Mitt Romney’s cynical strategy of secrecy, duplicity, mendacity, and subtle appeals to white anxiety is successful, the country will soon change. Demographics will see to that. America is browning, my friends.

And then Michael Barone’s excuse for white partisanship, “Maybe because they’re constantly being told that they’re headed toward becoming a minority of the electorate,” will be a reality.

He’s In Over His (Black) Head

First, look at this image, which I found on the Rush Limbaugh website the day after the first presidential debate:

See that determined white guy whippin’ that black man’s ass? That is the image that Obama-hating conservatives, particularly Obama-hating quasi-racists like Rush Limbaugh, have been begging for from their suspicious paleface champion, Mittens “The Truth” Romney.

The jubilance over Romney’s debate performance, for some on the right, is rooted in the fact that somebody finally put the Uppity Negro in his place.

Limbaugh explained on Thursday why the President lost the debate:

The guy’s a community organizer, an agitator.  He had no experience. He wasn’t prepared for this job ever.  He’s not prepared for this job now…Obama hasn’t been prepared ever for this job.  He’s not qualified.  It’s above his pay grade.  He is in over his head. 

I will translate the above: That trouble-making Negro is too dumb to be president.

Romney, who has never found it in him to criticize anything Limbaugh has said or done, has offered a version of the same thing several times:

…we’ve learned who Barack Obama is, what he’s capable of doing, that he’s over his head and he swimming in the wrong direction.

He too thinks the Negro is too dumb to be president. If you doubt me, read the context: “we’ve learned who Barack Obama is…”

John Sununu, the co-chair of Romney’s presidential campaign, a man who, if there is a hell, will have an entire ego-roasting chamber to himself, had this exchange on Thursday with Andrea Mitchell:

SUNUNU: What people saw last night, I think, was a president that revealed his incompetence, how lazy and detached he is…

MITCHELL: Governor, I want to give you a chance to maybe take it back. Did you really mean to call Barack Obama, the President of the United States, lazy?

SUNUNU: Yes. I think you saw him admit it the night before when he delivered the pizzas. He said, “You know they’re making me do this work.” He didn’t want to prepare for this debate. He’s lazy and disengaged.

So, President Obama is not only a dumb and incompetent Negro, he is a lazy and dumb and incompetent Negro, a charge Sununu has made before.

Thus it is that our president, a man who graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School—and another prominent if cartoonish Romney supporter, Donald Trump, has also openly questioned Mr. Obama’s education credentials—a man who was the first African-American to head Harvard’s Law Review, a man who taught constitutional law as a professor at the University of Chicago, a man who got into politics at the bottom and worked his way up to become the most powerful leader in the world, is really just an incarnation of all the stereotypes that racists harbor about black folks: they aren’t very bright, they don’t want to work hard, and they want to make life more difficult for whites.

And Romney’s loudest supporters have openly appealed to the angst behind those stereotypes without so much as a peep from him. And as his “over his head” comment suggests, that may be because Romney needs to use that appeal to racial angst to get whites to vote for him in historic proportions. Otherwise he has little chance to win.

As Ron Brownstein wrote:

Romney’s camp is focused intently on capturing at least 61 percent of white voters. That would provide him a slim national majority—so long as whites constitute at least 74 percent of the vote, as they did last time, and Obama doesn’t improve on his 80 percent showing with minorities.

That 61% “would equal the best performance ever for a Republican presidential challenger with that group of voters,” Brownstein says, which is why Romney can’t afford to alienate one single white voter, not to mention a buffoon like Limbaugh, who is a spokesman for white cultural angst.

But as sad as that reality is, there is coming a new one, albeit one that will be forced on the GOP:

Republican strategists clearly feel the weight of trying to assemble a national majority with so little support among minorities that they must win three in five whites. “This is the last time anyone will try to do this,” one said. A GOP coalition that relies almost entirely on whites could squeeze out one more narrow victory in November. But if Republicans can’t find more effective ways to bridge the priorities of their conservative core and the diversifying Next America, that weight will grow more daunting every year. 

“The Hounds Of Racism” Are Howling

As right-wingers begin to think the unthinkable, that Barack Hussein Obama just might serve another four years, we can expect the nastiness to escalate.

From The Washington Post:

RICHMOND — Virginia Republican Party officials on Tuesday ordered their Mecklenburg County affiliate to remove photos portraying President Obama as a witch doctor, a caveman and a thug from its Facebook page.

No racism there, right? The local GOP chairman initially refused to take down the photos, but I noticed today the Facebook page is dead. Defiant racists aren’t what they used to be, I suppose.

We’ve all seen the witch doctor photo, and here are the other two mentioned:

Classy stuff. But that’s just some rednecks in rural Virgina, so Republicans don’t want us to worry about it. It doesn’t reflect the party’s views about Mr. Obama, they say.

Okay. But maybe this does, from the lips of Romney surrogate Newt Gingrich:

He happens to be a partial, part-time president. He really is a lot like the substitute referees in the sense that he’s not a real president. I mean, he doesn’t do any of the things president do; he doesn’t worry about any of the things president’s do…he’s a false president…

Hmm. Not only is that disrespectful, but it sort of sounds like the old Georgian is calling our first African-American president a loafer. But that was on Tuesday. On Wednesday John Sununu, another Romney surrogate, clarified it for us, which I present from Fox “News”:

There. That’s better. The scary socialist Negro is lazy to boot!

As I always do in these cases, I will highlight with a box Romney’s response to such less-than-subtle racially-charged remarks uttered by his surrogates:

Oh, I forgot Romney fashions himself as a “No Apology” kind of guy.

In any case, I offer you an excellent observation by Geoffrey Dunn about how a lot of this dark stuff started with Sarah Palin:

when Palin accused then-candidate Obama of “palling around with terrorists” and of not being “a man who sees America as you see America,” she unleashed the hounds of racism in this country and in the Republican Party. She became the first serious candidate for national office since George Wallace to give both body and voice to the vulgarities of American right-wing talk radio and the pernicious racism that fuels it.

The “hounds of racism” are running quite free these days, and apparently Mitt Romney, who has had problems with dogs in the past, either can’t or doesn’t want to put them back in the kennel of shame where they belong.

In fact, Romney has often sounded like a hound himself, talking about “free stuff,” as in if you want free stuff “vote for the other guy.” And along those lines, I noticed today that Rush Limbaugh was playing a tape over and over—and over—of some hysterically sounding black woman yelling something about a phone. Immediately, I knew where to turn, since Matt Drudge is the source for a lot of Limbaugh’s material. Sure enough:

As I followed the link, I found a YouTube video recorded at a “Romney Event” near Cleveland, which had only 317 views when I watched:

Now, Limbaugh, who is one of those white-angst howling hounds unleashed by Sarah Palin, started talking about “Obama phones” and a website dedicated to telling folks like the woman above how to get their “free phones.”  Of course this plays into all the themes advanced by Republicans against our pigmented president: socialist, giver-of-free-stuff, all-around champion of the “permanent under class,” in Limbaugh’s phrase.

And that permanent under class, in the minds of a lot of Republican voters, looks like the woman above. That’s the point of those photos on that Virginia GOP website; that’s the point of Gingrich’s and Sununu’s comments; that’s the point of Drudge and Limbaugh promoting heavily that weird video.

In order to win, Romney has to get as many nervous whites to vote for him as he can, since he has lost any hope of getting much support from folks of color. That’s why he doesn’t say anything to shut down the obvious appeals to white angst by his official and unofficial surrogates.

That woman and her free “Obama phone” is just one more example for worried whites to consider in November, as conservatives see it. It turns out, though, that Obama had nothing to do with the free phones provided to low-income folks. The earliest version of the program was signed into law by, uh, Ronald Reagan!

But that fact won’t stop folks like Limbaugh, who said today that the phenomenon of people voting for Obama “is not about hard work.”

Go talk to the cell phone lady,” he said.

Gut Reactionaries

A recent study in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching indicated that the reason a lot of people—including biology teachers—refuse to believe that evolution is a fact is not because they don’t understand it sufficiently but because they don’t “feel” in their bones that it is true. (Read the findings here;  it is fascinating.) As one article about the study put it:

Gut feelings may trump good old-fashioned facts…

Keep that idea in mind, as you read on.

Ryan Lizza appeared on Morning Joe this morning to defend his recent New Yorker article on President Obama and how the reality of Washington has changed him from someone seeking to bridge the “surmountable” gap between our two political parties to someone who has had to accept the political reality that polarization is “the most important dynamic of the last forty years,” and that the consensus, “in the middle” politics of the type we had during the Eisenhower years and beyond is long gone.

Lizza noted that when Obama ran for his U.S. Senate seat, he

criticized “the pundits and the prognosticators” who like to divide the country into red states and blue states.

And Obama’s famous 2004 speech at the Democratic Convention, which catapulted him into the Democratic Party stratosphere, sounds, well, unnervingly naive today:

There is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there is the United States of America!

It turns out, as we all know now and as Lizza wrote and repeated this morning, that,

There really is, frankly, a red America and blue America.

Yep, there really is.

Two prominent political scientists cited in Lizza’s piece, Keith T. Poole and Howard Rosenthal, “have devised a widely used system to measure the ideology of members of Congress,” and the verdict is:

both the House and the Senate are more polarized today than at any time since the eighteen-nineties.*

Now, we can argue about how and why things got that way.  My own theory is one that Lizza only suggested:

It would be hard for any President to reverse this decades-long political trend, which began when segregationist Democrats in the South—Dixiecrats like Strom Thurmond—left the Party and became Republicans. Congress is polarized largely because Americans live in communities of like-minded people who elect more ideological representatives.

I submit that the primary—but not the only—reason we find ourselves in such an ideologically polarized condition has to do with what I have called white cultural angst, expressed best by the now-exiled Pat Buchanan in his latest book, Suicide of a Superpower:

Due to the immigration and higher birthrates among people of color, America is becoming less white and less Christian — and therefore inevitably less Republican.

One can see how this might raise the level of anxiety among those on the mostly-white right and cause them to hole up in Lizza’s “communities of like-minded people who elect more ideological representatives.”

I thought about all this after I wrote a piece (“An Unlimited White Checking Account For Underclass Blacks”) on Newt Gingrich’s exchange with African-American journalist Juan Williams in front of a crowd of white Republicans from—this is important—South Carolina.

For my efforts, I was excoriated by another Joplin Globe blogger on his blog:

I don’t believe I have ever seen one quite so hate filled, disdainful or outright repugnant from him after almost four years of reading his “stuff”… His blog was RACIST in tone and substance and his attacks are nothing less than a call for class warfare between blacks and whites, rich and poor, and any other various segments of society.

God only knows what the comment section on that blog post contained, since I stopped reading after the first sentence of the first response, which happened to come from yet another Globe blogger, who wrote:

I read the same post and almost puked it was so vile and disgusting in its blatant racism and classism.

As you ponder those strange criticisms, I take you back to the beginning of this piece, which referenced the study on why some folks don’t accept the theory of evolution as valid. Ohio State University Research News put it this way:

In an analysis of the beliefs of biology teachers, researchers found that a quick intuitive notion of how right an idea feels was a powerful driver of whether or not students accepted evolution—often trumping factors such as knowledge level or religion.

That this “intuitive notion” or “gut feeling” is “a powerful driver” of what we believe helps, I suggest, explain why white anxiety has led us to where we are in terms of our cultural divide.  Pat Buchanan, the champion of white angst, wrote in his book—in a chapter titled, “The End of White America“:

Those who believe the rise to power of an Obama rainbow coalition of peoples of color means the whites who helped to engineer it will steer it are deluding themselves. The whites may discover what it is like to ride in the back of the bus.

That, I argue, is a visceral reaction—just like the one expressed by the two Joplin Globe bloggers—to what Buchanan sees on the cultural landscape. It is that same gut feeling that compelled a woman in South Carolina, responding to Newt Gingrich’s encounter with Juan Williams, to say the following directly to Mr. Gingrich—who didn’t bother to correct her:

I would like to thank you for putting mister Juan Williams in his place the other night.

That, my friends, is what a lot of the political polarization we see around us is about.  Since the civil rights advances of the 1960s, the white right has been anxious about what might happen to the days of their dominance. Putting  people of color in “their place” is what drives Pat Buchanan and others who believe white culture is being threatened by “intellectual, cultural, and political elites.” Those elites, Buchanan says,

are today engaged in one of the most audacious and ambitious experiments in history. They are trying to transform a Western Christian republic into an egalitarian democracy made up of all the tribes, races, creeds, and cultures of planet Earth. They have dethroned our God, purged our cradle faith from public life, and repudiated the Judeo-Christian moral code by which previous generations sought to live.

If you listen very closely, you can hear strains of that cultural gut-reaction fall from the lips of nearly every conservative Republican, from the campaign trail to talk radio and other conservative media and to, sadly, the Joplin Globe blogosphere.

_________________________

* Lizza also quotes “two well-known Washington political analysts,” Thomas Mann (of the bipartisan Brookings Institution) and Norman Ornstein (of the conservative American Enterprise Institute) who don’t believe the ideological divergence between the two parties has been symmetrical:

…citing Poole and Rosenthal’s data on congressional voting records…since 1975, “Senate Republicans moved roughly twice as far to the right as Senate Democrats moved to the left” and “House Republicans moved roughly six times as far to the right as House Democrats moved to the left.” In other words, the story of the past few decades is asymmetric polarization.

Most of us on the liberal side of the divide believe that symptomatic of this asymmetric polarization is the fact that Mr. Obama began his presidency by moving too far in the direction of unappeasable conservatives, who slapped his face time and again and demanded even more concessions. It took much too long for Mr. Obama to realize that short of giving Republicans everything they wanted, they could not be satisfied.

A Few Reasons For White Angst

The Census Bureau has released its latest Population Estimates, summarized nicely here, and which demonstrate that there are grounds to believe the white angst some of us claim animates a large part of the Tea Party movement is very real.

Here are some of the facts:

The minority population has risen to 35% of the entire U.S. population.

49% of all children born in the U.S. are born into minority families.

10% of all U.S. counties have minority populations greater than 50%.

Close to 25% of all counties in the U.S. either have or are close to having more minority children than white children.

Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and Texas have minority populations greater than 50%.

Multiracial Americans number 5.3 million, increasing 3.2% from 2008 to 2009.

Blacks grew by less than 1% and represent 12.3% of the population from 2008 to 2009.

Asians grew by 2.5% from 2008 to 2009 and represent 4.5% of the population

Hispanics grew by 3.1% from 2008 to 2009 and represent almost 16% of the population.

Hispanics, the fastest growing minority group, have a birth to death ratio of 9 to 1.

Whites, who represent 65% of the population, have a ratio of births to deaths of 1 to 1.

As I have written before, the Republican Party may make gains this year and in the short-term, but the long-term prospects for the party don’t look good, if it doesn’t change it’s culture-war mentality.

Playing cultural self-defense has a shelf life.

 

[image from:www.soaw.org/presente/]

“Disguising Hate As Heritage”

I don’t know if Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell meant to insult black folks with his recent proclamation of April as “Confederate History Month.”  I only know that I’m predisposed to not trust a graduate of any school founded and associated with Pat Robertson, who would be a gold medalist, if espousing conspiracy theories were an Olympic sport.

Of course, I realize that’s the wrong way to judge someone, and just because Gov. McDonnell received his law degree from the former Christian Broadcasting Network University (now the low-ranking Regent University School of Law) doesn’t mean he isn’t a smart guy.  So, I’ll grant that he is a smart guy. 

But, then, that’s what makes his omission of slavery in the proclamation, and his subsequent apology, a little bit suspicious.

Jon Meacham in the New York Times recently examined the history of a “long and dispiriting tradition” of “efforts to rehabilitate the Southern rebellion,” and figures “Virginia’s neo-Confederates are refighting the Civil War in 2010.”

He continued:

Whitewashing the war is one way for the right — alienated, anxious and angry about the president, health care reform and all manner of threats, mostly imaginary — to express its unease with the Age of Obama, disguising hate as heritage.

Briefly citing the thread of white angst that runs through the history of the South, Meacham says,

…the enduring problem for neo-Confederates endures: anyone who seeks an Edenic Southern past in which the war was principally about states’ rights and not slavery is searching in vain, for the Confederacy and slavery are inextricably and forever linked.

I heard the other day, among others, Pat Buchanan, the conservative defender of white angst on the “liberal” MSNBC, try valiantly to separate the issue of slavery from the Civil War, as if slavery were merely background noise, too faint to be heard over the roar of Confederate canons as they were gallantly defending states’ rights and the right to sever ties with the Union.

But Meacham got it right by accusing “Lost Causers” of trying to “recast the war” in political, rather than moral, terms:

If the slaves are erased from the picture, then what took place between Sumter and Appomattox is not about the fate of human chattel, or a battle between good and evil. It is, instead, more of an ancestral skirmish in the Reagan revolution, a contest between big and small government.

These days, much white angst is hiding behind one side of such skirmishes, and smart politicians like Governor McDonnell, educated at a school founded by the king of conspiracists, know how to exploit that angst.

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