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!

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The Supreme Court Shows No Love To Anxious White People

“Equality of representation in the legislature is a first principle of liberty.”John Adams, 1776

a very important decision was handed down this morning by the U.S. Supreme Court. And I bet you didn’t even know it was coming. I know I didn’t and I follow this stuff fairly closely. And what this case, Evenwel v. Abbott, shows is that some white conservative activists in this country are not only suspicious of a democracy filled with brown people, they are openly hostile to it.

Before we get to the motives behind the plaintiffs in the case that was decided today, here is a quick summary from a story on MSNBC.com:

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected an effort to change political boundaries and reduce the voting strength of the nation’s Latino population on Monday.

Two residents of Texas urged the court to rule that in drawing legislative boundaries to create districts with roughly equal populations, states should count the voting population, not the total population.

Using the total population figures, the challengers said, dilutes the voting power of residents in districts with large numbers of people who are not eligible to vote, violating the one-person, one-vote requirement.

From an article in The Atlantic last year, we find that simply selecting the voting-age population as the criterion for creating voting districts “would produce districts that are older, whiter, richer, and more likely to vote Republican.” Get it? There are just too many pigmented people around who either don’t vote or can’t vote and if they live in a district with white people who do, then they are “diluting” the power of those white voters.

evenwel v abbottA group of white (let’s stop pretending race has nothing to do with this stuff) conservatives calling themselves (falsely) the Project on Fair Representation was behind this lawsuit, ostensibly brought by two Texas conservative voters, Sue Evenwel and Ed Pfenninger, who Raw Story described this way in December of last year:

Evenwel is a Tea Party activist who has thrown her support behind Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Sarah Palin and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and she helps promote “birther” conspiracy theories at local political meetings in Titus County.

Pfenninger is a security guard who has posted dozens of YouTube videos explaining his disdain for Jews, the Catholic Church and short-haired women, and he also believes that unicorns are real and the sun revolves around the earth.

Raw Story points out that these two upstanding white citizens were recruited by the Project on Fair Representation, who proudly claims the group was “designed to support litigation that challenges racial and ethnic classifications and preferences in state and federal courts,” and says its mission “is to facilitate pro bono legal representation to political subdivisions and individuals that wish to challenge government distinctions and preferences made on the basis of race and ethnicity.” Clear enough? This is the same group that has been largely behind legal attacks on the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action.

You can read more details about the theories both in favor of this anti-democratic scheme and against it (even the state of Texas was against it, if you can believe that), but suffice it to say those in favor of this scheme—again, white conservative groups afraid of the browning of America— were sorely disappointed this morning. By a unanimous vote of 8-0, the Court left in place the very democratic idea of “one man, one vote,” which, oddly, only began to be articulated by the Court in the Earl Warren era, starting with the well-known Baker v. Carr in 1962, followed by the colossally huge case in 1964, Reynolds V. Sims, where the phrase—now a part of the lexicon of all those fighting for the right to vote around the world—was used to summarize the idea that state legislative districts should be drawn according to population rather than geographic districts.

Writing for the majority on the Court today, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said something so simple, yet apparently something so controversial among anxious white people who feel their cultural privilege slipping slowly away from them:

As the Framers of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment comprehended, representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible or registered to vote.

Ya think? Should that even have to be articulated in 21st-century America? Ginsburg also reached back into time and rubbed a little salt into the wounds of conservatives by citing a Founder, Alexander Hamilton:

There can be no truer principle than this – that every individual of the community at large has an equal right to the protection of government.

“No truer principle.” That doesn’t leave much room for white cultural angst, does it?

On a local note, it is interesting that the Cato Institute, a libertarian group-think tank co-founded by Charles Koch, filed a brief urging the Court to take up the case of Evenwel v. Abbott. Sitting prominently on the board of directors of the Cato Institute is Joplin’s own Ethelmae C. Humphreys, part of a family that has showered conservative and libertarian causes with tons and tons of cash. Here’s how the great legal writer for Slate, Dahlia Lithwick, described Cato’s argument:

As a practical matter, if the plaintiffs win this appeal, power will shift markedly from urban voters to rural voters and to white and Republican districts over minority and Democratic ones. In their brief asking the court to take the case, the Cato Institute was quite clear: If we apportion seats based on population, “a relatively small constituency of eligible Hispanic voters … have their votes ‘over-weighted’ and ‘over-valuated,’ effectively diluting the votes of eligible voters” and giving Hispanic voters “disproportionate power.”

Does anyone in their right mind think that Hispanic voters have “disproportionate power”? No. Only people in their white mind. That phrase in Cato’s brief, “diluting the votes of eligible voters,” can fairly be translated, “diluting the vote of eligible white voters.” 

Fortunately, Cato’s argument, and the argument of other brown-fearing white groups and their pawns, failed to convince even the rightiest of the right-wingers on the Supreme Court. And the vital concept of “one-man, one-vote” will live on.

At least for now. Joplin’s Humphreys family and the Koch brothers and those like them have plenty of cash available to keep on challenging what most of us, and all of those sitting on the Supreme Court, still see as fundamental to the success of our democratic experiment. The fight isn’t over I am sure. All of which makes this coming presidential election, with Antonin Scalia now resting in his everlasting home, more important than ever.

Blind Eye

“It’s high time folks started calling out the Democrats for their racial appeals.”

—Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, of, uh, Alabama

For years now I have written about white angst, about how, especially in the age of Obama, white folks have gone politically berserk over the prospect of the tanning of American demographics. That angst, I have argued, helps explain the energy of the various Tea Party insurgencies, animated by, as I like to put it, fear of the Scary Negro in the White’s House.

Finally, some whiter-than-the-wind-driven-snow Tea Party Republican in Congress, Rep. Mo Brooks—who came to the House in that infamous and game-changing 2010 election—has just come right out and said it: Democrats are waging a “war on whites.” And, of course, this war is being led by un-snowy Barack Obama, winner of two national elections in which, the pale Alabama congressman claims, the winner engaged in a strategy of dividing the American electorate by “race” and “sex” and “greed” and “envy” and “class warfare” and “all those kinds of things.”

Republicans, obviously, have had nothing to do with dividing the country by race (ignore them claiming that the impeachable Barack Obama is an illegitimate president who may or may not have been born on the Dark—having nothing to do with his complexion—Continent, and ignore them legislating that pigmented kids from Central America need to exit this Jesus-blessed land pronto) or sex (ignore them demanding that the government probe vaginas before women earn their constitutionally-protected reproductive rights) or greed (ignore them running offense for Wall Street quintillionaires) or envy (ignore them arguing that Democratic voters covet the wealthy’s dough) or class warfare (ignore them insisting that if you’re not rich, you didn’t work hard enough). Yep. If you look through your blind eye, you can see that Republicans had nothing to do with dividing Americans.

Speaking of blind eyes, The Nation’s Mychal Denzel Smith points out a part of Mo Brooks’ commentary that many have overlooked. About the immigration issue, Brooks, who told Chris Hayes last Friday that he wants all of the millions of undocumented immigrants deported, said on Monday:

It doesn’t make any difference if you’re a white American, a black American, a Hispanic American, an Asian-American or if you’re a woman or a man. Every single demographic group is hurt by falling wages and lost jobs. Democrats, they have to demagogue on this and try and turn it into a racial issue, which is an emotional issue, rather than a thoughtful issue. If it becomes a thoughtful issue, then we win and we win big. And they lose and they lose big.

Smith writes:

It’s the type of language used to dismiss the real-world concerns of those of us who live on the oppressed side of racism in America. Our issues aren’t considered serious intellectual questions but emotional reactions that are to be dealt with personally. But any discussion of jobs and wages that doesn’t consider race (or gender) is intellectually dishonest. To pretend there are not groups of people who are disproportionately disadvantaged under our current economic model and that our ongoing legacy of racism and white supremacy are not contributing factors means you are not actually looking for solutions. You’re turning the same blind eye that has allowed the suffering in the first place.

Idiomatically, the phrase “turn a blind eye” means to deliberately ignore something or pretend not to see it. This is what Republicans are trying to ignore or pretend they don’t see:

And the blind eye doesn’t see the following numbers, including from Mo Brooks’ Alabama and my own state of Missouri:

POVERTY RATE BY RACE AND ETHNICITY 2011 1012

Yes, as you can see with your good eye, Democrats are waging quite a war on whites.

 

Why Democrats Should Thank Phyllis Schlafly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

eagle forum immigration report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[photo: Gage Skidmore]

Sometimes Liberals Overreact Too, And Miss The Real Problem

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

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

Richard Cohen Writes Yet Another Racist Column

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

coulter on cruz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

obama regime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mother jones and white nationalists

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

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

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

That nationalist group that Taylor was defending is this one:

npi

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

npi about

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

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

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

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

Well, what you are doing is admirable and noteworthy.

Ain’t that nice?

But Limbaugh asked him after that :

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

RUBIO:  In terms of the —

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

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

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

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

—Bill O’Reilly, November 6, 2012

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

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

Ain’t gonna happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And America would be all the better for it.

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

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

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

Through their open patio door someone heard the man say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

An AP poll released on Monday showed a depressing result:

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

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

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

All of that has real electoral consequences:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barone wrote on National Review Online on Monday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s In Over His (Black) Head

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

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

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

Limbaugh explained on Thursday why the President lost the debate:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Ron Brownstein wrote:

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

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

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

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

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