“Bad Heritage”: One Wonders If Jim DeMint Is Quite The Person To Lead The Way Toward The Think Tank’s Redemption
When Jim DeMint left the Senate to assume command of the Heritage Foundation, some people questioned the wisdom of the move. Not from DeMint’s perspective—after all, instead of being a staunchly conservative member of the minority party with a staff of a few dozen whose job was to throw rhetorical bombs at the majority and say mean things about Barack Obama, now he’d have a staff of a few hundred and rule one of the right’s most important institutions, not to mention probably quadrupling his salary. No, the puzzle was why a think tank like Heritage would want someone like DeMint, not known for putting much stock in thinking, as its leader.
And before you know it, Heritage is taking a huge hit to its reputation. It was always known for producing tendentious analyses of issues, but the report it released this week on immigration, claiming that reform would cost the country trillions of dollars, was a masterpiece of glaring omissions and questionable assumptions; included among the latter was that immigrants and their children will never move up the economic ladder.
Then we got a little more insight into where that belief might have come from. It turns out that one of the report’s co-authors, the spectacularly named Jason Richwine, wrote a dissertation at Harvard claiming that there are immutable differences in intelligence between races, and that should govern our immigration policy. “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, he wrote, “but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.” Then we discovered that this wasn’t the first time Richwine had opined on the alleged intellectual inferiority of certain races. With the heat growing, today Richwine resigned from Heritage.
But there may be an upside for Heritage in all this. For some time to come, their quantitative work will be subject to extra scrutiny, with observers on the lookout for both statistical shenanigans and the authors’ repellent views whenever a new Heritage report comes out. The organization will surely know this, which could lead them to be unusually careful and restrained in the arguments they make. If so, they could end up producing better work and eventually overcome the damage this episode has done. But one wonders if Jim DeMint is quite the person to lead the way toward redemption.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 10, 2013
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
Well, that didn’t take long.
Just a week ago, the Republicans issued their much-ballyhooed “autopsy” on why they lost the presidential election last year and how they might remedy their problems.
They concluded that their principles were fine; the problem was how they presented those principles. Their witless wisdom is simply to tone down their rhetoric. They want to turn Teddy Roosevelt’s famous saying on its side: Talk softly but carry a big stigma.
The establishment Republicans’ push for a softer tone, however, is pure political scheming and has nothing to do with what most Republicans seem to fundamentally believe.
And many rank-and-file Republicans are adopting this two-faced tactic. A Pew Research Center report issued Thursday found that although most Republicans say that “illegal immigrants” should be allowed to stay in this country legally, most also believe that immigrants are a burden because they take jobs and health care, and they threaten American values.
Try as you may, you can’t build a philosophical facade like a movie set — convincing in appearance, but having no real structure behind it — and expect it to forever fool and never fall.
The true convictions of your heart will, eventually, be betrayed by the disobedience of your tongue.
Enter Don Young of Alaska, a Republican congressman for the past 40 years who this week used a racial slur so vile and insensitive that it was hard to remember what decade we were in.
In an interview Thursday with an Alaska radio station, Young reminisced about his family’s employment of Mexican farm workers:
“My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”
The casual reference dripped with an inculcated insensitivity.
The same day, Young’s office issued a statement, which should in no way be misconstrued as an apology.
“During a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” Young said in the statement. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”
No disrespect? Only a man drained of empathy could even make such a claim.
It wasn’t until Friday, after demands from Republican leaders like John Boehner and John McCain, that Young issued a real apology. But the damage may have already been done. These kinds of statements cement an image of a callous party moving contrary to public consciousness.
The question must be asked: Why do so many insensitive comments come from these Republicans?
One reason may well be their proximity problem.
Too many House Republican districts are isolated in naturally homogeneous areas or gerrymandered ghettos, so elected officials there rarely hear — or see — the great and growing diversity of this country and the infusion of energy and ideas and art with which it enriches us. These districts produce representatives unaccountable to the confluence. And this will likely be the case for the next decade.
For instance, according to the Census Bureau, about 6 percent of Alaska’s population is Hispanic and just 3 percent is black. And Alaska is among the most Republican states in the union, according to a Gallup report issued last year.
Too many House Republicans have districts dominated by narrow, single-note, ideology-driven constituencies that see an ever expanding “them” threatening the heritage of a slowly shrinking “us.”
This defensive posture is what so poisons the Republicans’ presidential ambitions. Instead of embracing change, Republicans want to suspend or in some cases reverse it. But the principle articulated by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus rings true: the only thing constant is change.
In fact, although this is the most diverse Congress in history, not one of the blacks or Asians in the House is a Republican. Only about a sixth of the Hispanics are Republicans, and fewer than a third of the women are.
The Republican Party has a severe minority problem. People like Don Young only serve to illustrate and amplify it. Young is another unfortunate poster child for a party fighting an image of being chronically hostile to “otherness.” No disrespect.
By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 29, 2013
In January, not long after President Barack Obama trounced Mitt Romney by 44 percent among Latino voters, the GOP-aligned Hispanic Leadership Network issued a new set of “tonally sensitive messaging points” for Republicans to use when engaging with Latino and Hispanic voters. The idea behind the memo seemed to be that, if Republicans won’t attract Hispanics with appealing policy proposals, they should at least try to stop driving them away with racially charged language.
Clearly, Representative Don Young (R-AK) didn’t get the message.
Congressman Young went disastrously off-script during an interview with Alaskan radio station KRBD, released Thursday, when he used a racial slur to describe the workers on his father’s ranch.
“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” Young said. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”
Quickly realizing that he had made a tremendous error, Young issued an apology of sorts late Thursday night.
“I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in central California,” Young said in a statement. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”
Putting aside the question of what context Young thinks could possibly make the term “wetback” acceptable—or for that matter, not disrespectful—his explanation clearly fails to undo the damage done by his offensive statement.
With an eye towards damage control, Republican leaders quickly blasted Young’s comments.
“Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in a statement. “I don’t care why he said it—there’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology.”
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus concurred, saying “The words used by Representative Young emphatically do not represent the beliefs of the Republican Party,” adding, “Offensive language and ethnic slurs have no place in our public discourse.”
Indeed, it was Priebus who just last week released a report urging that “if we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity.” In just 10 days since that report, Young labeled Hispanic workers as wetbacks, Senate Republicans started a racially charged campaign against President Obama’s only Latino cabinet nominee, and North Carolina governor Pat McCrory unceremoniously shuttered his state’s Office of Hispanic/Latino affairs. And that’s not even touching the Conservative Political Action Conference, which featured birther jokes and a minority “outreach” panel arguing that slavery was good for black Americans.
So much for showing sincerity.
Ultimately, the biggest problem with the GOP’s minority outreach program is simple: Most Republicans seem to have very little interest in actually appealing to minority communities. Polling suggests that Hispanic voters align much more closely with Democrats than Republicans on a wide range of social and economic issues. But instead of working to find common ground on these policy splits, Republicans chose to simply soften their rhetoric — and they haven’t even done that successfully.
If Republican politicians cannot even uphold their own “stop using racial slurs” rule, then their chances of making real inroads with minority communities seem more remote than ever.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, March 28, 2013