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“White Progressives’ Racial Myopia”: Why Their Colorblindness Fails Minorities — And The Left

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the lifelong crusader for economic justice now running for the Democratic presidential nomination, has serious civil rights movement cred: he attended the historic 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a quarter million people changed the country’s course when it came to race. It would be wrong and unfair to accuse him of indifference to issues of racial equality.

But in the wake of his picture-postcard campaign launch, from the shores of Vermont’s lovely Lake Champlain, Sanders has faced questions about whether his approach to race has kept up with the times. Writing in Vox, Dara Lind suggested that Sanders’ passion for economic justice issues has left him less attentive to the rising movement for racial justice, which holds that racial disadvantage won’t be eradicated only by efforts at economic equality. Covering the Sanders launch appreciatively on MSNBC, Chris Hayes likewise noted the lack of attention to issues of police violence and mass incarceration in the Vermont senator’s stirring kick-off speech.

These are the same questions I raised last month after watching Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio hail the new progressive movement to combat income inequality at two Washington D.C. events. Both pointed to rising popular movements to demand economic justice, most notably the “Fight for $15” campaign. Neither mentioned the most vital and arguably most important movement of all, the “Black Lives Matter” crusade. (Which is odd, since “Fight for $15″ leaders have explicitly endorsed their sister movement.) And the agendas they endorsed that day made only minimal mention, if they mentioned it at all, of the role that mass incarceration and police abuse plays in worsening the plight of the African American poor.

Looking at the overwhelmingly white Bernie Sanders event last week, I saw it again: the rhetoric and stagecraft employed by white progressives whom I admire too often –inadvertently, I think — leaves out people who aren’t white. Of course, Sanders’ home state of Vermont is 96 percent white, so his kickoff crowd predictably reflected that. But his rhetoric could have told a more inclusive story.

So could Elizabeth Warren’s. I love her stirring stories about her upbringing: the days when her mother’s minimum wage job could support a family, when unions built the American middle class, and when Warren herself could attend a public university for almost nothing. Like a lot of white progressives, she points to the post World War II era as a kind of golden age when income inequality flattened and opportunity spread, the result of progressive action by government. I’ve written about the political lessons of that era repeatedly myself.

But the golden age wasn’t golden for people who weren’t white. Yes, African American incomes rose and unemployment declined in those years. But black people were locked out of many of the wealth-generating opportunities of the era: blocked from suburbs with restricted covenants and redlined into neighborhoods where banks wouldn’t lend; left out by the GI Bill, which didn’t prevent racial discrimination; neglected by labor unions, which discriminated against or outright blocked black members. (That’s why I gave my book, “What’s the Matter with White People?”, the subtitle “Why We Long for a Golden Age that Never Was.”)

Conservatives look back at those post-World War II years as a magical time when men were men, women raised children, LGBT folks didn’t exist or stayed closeted, and the country was white. Progressives point to the government support that created that alleged golden age, but they too often make it sound rosier than it was for people who weren’t white. In fact some of those same policies of the 1950s helped create the stunning disparities between black and white family wealth, which leaves even highly paid and highly educated African Americans more vulnerable to sliding out of the middle class.

All of this leaves white progressives vulnerable to charges that they don’t understand the political world they live in today.  “I love Elizabeth, but those stories about the ‘50s drive me crazy,” one black progressive told me after a recent Warren event.

Dara Lind points to Sanders’ socialist analysis as a reason he’s reluctant to focus on issues of race: he thinks they’re mainly issues of class. She samples colleague Andrew Prokop’s Sanders profile, which found:

Even as a student at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, influenced by the hours he spent in the library stacks reading famous philosophers, (Sanders) became frustrated with his fellow student activists, who were more interested in race or imperialism than the class struggle. They couldn’t see that everything they protested, he later said, was rooted in “an economic system in which the rich controls, to a large degree, the political and economic life of the country.”

Increasingly, though, black and other scholars are showing us that racial disadvantage won’t be undone without paying attention to, and talking about, race. The experience of black poverty is different in some ways than that of white poverty; it’s more likely to be intergenerational, for one thing, as well as being the result of discriminatory public and private policies.

Ironically, our first black president has exhausted the patience of many African Americans with promises that a rising economic justice tide will lift their boats. President Obama himself has rejected race-specific solutions to the problems of black poverty, arguing that policies like universal preschool, a higher minimum wage, stronger family supports and infrastructure investment, along with the Affordable Care Act, all disproportionately help black people, since black people are disproportionately poor.

At the Progressive Agenda event last month, I heard activists complain that they’d been told the same thing: the agenda will disproportionately benefit black people, because they’re disproportionately disadvantaged, even if it didn’t specifically address the core issue of criminal justice reform. (De Blasio later promised the agenda would include that issue.) But six years of hearing that from a black president has exhausted people’s patience, and white progressives aren’t going to be able to get away with it anymore.

Hillary Clinton could be the unlikely beneficiary of white progressives’ stumbles on race. The woman who herself stumbled facing Barack Obama in 2008 seems to have learned from her political mistakes.  She’s taken stands on mass incarceration and immigration reform that put her nominally to the left of de Blasio’s Progressive Agenda on those issues, as well as the president’s. Clinton proves that these racial blind spots can be corrected. And American politics today requires that they be corrected: no Democrat can win the presidency without consolidating the Obama coalition, particularly the African American vote.

In fact, African American women are to the Democrats what white evangelical men are to Republicans: the most devoted, reliable segment of the party base. But where all the GOP contenders pander to their base, Democrats often don’t even acknowledge theirs. Clinton seems determined to do things differently, the second time around. The hiring of senior policy advisor Maya Harris as well as former Congressional Black Caucus director LaDavia Drane signal the centrality of black female voters to the campaign. In a briefing with reporters Thursday in Brooklyn, senior Clinton campaign officials said their polling shows she’s doing very well with the Obama coalition, despite her 2008 struggles – but she’s taking nothing for granted.

Pointing to Warren and Sanders’s shortcomings when it comes to racial politics doesn’t mean they’re evil, or they can’t learn to see things with a different frame. But they’re going to have to, or they’ll find that the populist energy that’s eclipsing Democratic Party centrists will be dissipated by racial tension no one can afford.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, May 31, 2015

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Still Scary, Narrow-Minded And Out Of Touch”: 2016 Republicans Are Completely Ignoring The Lessons Of Their 2012 ‘Autopsy’

After Mitt Romney’s bruising defeat in the 2012 presidential election, Republicans spent several months looking at what went wrong, and proposed a series of changes to make sure it didn’t happen again.

The 97-page report was an extraordinary public acknowledgement of the party’s weaknesses. It did not mince words. The report said the GOP was “marginalizing itself,” and that without major changes “it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win a presidential election in the near future.”

Three key groups of voters were highlighted for special attention: Latinos, women, and young people. All were found to be moving away from the party.

If the last few months are any indication, Republicans have done little to pull these voters back into the GOP tent.

Latino voters are especially critical. The GOP autopsy report called for abandonment of the party’s anti-immigration stance, declaring that “we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”

More than two years later, however, Republicans are no closer to passing immigration reform, even though they control both houses of Congress. In fact, the party remains bitterly divided over the issue.

The party is so conflicted on immigration that even Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — who along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is one of two Latino GOP presidential candidates — had to back away from his own reform plan when he found it incompatible with wooing GOP primary voters.

Women voters are another key voting group that the GOP has failed to reconnect with. The autopsy report concluded the GOP “must improve its efforts to include female voters and promote women to leadership ranks” and that “when developing our Party’s message, women need to be part of this process to represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have.”

But even with a record number of candidates either currently seeking or planning to run for the GOP presidential nomination, only one — Carly Fiorina — is a woman. And she’s never held public office before.

Finally, young voters continue to abandon the GOP in record numbers. The autopsy report noted that young people were “rolling their eyes at what the party represents” and focus groups described Republicans as “scary,” “narrow-minded'” and “out of touch.” A recent Pew Research survey put numbers behind these observations and found a “wide ideological divide” between young voters and the Republican Party.

But if you listen to the Republicans running for president, the reason the party hasn’t won the White House in recent years is because their candidates haven’t been conservative enough. Younger voters — including younger Republicans — are much less conservative than the party. They don’t agree with the party on many issues, from gay marriage to immigration to the role of government itself.

It’s almost as if no Republicans bothered to read the Republican autopsy report. They’re making the same mistakes once again.

 

By: Taegan Goddard , The Week, June 1, 2015

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Gun Nuts: Arm The Mentally Ill!”: Is This The Week The NRA Finally Jumped The Shark?

What a week it’s been for the Second Amendment. For starters, noted political philosopher Vince Vaughn said firearms should be available like they’re in candy machines at our nation’s schools. Probably because you never know when you’ll have to engage in pitched battle with Dean Pritchard to keep your frat house on campus.

OK, that’s not the actual reason, but his regurgitation of pretty much every inane—and wrong!—talking point he seems to have snorted off the National Rifle Association looking glass is no less fictitious.

But I guess there must be a full moon out for the wolves of Winchester this week, because along with the wit and wisdom of Mr. Vaughn, the NRA’s decided to pop off about the rights of domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill to have access to any ol’ gun they please.

This latest freakout was in response to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) looking to bring back a rule proposed in 1998 that would block misdemeanor domestic abusers from owning or purchasing guns.

Tyranny, really.

Because, you see, in their tiny, malfunctioning cerebral cortexes, it’s a defensive maneuver. It’s an effort to prevent President Obama from engaging in the unprecedented confiscation of all guns, a move they’ve predicted since the day they heard the name Obama and just knew something had gone awry.

Much like the guy screaming about the end of the world on the street corner, when it doesn’t happen, the NRA just pushes back the timeline a bit, rinses and repeats. Considering their target audience is comprised of the same old white men who buy penis pills via group email, pulling this off is not as difficult as one would imagine.

There has been much already said about the NRA’s putting guns in the hands of the mentally disturbed by blocking universal background checks, which is really the most reasonable legislation imaginable. You can read more about that here and here. But not nearly enough time has been spent on the tragic role guns play in domestic violence.

The stats, of course, don’t lie, as much as discredited, sham researchers like the infamous John Lott try to tell you your nose is not in front of your face. This is why, on the same day as the first national Wear Orange Day, in which celebrities, policymakers, and regular Joes and Janes all across the country are sporting orange to honor victims of gun violence and say enough already, the U.S. House of Representatives is holding hearings on “Domestic Violence and Guns: An Epidemic for Women and Families.”

For an epidemic it is. Over half of all women killed by partners between 2003 and 2012 were murdered with guns. A gun’s presence makes a woman seven times more likely to be murdered by her abuser.

And, of course, the simple stat that belies what the NRA and all those Twitter trolls posing with their AK-girlfriends spew out. You know, the ones suffering from Gunorrhea, who like to hock out one canard after another—more guns means less crime, good guys with guns are like Iron Man, and other assorted delirium and detritus—women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than in other high-income countries.

This all just gets a collective yawn from the almost entirely male leadership of the NRA. When they’re not watering down legislation meant to protect women in Louisiana, blocking federal legislation to stop abusers from accessing guns, or actually committing these very transgressions themselves.

Because, who honestly thinks stalkers should have their guns taken away? Show of hands, NRA brass?

Gun nuts love to talk about “freedom.” Although, when hearing them utter it, it becomes meaningless to American women, who enjoy the “freedom” to be stalked and killed like animals because of gun fondlers, profiteers, and their squeezes in our legislative bodies. It leads me to think the word only applies to the male of our species in their vision, where, as Janis Joplin once sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

 

By: Cliff Schecter, The Daily Beast, June 3, 2015

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Gun Violence, Mental Illness, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Can’t Keep A Bad Man Down”: The ‘Glamor Of Evil’, Yes, Dick Cheney Is Back

With the hunger for war again rising in Republican political circles, I guess this report from the Wall Street Journal‘s Patrick O’Connor was inevitable. Yes, Dick Cheney is back:

The former vice president is looking to make a splash on the national stage with a new book to be published in September and a group he and his daughter Liz launched to advance their views.

The effort is sure to play directly into the 2016 presidential debate, in which national-security policy is already a point of difference between the Republican candidates, many of whom are looking to turn the page on George W. Bush’s administration.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds, Mr. Cheney previewed some of his likely positions:

* He characterized one leading GOP contender, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, as an isolationist. “He knows I think of him as an isolationist, and it offends him deeply,” Mr. Cheney said. “But it’s true.”

* An early critic of nuclear talks with Iran, he thinks the U.S. should be prepared to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. He also favors additional arms shipments to U.S. allies in Eastern Europe and further military exercises in Poland to send a signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

* And he scoffed at the debate that tripped up Mr. Bush’s brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, over whether or not he would have invaded Iraq with the virtue of hindsight. (Mr. Bush, after some back and forth, eventually said he wouldn’t). Mr. Cheney instead said Republicans should scrutinize the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq under President Barack Obama.

Since most of the Republican candidates for president are already embracing most of these positions, why, one might ask, do they need Dick Cheney, one of the most unpopular public figures of the twenty-first century, to articulate them? Well, there’s one small but influential subsection of public opinion where Cheney has never lost his cache:

Mr. Cheney already exerts quiet influence over his party, making semiregular trips to the Capitol to address House Republicans and advising some GOP White House hopefuls. He wouldn’t discuss those conversations. Two of his top foreign-policy aides have signed on with Jeb Bush. And he is headlining donor events all over the country for the Republican National Committee.

“The party is very fortunate to have an active and engaged Dick Cheney for this upcoming political cycle,” said Reince Priebus, the party’s chairman, noting the number of candidates and elected officials who turn to the former vice president for advice. “He’s a top fundraising draw, in high demand.”

I suppose this is an example of what the church calls the “glamor of evil” in the Easter baptismal renewal vows.

At times, Mr. Cheney seems to relish his villainous public persona. Outside the rodeo arena, he took a moment to show off the latest feature on his truck, a Darth Vader trailer-hitch cover, a nod to his alter-ego from the Bush days. “I’m rather proud of that,” he said, flashing his signature uneven grin.

It’s reasonably clear Cheney wants to encourage Republicans to complete their devolution on the Middle East and come to defend Bush administration policies–including torture, black sites, the nightmare of the Iraq occupation and the original decision to invade that country–in their entirety. I guess Lindsey Graham’s presidential candidacy isn’t viable enough to ensure that happens.

Speaking of which, maybe the Republican presidential field could consummate its isolation of Rand Paul and its determination to make 2016 a “national security election” via an agreement that whoever wins the nomination would put Cheney on the ticket, to seek a return to his old job of running U.S. foreign policy from the shadows. I’m sure a lot of Democrats would love to promote the idea.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 1, 2015

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Dick Cheney, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hillary Clinton Has Only One Real Opponent”: You Guessed It, That Leaves The News Media

In a sane world, the 2016 presidential election campaign would begin about this time next year. However, the political infotainment wing of our esteemed national news media seems intent upon starting the contest ever earlier — whether voters like it or not. TV ratings and enhanced career opportunities depend upon it.

Unfortunately, Dan Merica, a CNN producer who followed Hillary Clinton to South Carolina, appears to have mislaid the script. Instead of shouting rude questions, Merica sought out an ordinary voter Clinton had chatted up in a bake shop. What had they talked about?

As it happened, they had discussed Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

A Baptist minister, Rev. Frederick Donnie Hunt had been sitting in a Columbia, South Carolina bakery reading his Bible when Clinton stopped by. “I was impressed and glad that she knew the Scripture that I was reading and studying…,” Hunt said. “It impressed me that someone running for president has that background. It is important to me that we have a president that has some belief.”

Rev. Hunt, who voted for Obama in 2008, now plans to support Clinton. “God bless you,” he told the candidate as she got up to leave.

Make of it what you will. But if you’re like me, you learned something interesting from the CNN story. Too many like it, however, and Merica’s career in Washington could be endangered.

According to a recent “political memo” by Jason Horowitz in The New York Times, Clinton’s Democratic rivals have no realistic chance. “That leaves the news media,” he opines, “as her only real opponent so far on the way to the Democratic presidential nomination.”

Well, it does have the virtue of honesty.

To be fair, Horowitz’s point is that the press clique has grown so hostile that “it makes all the political sense in the world for Mrs. Clinton to ignore them.”

He describes scenes in which reporters, bored and angered by Clinton’s strategy of traveling around and talking with nobodies like Rev. Hunt, have treated her rare press availabilities as virtual bear-baiting exercises, shouting questions of the when-did-you-stop-looting-your-foundation? kind, questions she “obfuscated…with ease,” according to Horowitz.

He provides no examples though. Readers have to take his word for it. In this carnival-like atmosphere, he adds, “it is not clear what Mrs. Clinton gains politically from playing the freak.”

Yowza!

Prompted by reader outrage, Times public editor Margaret Sullivan expressed chagrin at her newspaper’s “sometimes-fawning, sometimes-derisive tone in stories about Mrs. Clinton,” particularly that last “startling line.”

Times editors were characteristically dismissive, arguing readers had misunderstood the author’s meaning — as if it were a T.S. Eliot poem rather than a newspaper story. Believe me, I’ve been there. No matter how dead to rights you’ve got them, they’re The New York Times, and you’re not. It’s like arguing with a bishop.

A reader comment by Paul Goode of Richmond put everything in perspective: “It’s never a good strategy to patronize readers. And don’t make it worse by peddling self-interest as a profile in courage. The Horowitz piece was not only invidious; it was a not-so-veiled threat about what Ms. Clinton can expect if she doesn’t get in line.”

“Can expect”? How Clinton handles the never-ending barrage of gossip and contumely directed against her and Bill Clinton by the Washington media clique could decide the 2016 election. The Times itself, Bob Somerby notes, has all but openly declared war, and The Washington Post isn’t far behind.

Last Sunday the Times printed a 2,200-word opus by Deborah Sontag about Bill Clinton’s appearance at a fundraiser for Czech model Petra Němcová’s Happy Hearts Fund; the piece must have set a world record for fact-free insinuation.

A one-time Sports Illustrated cover girl, Němcová started her charity, which supports Third World kindergartens, after a near-death experience in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Clinton spoke at Němcová’s event in exchange for a $500,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation, which was to be spent on a joint project building schools in Haiti.

Since Němcová doubtless looks a lot better in a bathing suit than anybody in the Times’ Washington bureau, you can probably guess what the insinuations were. Sontag even found a Columbia professor who pronounced the event “distasteful,” without saying why.

Forgetting about Ronald Reagan’s $2 million speaking fees, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus (a Hillary Clinton fan, she claims) nevertheless uses the Yiddish word chazer to describe her. “It means ‘pig,’” she explains, “but has a specific connotation of piggishness and gluttony. This is a chronic affliction of the Clintons.”

This is what Clinton is up against. Her opponents could call for abolishing Social Security and appointing Jim Bob Duggar to the Supreme Court, and the character assassination would never end. Everybody knows the script: “Hillary’s what my sainted mother would have called a false article, insincere, untrustworthy, out for herself and nobody else. She thinks she’s better than you.”

Anyway, people always say they hate this stuff, but then they pass it on.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 3, 2014

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, News Media | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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