The Fact Burner

If you woke up this morning feeling sorry for Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you should probably just get back in bed and continue your rest from reality. Because if you do have sympathy for the woman who lies for Tr-mp each and every day, after she was “ripped” by a comedian at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday, then your sympathy is hopelessly misplaced.

Michelle Wolf, the comedian who, among other things, highlighted Sanders’ truth-slaying skills—“she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye”—did what she was hired to do: she told jokes. Some of the jokes were good, some not so good. But there was much truth running through her jokes, including that Sanders, Tr-mp’s press secretary, really does burn facts for a living. And it wasn’t Wolf’s fault that Tr-mp didn’t have the guts to show up for the dinner, like other presidents did until he came along, and defend his propagandist in person.

All day Sunday and continuing into today, journalists have been beside themselves trying to apologize for, or demand apologizes from, Wolf and those responsible for hiring her. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell tweeted, “Apology is owed to and others grossly insulted [by] Michelle Wolf.” Maggie Haberman, of the New York Times, tweeted:

That sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.

Hooey. Double Hooey. Nobody “owes” Sanders an apology. Nor should anyone praise her for sitting and absorbing personal insults. She knew what was coming. It couldn’t have been a surprise.

But Sanders does owe us an apology. And she should praise us for not walking out of the Tr-mpian nightmare she so proudly lies for nearly every time she opens her mouth.

Sanders should apologize for vigorously defending the narcissistic anarchist sitting in the Whites’ House. She should give us a shout-out for not fleeing to Canada, as we still dare to dream that America will come to its senses and rid itself of the parasite feeding on, and quickly depleting, the norms of our democracy. She should apologize to and heap praise upon all those folks who are genuine victims of Tr-mpism and the policies associated with it.

And as for journalists, how about Andrea Mitchell apologizing for endlessly focusing on Hillary Clinton’s emails during the last campaign, while Tr-mp was robbing the country of its dignity? How about Maggie Haberman, who has done good work since the 2016 election, apologize for her paper’s front-page obsession with the Clintons’ every flaw, all the way down to butt pimples, while a crass, corrupt demagogue was tearing down the press and other vital American institutions?

And speaking of obsessions, how about journalists apologizing for focusing on “Tr-mp voters” and their feelings almost to the exclusion of the rest of us? Or how about journalists realizing that there is more to America than those places that voted for Tr-mp? Look at the way Jake Tapper addressed John Kasich yesterday, appearing for the gazillionth time on Sunday morning television, on CNN’s State of the Union:

So, I want to ask you about the midterms. Republican congressional leaders increasingly worried that a Democratic wave is coming, that they will lose the House, they might even lose the Senate. President Trump doesn’t agree. He’s confident in his abilities. He’s confident that the Republicans are going to hold the House and Senate.

You’re out there in real America in Ohio. How concerned should Republicans be, how concerned should President Trump be?

Huh? Ohio is “real America”? Okay. Let’s agree that Ohio is real America. But when is the last time you heard a journalist address, say, a senator from a blue state by saying, “You’re out there in real America in Oregon”? Or how about a journalist introducing the mayor of a large city by saying, “Here’s Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, which is in real America”? Have you ever heard Maxine Waters addressed as the congresswoman who represents people out there “in real America in the 43rd District of California”? No. You haven’t. For some reason, real Americans only live in states Tr-mp won and has the potential of winning again.

It’s effing ridiculous.

I will be the first one to call on Michelle Wolf to apologize to Sarah Huckabee Sanders on the day Sarah Huckabee Sanders, with or without smokey eyes, goes to the Whites’ House briefing room, stands proudly behind the podium, and tells the world she is sorry for the damage she, and her boss, have done to the country.

White. Angst. Tr-mp.

If there has been one consistent theme running through this blog for the past nine years, it is this one: the domestic political obstacles President Obama faced while in office and the rise of the still-destructive Tea Party and the subsequent emergence of a corrupt cartoonish racist named Tr-mp are all importantly connected to what I have frequently called “white angst.”

As I use the term, white angst is in some cases merely a worry that something bad is happening to white dominance of the culture. In other cases it is a deep-rooted fear that something bad is happening to that dominance. But in all cases white angst is a foreboding, a concern that something bad is, if it hasn’t already, going to happen if white people don’t put a stop to it while there is still time. I have consistently posited this race-based phenomenon as a significant factor (along with pure partisanship) in the dreadful reaction against Obama, first as a viable presidential candidate, and then as our first African-American chief executive trying to combat a soul-crushing recession, a dangerous economic moment in our country that surely helped him overcome the electoral challenges in our race-troubled history.

Economic anxieties created by the Great Recession in 2008 temporarily put to sleep some of the racial anxieties of white folks. The voter turnout rate for whites that election year fell from 67.2% to 66.1%, while all minority groups increased their turnout rates. And Obama received 43% of the white vote that year. But the Tea Party movement, pregnant with white angst after the election of a black man, raised its ugly reactionary head early in 2009, just after Obama took office. Here in Joplin I attended three tax-day Tea Party events in three successive Aprils. I could hear the worry and fear in the speeches and in the conversations I had with some of the folks who were there. The pretense was that the worry and fear were rooted in economics, mostly about government debt and deficits and the future of “our kids and grandkids.”

But you may have noticed that there were no Tea Party events on any of the eight April tax days during the George W. Bush administration, despite the profligate war spending and tax cuts—and the doubling of the national debt that resulted. And you may have noticed that there were no Tea Party events on tax day this April, despite the news that annual deficits and long-term debt are skyrocketing, much of it due to the lingering effects of past tax cuts and new effects from cuts that Republicans handed out to their wealthy donors and corporations at the end of last year. No, there were no Tea Party events here in Joplin or elsewhere. Just silence from previously worried white teapartiers, a silence that provides some evidence for my past claims of racial angst and its effects on the white electorate. (Some other evidence: Obama received only 39% of the white vote in 2012, after that 43% showing in 2008. And the racist-birther Tr-mp beat Hillary with the white vote 58%-37%.)

Well, well. Now there is much more science behind my ongoing claim, a claim that was challenged by conservatives early on in the life of this blog. From The New York Times:

Ever since Donald J. Trump began his improbable political rise, many pundits have credited his appeal among white, Christian and male voters to “economic anxiety.” Hobbled by unemployment and locked out of the recovery, those voters turned out in force to send Mr. Trump, and a message, to Washington.

Or so that narrative goes.

A study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences questions that explanation, the latest to suggest that Trump voters weren’t driven by anger over the past, but rather fear of what may come. White, Christian and male voters, the study suggests, turned to Mr. Trump because they felt their status was at risk.

“It’s much more of a symbolic threat that people feel,’’ said Diana C. Mutz, the author of the study and a political science and communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where she directs the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics. “It’s not a threat to their own economic well-being; it’s a threat to their group’s dominance in our country over all.”

The study is not the first to cast doubt on the prevailing economic anxiety theory. Last year, a Public Religion Research Institute survey of more than 3,000 people also found that Mr. Trump’s appeal could better be explained by a fear of cultural displacement.

You can read the entire article if you want (“Trump Voters Driven by Fear of Losing Status, Not Economic Anxiety, Study Finds”), or you can follow-up on the study it was based on (“Status threat, not economic hardship, explains the 2016 presidential vote”), or you can see a study referenced in the article (“Beyond Economics: Fears of Cultural Displacement Pushed the White Working Class to Trump”).  There are other studies that offer similar evidence. With this post, I just wanted to defend myself from attacks long ago.



Perhaps I should make something clear about the study that formed the basis for the latest Times article. The problem isn’t just with what the National Academy of Sciences study called “group status” threats related to white people’s perceptions. There is also the group status threat of globalism, “the increasing interdependence of the United States on other countries” and the idea that “Americans increasingly feel that they are not getting their fair share.” Regarding the former, the threat is to white dominance within our country. Regarding the latter, the threat is to American dominance in the larger world. But the study makes some points we shouldn’t miss, so I will quote it at length for those of you who like to get into the weeds a little bit:

Racial status threat and global status threat are technically separable, but they are difficult to distinguish in practice. Because white male Christians are seen as most prototypically “American” (31), they have the most to lose psychologically if they perceive America and/or whites to be no longer dominant. Given that the 2016 election featured discussions of perceived threats from religious minorities, racial minorities, and foreigners, this generalized sense of threat is likely to have spilled over into multiple arenas. For white Americans, the political consequences of racial and global status threat seem to point in similar directions with respect to issue positions: opposition to immigration, rejection of international trade relationships, and perceptions of China as a threat to American wellbeing.

For two of these three issues—trade and China—trends in public opinion clearly support the thesis of increased threat between 2012 and 2016 (3233). For immigration, however, multiple sources instead suggest increasingly supportive attitudes among Republicans and Democrats alike (34). Likewise, to the extent that immigration is perceived as threatening by Americans, scholars find that it is due to the increased economic burden Americans believe immigrants place on the social welfare system rather than a threat to white status (35). Nonetheless, it remains possible that the heightened salience of immigration contributed to Trump’s victory without increasing actual opposition to immigration, consistent with previous findings attributing preference changes to the increased salience of immigration (3).

How plausible is status threat—whether from a sense of declining racial or global status—as an explanation for changes in voting behavior in 2016? With respect to global status threat, the received wisdom from decades of research has long been that “voting ends at water’s edge.” In other words, outside of foreign wars, international affairs are assumed to have little if any electoral importance (36). However, economic globalization has gained prominence in recent years (37). Racial status threat makes perfect sense occurring immediately after 8 y of leadership by America’s first African American president. It is not racism of the kind suggesting that whites view minorities as morally or intellectually inferior, but rather, one that regards minorities as sufficiently powerful to be a threat to the status quo. When members of a dominant group experience a sense of threat to their group’s position, whether it is the status of Americans in the world at large or the status of whites in a multiethnic America, change in people’s sense of their group’s relative position produces insecurity.

Despite multiculturalism’s ostensible goal of inclusion, experimental studies suggest that it is experienced by whites as a form of status threat that produces more negative attitudes toward outgroups of all kinds (38). Simply reminding whites about their impending loss of majority status produces feelings of threat in experimental studies (39), particularly among those who think of the “American way of life” as being white (40). Consequences of exposure to information about impending majority–minority status have included increased conservatism and greater identification with the Republican Party (41) and the Tea Party (42), increased opposition to diversity (41), greater explicit and implicit racial bias, and a stronger preference for interacting with one’s own race (43). In one study, reminding participants about the upcoming racial shift also produced increased support for Trump among both Democrats and Republicans in a white convenience sample (44).

Silencing A King, Twice

“America was legally an apartheid state in living memory.”

——The New York Times, April 2, 2018

by now everyone who wants to has had something to say on this 50th anniversary of the murder of a man of the people, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not only have we heard what a civil rights champion he was, but some have tried to make it clear he was more than that. He stood strongly against the Vietnam War. He stood strongly for those whose lives were pigmented with poverty, that most awful of colors found on the palette of laissez-faire economics. In fact, he was in Memphis fifty Image result for sanitation workers’ strikeyears ago to support striking sanitation workers, unionism being a good way to escape poverty. Those city workers were low-paid, had no health insurance, weren’t paid overtime, and weren’t entitled to workers’ compensation. Dr. King was on their side.

King was silenced by a convicted felon who had escaped from the Missouri penitentiary the previous year. The felon hated King and admired Hitler, and one of his lawyers, who was eventually convicted in 1980 for the bombing of a black church in 1958, was a white supremacist and life-long member of the Ku Klux Klan. The felon’s family said he wanted to kill Dr. King. He did. That murder was the first silencing. The second was to come.

The New York Times editorialized a few days ago about King’s “moral clarity” in calling America to “Be true to what you said on paper.” The editorial continued:

As Dr. King knew well, the history of voting in the United States was, and is, in large part the history of white people in power devising endless ways to keep black people from casting a ballot.

It’s been true all along, from the complete disenfranchisement of slavery to the effective silencing of the Jim Crow era up to now, when a welter of clever and at times subtle laws operates to make it harder for minorities to get to the polls, and to have an equal voice — or any voice at all — in the choice of our representatives and policies.

Most white folks think that the voting rights issue has been settled by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which did have a huge positive effect on black registration and voting. However, as the Times points out, the Act “still requires frequent care and tending by the federal courts, especially the Supreme Court.” And we know the reactionaries on the Court are a problem:

Unfortunately, the court’s conservative majority has severely weakened the protections the law was intended to provide. The biggest blow came in a 2013 decision, Shelby County v. Holder. In that case, the five conservative justices, led by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., gutted the heart of the act, which identified several states with long histories of voting discrimination, most in the South, and required them to get federal permission before changing their voting laws. While that remedy may have been a necessary response to 1960s-era racism, the chief justice wrote, “things have changed dramatically.”

Clearly things haven’t changed dramatically. We now have Tr-mp and what the Times says is “the resurgence of overt racism and white nationalism that has followed, with no meaningful pushback from the president [sic].” And we have a concerted effort by Republicans all over parts of the country under their control to make it harder for people of color to vote:

Poll taxes and literacy tests have given way to voter-ID laws, cutbacks to early voting and same-day registration, polling place closings, voter-roll purges, racially discriminatory redistricting and felon disenfranchisement laws — most of which, though justified on race-neutral grounds, harm minority voters more.

This represents the second silencing of Dr. King. He believed that black votes could “transform the entire country.” Apparently, Republicans do too.

Those of us who believe in an inclusive democracy have to speak for a silenced Dr. King. And, oddly, the most noise we could possibly make is by voting every single Republican—every last one of them—out of office.

Those Who Can, Teach. Those Who Can’t Afford It, Join A Movement

Today in Tr-mp-red Oklahoma, teachers by the tens of thousands are engaging in a rally-walkout. Following the success that Tr-mp-red West Virginia teachers had with their two-week strike, tens of thousands of low-paid Oklahoma educators are getting together in Oklahoma City to demand from right-wing Republicans an increase in education funding even oklahoma public employees association photobeyond what they recently approved— passed in fear of such an uprising. Thousands of teachers in Kentucky are rallying, too. And Arizona teachers are contemplating taking action. Marry these developments with the student-led movement to change our gun laws and we can say that something is happening in America. Something good.

Because Republicans have waged war on collective bargaining, particularly collective bargaining by public employees, in some cases teachers have had to march “ahead of their unions,” as an NPR story put it. One of those teachers getting out ahead of too-timid or too-weak teachers’ unions is a Tulsa English teacher named Larry Cagle. He is a co-founder of Oklahoma Teachers United (OTU), a group that was birthed at a Starbucks last year. The initial plan, according to OTU’s group’s Facebook page, “began with coordinated teacher sickouts” all around “the Tulsa metropolitan area and in some smaller rural schools.” The resulting widespread media coverage gave the group exposure enough to attract others around the state interested in the cause, and the establishment of “secret channels” allowed the group’s leaders “to communicate with active protesters.”

Thus, here we are today watching something many of us didn’t think we’d ever see, a “wildcat walkout” (as OTU calls it) that has helped push not only Oklahoma teachers’ unions into concerted action (the unions are involved and are ultimately crucial to the movement’s success), but in some cases has school management on board. It truly is a remarkable moment.

But there is something a little troubling about a few of the things I have heard teachers in Oklahoma and elsewhere say on television and express on their placards regarding what they are doing. A variation goes something like this: “We aren’t doing this for ourselves, but for our kids, for our students.” Now, no matter how admirable it is that teachers do have such high regard for their students, there is no need for them to apologize for wanting higher wages and better benefits for themselves. There is absolutely no shame in wanting adequate compensation for the arduous work of getting a teaching degree, obtaining certification, running up a large student loan debt, and working long hours at home and weekends grading papers and preparing lesson plans. Oh, and besides all that, teachers are required to pursue “continuing education” in order to keep their certification. And what do they get for their trouble? As Larry Cagle said to NPR,

I’m 54 years old and my paycheck is $1,980 [a month]. I can’t afford fucking health insurance.

The fact that an Oklahoma teacher that age or any age can’t afford health insurance, largely because of tax giveaways to wealthy Oklahomans and oil companies, is a moral outrage. Consider Oklahoma’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Shawn Sheehan. He finally had enough of “Things will get better soon, we promise.” In 2017, the Teacher of the Year moved to Texas for the money. “We are joining many other teachers who have either already left or plan to do so over the next year,” he said without shame. And he wasn’t finished:

I’ve done everything I know how to do to try and make things better. We could stay, but it would cost our family – specifically our sweet baby girl. My wife and I are not willing to do that. We, like you, want what’s best for our children and she deserves to grow up in a state that values education. And so do your children.

Most Americans “value” education by paying lip service to it. They say things like, “Teaching is a very noble profession,” while running to the polls to vote for Republicans who will gut the profession by cutting taxes. But Oklahoma’s 2016 Teacher of the Year had something to say to people who think he should be content with the “nobility” of his profession:

There are teachers in this state who say things like, “I’m just in this for the students. If you’re not in it for the kids, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” This was oImage result for shawn sheehan familyne response from a teacher who vehemently disagreed with my statements.

Do other teachers out there really think we aren’t in this for the students? Who in their right mind teaches in Oklahoma for the money? Of course I’m here for my students, their families, and this community, but I won’t apologize for demanding a livable wage…

Oftentimes, I find these are the same teachers who vote against legislation and/or legislators who would help our cause. If my reality isn’t yours, is there a need discredit my and OUR colleagues’ stories? How many times will they excuse these budget cuts and “proudly” declare that they’d teach one hundred students in a classroom with no supplies and that they’d do it for free because it’s all about the kids?

You can’t spend nobility at the grocery store. Blue Cross won’t let you purchase health insurance at “noble profession” rates. Teachers shouldn’t have to beg at the statehouse door for food or healthcare or, for God’s sake, for classroom materials. They should, as they are doing today in Oklahoma and Kentucky, demand what they most clearly deserve.

Image result for teachers in oklahoma on strike

[Top photo: @okea; middle photo: @CathyBenge1; Shawn Sheehan photo: Tulsa World]
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