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.

9 Comments

  1. I’ve already posted this on my Facebook page, but it bears repeating here: I think the goal of the righties at this point is to make Christie look like a moderate. A brilliant long-term strategy. And so far, so good. It’s the same way in which Goldwater made NIxon look like a liberal. And we both know how THAT turned out.

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  2. ansonburlingame

     /  November 13, 2013

    And the goal of the left is to show Obama as mainstream America, politically. For sure Obama does not pass the test for many “leftists”, some right here in this blog. Duane challenges Obama from time to time for not going far enought to the left, for sure.

    From time to time, in comments on this blog usually, but sometimes in my own blog, I have accused members on the left of being racist. In my view they go way overboard to further protect the “entitlements” for blacks or increase those “entitlements”. The failure to have a stacked jury of black men in the Zimmerman trial is just one example. As soon as the racial balance of a jury is critiqued, well that is racist in my view, from either side!!

    Want a litmus test for racism and homophobia in the NYC mayoral election, well show me ANYONE that voted for or against the elected candidate only BECAUSE is wife was black or formerly LGBT. THAT would be a homophobic racist voter in my view, either way they choose to vote!! And you know as well as I do that some voted based solely on such a discriminator(s), How many, I have no idea, either, from either side. I think that is what Cohen was trying to say and got called a racist for doing so. but only by one side in this case.

    Anson

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    • King Beauregard

       /  November 15, 2013

      “The failure to have a stacked jury of black men in the Zimmerman trial is just one example.”

      Right, because ZERO blacks doesn’t count as stacked against.

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      • ansonburlingame

         /  November 15, 2013

        I again rest my case with you King. You believe that no jury can be fair unless that jury is racially balanced, right? Well how about sexual orientation balanced, income balanced, gender balanced, etc.

        The last time I check, a jury was only requried to be of one’s “peers”!! Should we change THAT law?

        Anson

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      • Sedate Me

         /  November 15, 2013

        Actually, this does bring up an interesting discussion. What DOES constitute a “jury of one’s peers” these days? How do things like race, income & cultural background factor in?

        America is about as divided as its ever been. Just take a look at a detailed electoral map and you’ll see the dramatic attitudinal splits among rich-poor, rural-urban, black-white, etc. Neighbourhoods that are old enough are about as racially segregated as they were under Segregation. The media no longer unifies. It has been splintered into a million pieces and the Internet has devolved into an echo-chamber. People live in isolated bubbles. Common values aren’t so common anymore. One can literally conduct their lives with almost no contact with people whose background and attitudes differ much from theirs.

        It’s harder to relate to victims/accused that aren’t just like you. That makes assembling a true jury of one’s peers very difficult and opens the process wide for claims of bias. (ie. A jury full of black, left handed, lesbian, 1%-ers,has no sympathy for a white, right handed, poor, male victim!)

        Can/should you even have a jury of one’s peers anymore? Can you win a case purely on the make up of the jury?

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        • ansonburlingame

           /  November 15, 2013

          Now you raise reasonable questions in my view, and in doing so point out some real issues. A judgment of actions by one’s peers means (or at least meant) judgment by a person with common values, common sense, just like you. When this all go started a bunch of fat cat “nobles” could no longer sit in judgment, alone, of a peasant. Other peasants had to decide if the accused acted in error as well.

          Now in America every “swinging dick” believes HIS values, HIS common sense, his whatever is the only way to go. America is losing such common things, things that truly bind a nation. I look hard to find such common things, just in this blog. And I have a very hard time finding them, common things upon which we can all agree on just about any hot topic of the day. We can’t do it herein and Congress can’t do it out there!! Not today in America and that is for sure a problem.

          Anson

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  3. Sedate Me

     /  November 14, 2013

    Boutros Boutros-Christie is a lot like Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, only with a lot less booze & crack. They are both combative jerks that con a dimwitted public with populist, anti-tax, rhetoric that hides their true conservative nature from a non-conservative electorate.

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  4. I consider the term racist grossly overused, or maybe at least used to imply bigoted, when I think the latter term at least wouldn’t apply. For exampel for most tea party bigotry wouldn’t apply. That is they aren’t overtly hostile to people based on race (with a significant number of exceptions). It would be fair I think to say they are deeply fearful of people of other races, but I don’t think that is the equivalent of bigoted, and perhaps not racist either.

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  November 16, 2013

    Bruce,

    Cutting to the chase, sort of, I suggest the term racist is primarily directed against a white man that for whatever reasons speaks against black people. At least that seems to be the traditional America use of the term. Rarely is a black person accusing white people of all sorts to unpopular ideas called a racist, outright.

    It almost seems that trying to speak about racial differences causes some to launch the racist accusation against white people. Of course that is not a universal observation. There are many exceptions. But just look at the “names” launched against Choen reported by Duane to reemphasize the point.

    Few may have seen it, but there is a recent clip showing Opra in an interview in England, an interviewer seeking her views of “racists” condemnations of President Obama. She and many progressives feel such political opponents of the President are in fact “racist”. Duane is always very quick to find some red neck condemning President Obama and write blogs about it. I never see him writing a blog about something that Rev. Sharpton has to say about white people, however. Of course, Duane will say that is not his job to so expose black condemnation of whites, which is true, I suppose.

    It is also hard for my generation to hold a truly unbiased conversation about racism. I was raised in a racially segregated society almost through high school. So who knows for sure what lurks within my psychic. Only Freud, perhaps!

    But when I observe my grandkids today, I see almost a colorblind group of kids. Rarely if ever do I hear them remark about racial differences. Not so however with socio-economic differences, however. They can be very quick to judge the dress, smell, hair style, forms of transportation, etc. used by their peers and segregate themselves accordingly, from people they don’t particularly like. But I rarely if ever see racial discrimination used by them.

    Anson

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