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“Really Stepping Into It”: When ‘Traditional’ Apparently Means ‘White’

North Carolina State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) fairly easily won his party’s U.S. Senate nomination this year, after presenting himself as the most electable center-right candidate to take on Sen. Kay Hagan (D) in November.

He may have oversold his electoral qualities a bit.

We learned a month ago about remarks, first aired by msnbc’s Chris Matthews, in which Tillis argued in 2011, “What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance.” The Republican lawmaker described a vision in which policymakers pit those in need against one another, in order to cut off benefits for those on the losing end of the fight.

This morning, TPM reports on another striking quote from Tillis’ recent past.

State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-NC), the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in North Carolina, said that the “traditional” voting bloc of his home state wasn’t growing like minority populations in an interview he did in 2012.

In context, the host of the Carolina Business Review television program asked why the Republican Party was struggling with minority voters, most notably Hispanics. Tillis responded that he believes the GOP’s message is “appealing to everybody.” As for his party’s demographic challenges, he added, “The traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable. It’s not growing. The African-American population is roughly growing but the Hispanic population and the other immigrant populations are growing in significant numbers.”

It sounded an awful lot like Tillis sees the “traditional population” as the white population.

The Republican’s campaign manager said this morning that Tillis was referring to “North Carolinians who have been here for a few generations” when he used the word “traditional.”

That’s one way of looking at it. But the words themselves are hard to ignore.

Tillis wasn’t talking about migration or new populations that have recently arrived in North Carolina. Rather, he described three demographic groups by name: the African-American population, the Hispanic population, and the “traditional population.”

NBC News’ First Read added, “It appears North Carolina GOP Senate nominee Thom Tillis stepped into it,” which seems more than fair under the circumstances.

Tillis was already likely to struggle with minority-voter outreach, especially given his support for some of the nation’s harshest voting restrictions. It’s safe to say his “traditional population” comment won’t help.

The next question, of course, is whether remarks like these also alienate a broader voting base.  In 2006, for example, then-Sen. George Allen’s (R-Va.) “macaca” comments were offensive not just to minority voters, but also to anyone concerned with racism. It’s not hard to imagine Tillis running into a similar problem, alienating anyone uncomfortable with the notion of white people being some kind of “traditional” default.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 17, 2014

June 18, 2014 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ultimately Responsible For Republican Inaction”: Whether He Likes It Or Not, Boehner Controls Immigration Bill’s Fate

For months, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) tried to blame President Obama for House Republicans’ refusal to consider immigration reform: GOP lawmakers don’t trust the White House, the argument went, so the administration’s responsible for Republican intransigence. A few weeks ago, however, Boehner accidentally told the truth: House Republicans, afraid of hard work and tough choices, are ultimately responsible for inaction on the issue.

So which is it? As a matter of substance, the Speaker’s accidental honesty gave away the game, but as a matter of politics, it’s awkward when the House Republican leader blames his own members for a colossal failure – so now Boehner seems to be pushing both arguments simultaneously.

The Ohio Republican, speaking at a luncheon sponsored by several San Antonio business groups, acknowledged that there are some in his conference who do not want to take on the issue, but he was measured in speaking about his colleagues’ resistance.

“There are some members of our party who just do not want to deal with this. It’s no secret,” he said. “I do believe the vast majority of our members do want to deal with this, they want to deal with it openly, honestly and fairly.”

Boehner then added, “I put the ball back in the president’s court. He’s going to have to do something to demonstrate his trustworthiness.”

There are hints of good news here for reform proponents, but for the most part, the Speaker’s position is simply incoherent. If the “vast majority” of House Republicans want to tackle immigration reform, Boehner and his leadership team can … wait for it … tackle immigration reform. There’s nothing stopping them – they’re the House majority; they can do as they please; the Senate has already acted; and the White House is eager to sign something into law.

As for President Obama demonstrating his “trustworthiness,” the administration has already shown its commitment on this issue by increasing deportations and boosting border security to heights without modern precedent. What’s more, leading Democratic lawmakers have offered to delay implementation of the law until 2017, at which time there will be a new president.

Boehner has never been a policy guy, per se, but it’s implausible to think the Speaker of the House isn’t aware of these basic details. It’s what makes his odd rhetoric somewhat baffling – Boehner says Republicans are and aren’t interested in reform, while the president is and isn’t to blame for GOP intransigence.

The Speaker added, in reference to immigration reform in general, “This is not about politics, not about elections. It’s about doing the right thing for the American people. It’s about doing the right thing for the country. Period.”

That’s a perfectly nice sentiment, though it naturally leads one to wonder when, exactly, Boehner might stop talking about the issue and might start governing.

In the meantime, some of the Speaker’s allies are offering his party some not-so-subtle advice. Benjy Sarlin noted yesterday:

Republican-leaning immigration supporters, which include a variety of business leaders and trade associations, have been lobbying Republicans for a year to pass a reform bill. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue warned Republicans on Monday that failure to pass a bill this year would be fatal to the party’s presidential hopes given the rising power of Hispanic and Asian voters who are largely opposed to the GOP’s current immigration stance.

“If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016,” he said in a panel discussion. “I mean, think about that. Think about who the voters are.”

To borrow a metaphor, the ball is in Boehner’s court.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 13, 2014

 

 

 

May 15, 2014 Posted by | House Republicans, Immigration Reform, John Boehner | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Words, Ideas, Actions, And The Tangle Of Race”: Sometimes Language Isn’t Really The Problem

We seem to be having one of those moments when a series of controversies come in rapid succession and make everyone newly aware of the relationship between language, ideas, and actions. And naturally, it revolves around our eternal national wound of race.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to see that in a few of these controversies, we aren’t actually arguing about what words mean. This is often a focus of disagreement when somebody says something that other people take offense at; for instance, when Paul Ryan said a few weeks ago that “[w]e have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular, of men not working, and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value of the culture of work,” conservatives believed he was being unfairly tagged as racist for using a common phrase, while liberals objected to the connection between the word and the idea that followed. There’s nothing racist about the term “inner city” in and of itself, but when people say it they are usually referring to urban areas where black people are concentrated, and when you then describe a pathological laziness that is supposedly prevalent there, then you’ve said something problematic.

But when Cliven Bundy offered his fascinating thoughts on the state of black America, people weren’t appalled because of his use of the outdated term “Negro” in “Let me tell you another thing about the Negro.” It was what came afterward. He could have said “Let me tell you another thing about the African-American,” and it would have been just as bad, and not only because he was about to paint all members of a race with the same ugly brush. (Cliven, it’s safe to surmise, would never say “Let me tell you another thing about the white,” because the idea that all white people are the same in some fundamental way would be ridiculous to him.) To conservatives’ credit, they got this immediately and ran away from Bundy as fast as they could, even if there was still plenty to criticize about the fact that they embraced him in the first place.

And then there’s Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers owner who has apparently been caught on tape telling his “girlfriend” (I put that in quotes because there’s just no way to even think of a relationship between an 81-year-old billionaire and a 31-year-old model type without being seriously repulsed) that he doesn’t want her publicly associating with black people, putting pictures of her with black people, or bringing black people to his games, despite the fact that we’re talking about an NBA team here. Even weirder is that the black person in question is Magic Johnson, one of the most revered and beloved sports heroes of the last half-century or so.

A statement released by the Clippers said: “Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life.” Which is the kind of thing you say when there’s a dispute over the interpretation of a word or phrase. We all say things we don’t exactly mean sometimes, or say something in a way that can be misinterpreted. But when you go on and on about how you don’t want people to know that your “girlfriend” hangs out with black people, that’s hard to misinterpret. And so, no one is defending Sterling. Some ridiculous conservatives have tried to make the case that since he donated money to a couple of Democrats a couple of decades ago that this is yet more evidence that Democrats are The Real Racists (Michael Tomasky vivisects that here), but not even many of their compatriots are going to bother with that.

As Jay Smooth points out, it’s interesting that Sterling’s longstanding and widely known record of racist actions, like trying to keep blacks and Hispanics out of rental buildings he owns, weren’t enough to generate calls for him to get booted from the NBA, but some racists words were. Despite all our arguments about the ambiguities of language, it’s his language—or, more properly, his ideas expressed through language—that everyone can agree on. And there wasn’t a racial slur in his conversation, as though he knows which words are OK to use and which ones aren’t, but he still thinks it’s OK to express racism toward black people, so long as you just call them “black people.”

Which brings us back to Paul Ryan. McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed has a piece out today about Ryan that features this exchange:

At one point, as he tells me about his efforts during the presidential race to get the Romney campaign to spend more time in urban areas, he says, “I wanted to do these inner-city tours—” then he stops abruptly and corrects himself. “I guess we’re not supposed to use that.”

His eyes dart back and forth for a moment as he searches for words that won’t rain down more charges of racism. “These…these…”

I suggest that the term is appropriate in this context, since it is obviously intended as an innocuous description of place. He’s unconvinced, and eventually settles on a retreat to imprecision: “I mean, I wanted to take our ideas and principles everywhere, and try for everybody’s vote. I just thought, morally speaking, it was important to ask everyone for their support.”

Ryan is laboring under the misimpression that all he did wrong before was use the term “inner city,” and if he banishes that term and any other dangerous ones from his vocabulary, then everything will be cool. Sorry, Congressman—it’s not so easy.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 28, 2014

April 29, 2014 Posted by | Race and Ethnicity, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Waiting For Excuses For The Inexcusable”: When Talking About The Third Rail Of American Conscience, Brace For Dumb Excuses

What excuses will they make this time?

Meaning that cadre of letters-to-the-editor writers and conservative pundits who so reliably say such stupid things whenever the subject is race. Indeed, race is the third rail of American conscience; to touch it is to be zapped by rationalizations, justifications and lies that defy reason, but that some must embrace to preserve for themselves the fiction of liberty and justice for all. Otherwise, they’d have to face the fact that advantage and disadvantage, health and sickness, wealth and poverty, life and death, are still parceled out according to melanin content of skin.

So they become creative in their evasions.

They use made-up facts (Trayvon Martin was actually casing the neighborhood) and invented statistics (black men and boys commit 97.2 percent of all the crime in America), they murder messengers (“You’re a racist for pointing out racism!”) they discredit the source (Can you really trust a government study?).

One waits, then, with morbid fascination to see what excuse those folks will make as federal data released last week reveal that African-American children are significantly more likely to be suspended — from preschool. Repeating for emphasis: preschool, that phase of education where the curriculum encompasses colors, shapes, finger painting and counting to 10. Apparently, our capacity for bias extends even there. According to the Department of Education, while black kids make up about 18 percent of those attending preschool, they account for 42 percent of those who are suspended once — and nearly half of those suspended more than once.

Armed with that information, there are many questions we should be asking:

Are black kids being suspended for things that would earn another child a timeout or a talking-to?

If racial bias pervades even the way we treat our youngest citizens, how can anyone still say it has no impact upon the way we treat them when they are older?

What does being identified as “bad” at such an early age do to a child’s sense of himself, his worth and his capabilities?

Does being thus identified so young play out later in life in terms of higher dropout rates and lower test scores?

How can we fix this, build a society in which every one of our children is encouraged to stretch for the outermost limits of his or her potential?

Those are the kinds of smart, compassionate questions we should ask. But again, we’re talking about the third rail of American conscience. So one braces for dumb excuses instead.

Maybe someone will claim African-American preschoolers are 73.9 percent more likely to fail naptime.

Maybe someone will contend that they thuggishly refuse to color inside the lines.

And you may rest assured someone will say that for us even to have the discussion proves hatred of white people.

What a long, strange road we have traveled from the high land of idealism and hope to which the human rights movement brought us 50 years ago, down to the swampy lowland of justification and circumscribed horizons we find ourselves slogging through now. It is noteworthy that this story of institutional bias against children barely out of diapers scarcely skimmed — much less penetrated — an American consciousness presently preoccupied by basketball brackets and the mystery of a doomed jetliner.

Small wonder. Those things ask very little of us, other than a love for sport and a capacity to feel bad for other people’s misfortune. This, on the other hand, cuts to the heart of who we are.

Last week we learned that their schools routinely bend little black boys and girls toward failure. And the people who make excuses should just save their breath.

There are none.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Miami Herald; Published in The National Memo, March 26, 2014

 

 

March 27, 2014 Posted by | Public Schools, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Real Truth About ObamaCare”: Conservatives Need To Help Fix It, Or Face Their Worst Nightmare!

Despite the worst roll-out conceivable, the Affordable Care Act seems to be working. With less than two weeks remaining before the March 31 deadline for coverage this year, five million people have already signed up. After decades of rising percentages of Americans’ lacking health insurance, the uninsured rate has dropped to its lowest levels since 2008.

Meanwhile, the rise in health care costs has slowed drastically. No one knows exactly why, but the new law may well be contributing to this slowdown by reducing Medicare overpayments to medical providers and private insurers, and creating incentives for hospitals and doctors to improve quality of care.

But a lot about the Affordable Care Act needs fixing — especially the widespread misinformation that continues to surround it. For example, a majority of business owners with fewer than 50 workers still think they’re required to offer insurance or pay a penalty. In fact, the law applies only to businesses with 50 or more employees who work more than 30 hours a week. And many companies with fewer than 25 workers still don’t realize that if they offer plans they can qualify for subsidies in the form of tax credits.

Many individuals remain confused and frightened. Forty-one percent of Americans who are still uninsured say they plan to remain that way. They believe it will be cheaper to pay a penalty than buy insurance. Many of these people are unaware of the subsidies available to them. Sign-ups have been particularly disappointing among Hispanics.

Some of this confusion has been deliberately sown by outside groups that, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, have been free to spend large amounts of money to undermine the law. For example, Gov. Rick Scott,  Republican of Florida, told Fox News that the Affordable Care Act was “the biggest job killer ever,” citing a Florida company with 20 employees that expected to go out of business because it couldn’t afford coverage.

None of this is beyond repair, though. As more Americans sign up and see the benefits, others will take note and do the same.

The biggest problem on the horizon that may be beyond repair — because it reflects a core feature of the law — is the public’s understandable reluctance to be forced to buy insurance from private, for-profit insurers that aren’t under enough competitive pressure to keep premiums low.

But even here, remedies could evolve. States might use their state-run exchanges to funnel so many applicants to a single, low-cost insurer that the insurer becomes, in effect, a single payer. Vermont is already moving in this direction. In this way, the Affordable Care Act could become a back door to a single-payer system — every conservative’s worst nightmare.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, March 22, 2014

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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