One of the things that makes U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) fascinating is the lift his career has given to the religio-political stylings of his father, the Rev. Rafael Cruz, director of Purifying Fire Ministeries, a spiritual warfare outfit from suburban Dallas. Now you’d think Cruz the Younger would be sufficiently right-wing to please most conservative palates. But no: he regularly sends the old man out to fire up crowds and say things most Republican orators only hint at. Robert Costa explained their relationship as follows about a year ago:
Cruz has kept his father, a 74-year-old pastor, involved with his political shop, using him not merely as a confidant and stand-in, but as a special envoy. He is Cruz’s preferred introductory speaker, his best messenger with evangelicals, and his favorite on-air sidekick — a presence who softens his edge….
This summer, father and son have also been traveling together throughout the country, speaking to conservatives in Iowa and elsewhere. Their roadshow has enthralled many on the right and startled Cruz’s potential 2016 rivals. No one else in the emerging GOP field has an ally like the charismatic elder Cruz….
There was Rafael Cruz in Des Moines, Iowa, last month, speaking to ministers at the Marriott hotel and collecting business cards in the lobby; a month later, he was in Ames, Iowa, pacing the stage at a conservative summit and drawing cheers for his broadsides against President Obama. His fiery speech at a FreedomWorks event in July drew heavy praise from talk radio.
Rush Limbaugh especially loved how Rafael Cruz compared the president’s “hope and change” message to Fidel Castro’s appeal decades ago. “This guy is knocking it out of the park!” Limbaugh exclaimed.
Conservative leaders agree. Bob Vander Plaats, a top Iowa conservative who hosted the Cruz duo last month, calls Rafael Cruz’s speeches “inspiring” and says the image of a father and son laboring together resonates with values voters. Former senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who now runs the Heritage Foundation, is another admirer. He has worked alongside Rafael Cruz this month to rally against Obamacare.
Trouble is, Rafael Cruz has a tendency to say things many of us consider kinda cray-cray. I first really paid attention to him when he spoke at the 2013 Family Leader Summit in Iowa:
He dated the slide towards national degeneracy to the 1963 Supreme Court decision banning school prayer, the “massacre of 55 million babies” to Roe v. Wade, and the introduction of full-on socialism in America to the administration of Jimmy Carter (!), held in abeyance solely by the mobilization of Christians on behalf of Ronald Reagan.
Soon after that David Corn of MoJo got interested in Rafael Cruz and easily dug up some rich examples of the old man espousing up-front Christian Nationalist Dominionism and calling the President of the United States a Marxist determined to exterminate religious belief. Confronted with the cray-cray, Ted Cruz’s office blandly indicated Rafael didn’t speak for his son. And best I can tell, the Ted ‘n’ Rafael tag team road show went on exactly as before.
Now a new video of Rafael Cruz has popped up wherein he tells a conservative audience in Texas about his encounter with an African-American “Democrat” pastor in Bakersfield, California, as an example of the dreadful ignorance of black folks who–believe it or not–don’t understand that “government handouts” have enslaved them; that legalized abortion is a racist genocidal conspiracy aimed at people of color; and that the Republican Party is responsible for all civil rights legislation. The money quote that’s getting picked up here and there comes from Cruz’ characterization of a book by black conservative journalist Jason Riley:
Jason Riley said in an interview, Did you know before we had minimum wage laws black unemployment and white unemployment were the same? If we increase the minimum wage, black unemployment will skyrocket. See, he understands it, but the average black does not.
Now you might think this doesn’t rank among the top ten most offensive things Pastor Cruz says every time he opens his mouth. But there’s something about the effortless and absolutely self-convinced way he says outrageous things that makes it a bit startling the first time you are exposed to his act.
The funny thing is that you’d figure Rand Paul was the potential 2016 candidate with the most significant Daddy Issues. If Rafael Cruz keeps it up, and there’s zero reason to think a zealot like him won’t, Ted Cruz may have to spend more time defending him than he’d like–or have a quiet son-to-father talk followed by some dog-whistle training for the Reverend.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 3, 2014
The past week’s unfolding tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, with its militarized and overwhelmingly white police force confronting angry and hopeless African-Americans, is not a story unique to that place or moment. Many cities and towns in this country confront the same problems of poverty, alienation, and inequality as metropolitan St. Louis — or even worse.
But beneath the familiar narrative there is a deeper history that reflects the unfinished agenda of race relations – and the persistence of poisonous prejudice that has never been fully cleansed from the American mainstream.
For decades, Missouri has spawned or attracted many of the nation’s most virulent racists, including neo-Nazis and the remnants of the once-powerful Ku Klux Klan. Associated with violent criminality and crackpot religious extremism, these fringe groups could never wield much influence in the post-civil rights era. Beyond those marginalized outfits, however, exists another white supremacist group whose leaders have long enjoyed the patronage of right-wing Republican politicians.
The Council of Conservative Citizens, headquartered in St. Louis, is a living legacy of Southern “white resistance” to desegregation, with historical roots in the so-called “citizens’ councils” that sprung up during the 1950s as a “respectable” adjunct to the Klan. Its website currently proclaims that the CCC is “the only serious nationwide activist group that sticks up for white rights!” What that means, more specifically, is promoting hatred of blacks, Jews, gays and lesbians, and Latino immigrants, while extolling the virtues of the “Southern way of life,” the Confederacy, and even slavery.
The group’s website goes on to brag that the CCC is the only group promoting “white rights” whose meetings regularly feature “numerous elected officials, important authors, talk-show hosts, active pastors, and other important people” as speakers.
Although that boast may be exaggerated, it isn’t hollow. Founded in 1985 by the ax handle-wielding Georgia segregationist Lester Maddox and a group of white activists, the CCC remained obscure to most Americans until 1998, when media exposure of its ties to prominent congressional Republicans led to the resignation of Mississippi senator Trent Lott as Majority Leader. Six years later, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit group monitoring racist activity in the United States, reported that the CCC had hosted as many as 38 federal, state, and local officials at its meetings (all of them Republicans except one Democrat) – despite a warning from the Republican National Committee against associating with the hate group.
Over the years, the CCC’s friends in high places included such figures as former Missouri senator John Ashcroft, who shared much of the CCC agenda as governor, when he opposed “forced desegregation” of St. Louis schools – along with the CCC members who served on the city’s school board. When President George W. Bush appointed Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General, the CCC openly celebrated, declaring in its newsletter that “Our Ship Has Come In.”
Recently, many fewer Republican officials have been willing to associate in public with the CCC’s racist leaders. Then again, however, Ashcroft himself tended to meet secretly with those same bigots, while outwardly shunning them. When asked about his connections with the group during his confirmation hearings in 2001, he swore that he had no inkling of its racist and anti-Semitic propaganda – a very implausible excuse given the CCC’s prominence in St. Louis while he served as governor.
Despite the CCC’s presence, Missouri is home to many fine and decent people, of course – but malignant traces of the group, and the racial animus it represents, have spread far beyond the state’s borders. The most obvious example is Rush Limbaugh, the “conservative” cultural phenomenon who grew up south of St. Louis in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and who has earned a reputation as a racial agitator over many years on talk radio, where he began by doing mocking bits in “black” dialect.
In 1998, the talk jock defended Trent Lott when other conservatives were demanding his resignation over the politician’s CCC connection. Today, Limbaugh echoes the CCC line on the Brown killing, which suggests coldly that the unarmed teenager deserved his fate because he may have been a suspect in shoplifting or smoked marijuana. Why would a young man’s life be worth less than a box of cigars? Back in Rush’s home state, the answer is all too obvious.
By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, August 19, 2014
“Where Are Putin’s American Admirers Now?”: Vlad’s Doting, Adoring Conservative Fans Are Awfully Quiet
It is hard to overstate the damage that the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over eastern Ukraine has done to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In addition to isolating him further internationally and threatening greater harm to the Russian economy, the killing of 298 people aboard a civilian jetliner, which U.S. officials are increasingly sure was caused by a missile launched by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, has gravely undermined the aura of competence and tactical brilliance that Putin has cultivated over the years and which helped Russia project outsized influence even in an era of post-Soviet decline and diminishment. As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo notes, letting powerful Russian-made anti-aircraft weaponry into the hands of pro-Russia fighters who cannot tell the difference between a large passenger airliner and a military plane is “a f’-up on Putin’s part of almost mind-boggling proportions. Yes, a tragedy. Yes, perhaps an atrocity. But almost more threatening, a screw up.”
But we should not just leave it at that. Rather, we should recall all those in recent months who showered awe and praise on Putin for his extreme capability, which was often contrasted unfavorably with the hapless President Obama.
First, there was all the praise for the Russian military itself following the invasion of Crimea. The New York Times, among many others, gave dazzling reviews of the “sleek new vanguard of the Russian military,” soldiers who were “lean and fit,” dressed in uniforms that were “crisp and neat …their new helmets…bedecked with tinted safety goggles,” and outfitted with “compact encrypted radio units distributed at the small-unit level, a telltale sign of a sweeping modernization effort undertaken five years ago by Putin that has revitalized Russia’s conventional military abilities, frightening some of its former vassal states in Eastern Europe and forcing NATO to re-evaluate its longstanding view of post-Soviet Russia as a nuclear power with limited ground muscle.”
This seemed a tad premature and overstated, given that the Russian military was facing virtually no resistance from the outnumbered Ukrainian forces in Crimea—it’s easy for soldiers to look sleek and professional when there’s no actual contact with the enemy. But Putin himself basked in the praise, echoing it himself in a ceremony celebrating the invasion: “The recent events in Crimea were a serious test, demonstrating the quality of the new capabilities of our military personnel, as well as the high moral spirit of the staff,” he said.
Once pro-Russian separatists started their uprising in eastern Ukraine, there was a new round of praise for the deviously brilliant strategy Putin was deploying there, sending in personnel and equipment to assist the separatists but making sure that the personnel were unmarked, giving Russia superficially plausible deniability about their activities. Commentators hailed this approach—maskirovka, or masked warfare—as the wave of the future in warfare. As one admirer wrote in a column for the Huffington Post:
President Putin’s game plan in Ukraine becomes clearer day by day despite Russia’s excellent, even brilliant, use of its traditional maskirovka. … It stands for deliberately misleading the enemy with regard to own intentions causing the opponent to make wrong decisions thereby playing into your own hand. In today’s world this is mainly done through cunning use of networks to shape perceptions blurring the picture and opening up for world opinion to see your view as the correct one legitimizing policy steps you intend to take.
This “cunning use of networks” is less “excellent, even brilliant” when said networks, as now appears likely, kill nearly 300 innocent civilians, most of them citizens of the nation that is one of your largest trading partners.
Meanwhile, there was all along the more general praise for the prowess and capability of Putin himself from American conservatives. Charles Krauthammer penned a Washington Post op-ed headlined: “Obama vs. Putin, the Mismatch.” Rudy Giuliani’s adulation for Putin surely caused a blush in the Kremlin: “[H]e makes a decision and he executes it, quickly. And then everybody reacts. That’s what you call a leader.” Rush Limbaugh went on a riff about Putin’s superiority to Obama:
In fact, Putin—ready for this?—postponed the Oscar telecast last night. He didn’t want his own population distracted. He wanted his own population knowing full well what he was doing, and he wanted them celebrating him. They weren’t distracted. We were. …
Well, did you hear that the White House put out a photo of Obama talking on the phone with Vlad, and Obama’s sleeves were rolled up? That was done to make it look like Obama was really working hard—I mean, really taking it seriously. His sleeves were rolled up while on the phone with Putin! Putin probably had his shirt off practicing Tai-Chi while he was talking to Obama.
Was Putin also practicing shirtless Tai-Chi when he learned that, in all likelihood, men fighting in Russia’s name and with its backing had downed a passenger airliner and provoked a major international incident? Who knows. Enough, for now, that this awful tragedy provokes a jot of self-reflection on the part of those who were so willing to trumpet Putin’s brilliance these past few months. If Putin’s maskirovka did manage to “shape perceptions blurring the picture,” these admirers were the most susceptible.
By: Alec MacGillis, The New Republic, July 18, 2014
Right-wing pundits are jumping all over Attorney General Eric Holder for daring to suggest on Sunday that “racial animus” plays a role in the “level of vehemence” that’s been directed at President Obama. They’re denouncing him for “playing the race card” and “stoking racial divisions.”
Who do they think they’re fooling?
The rhetoric is what’s hateful. Calling people out for it is not.
The racism Holder described has been obvious since the 2008 campaign, when Obama was portrayed as someone who was not a “real American” — a Muslim, a Kenyan, a communist, even a terrorist sympathizer.
Since then, an entire movement has been built around the thoroughly discredited notion that the president’s birth certificate is a fake. And that’s just the beginning.
Rush Limbaugh has said Obama — and Oprah Winfrey, too, by the way — have reached the pinnacle of their professions only because they’re black. He added this week that “so-called conservative media types” praised Holder’s nomination only because he’s black.
Glenn Beck has said the president, whose mother was white, has a “deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture.”
Conservative hero and former rock star Ted Nugent, who was invited to campaign with the GOP nominee for Texas governor, called the president a “subhuman mongrel.”
A Confederate flag was waved in front of the White House during last year’s “Million Vet March.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina screamed “You lie!” during the president’s address to Congress in September 2009. When has that happened to a president before?
All manner of overtly racist posters have been seen at tea party rallies, including one depicting the president as a “witch doctor.”
We’ve repeatedly seen stories about conservative politicians sharing racist jokes about Obama.
And, we’ve seen an explosive growth of radical-right groups, including armed militias, since Obama was elected, and repeated threats that violence is needed to “take our country back” from the “tyranny” of Obama. This is part of a backlash to the growing diversity in our country, as symbolized by the presence of a black man in the White House.
I grew up in rural Alabama during the Jim Crow years and lived through the civil rights movement, when white supremacists did everything they could, including committing violent atrocities, to turn back the tide of progress. And I’ve stared across the courtroom at some of America’s most vicious hatemongers — men like neo-Nazi Frazier Glenn Cross, who recently killed three people and once targeted me. I know racism when I see it.
No one, of course, is suggesting that merely disagreeing with Obama is evidence of racism. That’s clearly not true.
But we have a political party and a right-wing media machine that pander incessantly to the racist reactionaries in our society, often through code words. It’s been going on since Nixon implemented his “Southern strategy” of appealing to white resentment in the wake of the civil rights movement.
I wish it weren’t so. But it is simply undeniable. We should call it what it is.
By: Morris Dees, Founder, Southern Poverty Law Center; The Huffington Post Blog, July 17, 2014
“Yes, Opposition To Obamacare Is Tied Up With Race”: A Staple Of Conservative Rhetoric Since The Beginning Of His Presidency
Is opposition to Obamacare really about race? That’s the highly charged question that has bubbled up in the last day or so, starting with a Senate hearing and then bursting into the news media. I won’t keep you in suspense: The answer is, “Yes, but . . . .” Not all opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and not from all people, and not at all times. But two things are clearly true. First, some conservatives with large megaphones have worked hard to use the ACA as a tool of race-baiting, encouraging their white audiences to see the law through a racial lens. And second, a growing body of evidence demonstrates that race plays a role in many people’s opposition to the law.
Before we get into details, this is coming up now because of an exchange between senators Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) at a hearing. Here’s how it started:
“It’s very important to take a long view at what’s going on here. And I’ll be able to dig up some emails that make part of the Affordable Care Act that doesn’t look good, especially from people who have made up their mind that they don’t want it to work. Because they don’t like the president, maybe he’s of the wrong color. Something of that sort,” Rockefeller said. “I’ve seen a lot of that and I know a lot of that to be true. It’s not something you’re meant to talk about in public, but it’s something I’m talking about in public because that is very true.”
Senator Johnson reacted angrily, saying that because he was the only Republican in the room, it looked like Sen. Rockefeller was accusing him of being racist — a not uncommon reaction to this kind of accusation.
This morning, MSNBC host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough said:
“I must say, I have been behind closed doors with thousands of conservatives through the years. I have never once heard one of them say in the deep south or in the northeast or in South Boston, ‘Boy, I really hate Obamacare because that black president’ — no, I’ve never heard anybody come close to saying that,” Scarborough said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “And I have spoken to some wildly right wing groups. I have never heard it once.”
There are many reasons why a person might oppose the Affordable Care Act, and there are many people who are opposed to it. You can oppose it for reasons having nothing to do with race. You can oppose it and not be a racist. Heck, I suppose you can even be a racist but oppose it for non-racial reasons.
But let’s return to the two other truths I mentioned up top, that at least some of the opposition to the ACA is tied up with race and that there has been an unusual amount of race-baiting from the right during this presidency, both in general and on the issue of health-care reform.
On the first question, there is a growing body of evidence that people’s implicit or explicit ideas about race affect how they look at the Affordable Care Act. Let me quote from the abstracts of studies done by political scientists and psychologists over the last few years:
“Using a nationally representative experiment over two waves, I induced several emotions to elicit anger, fear, enthusiasm, or relaxation. The results show that anger uniquely pushes racial conservatives to be more opposing of health care reform while it triggers more support among racial liberals.” [paper here]
“Controlling for explicit prejudice, implicit prejudice predicted a reluctance to vote for Obama, opposition to his health care reform plan, and endorsement of specific concerns about the plan. In an experiment, the association between implicit prejudice and opposition to health care reform replicated when the plan was attributed to Obama, but not to Bill Clinton — suggesting that individuals high in anti-Black prejudice tended to oppose Obama at least in part because they dislike him as a Black person. In sum, our data support the notion that racial prejudice is one factor driving opposition to Obama and his policies.” [paper here]
“This study argues that President Obama’s strong association with an issue like health care should polarize public opinion by racial attitudes and race. Consistent with that hypothesis, racial attitudes had a significantly larger impact on health care opinions in fall 2009 than they had in cross-sectional surveys from the past two decades and in panel data collected before Obama became the face of the policy. Moreover, the experiments embedded in one of those reinterview surveys found health care policies were significantly more racialized when attributed to President Obama than they were when these same proposals were framed as President Clinton’s 1993 reform efforts.” [paper here]
“This study investigates the relationship between individual-level support for the 2010 Affordable Care Act and nativism, the perception that a traditional American culture and way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence. The results of an analysis of a 2011 public opinion survey demonstrate that nativism was an independent and significant predictor of opposition to health care reform and that this effect held for both Republicans as well as Democrats, although the relationship is stronger for Republicans.” [paper here]
What this demonstrates is that when we approach a policy issue, none of us looks at it in a vacuum. We bring to it the ideas and opinions we associate with the people and parties advocating the various positions, among other things. Now add to that the fact that since Barack Obama took office in 2009, conservatives have been told, over and over and over again, that Barack Obama is coming to do them harm precisely because of their race.
No one who pays any attention to conservative media can honestly deny that this has been the case. The idea that Barack Obama is leading an army of black people coming to exact revenge on whites for past sins has been a staple of conservative rhetoric since the beginning of his presidency. Often, this is framed in terms of reparations for slavery: whatever policy Obama happens to be advocating at the moment, including health-care reform, conservative audiences are told that it is an effort by Obama to take their money and give it to black people to right a historical wrong for which they are blameless. In a 2009 discussion about the stimulus bill, Rush Limbaugh told his listeners, “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations!” Not long before, Limbaugh said this:
“The president of the United States? We’re talking now about a Supreme Court justice? The days of them [racial minorities] not having any power are over, and they are angry. And they want to use their power as a means of retribution. That’s what Obama’s about, gang. He’s angry, he’s gon’ cut this country down to size, he’s gon’ make it pay for all its multicultural mistakes that it has made, its mistreatment of minorities. I know exactly what’s going on.”
And yes, that was a little black dialect Rush threw in there, just to be clear. About the ACA, Limbaugh said, “This is a civil rights bill, this is reparations, whatever you want to call it.” Or another time: “I think I’ve finally figured out why Obama is pushing so hard on this health care bill. He just wants us to have the same health care and plan that he had in Kenya.” In early 2012, Limbaugh said this:
“Obama has a plan. Obama’s plan is based on his inherent belief that this country was immorally and illegitimately founded by a very small minority of white Europeans who screwed everybody else since the founding to get all the money and all the goodies, and it’s about time that the scales were made even. And that’s what’s going on here. And that’s why the president is lawless, and that’s why there is no prosecution of the Black Panthers for voter intimidation, because it’s not possible for a minority to intimidate the white majority. It’s not possible. It’s always been the other way around. This is just payback. This is ‘how does it feel’ time.”
Rush Limbaugh has the largest talk-radio audience in the United States, and he is admired and lauded by one Republican politician after another. But it isn’t just him. Bill O’Reilly told his viewers, “I think Mr. Obama allows historical grievances — things like slavery, bad treatment for Native Americans and U.S. exploitation of Third World countries — to shape his economic thinking. . . . He gives the bad things about America far too much weight, leading to his desire to redistribute wealth, thereby correcting historical grievance.” Almost any domestic policy choice, whether it involves taxes or budgets or health care, can be characterized as an act of racial vengeance exacted upon whites for the benefit of blacks.
Glenn Beck has been another prominent advocate of the reparations theory. “Everything that is getting pushed through Congress, including this health care bill,” he said in 2009, “are transforming America. And they are all driven by President Obama’s thinking on one idea: reparations.” When the Shirley Sherrod story broke (that is, when Andrew Breitbart deceptively edited video of a speech the Agriculture Department official gave to make is seem as if she were confessing to treating white people unfairly when she was actually saying the opposite), Beck said, “Have we suddenly transported into 1956 except it’s the other way around? . . . Does anybody else have a sense that there are some that just want revenge? Doesn’t it feel that way?”
Intimations of actual violence to come are rare, but they’re out there. Beck once said the New Black Panther party was part of Obama’s “army of thugs.” Conservative science fiction novelist Orson Scott Card, author of “Ender’s Game,” imagined a future in which Obama seized dictatorial powers and mobilized “young out-of-work urban men” into a brownshirt army. “Instead of doing drive-by shootings in their own neighborhoods, these young thugs will do beatings and murders of people ‘trying to escape’ — people who all seem to be leaders and members of groups that oppose Obama.”
This is the rhetoric in which conservatives have been marinating for five years. Given that, it is not at all surprising that for some of them — I repeat, for some of them — ideas about Obama’s policies, including the Affordable Care Act, are inextricably bound to their feelings, whether conscious or unconscious, about race. It would be irresponsible and unfair to say that all or even most opposition to the ACA is rooted in racism. But it would be blind to deny that race has had a role in keeping that opposition so fervid for so long.
By: Paul Waldman, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, May 23, 2014