Many on the political right simply can’t get this diversity thing right — and I deeply doubt that they want to. Theirs is a bone-deep contempt for otherness, a congenital belief in the superiority-inferiority binary, a circle-the-wagons, zero-sum view of progress, prosperity and power.
This became apparent yet again Wednesday when it was revealed that one of the co-authors of a much maligned Heritage Foundation “study” about “The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer,” Jason Richwine, had written a Ph.D. dissertation at Harvard in 2009 titled “IQ and Immigration Policy.”
Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post summarized Richwine’s dissertation thusly:
“Richwine’s dissertation asserts that there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races. While it’s clear he thinks it is partly due to genetics — ‘the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in I.Q.’ — he argues the most important thing is that the differences in group I.Q.s are persistent, for whatever reason. He writes, ‘No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach I.Q. parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-I.Q. children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.’ ”
“He does caution against referring to it as I.Q.-based selection, saying that using the term ‘skill-based’ would ‘blunt the negative reaction.’ ”
Skill-based. Clever. Or Machiavellian.
In reality, it’s just another conservative euphemism meant to cast class aspersions and raise racial ire without ever forthrightly addressing the issues of class and race. This form of Roundabout Republicanism has entirely replaced honest conservative discussion, to the point that anyone who now raises class-based inequality is labeled divisive and anyone who raises race is labeled a racist.
It’s a way of wriggling out of unpleasant debates on which they have stopped trying to engage altogether. The new strategy is avoidance, obfuscation and boomerang blaming.
This “skill-based” phraseology is simply the latest in a long line of recent right-wing terms of art.
There was Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comment about the people who would “vote for the president no matter what.” He continued: “there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
That was in line with the other-ing of President Obama, whether in the form of aspersions about his birth or his faith or his understanding of and commitment to the country he leads. Recall John Sununu, a top Romney surrogate, saying that Obama “has no idea how the American system functions” and saying that he wished the president “would learn how to be an American.”
Representative Paul Ryan, Romney’s vice-presidential running mate, blamed turnout in “urban areas” for their loss, rather than their ragtag campaign operation and a coreless nominee who was utterly inept when attempting to connect with average voters. Remember Romney liked grits, y’all.
The former House speaker and failed presidential candidate Newt Gingrich — the one who said that poor children had no habit of working “unless it is illegal” — told Fox News last year that President Obama was “not a real president.” During that same television appearance, Gingrich said of the president: “I’m assuming that there’s some rhythm to Barack Obama that the rest of us don’t understand. Whether he needs large amounts of rest, whether he needs to go play basketball for a while, um, watch ESPN, I mean, I don’t quite know what his rhythms are.”
Huh. Needs large amounts of rest and to go play basketball and watch television. Nothing subliminal there. Moving along.
This list could extend to more than one column — including terms like “job creators” and “we built this,” and the candidate Rick Santorum (who has three degrees) calling the president a snob for wanting “everybody in America to go to college ” (which is not at all what the president said).
And it could stretch back further to the patron saint of the right Ronald Reagan’s use of the welfare queen meme and George Bush’s and Lee Atwater’s invocation of Willie Horton in the 1988 presidential campaign.
But I think you get the picture.
The right is constantly invoking class and race as cudgels in our political discussions; they just hide the hand that swings the club.
The rebranding of the Republican Party is to a large degree the renaming of intolerance.
By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New Tork Times, May 8, 2013
As one of the world’s largest news outlets, the Associated Press’s linguistic mandates significantly shape the broader vernacular. So when the organization this week decided to stop using the term “illegal immigrant,” it was a big victory for objectivity and against the propagandistic language of bigotry.
Cautious AP executives did not frame it exactly that way. Instead, editor Kathleen Carroll portrayed the decision as one in defense of grammar, saying that the term “illegal” properly “describe(s) only an action” and that it is not an appropriate label to describe a human being.
“Illegal,” of course, has been used as more than a mere label — it has for years been used as an outright epithet by xenophobes. They abhor the notion of America becoming more diverse — and specifically, more non-white — and so they have tried to convert “illegal” into a word that specifically dehumanizes Latinos. Thus, as any honest person can admit, when Republican politicians and media blowhards decry “illegals,” they are pretending to be for a race-blind enforcement of immigration laws, but they are really signaling their hatred of Latino culture.
How can we be so sure that dog-whistle bigotry is the intent? It’s simple, really. Just listen to who is — and who is not — being called an “illegal.”
Almost nobody is uses the term to attack white immigrants from Europe or Canada who overstay their visas. Nobody uses the term to describe white people who break all sorts of criminal laws. Indeed, nobody called Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter an “illegal” upon revelations about his connection to a prostitution service, nor did anyone call Bernie Madoff an “illegal” for his Ponzi schemes.
Instead, the word is exclusively used to denigrate Latinos who entered the country without authorization. Coincidence? Hardly — especially because the term “illegal” is used to describe Latinos whose immigration status is not even a criminal matter.
Yes, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie noted back in 2008, though “the whole phrase of ‘illegal immigrant’ connotes that the person, by just being here, is committing a crime,” in fact “being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime.”
If Christie runs for president in 2016, he will likely get flak for that comment from anti-immigrant Republicans. But he was 100 percent correct.
“‘Illegal presence’ as the offense is called, is not a violation of the U.S. criminal code,” notes the Newark Star-Ledger, adding that while it is “a violation of civil immigration laws (and) the federal government can impose civil penalties” a person “cannot be sent to prison for being here without authorization from immigration authorities.”
Recognizing these facts is not to condone unauthorized entry into the United States. But it is to note a telling discrepancy: Latinos with non-criminal immigration status are called “illegals” but white people committing decidedly criminal acts are not called the same. Worse, the term is used so often and in such blanket fashion against Latinos that it ends up implying a description of all people of Hispanic heritage, regardless of their immigration status.
What’s amazing is that Republican media voices, which so often invoke such incendiary language, simultaneously wonder why the Republican Party is failing to win the votes of people of color and consequently losing so many elections. Somehow, the GOP doesn’t understand what the Associated Press realized: Organizations — whether political parties, media outlets or businesses – can no longer expect to insult and slander people of color and still have a viable audience.
Those that do not realize that truth will inevitably find themselves as lonely and as marginalized as today’s GOP.
By: David Sirota, Creators.com, April 5, 2013
You have to admire, in a sick sort of way, any politician that gets caught mispositioning him- or herself on a major issue and then just quickly flip-flops and denies it. Mitt Romney, to the surprise of many of us, managed this maneuver (denouncing Obamacare and then denying any contradiction with his own authorship of the state health reform initiative it was based upon) for two solid years.
Can Jeb Bush do the same with the immigration issue? He’s sure trying, as explained by TPM’s Benjy Sarlin:
Jeb Bush completed a whirlwind one-week journey on immigration on Sunday, praising a Senate proposal to grant eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants after attacking the idea in a newly released book he co-authored that was itself a reversal of his past position.
To make a long story short, Bush’s new book (written near the savage end of the period of nativist domination of the GOP that began in reaction to his brother’s comprehensive reform initiative and extended throughout the 2012 presidential nominating process) flatly eschewed a “path to citizenship” for those who had earlier entered the country illegally in favor of a vast “guest worker” program that would legitimize most of the undocumented without granting them citizenship, thus avoiding the twin perils of “amnesty” and of cattle cars transporting millions of women and children to the border. Now Jeb’s claiming this carefully calibrated positioning was just a psychological ploy to lure angry wingnuts onto the paths of righteousness:
On CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Bush downplays the inconsistency between his book’s tough criticism of a path to citizenship and his apparent support for a Senate plan that includes exactly that.
“Well first of all, I haven’t changed,” Bush says. “The book was written to try to create a blueprint for conservatives that were reluctant to embrace comprehensive reform, to give them perhaps a set of views that they could embrace. I support a path to legalization or citizenship so long as the path for people that have been waiting patiently is easier and costs less — the legal entrance to our country — than illegal entrance.”
Yes, that’s right: Bush is not only (a) denying he changed his position, and (b) suggesting he was just acting as a shepherd to the wayward nativist sheep, but is (c) trying to take credit for the recent reemergence of comprehensive immigration reform as an acceptable conservative policy goal. That’s some serious chutzpah, folks.
The Romney analogy is apropos in another sense: before it became ideologically toxic, Romneycare was Mitt’s calling card, his example of successful conservative policymaking on an issue that had long been “owned” by Democrats. Much of Jeb Bush’s appeal (beyond the general belief that he was the most genuinely conservative pol in his family) as a potential presidential candidacy came from his theoretical appeal to Latino voters as someone married to a Mexican-American (his kids were the ones famously referred to by his father as the “little brown ones”) who also had close ties to Florida’s Cuban-American community. His brother, after all, had championed a “path to citizenship,” and he was generally regarded as Marco Rubio’s political patron. By choosing to publish an entire book on immigration reform at the very beginning of a new presidential cycle, Jeb drew a great deal of attention to his background on the issue, and thus had nowhere to hide when it turned out he had guessed wrong on where his party was headed on this subject.
So like Romney before him, he seems to have decided to just brazen it out, hoping his acrobatic changes of position become yesterday’s news if he decides to run for president. It more or less worked for Mitt–at least in securing the GOP nomination–but if Jeb does want to run, he cannot be so assured that he will face the kind of clownish intra-party competition that was so crucial to Romney’s nomination campaign. It would be particularly ironic if Jeb were to be pushed aside by his former protege Rubio as someone with greater credibility in both Tea Party and “pragmatic conservative” circles. But that could happen. George W. Bush’s “smarter brother” may have just out-smarted himself.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 11, 2013
Remember the good old days when professional wrestlers “injured” in the ring would pretend to be injured in public just in case a fan saw them?
No? Ok. Well, take my word for it. The term of art is “kayfabe.” It’s the wrestling equivalent of a blue wall of silence. Omerta. That wall is very thin these days, and WWE proudly calls itself an entertainment company. No one is fooled, but the wrestlers try to keep in character most of the time, and the fans generally pretend to accept the real fakeness of wrestling. It is a confusing mental feat, but WWE makes a lot of money every year, so they’re doing something right.
In the past, when WWE wrestlers have formally broken character during a show, it’s because something bad happened; the real world intruded unexpectedly in a way that kayfabe couldn’t cover. The death of wrestler Owen Hart in the ring 14 years ago. Commentator Jerry the “King” Lawler suffers a heart attack on air a few months back.
Now, it’s something more… jovial. It’s Glenn Beck.
It started on Beck’s Mercury Radio Network program. WWE has a new character that Beck believes is “stupid.” The character is a Tea Party take-off who taunts the current WWE world champion, Alberto Del Rio, for allegedly being an illegal immigrant. Lest you find offense at this in any way, note that in this storyline, Del Rio is the good guy, and gets cheers from the fans, and the Tea Party wrestler, Zeb Colter, is the bad guy. (Colter’s bud is a veteran wrestler named Jack Swagger, another villain.)
Beck said this of the storyline:
So may I ask: Did George Soros buy the WWE? Is this a Cass Sunstein presentation? And maybe it’s just us. Maybe — you know what? Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe that’s the way WWE people view the TEA Party. And maybe they love to hate the TEA Party. But I have to tell you, I expect that from Hollywood, but I don’t expect — if I’m getting my entertainment from somebody that I think is on my side — and I’m sorry. I just don’t see a bunch of progressives going and buying their tickets to the WWE. Do you? I mean, and maybe there are. I tend to notice that the progressives are not as popular in the South unless they’ve moved from the North. So I’m just trying to figure out exactly who they’re trying to appeal here, who they’re appealing to.
He actually referred to George Soros and Cass Sunstein. Beck goes on to speculate that the WWE is alienating 80 percent of his audience, which he thinks “skews” conservative.
WWE responded by first inviting Beck to appear on their program. (It’s the biz!)
But then they released a video, where the wrestlers in question break character and bash Beck.
WWE’s reps concede that they’re promoting a storyline that makes anti-immigrant politics look bad because a significant and growing portion of their audience domestically and in Latin America is Hispanic.
And here is where Glenn Beck gets his sense of WWE wrong: wrestling might not seem “progressive” to him, but wrestling fans are young. They’re of the Obama generation. They like to be on the right side of history. Actually, if you look at wrestling storylines years back, you’ll see how the script matches or tries to catch up with the political zeitgeist.
Beck will get some PR out of this, but WWE has Wrestlemania on April 7.
By: Marc Ambinder, The Week, February 24, 2013
Among the provisions in the immigration-reform proposal released by a bipartisan group of senators yesterday was a requirement that in order to get on that path to citizenship, undocumented immigrants would have to “learn English and civics.” They don’t detail exactly how it would happen, but presumably there’d be a test of English proficiency immigrants would have to pass, and perhaps some money appropriated for English classes. There are two things to know about this idea. First, in practical terms it’s completely unnecessary. And second, in political terms it’s an excellent idea. In fact, it could be the key to passing immigration reform.
The reason it’s unnecessary is that every wave of immigrants follows basically the same pattern when it comes to English. People who immigrate as adults tend not to learn much beyond the most basic words and phrases, and continue to speak their native language at home. Their children grow up bilingual, speaking one language at home and another at school and eventually at work. The next generation grows up with only a little bit of the language of the old country, which they pick up from their grandparents, but they spend almost all their time speaking English. And the generation after that often knows nothing of their great-grandparents’ language beyond a few colorful expressions.
That’s how it has worked for one group of immigrants after another, and as Dylan Matthews reminds us, that’s how it’s working for the current group of immigrants. There is some variation among people who come from different places, but the basic picture is clear: you don’t need to “make them learn English,” because they’re going to learn it anyway, or at least their children are. That’s probably how it worked in your family, and it’s certainly how it worked in mine. My great-grandparents, who came to America as adults, knew very little English; my grandparents, who came as children, were bilingual; my parents can follow a conversation in Yiddish but not speak it very well; and my siblings and I just know a few little Yiddish snippets. (When I was a kid my grandmother had an annoying habit of telling long, apparently hilarious stories in which just the punch line was in Yiddish, so I never knew what the hell all the older people were laughing about.)
So why is the “make them learn English” provision so politically important? Because it’s the key that unlocks wide public support for immigration reform. As a group, Americans have contradictory feelings about immigration. We can’t divide the country into “pro-immigrant” and “anti-immigrant” groups, even if you might be able to make such a division among politicians or talk-show hosts. Apart from a small population of hard-core nativists, most Americans acknowledge that we’re all descended from immigrants of one kind or another, whether your ancestors walked across the Bering Strait land bridge, came over on a slave ship, or drove down from Toronto. They also appreciate that immigration gives our country vitality, and that immigrants are exactly the kind of hard-working, ambitious strivers that drive our economy and culture forward. But at the same time, many feel threatened when they see the character of their towns and cities change, and nothing embodies that change more than language. When people walk into a store and hear a language being spoken that they don’t understand, they suddenly feel like foreigners in their own neighborhood, alienated and insecure. I’m not putting a value judgment on that feeling, but it’s undeniable.
So imagine an individual citizen/voter who has those two contradictory feelings. He sincerely wants his country to welcome immigrants, and he thinks that cultural diversity is basically a good thing, but he got a little freaked out last week when he went down to the drug store and felt like he just got transported to Mexico City. He doesn’t like feeling alienated, but he also doesn’t like that tiny voice inside him that says “Send them back where they came from!” He knows that voice isn’t right, but when he sees signs in other languages or hears other languages spoken, that voice gets a little stronger.
What the “make them learn English” provision says to him is: Don’t worry, it’s going to be OK. We’re going to make sure that this wave of immigrants is woven into the American tapestry just like the prior waves of Irish and Italian and Chinese immigrants. They won’t take America over. They’ll become American.
The truth is, that’ll happen whether or not we make undocumented immigrants take an English test before they can become citizens. But there’s no reason not to do it. If some have to take an ESL class in order to pass, that’s fine—accelerating their learning curve a little will be good for them, and the cost probably won’t be too high. The real benefit, though, will be to reassure the majority of Americans whose feelings about immigration are complicated. And once you get enough of them on board, it becomes possible for risk-averse politicians to do the right thing.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 29, 2013