A Reminder To White People

King Beauregard, a frequent contributor to this blog, made an interesting point about Bernie Sanders in particular, but really about privileged white people more generally:

I don’t think Bernie has a single drop of malice towards blacks or Hispanics in him. It’s not just the decades of not interacting with blacks, but (I suspect) the much subtler failing of not personally feeling their pain and therefore not feeling any motivation to investigate their issues.

He then followed up with this:

It’s about realizing that racism manifests in all sorts of subtle ways, sometimes through what DOESN’T happen, and it’s the easiest thing in the world for white people to ignore it because it doesn’t happen to affect them. Worse, the measures to do something about that subtler racism WOULD affect them, and that’s where a great many progressives fall down on the job. Not just because (for example) prioritizing BLM issues means not talking about single payer for a minute, but the very humbling awareness that white progressives and white racists are all used to benefiting from an unfair system.

It is always useful to remind white folks, across the ideological spectrum, that our system, despite the progress we have made, still tolerates and in some cases encourages discriminatory and racist practices. And because whites need to be reminded—again and again—I thought I would post here my response to King Beauregard:

K.B.,

It’s very easy for white people to criticize obvious manifestations of racism in our society. Heck, there are still some Republicans left who will do that. But you are right that a system contaminated by a more subtle form of race-based discrimination is harder to get white people, even white Democrats, to care about. Your point about “what DOESN’T happen” is exactly right. That’s harder to detect and then explain. When people of color are negatively affected by the subtle racism you suggest, white people tend to think those particular negative outcomes are solely or largely the result of a lack of effort or talent, as opposed to something in the system itself that helps determine those outcomes.

Worse, though, than missing or ignoring the more subtle forms of discrimination in our society is this sad and depressing fact: today a significant majority of white people think it is they who are suffering from discrimination! You’ve probably seen this already by way of Vox, but when I saw it the other day I was sort of not surprised:

Americans are split on whether they believe “reverse discrimination” is real.

That “white working class” result probably explains Trump’s mystifying appeal to 40% of the population better than any one factor, perhaps even better than innate preferences for his clownish authoritarianism. Just think about it for a minute. Members of the white working class—who have in large numbers supported Republicans for years now—think their existing problems aren’t because (or just because) they have embraced right-wing economics and anti-union fervor through the ballot box, but because people of color are “taking” their jobs or getting into the best schools and so on. It’s really amazing.

But more amazing is the “white college educated” response. More than four in ten white people with a college education think the system is essentially “rigged”—a term Trump uses with some effectiveness—against them!  That result makes me think some college degrees aren’t worth all that much.

And we shouldn’t ignore the responses from blacks and Hispanics. I can think of some legitimate reasons why those numbers are higher than they should be, but it still is troubling that around one-third of minorities in this country think white people’s problems are related to reverse discrimination. When you put all of this together, it illustrates your point about subtle racism and how it is built into our system in ways even some people of color don’t immediately recognize.

That Vox article also recognizes and explains an important distinction between discrimination and racism:

Discrimination refers to the biases one exhibits against a racial group. Racism, by contrast, reinforces discriminatory attitudes with social, political, cultural, and economic institutions that have historically disenfranchised a group of people simply because of their racial identity.

Using the terms without the necessary distinction (as the study did that produced the graph above), racism simply becomes “a set of attitudes without the power dynamics that give certain biases salience over others.” Those power dynamics that favor whites are what white people either purposely fail to see or are culturally conditioned to ignore, despite the fact that, as the article points out, there is so much evidence out there to prove some forms of racism are still very much with us, whether it be in hiring practices or in our criminal justice system or in redlined neighborhoods or in our education system’s tendency to overlook intellectual giftedness among black students.

Finally, the article notes how belief in “anti-white bias” has been on the rise among white people since the beginning of the civil rights movement in the ’50s, which is no surprise. And Vox asks a question at the end that is very easy to answer:

How will white Americans adjust to an America that cannot and does not focus on their rights alone?

For a big chunk of them the answer can be expressed in one word: TRUMP!

A Glimmer Of Hope For The GOP? Nah, Not So Much

It happened in Delta County, Colorado. Was it a fluke? Was it a misstep by party officials? Did they not get the memo that shame is dead and gone because Donald Drumpf killed it and is hiding the remains in his cantaloupe-colored comb-over?

Delta County’s population is around 30,000 folks, mostly white folks. Uh, mostly white Republican folks—Obama only received 29% of the vote in 2012. You get the idea. But there was something positive that came out of Delta County on Sunday. Let’s start, though, with the negative:

ScreenHunter_4820 May. 30 16.40Republicans in Delta County, Colorado are seemingly scrambling after a racist photo likening President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee was posted on a top official’s Facebook page.

The photo briefly appeared on a Facebook page belonging to Linda Sorenson, who chairs the county Republican Central Committee, and was captured by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

The image was taken from the Ronald Reagan film Bedtime for Bonzo, and shows Reagan bottle-feeding the titular chimpanzee, with a caption saying, “I’ll be damned … Reagan used to babysit Obama.”

We’ve all seen this stuff so many times it doesn’t surprise anymore. Such is how, in the age of The Scary Negro, Republicans make themselves feel better. But what surprised me a little bit was what happened after the Grand Junction newspaper confronted some local GOP officials with the fact that their leader, Linda Sorenson, admitted to a progressive blogger the following about her Facebook post:

I really don’t care if people are offended by it. Un-friend me. Stop looking at me on Facebook.

That is the Drumpf response, right? I mean that’s what the GOP has come to these days. Don’t back down when you’re caught doing or saying something offensive. Own it. Hell, double down on it. But the reaction of two other local party officials was more traditional. According to the newspaper, the vice chairman of the party said,

This whole thing is a hoax. Someone got into the Facebook somehow. It was hacked and somebody got into it, definitely.

The treasurer for the party said,

That whole thing is bogus. Somebody hacked Linda Sorenson’s Facebook page, and posted that out there. We believe it has something to do with Media Matters. They’ve been harassing her the last few weeks.

Now, that is the old GOP right there. Don’t own it. Don’t admit to it. Just say it was the liberal media’s fault. And in that more traditional way of handling things like this we have at least a teensy-weensy slice of hope that Drumpf hasn’t quite finished off the idea of shame in the Republican Party after all. The Grand Junction paper reported that it had asked the local vice chairman why someone would want to hack Ms. Sorenson’s Facebook page. He said,

I have no idea…Just to damage the Republican Party, no doubt. … Just to make us look bad.

You see that? This man is worried that the party will “look bad.” How refreshing is that, after months and months of Drumpf? A Republican Party official is actually out there worried about the image of the Republican Party! Who knew?

A few months ago, Ezra Klein fretted over Drumpf’s “complete lack of shame.” Klein wrote:

It’s easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

Trump doesn’t. He has the reality television star’s ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won’t, to say what others can’t, to do what others wouldn’t.

Yes. Drumpf is shameless. He is crass. He is unpredictable. He is ignorant. He’s a bigot’s bigot. But his party’s leadership, at least most of them, have embraced his shamelessness and crassness. And the party itself is coming to terms with his unpredictability and his ignorance and his bigotry.

Marco Rubio is the latest enabler. After Drumpf humiliated him in the primary by way of nasty insults, and after Rubio called Drumpf a “con artist” and a “lunatic,” Little Marco recently said he would be “honored” to speak for Drumpf at the convention. Honored. He actually said the word honored. Oh. My.

But once upon a time there was a different Rubio. One who said of Drumpf and the effect he was having on the country:

This is a man who in rallies has told his supporters to basically beat up the people in the crowd and he’ll pay their legal fees. Someone who’s encouraged people in the audience to rough up anybody who says something he doesn’t like… This is what a culture and society looks like when everybody says whatever the heck they want. When everybody goes around saying I’m just gonna speak my mind. If I’m angry, it gives me the right to say or do anything I want.

Well, there are other people who are angry too, and if they speak out and say whatever they want, the result is it all breaks down. It’s called chaos. It’s called anarchy. And that’s what we’re careening towards in our political process… And you wonder whether we’re headed in a different direction today, where we’re no longer capable of having differences of opinion but in fact now protests become a license to take violence, to take on your opponents physically.

Forget about the election for a moment, there’s a broader issue in our political culture in this country, and this is what happens when a leading presidential candidate goes around feeding into a narrative of anger and bitterness and frustration, and I think we all need to take a step back and ask ourselves: Are we contributing to this?

That was a damned good question. And Rubio has answered it for himself. He has every intention of contributing to “this.” He is willingly contributing to it. He is “honored” to contribute to it. Talk about shamelessness.

Marco Rubio, as well as other Republicans who have stained themselves orange, makes those party officials in Delta County, Colorado—those who actually want to distance themselves from a racist Facebook post because it makes the party “look bad”—appear quaint, makes them look out of step with the new GOP.

Sadly, though, it’s a good bet that those white party officials in Delta County will, like most of the locals they represent, run to the polls in November and vote for Drumpf. Why? Because people like Marco Rubio, John McCain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, and, yes, Paul Ryan, are in the process of telling them it’s okay to do so, telling them that conscientious Republicans no longer have to be conscientious.

They no longer have to be ashamed of shamelessness.

Yes. Barack Obama Is Responsible For Donald Trump. And We Should Thank Him For It.

disintegrateto break or decompose into constituent elements, parts, or small particles

A among the many things we should thank Barack Obama for is just how much his working in the White’s House—not as a servant or employee of a white president, but as president himself—has helped lead to an ugly disintegration of what has become an ugly Republican Party, a disintegration that is now happening before our very eyes.

The Obama-related dissolution and demoralization began in 2009 with the rise of an angry Tea Party, where nuttiness became normalness. Where—even putting aside the occasional and unseemly displays of racism that came with our first African-American president—questioning Mr. Obama’s devotion to his country and his chosen faith became as natural as questioning his birthplace. And the most prominent birther, of course, was Donald J. Trump, a man now the front-runner and face of his party, positioned to win a number of primaries tomorrow. Thus, even though it was quite unintentional, even though it wasn’t part of a clever national Democratic Party strategy to undermine the integrity of the GOP, Barack Hussein Obama is, ironically, cracking up The Party of Lincoln.

Donald Trump has divided conservatives from the Republican establishment. He has divided conservatives from other conservatives. He has divided reactionary evangelicals from other reactionary evangelicals. He has divided the right-wing donor class from working-class Republicans. He has challenged the integrity of the Republican Party’s official public relations arm, known as Fox “News,” relentlessly and classlessly attacking one of it most popular propagandists, Megyn Kelly. He has made two Tea Party extremists, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz—both of whom believe the government should force a rapist-impregnated woman to bear her rapist’s child, and both of whom represent his toughest conservative competition at this point—seem a more rational choice for the Republican nomination than Trump. And he now has prominent Republicans openly saying they will not vote for him in the general election.

Perhaps most important, in terms of non-Fox, right-wing media coverage, Trump has now turned his most prominent cheerleader, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, into a critic. Look at this header from today’s HuffPo:

huffpo and scarborough

I heard the very conservative Scarborough talk this morning. And I found his comments amazing. After months of rooting for Trump, defending him, giving him advice on the air, Scarborough is now all of a sudden surprised that Trump would do something so dumb as not denounce David Duke and the KKK. After years of Trump’s racist birtherism; after make america grreat againmonths of Trump’s assaults on Hispanic immigrants and Muslims, including women and children war refugees; after Trump’s hate-filled attacks on journalists and his most recent suggestion (which he repeated this morning) that, as president, he would make war on a free press and “open up our libel laws” so politicians like him could sue for “lots of money”; after all that and much, much more, it finally dawns on Joe Scarborough that Trump may not be qualified for president?

That tells you what you need to know about the condition of the Republican Party.

Trump’s awkward refusal, on ABC’s This Week, to disavow both David Duke and the KKK shouldn’t have surprised anyone, including Joe Scarborough and the Morning Joe crew. He has, without much pushback from the Republican establishment, openly courted bigots from the very beginning. That’s why he has been very popular among white supremacists and other haters, like Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

But Trump, who knows very little about a lot of things, thought he could get away with not rejecting the support of open racists on a prominent Sunday political show because, as he has said before, he really believes he is invincible. He believes he can disavow Duke on one trump rally.jpgday, then pretend not to know who he is on another day, followed by a phony explanation as to why he didn’t openly disavow him or the KKK on ABC. He can do all that, he believes, because his bigoted supporters will get the message: “Yeah, I had to eventually sort of disavow the racists, but my ambiguity should tell you something.”

Apparently it does. Judging by his rally at Radford University in Virginia today, he hasn’t lost an inch of ground. Thousands came out to wildly, and I mean wildly, cheer him and his tiresome bigotry. “We’ve gotta unify our country,” he told his audience, after loudly and rudely ordering a few protesters from the premises. That coming from perhaps the most purposely divisive figure in modern American political history.

Joe Scarborough, born and raised in the South, tried to tell his Morning Joe viewers today that the South has changed. That Trump’s attempt to appeal to racists in tomorrow’s mostly southern primaries won’t earn him one vote. Oddly, Scarborough also said that Trump will win most of the races tomorrow. In other words, according to Scarborough, Trump’s shameless and clumsy appeal to racism on Sunday won’t win him any votes in the South but alswon’t cost him any votes.

If that is true, if Trump wins big tomorrow and becomes very difficult to stop on his way to the nomination, that tells you something not just about the South, but about the Republican Party. The GOP is splintering and will soon no longer be a national party at all, but one that will have to deal with a shrinking group of anxious and angry white constituents who give the party most of its energy, but who just can’t cope with Barack Obama and the browning of America and the loss of white privilege that he so impressively represents.

Thank you, Mr. President.

 

Racist Rudy And The Republican Party

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

—Rudolph W. Giuliani, at a fat-cat fundraiser in New York for Governor Scott Walker

Thanks, Rudy!

Rudy Giuliani, who now has finally qualified to have his own hate-talk radio show, has done what years of liberal commentary could not do: he has outed the GOP as not only the Stupid Party, but as the official home of 21st-century racists. I personally have spent six long years trying to do what the former mayor of New York City—and a very establishment Republican—did in about a minute. That’s efficiency!

After uttering his stupid and racist comments on Thursday, and after Scott Walker refused to condemn them, and after Bobby Jindal, who has his own history of bigotryjoined in on the fun, Giuliani told Fox’s Megyn Kelly last night:

I’m right about this, I have no doubt about it, I do not withdraw my words.

Bravo! No sense backing away now, Rudy! No sense jeopardizing your future as Rush Limbaugh’s replacement. What next? Are you going to call “Moochelle” Obama a slut? Offer her an aspirin to put between her knees? No sense pretending that you didn’t mean to slander our African-American president. And there really is no sense in denying the obvious, although you told The New York Times:

Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people. This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.

Let me see. What Rudy said couldn’t possibly be racist because Obama has some good old white blood in him! Thatta boy! Pure genius!

obama and giulianiPerhaps the saddest part of this whole episode is that what Giuliani said should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to Republican politics since 2007, and particularly since The Scary Negro took up residence in the White’s House and the angst-ridden wingnuts starting hanging teabags from their hats.

We have heard this stuff before, and on Fox last night Rudy, after studying all day, rehearsed many of the old lies: Obama is a Frank Marshall Davis communist; he “worked under Saul Alinsky”; he listened to Reverend Jeremiah Wright say “goddamn America!” and stayed in his church; he prefers Muslims over Christians, Islam over Christianity.

When asked about the civility of his remarks, he told Kelly:

I think it was perfectly civil. I think that is a perfectly reasonable opinion, but the president and his comments, if we look at all of his rhetoric has not displayed the kind of love of America, the kind of love of American Exceptionalism that other American presidents have displayed, that he has gone abroad and criticized us over and over again, apologized for us. Every time he does it, it embarrasses me.

Yes, it “was perfectly civil” and “a perfectly reasonable opinion”—for a Republican these days. And that is the point.

I have seen a local Joplin Globe right-wing columnist refer to Barack Obama as a “monkey.” Yet you can still find his columns in the paper.

I have heard convicted felon and conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza say the most vile things about our president—just the other day he tweeted racist remarks—yet many of his ideas are embraced and repeated by Newt Gingrich and other conservatives and D’Souza and Gingrich are still major “intellectual” figures on the right.

I have heard Mitt Romney’s top campaign surrogate, John Sununu, call the president “lazy,” by which he obviously meant to suggest “lazy nigger.” No condemnation from Romney.

I have heard Ted Cruz, a United States Senator for God’s sake, say that President Obama is “an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists.” And Ted Cruz is a hero to a vicious cult of Obama haters in Congress, not to mention his popularity among citizen teapartiers.

I have heard a Republican congressman from Arizona claim that Obama is essentially pretending to want to destroy ISIS. I heard a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania say that our president, the president of our country, is “really working collaboratively with what I would say is the enemy of freedom and individual freedom and liberty and Western civilization and modernity.” He went on to say that that he is reluctant to give President Obama “the authority and power to take action” against ISIS because “he actually might use it to further their cause.” Not a peep out of John Boehner.

I have heard radio and television commentators, night and day, make ridiculous and racially-charged comments about the president, and the money keeps rolling in. Racism, or something very close to it, pays very well on the right, as Rudy Giuliani will likely find out.

In the mean time, President Obama has endured a staggering amount of disrespect from his utterly disloyal opposition and yet he presses on, head held high. It’s as if he knows that, in the end, when the history of his times are written, he will look very big and the Rudy Giulianis and Rush Limbaughs and the other pathetic Obama-haters on the right will look like the pint-sized pricks they are.

“I Am Not A Racist”

tribe: any aggregate of people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions, adherence to the same leaders, etc.

Dictionary.com

Many of you know Anson Burlingame, either by his comments on this blog, his postings on his own blog, or by way of his contributions to the Joplin Globe editorial page. Recently, another commenter called Anson a racist, claiming that “to some degree all of us have it.” Naturally, Anson didn’t accept the designation. “I am not a racist,” he wrote. He added,

At my advanced age I know pretty well what my motives and fundamental “instincts” are in most situations.

In a later comment, he wrote:

I freely admit that, using today’s standards for calling someone a racist, I was raised as a racist in the 1940’s and 50’s. But over the years, 54 years (since HS graduation) and counting I have read and talked myself beyond, out of, such [animus], like many other older Americans have done during that period.

I know I have written a lot about issues involving race lately, but so be it. It is important, as far as I’m concerned. I think cultural angst among whites is a major reason we have such gridlock in Congress, as Tea Party Republicans, representing such anxious and fearful folks, have essentially been holding the legislative process hostage since 2010.

I wrote a long response to Anson’s comment on my piece about the sad racism that occurred here in Missouri, when marching black demonstrators passed through a couple of white small towns last week. My response included the following, which is related to the charge of racism:

As for the accusation that one or more commenters have now and in the past made against you—calling you a racist—let me say that I am very careful in applying that word to individuals. As you know, “racism” strictly means the belief that one’s race is superior to another’s race, necessarily implying the idea that the superior race should rule over the other. Historically, there is no doubt that America was founded by, and for years was governed by, racists, as black slaves were used to economically benefit white people.

You have never given me any reason to suspect that, despite your admittedly racist upbringing in Kentucky in the 1940s and 1950s, that you think white people are inherently superior to black people. But just like it is true that America still has a lot of work to do to rid itself of the legacy of slavery and white supremacy—our cultural institutions, after all, were built and maintained for years in that context—individual whites living in this culture also have work to do. That includes you and that includes me.

Without going into detail, I was also raised with the idea that somehow blacks were inferior to whites. For whatever reason, I never consciously embraced that idea. Perhaps it was because in my lower working-class neighborhood, most of the kids I played with when I was very young were black kids. My next-door neighbors to the east, less than 30 feet away, were black. Across the street lived black people. Across the alley in the back lived black people. Down the street lived even more black people. I was surrounded by African-American kids my entire young life. In all the ways that I could see, they seemed just like me.

In elementary school and junior high, one of my best friends was black (forget the cliché). I spent a lot of time in or near his home, a few blocks away from mine. I walked the streets with him and played neighborhood sports with him. In high school, my best friend was a black kid a year older than I. We spent nearly every school night together, riding around in his car delivering newspapers (it was his job, not mine) and then later cruising and listening to music (some might find it odd, but he was a fan of Steely Dan like I was).

But having said all that, I still catch myself getting a little irritated by, for instance, certain things I see in hip-hop culture, including the attitudes in some, but not all, of the music. I have to check myself sometimes. I have to remind myself that a thing like wearing your pants in a certain way is just an expression, a way of fitting into a specific “tribe,” if you will. I have my own specific micro-tribes I belong to. You have yours. We act and dress accordingly. We should be open-minded enough to allow others the luxury of belonging to, and conforming to, their own smaller tribes. But sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we look down on other tribes. Sometimes we think ours is superior.

In the same way, you and I belong, by birth, to a larger tribe of “white people.” Because we belong to that tribe, we have inherited certain benefits that come with our skin color. And we have inherited certain prejudices against that other larger tribe of “black people.” If we work hard, we can overcome many of those prejudices. But it is often really hard work. Some of the prejudices we hold we may not consciously be aware of. We may think we have rid ourselves of all the bad qualities of our upbringing, but it is inevitable that at least a few remain. That is just the nature of the case. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we react to black people in ways that look a lot like a form of, a much milder form of, the racism that not only served as the cultural backdrop for much of our nation’s history, but as the backdrop for our childhoods.

I will also suggest to you that because you and I belong to that larger tribe of white people, it is very hard for us, as part of the historically dominant tribe in this society, to get inside the heads of members of the black tribe. We may think we can do so, but it is really hard to pull it off. Our tribe was the oppressor, their tribe was the object of the oppression. That reality makes for very different ways of looking at the world, for understanding the way things work, for teaching children how to make their way through life.

As whites, we may think it is pretty simple: the old laws have been changed to reflect racial equality, so, dammit, just get on with it! Work hard and you will prosper now, we might say. You are every bit as free as we are! Except it isn’t that simple. Black people still face a lot of race-based resistance in this society. Some of that resistance is structural—see voting restrictions that disproportionately affect African-Americans, for instance—and some of it is found in the fact that feelings of white superiority still exist among members of our tribe, members who still mostly run things. You grew up in the ’40s and ’50s with it. I grew up in the ’60s and early ’70s with it.

And while it is true that such attitudes of white superiority have diminished, they still exist. An AP poll a few years ago found that “51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes.” The legacy of white supremacy, from slavery to Jim Crow, still infects white minds and still harms black people in so many ways, ways that you and I might be tempted to discount because we don’t experience them, don’t feel them in our bones.

All this is a long way of saying that you are not a racist in the historical sense. But like so many white people, including myself, we carry in our heads some residue of racist thinking, of thinking that our group of people with white skin is in some way or another superior to that other group of people without it. So, when you say, “I have read and talked myself beyond” racial animus, you may be right. I don’t believe for a second that you harbor any malevolent ill will toward black people simply because they are black. But neither you nor I can read or talk ourselves beyond all the racial prejudice that still lingers somewhere in our tribe-conditioned minds, especially when we interpret what it means when we see a black kid with drooping pants or when we watch a cop choke a black man to death on the streets of New York City.

Duane

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.

He’s Proud To Be An Okie From Manhattan

I don’t think I’ve ever quoted Ed Shultz on this blog, and some of you aren’t going to completely understand today’s offering, but here it goes:

Last night Shultz said something about the birther issue that may strike some folks as odd:

The President of the United States has had to put up with this honky-tonk conversation in the media for too long.

What a brilliant description of the goings-on regarding, among other things, the racist-infected doubts about President Obama’s birthplace, his college experiences, and essentially his love for his country.

“Honky-tonk” can be defined simply as, “a cheap, noisy bar or dance hall,” but in my (considerable) experience, there is a certain ethos that prevails in the kinds of bars I have known as honky-tonks. In terms of the politics of the patrons, they were, and remain, very conservative institutions.

Let me put it this way:  Honky-tonks aren’t the kind of places in which one would expect to find Barack Hussein Obama bellied-up to the bar.

While part of the etymology of the term honky-tonk is a little cloudy—”tonk” may refer to the brand name, Ernest A. Tonk, on the upright piano used in the old Tin Pan Alley bars—here is how Wikipedia describes the “honky” portion of the term:

The term honky was, as a term for whites, derived from bohunk and hunky. In the early 1900s, these were derogatory terms for Bohemian, Hungarian, and Polish immigrants. According to Robert Hendrickson, author of the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, black workers in Chicago meatpacking plants picked up the term from white workers and began applying it indiscriminately to all whites. “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy wrote of “Negroes and hunkies” in his autobiography.

Wikipedia further notes that, “honky tonk eventually became associated mainly with lower-class bars catering to men.”  The piano was replaced, for the honky-tonks I frequented, by a juke box, a juke box mostly loaded with country music. 

And the politics was, well, you can imagine.  Mostly uninformed, bigoted noise, spouted by people who don’t know what they don’t know, many of them I could politely call reactionaries, but because I’m still aggressively saddened about the events yesterday, I will call them classic rednecks.

Okay, so you get what Ed Schultz was trying to say. Which led me to thinking about Donald Trump, who I have called an Ugly American. I think a better description of him would be a Manhattan redneck.

Yes, a redneck from Manhattan.  They exist. And Donald Trump is their hero.  In fact, he’s a hero of rednecks everywhere.

I like this definition of the term redneck from the Urban Dictionary:

A glorious absence of sophistication (Part time or full time)

For the record, Donald Trump is “full-time.”

In his press conference yesterday, Donald Trump said,

I am so proud of myself because I’ve accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish.

It’s as if Trump was in a honky-tonk in 1964 Meridian, Mississippi, bragging to his buddies, “I showed that uppity negro. That’ll teach him to wink at a white woman.

And there on the bar stool next to Trump was his honky-tonk angel, Sarah Palin, egging him on:

Media, admit it, Trump forced the issue.

Which reminds me of an old Conway Twitty honky-tonk song, sort of Donald Trump’s plea to the world:

So tell me if you think it’s over,

And I’ll leave it up to you how it ends. 

‘Cause if you don’t want the love I can give you, 

Well, there’s a honky-tonk angel who’ll take me back in.

Makes me want to pop the top on another can.

Monkey Business Is Business As Usual For Some

Since I have sometimes mentioned the racially-tinged and racist elements that make up some of the hysterical resistance to Barack Obama (D-Kenya), I suppose I ought to mention the Orange County Republican bigwig, Marilyn Davenport, who has now become a part of the “it has nothing to do with his race” racist Right. 

Ms. Davenport has issued not an apology but a defense of her forwarding a racist email depicting the first African-American President of the United States as a child-monkey:  

I’m sorry if my email offended anyone. I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding his origin of birth. In no way did I even consider the fact he’s half black when I sent out the email. In fact, the thought never entered my mind until one or two other people tried to make this about race.

This episode reminded me a little bit of our own Congressman-now-Senator Roy Blunt and his infamous “monkey joke,” which he told before Focus on the Family’s so-called Values Voter Summit in 2009. In Blunt’s case, and I suppose in his defense, at least he never directly tied his joke to Obama or featured an Obama-monkey photo so the folks would clearly get the message.

Marilyn Davenport, who said she would “NOT resign” her “central committee position,” wanted to make sure the recipients of her email did not miss the point: 

Class. Pure Class.

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