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“Disrespect, Race And Obama”: This Is Not President Obama’s Doing, But The Simple Result Of His Being

In an interview with the BBC this week, Oprah Winfrey said of President Obama: “There is a level of disrespect for the office that occurs. And that occurs, in some cases, and maybe even many cases, because he’s African-American.”

With that remark, Winfrey touched on an issue that many Americans have wrestled with: To what extent does this president’s race animate those loyal to him and those opposed? Is race a primary motivator or a subordinate, more elusive one, tainting motivations but not driving them?

To some degree, the answers lie with the questioners. There are different perceptions of racial realities. What some see as slights, others see as innocent opposition. But there are some objective truths here. Racism is a virus that is growing clever at avoiding detection. Race consciousness is real. Racial assumptions and prejudices are real. And racism is real. But these realities can operate without articulation and beneath awareness. For those reasons, some can see racism where it is absent, and others can willfully ignore any possibility that it could ever be present.

To wit, Rush Limbaugh responded to Winfrey’s comments in his usual acerbic way, lacking all nuance:

“If black people in this country are so mistreated and so disrespected, how in the name of Sam Hill did you happen? Would somebody explain that to me? If there’s a level of disrespect simply because he’s black, then how, Oprah, have you managed to become the — at one time — most popular and certainly wealthiest television personality? How does that happen?”

No one has ever accused Limbaugh of being a complex thinker, but the intellectual deficiency required to achieve that level of arrogance and ignorance is staggering.

Anyone with even a child’s grasp of race understands that for many minorities success isn’t synonymous with the absence of obstacles, but often requires the overcoming of obstacles. Furthermore, being willing to be entertained by someone isn’t the same as being willing to be led by them.

And finally, affinity and racial animosity can dwell together in the same soul. You can like and even admire a person of another race while simultaneously disparaging the race as a whole. One can even be attracted to persons of different races and still harbor racial animus toward their group. Generations of sexual predation and miscegenation during and after slavery in this country have taught us that.

Alas, simpletons have simple understandings of complex concepts.

But it is reactions like Limbaugh’s that lead many of the president’s supporters to believe that racial sensitivity is in retreat and racial hostility is on the rise.

To be sure, the Internet is rife with examples of derogatory, overtly racial comments and imagery referring to the president and his family. But the question remains: Are we seeing an increase in racial hostility or simply an elevation — or uncovering — of it? And are those racist attitudes isolated or do they represent a serious problem?

Much of the discussion about the president, his opposition and his race has centered on the Tea Party, fairly or not.

In one take on race and the Tea Party that went horribly wrong this week, Washington Post opinion writer Richard Cohen wrote:

“Today’s G.O.P. is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the Tea Party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.”

What exactly are “conventional views” in this context? They appear to refer specifically to opinions about the color of people’s skin.

Cohen seemed to want to recast racial intolerance — and sexual identity discomfort — in a more humane light: as an extension of traditional values rather than as an artifact of traditional bigotry. In addition, Cohen’s attempt to absolve the entirety of the Tea Party without proof fails in the same way that blanket condemnations do. Overreach is always the enemy.

I don’t know what role, if any, race plays in the feelings of Tea Party supporters. It is impossible to know the heart of another person (unless they unambiguously reveal themselves), let alone the hearts of millions.

But nerves are raw, antennas are up and race has become a lightning rod in the Obama era. c.

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, November 15, 2013

November 21, 2013 Posted by | Race and Ethnicity, Racism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Right Wing Non-Plan”: Ted Cruz Reveals He’s A Thin-Skinned Wuss, Hypocrite And Policy Lightweight

Sen. Ted Cruz pretends to be a tough guy, but mostly he spends his time trashing Democrats in front of adoring right-wing crowds and conservative journalists. On Wednesday he sat down with CNN’s Chris Cuomo – you didn’t expect him to go to MSNBC, did you? – and showed himself to be incredibly thin-skinned when pressed just a little on how he would replace the Affordable Care Act he wants to repeal. It was an interesting window on Cruz’s temperament as well as his cynical, threadbare “policy” agenda.

Cuomo asked Cruz how he would replace the law he inveighs against, and as usual, Cruz dodged the question and kept on inveighing instead. Cuomo followed up. “You don’t think that you have a responsibility as a U.S. senator to do better than that, in terms of offering a solution for what to do next?” he asked.

And Cruz shot back: “Well, I appreciate your trying to lecture me in the morning.”

Cuomo didn’t leave it there.

“No, no, no, not at all, Senator. I’m worried, same as you, anybody who looks at the situation has worries.”

So Cruz tried to turn the tables. “If you’re worried, did you speak out for the 5 million people who have lost their health insurance?”

Cuomo had an answer: “Absolutely — we’ve been covering it doggedly. The problem is, I don’t have the power to fix it. You do. That’s what a U.S. senator does, is you sponsor law. You know this. It’s not a lecture, it’s a concern; I’m asking, what are you going to do about it?”

Apparently Cruz isn’t used to being grilled. Cuomo got him to share what passes for an answer from conservatives these days: “Let people purchase health insurance across state lines.”

Wow. That’s what Princeton and Harvard Law degrees get you: a warmed-over right wing non-plan that’s been around forever. As Ezra Klein reported back in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office looked at it in 2005 and found it didn’t reduce the number of uninsured and would only save the federal government $12 billion over the next eight years. (By contrast, the CBO says the ACA will reduce the deficit by $41 billion in 2013 alone.)

The CBO also found that allowing people to buy insurance plans across state lines would “make insurance more expensive for the sick and cheaper for the healthy, and lead to more healthy people with insurance and fewer sick people with insurance.” Other than that, it’s a terrific idea.

Of course, insurers like Cruz’s non-plan because it would mean a boon for the states that provide the least regulation and thus encourage the “cheapest” but least protective insurance policies. Rather than insuring states’ rights and competition, which conservatives pretend to like, it would, in effect, create a national insurance-regulation standard, as states then raced to the bottom to compete. Of course, a state’s “rights” usually diminish, for conservatives, whenever that state decides to give its citizens more power and its corporations less.

So in just one morning, Ted Cruz was revealed as a wuss, a hypocrite and a policy lightweight. The last one doesn’t matter on the right, but the first two won’t wear well in a presidential race. Kudos to Cuomo for not accepting Tea Party platitudes as a substitute for governing proposals.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, November 20, 2013

November 21, 2013 Posted by | Health Care, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Denying And Ignoring The Realities”: For Some, The Name “Obama” Has Become A Code Word

Racial tensions in the United States have changed since Obama’s election as president, and for the worse. As judicial opinions since 2008 have revealed, both the word “Obama” and the president’s image have become tools for harassing and otherwise discriminating, in the workplace and in places of public accommodation, against blacks and against whites in romantic relationships with blacks.

For instance, while at a company picnic, one white employee sat down next to his co-workers, held a watermelon slice in his hand, and asserted, “I’m going to sit down to eat my ‘Obama fruit.’” In a different court case, a plaintiff complained that the company’s C.E.O. once said he had a “gift for you for all the Obama people outside” — while handing a rifle to another employee. In yet another case, a white employee derided an African co-worker, calling the co-worker “boy,” threatening his life and telling him he should take Obama back to Africa to vote for him.

For other individuals, President Obama’s election has become a basis for denying and ignoring the realities of racism, both conscious and unconscious, in our country. Soon after Obama’s election, conservatives such as Gregory Coleman, a Texas lawyer, argued that the election demonstrated the obsolescence of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — a point reiterated by the U.S. Supreme Court in its June decision invalidating a section of the act.

In fact, the results from three experiments by Stanford University researchers suggest that endorsing Obama enables some whites to feel more comfortable in favoring other whites at the expense of blacks. The Stanford researchers contended that, for these whites, supporting Obama seemed to reduce their fears about appearing racially prejudiced, giving them the “moral credentials” to exhibit favoritism toward other whites.

At least one case showed this phenomenon affecting the legal process. After admitting that he based his decision in a criminal matter upon the race of the defendant, a white juror later denied his admission. His decision could not have been racially motivated, he argued. Why he was incapable of racial bias? Because, he said, he voted for Obama.


By: Angela Onwuachi-Willig, The Charles and Marion Kierscht Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law, Opinion Pages, The New York Times, November 20, 2013

November 21, 2013 Posted by | Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Gaining Even More Traction”: GOP-Backed Voting Laws Target And Hurt Young Minority Voters

A new report released by the Advancement Project  highlights the numerous ways “young voters of color” are affected by restrictive voting laws that have been adopted by Republicans in several states across the nation.

The millennial generation, which is now between 18 and 29 years of age, is significantly more racially diverse than prior generations. Thus, the report explains, laws that suppress the youth vote also suppress voters of color. Restrictive laws affect particular demographics – in this case, young African-American and Latino voters – in different ways; some produce abnormally long lines on which voters must wait just to vote, while others implement barriers to actually getting to the polls.

On Election Day 2012, polling places in Florida counties with especially high numbers of minority youth voters closed on average 86 minutes after the 7 p.m. closing time, as a result of long lines. The obvious danger is that this will discourage young voters from voting. Others may “not be able to wait many hours to vote in future elections.”

A similar situation also occurred in Pennsylvania during the 2008 presidential election. Though local election officials petitioned for a larger polling space to cover the Lincoln University – a historically black university – district, the state’s Chester County Board of Elections denied the request, forcing voters to endure 6- to 8-hour wait times in the original “inadequately sized polling location.”

Also in Pennsylvania, and other states such as Texas, strict photo ID requirements directly affect specific groups’ ability to vote. A survey included in the report compares the disproportionately implemented voter ID requirements in both states to states without such laws. In states without voter ID laws, 65.5 percent of young black voters and 55.3 percent of young Latino voters were asked to present photo identification – a significantly greater share than the 42.8 percent of young white voters asked to present the same form of ID. In states with voter ID laws, however, 84.3 percent of young white voters were asked to produce specific photo ID, as opposed to 81.8 percent of young Latino voters asked to do the same.

An even greater 94.3 percent of young black voters were asked to present ID.

Strict photo ID laws – which typically require a voter to present a state-issued driver’s license or non-driver ID – account for why 17.3 percent of young black voters and 8.1 percent of young Latino voters could not vote in the 2012 presidential election. Fewer than 5 percent of young white voters were not able to vote for the same reason.

The measure is especially effective because many young voters in general don’t have a driver’s license. Even those who do, but attend an out-of-state college, do not have a state-issued driver’s license, and obtaining a standard state-issued photo ID usually requires a birth certificate – an obstacle that makes it more difficult for young voters. Furthermore, a larger percentage of young white voters have different forms of ID than young black and Latino voters. The report also mentions that several states – including Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas and Pennsylvania, among others – have even attempted to ban student photo IDs as voter identification.

In North Carolina, however, specific photo ID requirements are not the sole legislation hurting young minority voters; in August 2013, Governor Pat McCrory signed into law a ban on same-day voter registration during early voting – the law also decreases the early voting period by a week. Among other provisions, the law also eliminates pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and a state mandate for voter registration in high schools. In October, a Republican precinct chair from Buncombe County, North Carolina, Don Yelton, admitted that the legislation hindered African-Americans’ and college students’ ability to vote.

According to Yelton, both demographics were targeted because they tend to vote Democratic.

These types of restrictive laws are only gaining more traction since June, when the Supreme Court struck down a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act that required specific states known for passing discriminatory voting laws to first get “pre-clearance” from the federal government in order to change their voting laws.

The Advancement Project warns that “attacks on young voters” are “ongoing” and “threatening the voting rights of many across the country for future elections.”

The report also recommends “policy-makers and election officials…concentrate on positive measures that would help alleviate the woefully low percentage of voter participation rates seen…especially among young people, who are our future.” Besides eliminating laws that implement strict ID requirements, ban same-day voter registration and shorten early voting periods, the Advancement Project also suggests nationwide implementation of online voter registration, “uniform standards” for voting machines and poll workers, and institutionalizing voter registration.

Lastly, the report adds: “Congress must act immediately to update the Voting Rights Act.”

The problem, however, is not that politicians are unaware of how to increase voter turnout, but that there are many lawmakers who support these restrictive laws because they benefit their party.


By: Elissa Gomez, Featured Post, The National Memo, November 19, 2013

November 21, 2013 Posted by | Democracy, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“This Is Sabotage, Plain And Simple”: The Unprecedented GOP Efforts To Undermine A Federal Law

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who’s never been the Affordable Care Act’s biggest fan, appeared on MSNBC yesterday to join the critical chorus. In reference to the Obama administration, the conservative Democrat said, “The bottom line is that they messed up, they messed up royally. There’s no excuse for this.”

The administration’s missteps have been well documented, and officials have earned much of the criticism they’ve received. But to say there’s “no excuse” is to overlook Republican sabotage efforts that have made a real difference.

Todd Purdum recently made the case, for example, that “calculated sabotage by Republicans at every step” is a “less acknowledged cause” of the rollout’s troubles. Jamelle Bouie added this week, “If Republicans have shown anything over the last four years, it’s that they’ll do anything to stop the Affordable Care Act, even if it amounts to legislative sabotage.”

We’ve talked before about the scope of these unprecedented efforts to undermine a federal law, which include blocking necessary resources needed for implementation, public misinformation campaigns, discouraging public-private partnerships, blocking Medicaid expansion, blocking CMS nominees, refusing to create marketplaces, and prohibiting “Navigators” from doing their jobs. But the campaign is arguably intensifying now.

Dana Milbank reports on House Republican leaders who emerged from their weekly meeting yesterday and tried to scare the bejesus out of Americans.

The Republicans’ scary-movie strategy has some logic to it: If they can frighten young and healthy people from joining the health-care exchanges, the exchanges will become expensive and unmanageable. This is sabotage, plain and simple – much like the refusal by red-state governors to participate in setting up the exchanges in the first place.

The quotes from House GOP leaders are rather remarkable. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said health care reform may lead to identity theft; Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) falsely claimed “premiums are going right through the roof”; Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned that consumers who visit may become victims of fraud; and Caucus Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said vulnerable constituents may be put “on the casualty list.”

Milbank added, “Let’s hope the new health-care plans have generous coverage for anti-anxiety medication.”

Let’s not forget that the difference between a lie and a falsehood is intent – if you know the truth and say the opposite because your goal is deceit, you’re lying. And for the most part, congressional Republicans, whose interest in helping provide greater health security for Americans is easily trumped by their interested in destroying a Democratic law, have been reducing to lying.

But for saboteurs, honesty and serious policy debate are easily sacrificed for the larger goal. Indeed, they’re a small price to pay.

Also note, we’re looking at quite a one-two punch from the far-right – on the one hand we see the Koch brothers and their allies urge the uninsured to stay that way on purpose, in order to advance conservatives’ ideological goals, and on the other we see congressional Republicans try to terrify the public in the hopes that people who stand to benefit from “Obamacare” steer clear of the system.

President Obama added yesterday, during an interview with the Wall Street Journal, that if both parties were “invested in success,” the rollout wouldn’t have been quite so rocky. “One of the problems that we’ve had is that one side of Capitol Hill is invested in failure and that makes the kind of iterative process of fixing glitches as they come up and fine tuning the law more challenging,” he added.

There’s no denying that the dysfunctional health care website matters, and the administration’s missteps deserve criticism. But Republican sabotage matters, too.

Kevin Drum recently explained, “No federal program that I can remember faced quite the implacable hostility during its implementation that Obamacare has faced. This excuses neither the Obama administration’s poor decisions nor its timidity in the face of Republican attacks, but it certainly puts them in the proper perspective.”

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 20, 2013

November 21, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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