“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
The exposure of a Heritage Foundation research analyst as a proponent of racist theories reopens a troubling intellectual history that the right-wing think tank and its Republican allies would rather not discuss. This fresh embarrassment poses yet another obstacle for Republican leaders who are supposedly seeking to erase their party’s polarizing reputation and to connect with non-white voters.
Now led by former South Carolina Republican senator Jim DeMint, the team at Heritage – a lavishly funded Washington outfit long known for propagandistic research studies – certainly didn’t advance the Republican outreach effort last week. With a thinly sourced new study that claimed immigration reform would bankrupt the country with trillions of dollars in additional social welfare costs, they undermined Heritage’s fragile integrity and offended the Latino voting bloc.
However flimsy, the report certainly reflected a deep split within Republican ranks over immigration policy. What made matters far worse was the subsequent revelation in The Washington Post that Jason Richwine, the study’s co-author, had asserted in his 2009 Harvard doctoral dissertation that Latino immigrants are not only less intelligent than America’s “white native population,” but that their descendants can be expected to suffer from “low average IQ” – a condition he described as “effectively permanent.”
Following the Post article on Richwine’s dissertation, Yahoo News reported that he has posted inflammatory articles on a “white nationalist” website, Alternative Right, comparing crime rates among Hispanics, whites, and blacks. “The reality of Hispanic crime,” he concludes, “should be one of the many factors we consider when setting immigration policy.”
Seeking to control the damage from these revelations, Heritage quickly released a statement disowning Richwine’s racial theories. “This is not a work product of The Heritage Foundation. Its findings in no way reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation,” said Heritage official Mike Gonzalez in a statement. “Nor do the findings affect the conclusions of our study on the cost of amnesty to the U.S. taxpayer.”
But the true history of the Heritage Foundation – and of the American Enterprise Institute, the other major think tank where Richwine enjoyed a sinecure – reflects the ugly racial bias that has long disfigured the right in this country.
Scandalous links between the racist far right and allegedly respectable conservative institutions date back to Heritage’s earliest days in the 1970s, when the editorial board of Policy Review, its monthly publication, featured the notorious racial theorist Roger Pearson. Shortly after the Post reported Pearson’s role at Heritage, the think tank dumped him. But in the decades that followed, Heritage still lionized racially divisive politicians like Jesse Helms, the late Republican senator from North Carolina, awarding him its “highest honor” in 2002 and depicting him as an “indispensable patriot” when he died in 2008.
Over at the American Enterprise Institute, where Richwine’s anti-Hispanic essay still adorns its website, racist “scholarship” is likewise encouraged and disseminated. Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, an infamous work of pseudo-science that argues the genetic inferiority of blacks and Latinos, has been based at AEI for more than 20 years. Dinesh D’Souza held a fellowship there when he wrote The End of Racism, a book-length screed urging the repeal of basic civil rights statutes and endorsing racial discrimination by businesses, landlords, and private citizens. While D’Souza’s work provoked the resignations from AEI of black conservatives Robert Woodson and Glenn Loury, he eventually moved on to yet another conservative think tank, the Hoover Institution.
These dubious organizations — which continue to provide the intellectual ballast for the Republican Party – have emitted a spreading cesspool of academic and political racism for decades. When I published Big Lies in 2003, I examined how the arguments of Murray and D’Souza had defined a “mainstream conservative position on race” that promoted bigotry and undermined civil rights. Ten years on, despite all the talk of a kinder, gentler GOP, nothing has really changed.
By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, May 10, 2013
Say hello to state Rep. Peter Hansen, a Republican from New Hampshire.
In an email sent April 1, Hansen, who once came face-to-face with an intruder in his own home, referenced a speech given by another lawmaker, who described how he had been able to retreat without using deadly force in public.
“There were two critical ingredients missing in the illustrious stories purporting to demonstrate the practical side of retreat. Not that retreat may not be possible mind you. What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina’s of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims,” Hansen wrote, according to messages posted online this week by liberal blogger Susan Bruce.
Well, let’s see, where to start.
First, Hansen now says he’s “embarrassed” by what he wrote, but keep in mind, in the face of criticism, he initially did not back down. He eventually said he was sorry “to those who took offense,” which does not a genuine apology make.
Second, the plural of “vagina” is “vaginas,” not “vagina’s.” If the guy is going to be a misogynist, the least he could do is use appropriate grammar while being crude and disrespectful.
Third, if you think “vagina” is an appropriate synonym for “woman,” perhaps a career in public service isn’t for you.
But let’s also not forget the larger context: the Republican Party is trying to improve its reputation among women and minority voters. Indeed, GOP officials have received lectures from pollsters, explaining, for example, that they should consider rape a “four-letter word.”
Presumably the pollsters didn’t think it was necessary to remind Republican lawmakers not to refer to women as “vaginas.”
Indeed, it seems incidents like these keep happening. On the one hand, Republican Party leaders say they’re serious about growing their ranks and welcoming voters who’ve been eager to keep the GOP at arm’s length. On the other hand, Republican officials at one level or another have recently used racial slurs in reference to Latinos, made inappropriate remarks about Native Americans, compared Middle Eastern men to monkeys, and now this.
I suspect RNC officials would say the entire party can’t be held responsible every time a Republican lawmaker says something offensive about women or minorities, and that’s not an unreasonable argument.
But the point is, the party already has a tarnished reputation, after years in which the GOP deliberately cultivated a small, old, white, Christian, male-dominated base. All of these incidents, in turn, create a pattern that tells a diverse, forward-thinking nation that Republicans are stuck in a narrow-minded past.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 17, 2013
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated 45 years ago yesterday, and one of the interesting little sidelights to the debate over guns that you might not be aware of is that gun advocates claim King as one of their own. You see, King had armed guards protect his family, and at one point applied for a permit in Alabama to carry a concealed weapon himself. He was turned down, since in the Jim Crow days the state of Alabama wasn’t about to let black men carry guns.
You can find references to these facts on all kinds of pro-gun web sites, as nonsensical as it may seem. Gun advocates want to claim King as part of their cause, but also want to completely repudiate everything he believed about the power of nonviolence, which is kind of like Exxon saying John Muir would have favored drilling for oil in Yosemite because he sometimes rode in cars. The reason Martin Luther King sought armed protection was there were significant numbers of people who wanted to kill him, and eventually one of them succeeded. If you’re a target for assassination, you should go ahead and buy a gun. But most of us aren’t.
This gets back to the threatening world so many gun advocates believe they live in. As they tell it, every one of us needs an arsenal of handguns and shotguns and AR-15s, despite the risk they might pose to ourselves and our families, because the risk from outside is so much greater. The imagine themselves as vulnerable as a civil rights activist in the Deep South in 1968. And they also believe that the authorities that are charged with our protection are indifferent or even hostile to our safety. That was certainly the case with King and other civil rights activists in the South in the 1960s; they knew that the government and the police wouldn’t be there to protect them, and some might even participate in trying to harm them.
But guess what: that’s not the world we live in today. The idea that the government is going to come knocking down your door, and you need to be ready to engage in a firefight with the police when that happens, is as ludicrous as the idea that MLK would be an advocate for further proliferation of guns if he were alive today.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, 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