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“Wingnuts’ Confederate Flag Crisis”: Why They Can’t Admit Who’s Really Responsible For Dixie’s Latest Defeat

Even before eBay followed Walmart, Sears and Amazon’s lead by banning “rebel-flagged” items from its giant virtual yard sale, I realized that what I was watching was not a typical consumer revolt.

The Confederate battle flag — that bellicose assertion of a Southern “heritage” otherwise known as “white supremacy,” that defiant, “fuck you” of a symbol in whose honor the blood of far more than nine people has been shed — it wasn’t suddenly toxic because of last week’s massacre in Charleston. Multinational corporations, and the politicians they keep on retainer, weren’t disowning the flag because of a popular movement. The people hadn’t had the time to organize. The pavement on this road to Damascus was still wet.

Instead, what was actually happening, behind the scenes, wasn’t nearly so romantic. No one was breaking from their usual habits. Everyone, in fact, was doing what they always did. The profit-seeking entities were trying to maximize future earnings; and the state-level politicians were following their demands. This wasn’t a case of the powers-that-be doing something they resented. No one was pushed here; everyone was ready to jump.

Not for the first time in 2015, the conservative movement has found itself on the losing side of a culture war battle it once routinely won. And just as was the case in Indiana, when a petty and combative anti-gay law inspired national boycotts and a business-sector backlash, movement conservatives cannot fathom how liberals aren’t to blame. It’s conservatives, after all, who man the ramparts to protect capitalism and big business. As he was ranting about “the left’s” war on the Confederate flag on Tuesday, one could almost hear Rush Limbaugh transform into Walter Sobchak from “The Big Lebowski,” bellowing, “Has the whole world gone crazy?!”

He wasn’t alone, of course. And despite what you might expect, his tribal loyalty to the “Stars and Bars” (a misnomer, by the way) wasn’t exclusive to conservatives of his age. A young woman at Breitbart was similarly incensed by the flag’s sudden toxicity, blaming a “howling mob of both liberals and brown-nosing conservatives” for Amazon’s betrayal of the Confederacy’s trademark. A Generation X editor at the Federalist railed against the media for asking businesses if they planned to stop selling the flag, calling it “heretic hunting” and activism disguised as reporting. An evidently impatient colleague of hers took it one step further, likening calls against romanticizing the Confederacy to the Nazi regime.

As these spasms of inchoate rage overtook movement conservatives, it was almost funny how desperate they were to find someone — anyone — besides capitalists to blame. Bill Kristol, the self-styled Hébert of neoconservatism, trolled his way to sophomoric analogies involving a Cliff Notes version of the French Revolution; and then tumbled into the 19th century, saying,“today’s liberals would surely have been Copperheads.” One of the lesser lights at Hot Air, Michelle Malkin’s former haunt, provided a nice example of the “whataboutism” that became widespread on the right, asking no one in particular how the Confederacy could be bad so long as angsty teenagers still thought Che Guevara was cool?

Beneath their caterwauling and free-floating resentment, though, conservatives evinced a level of disorientation and fear that was in some ways sympathetic. It was like watching a millenarian sect discover the new Jerusalem was actually a suburban cul-de-sac. If liberals could not be blamed for this new dishonor, if it wasn’t liberals’ fault that the cultural norms of 2015 and 1995 were no longer the same, then what was the answer? Lefties might note how, under capitalism, “[a]ll that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned,” and say that the signifiers of the Confederacy were no different. But that’s of little to use to those who’d describe President Obama as a Bolshevik.

Yet for all the right’s professed belief in “common sense,” the reason why businesses were, metaphorically, setting the flag to the flame continued to elude conservatives, even when it was staring them in the face. As CNN, the Associated Press and others reported, the Amazons, eBays, Sears and Walmarts of the world weren’t acting out of fear or sentiment. Their motivations were straightforward, cold, and rational. Walmart wants to shed its reputation as a Red State phenomenon; Sears wants to prove it’s not exclusively for dads; Amazon’s politics are, if anything, probably “liberaltarian”; and it’s hard to imagine eBay’s pro-Confederate market was ever that big.

All of these companies, and the others like them surely to follow, were simply looking at the future; and what they saw was an America where a business implicitly legitimizing the flag had more to lose than to gain. As Jonathan Chait rightly argued, an old understanding of what it means to be American — an understanding profoundly bound to a certain definition of whiteness and constructed on a foundation of racist, revisionist history — is fading. “I know we’re going to lose eventually,” one pro-Confederate South Carolinian told the New York Times. His ranks, and the influence of his kind on the American mainstream, shrink a little more every day.


By: Elias Isquith, Staff Writer, Salon, June 25, 2015

June 26, 2015 Posted by | Businesses, Confederate Flag, White Supremacy | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Conservative Voters Are Going To Get Mighty Picky”: Marco Rubio’s Problem Isn’t Gotcha Stories. It’s Still Immigration

Conservatives have risen up in defense of Marco Rubio over two mini-scandals that appear to call his character into question. That’s a good sign for Rubio’s chances in the GOP primary. These little contretemps may help to create loyalty between the candidate and primary voters, who apparently aren’t going to let Rubio pay for these supposed mistakes or indiscretions.

But if Rubio thinks a spat with the mainstream media will cause Republican voters to forget his past positions on immigration, well, he may be in for a surprise.

First was a silly report in The New York Times about his traffic violations. He had earned four in nearly two decades of driving around Florida. Politicians tend to be late and in a hurry, so Rubio probably rates better than average on this score. And the fact that the same report didn’t uncover any uncouth workarounds that were made available to him because of his political life actually speaks well of him. His supporters tweeted jokingly about Rubio going on rampages of trivial offenses, with the hashtag #RubioCrimeSpree.

The second story, about his personal finances, is a bit more complicated. Rubio has made a campaign virtue of the fact that debt — including college debt — has occasionally crimped his family budget. He admitted forthrightly in his biography that he was a sloppy accountant. The Times reported on his missteps but dropped in some facts that would make you question Rubio’s judgment. He was unusually bad at saving from his income. He even liquidated a retirement account, presumably at huge expense, to cover expenses. He also, after receiving a huge contract for his book, bought an $80,000 boat.

Conservatives downplayed it as a #MarcoBoat, and pointed out that $80,000 is a tiny fraction of the six- and seven-figure conflicts of interest that populate stories about Hillary Clinton.

But I noticed that it was flogged a bit by immigration hawks like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. It’s a reminder that Rubio’s problem may not be his character, but his position on immigration reform. The hardcore immigration hawks in the Republican Party have not bought into the image Rubio is trying to sell, of a politician who was chastened by his failure in securing comprehensive reform. And that can cost him.

Mitt Romney neutralized Rick Perry on this exact issue four years ago, saying that Perry had created magnets for illegal immigrants by providing their children with in-state tuition. He baited Perry into repeating the liberal’s criticism of immigration hawks, with Perry claiming that they “don’t have a heart.” More than anything — even the “oops” moment — this is what brought down Perry’s campaign.

Ann Coulter’s book Adios America! contains blistering arguments against Rubio’s preferred immigration policies, including the numbers and rhetoric he has used to sell it. While lots of people claim that the polling on immigration is ambiguous, sometimes the results surprise. A 2007 California Field poll stated the question in the most provocative way possible: Would you prefer a policy of “having federal immigration agents round up, detain, and deport immigrants found to be living here illegally?” The “yes” camp scored 46 percent, and the “no” answer won 43 percent.

It should be said that no politician supports this policy for dealing with the country’s more than 10 million illegal immigrants.

Coulter’s arguments include shocking numbers that indicate those on a path to citizenship wouldn’t be net contributors on income taxes, but would become eligible for federal aid and assistance:

[A] more detailed breakdown of the costs and benefits shows that college-educated Americans pay an average of $29,000 more in taxes every year than they get back in government services, according to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector. By contrast, legal immigrants, on average, get back $4,344 more in government services than they pay in taxes. Those with only a high school degree net about $14,642 in government payments, and those without a high school degree collect a whopping $36,993.27. Contrary to the claims of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s press secretary, Marco Rubio, making illegal aliens citizens will not result in the U.S. Treasury being deluged with their tax payments. The vast majority of illegal aliens — about 75 percent — have only a high school diploma or less, so legalization means they will immediately begin collecting an average of $14,642–$36,993 per year from the U.S. taxpayer. [Adios, America!]

You may say, I don’t trust those numbers, because Ann Coulter is using them. But how would GOP voters feel about them? Do you think that if Ted Cruz’s campaign started flagging, he wouldn’t try to do to Rubio what Romney did to Perry?

In a primary race crowded with so many candidates, conservative voters are going to get mighty picky about their champion. And this is an issue that can cost deviationists a lot. If Cruz or any other candidate chooses to do so, they can make Rubio pay much more dearly for immigration than for four traffic tickets — or even a nice boat.


By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, June 11, 2015

June 17, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Immigration, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In Defense Of ‘Uppity-ism'”: Michelle Obama, “Rise Above The Noise”; All Black Americans Should Take Her Advice

It became clear during the 2008 presidential campaign that America was going to have some real trouble handling the prospect of a black president of the United States and a black first lady. Despite hip-hop having defined much of pop culture since the 1980s, a fist bump was all of a sudden unfamiliar: Is it a salute or a “terrorist fist jab?” Cue the disingenuous shrugs.

Coded and blatant racial insults were everywhere during that election season and haven’t abated in the seven years since. Michelle Malkin, herself a woman of color, called Michelle Obama one of her husband Barack’s “cronies of color” in her 2009 book Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies. A Fox News Channel graphic colloquially insulted the married mother of two daughters, calling her “Obama’s baby mama.” Another slur came from conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh in 2011, when in the course of lying about the public paying for presidential vacations, he charged the first lady and family with “a little bit of uppity-ism.” There are, of course, many more vitriolic examples.

“Uppity,” translated from thinly-veiled racial code, is meant to describe a black person who doesn’t know her or his place. It is as paternalistic as it is racist, meant to convey that a black person is somehow lower, in need of guidance back to the subjugated existence that makes the dominant caste more comfortable. Heaven forbid one even consider her or himself an equal. Or superior!

It’s a word I’ve been called once to my face, a few times online, and likely more behind my back. Unlike “nigger,” I’ve always felt oddly affirmed by it. It’s a term of hatred, no doubt, but someone who thinks me “uppity” considers my very existence a threat. That’s a good thing. We are threats to them and their detestable worldview, and Michelle Obama’s life, perhaps even more so than Barack’s, is a testament to this.

The first lady reminded us of these insults and slights in a commencement speech on Saturday, all in the context of facing “pressure to live up to the legacy of those who came before you; pressure to meet the expectations of others”—a fitting message for the new graduates of the historically black Tuskegee University in Alabama, where the Tuskegee Airmen, famed black military pilots of World War II, were educated while they trained at nearby Moton Field.

“As potentially the first African American first lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others,” she said during her speech. “Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?”

These sorts of questions are regularly hurled at women in America, of which the first lady is an avatar of sorts. They have a special appeal to sexists seeking to challenge the manhood of the president, a job that required the kind of fortitude and strength our culture has misguidedly sought to find in a pair of testicles. But given the entirety of Michelle Obama’s experience, we have to consider these narrowing notions in the context of race.

In an essay for The Root last September about the New York Times Arts review, historian Blair L.M. Kelley reminded how deeply rooted the stereotype of the angry, emasculating black woman is:

Beginning in the early 1830s, the first ‘black women’ American audiences saw on the American stage were minstrel ‘Negro wenches.’ Using burned cork and greasepaint to blacken their skin, white men in their performances as black men and women became wildly popular in the mid-19th century. White men used crude drag along with the burned cork to mark black women as grotesque, loudmouthed, masculine and undeserving of the protections afforded to white ‘ladies’ in American society.

Michelle Obama told the graduates how out here in the world that this sort of framing may seem small in the face of those denied a house or a job because of their race, and she’s right. But I’m glad she brought them up. (Frankly, I’m always happy to see a black person in the public sphere reflect black reality, as opposed to the white stories we’ve been forced to tell and celebrate for so long.) Microaggressions like this feed the systemic, more obvious incarnations of racial discrimination. And in that light, “uppity-ism,” as Limbaugh termed it, is worth claiming for our own and defending.

“Eventually,” she told the graduates, “I realized that if I wanted to keep my sanity and not let others define me, there was only one thing I could do and that was to have faith in God’s plan for me. I had to ignore all of the noise and be true to myself—and the rest would work itself out. So throughout this journey, I have learned to block everything out and focus on my truth.” The First Lady closed by urging the graduates to “rise above the noise,” a fitting metaphor for the Tuskegee crowd.

Being deemed “uppity” signifies a specific kind of arrogance to a predominantly white power structure. For that, I embrace the term. Not as how oppressors seek to define it, but for what it literally represents: a desire to prove yourself superior to an inherently racist society and above the category they would otherwise assign you.

I’m hardly the first to do so; former National League president and baseball player Bill White used the word as a title for his frank memoir four years ago. “It’s a person, especially someone of a different color, who says, ‘Hell no’ and stands his ground,” he told the Times. It’s a crude declaration of the power of black ambition and steadfastness. Those are things I’ll never look down upon.


By: Jamil Smith, The New Republic, May 11, 2015

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Black Americans, FLOTUS, Michelle Obama | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rotten To The Core”: The Race To Implement Or Kill Common Core Standards

I’ve argued off and on for a while that the steady and accelerating abandonment of standards-and-assessments-based education reform on the Right is one of the most under-reported stories of the year. And at the crucial point where states are on the brink of implementing the most ambitious “standards upgrade” initiative by far, the Common Core Standards endorsed by nearly all governors from both parties (see this Special Report from the May/June 2012 issue of the Washington Monthly for a thorough description), the withdrawal of conservative support is becoming an epidemic. The New York Times‘ Bill Keller has penned a useful op-ed on the subject:

[T]he Common Core was created with a broad, nonpartisan consensus of educators, convinced that after decades of embarrassing decline in K-12 education, the country had to come together on a way to hold our public schools accountable. Come together it did — for a while.

The backlash began with a few of the usual right-wing suspects. Glenn Beck warned that under “this insidious menace to our children and to our families” students would be “indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology….”

Beck’s soul mate Michelle Malkin warned that the Common Core was “about top-down control engineered through government-administered tests and left-wing textbook monopolies.” Before long, FreedomWorks — the love child of Koch brothers cash and Tea Party passion — and the American Principles Project, a religious-right lobby, had joined the cause. Opponents have mobilized Tea Partyers to barnstorm in state capitals and boiled this complex issue down to an obvious slogan, “ObamaCore!”….

In April the Republican National Committee surrendered to the fringe and urged states to renounce Common Core. The presidential aspirant Marco Rubio, trying to appease conservatives angry at his moderate stance on immigration, last month abandoned his support for the standards. And state by red state, the effort to disavow or defund is under way. Indiana has put the Common Core on hold. Michigan’s legislature cut off money for implementing the standards and is now contemplating pulling out altogether. Last month, Georgia withdrew from a 22-state consortium, one of two groups designing tests pegged to the new standards, ostensibly because of the costs. (The new tests are expected to cost about $29 per student; grading them is more labor-intensive because in addition to multiple-choice questions they include written essays and show-your-work math problems that will be graded by actual humans. “You’re talking about 30 bucks a kid, in an education system that now spends upwards of $9,000 or $10,000 per student per year,” said Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute.)

The Common Core is imperiled in Oklahoma, Utah, Alabama and Pennsylvania. All of the retreat, you will notice, has been in Republican-controlled states.

It’s hard to tell how much of the opposition is coming from conservatives who now oppose public education (or as an increasing number now call it, “government schools”) itself, or who think “national” standards will inhibit state-based or local efforts to undermine traditional public schools in favor of subsidies for private schools or home-schooling, but it’s clearly growing, and the heavy investment of the business community in Common Core is at best slowing down the revolt.

I strongly suspect opposition to Common Core will be a major theme for up-and-coming conservative state-level candidates in 2014, particularly for GOP primary challengers seeking to attract “base” activist support and/or to overcome suspicions of RINOism. In the race between Common Core implementation and efforts to stop it (and yes, there is opposition from the Left as well, and some concerns and misgivings across the spectrum, but nothing like what we are seeing on the Right), it’s currently a dead heat with the horse named “No!” gaining fast.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly POlitical Animal, August 19, 2013

August 21, 2013 Posted by | Education Reform | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Class Act”: Let’s Hope Our Next First Lady Is As Exemplary As Michelle Obama

Something happened last week that was political, gratuitous and embarrassing for our country — and it actually can’t be blamed on the sequester.

Out of nowhere, the first lady of the United States appeared at the Academy Awards and announced the winner for Best Picture. Not landing by helicopter, not inside an egg like Lady Gaga, but via satellite from the White House, where she was hosting the nation’s governors for dinner, surrounded by smiling military personnel.

Immediately, the appearance — not her idea, but an invitation — became a national subject of scorn. Most of the first lady’s detractors were conservatives, like Michelle Malkin, who slammed “the White House-Hollywood industrial complex.” Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post blogged: “It is not enough that President Obama pops up at every sporting event in the nation. Now the first lady feels entitled, with military personnel as props, to intrude on other forms of entertaining (this time for the benefit of the Hollywood glitterati who so lavishly paid for her husband’s election) … it makes both the president and the first lady seem small and grasping.”

But other critics were liberals. Donny Deutsch of MSNBC, an “elite” of the first order, sniffed, “there was an elitist flavor to it.” The Post’s Courtland Milloy wrote he had “enough with the broccoli and Brussels sprouts” and all the attention paid to Obama’s toned arms and hair. “Where is that intellectually gifted Princeton graduate, the Harvard educated lawyer and mentor to the man who would become the first African-American president of the United States?” he asked.

These deeply disappointed Americans don’t exactly know what they want from the first lady — just that it isn’t what she is offering. And that’s why it’s so sad. No, Michelle Obama is not going to throw her Ivy League credentials around, or weigh in on war or peace. But she has led an awareness movement to tackle the epidemic of obesity and diseases associated with it, and she helped build a support net for military families and veterans returning from war, the likes of which they never had before.

Those who cannot understand the importance of Obama helping communities most affected by poor eating and poor health engage to improve their choices and habits must not appreciate not only the prevalence of obesity and diabetes, particularly among African-Americans, but the economic toll diabetes and other weight-related illnesses are taking on our healthcare system. Obama has not only worked on federal legislation requiring new standards for school lunches but is urging corporations to open new stores in the 6,000 “food deserts” the Department of Agriculture has identified across the country, areas where fresh food is not readily available.

Meanwhile, she has quietly invested thousands of hours — without any camera crews in tow — supporting military families along with Jill Biden, the wife of the vice president. Together they founded Joining Forces to encourage businesses to hire veterans returning from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Veterans groups have said Obama has hosted and participated in more events for veterans and military families than any other first lady.

Let’s hope our next first lady is an exemplary wife and mother, and a daughter who would move her mother in to the White House with her. Let’s hope she embraces strangers and hugs them tightly, just the first lady we have now.

We can all freak out if Obama appears on “Wife Swap.” But unless she does, please stand down.

Americans taking swipes at the first lady, asking why she is having a good time — when invited — with comedians and producers planning the Oscar ceremony, should instead think about saying “thank you.”


By: A. B. Stoddard, Associate Editor, The Hill, March 6, 2013

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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