“Roger L. Simon Gets Racism Backwards”: Racism Made A Comeback Because It Worked Politically For Republicans
I just wonder if Mr. Simon is aware of the psychological projection involved in his conclusion.
Just a few years later, the scab appeared very much healed with the inauguration of America’s first African-American president, a man who would be elected twice. I didn’t vote for him for policy reasons, but his election brought tears to my eyes as a former civil rights worker. America’s long nightmare, as Dr. King might have put it, was over, at least as over as things could be in this imperfect world.
But it wasn’t – not by a long shot. It went the other way. Driven by what I call in my book “nostalgia for racism,” racial enmity was brought back as surely as Michael Corleone was pulled back in in Godfather III.
Power, of course. The Democratic Party relies on the perceived reality of racism for the identity politics on which it feeds. Racism is the lifeline of the Democrats. Votes lie there.
I agree that the explanation for our curdled race relations lies in the quest for power, but not in the way that Simon says.
It was certainly possible to treat President Obama the way that Morgan Freeman asked to be treated by 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace, as a person rather than as a black person. But that’s not the way he was treated. From at least the time of the Beer Summit with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the right chose to attack the president on racial grounds. No white president would have felt compelled to produce their birth certificate just to quell the cacophony of nonsense he was encountering that threatened to drown out everything he wanted to prioritize.
This wasn’t necessary. John McCain showed some actual restraint during his campaign in refusing to make a major issue out of Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and in making the decision to dispute accusations by his supporters that Obama is an Arab or a Muslim. After McCain’s loss, however, no one of similar stature stood up to quiet down those same racially charged accusations.
The Republicans were fully supportive of the Tea Party revolt, and the result was the end of Eric Cantor, John Boehner, and 18 Republican candidates for president (not named Trump)’s careers. They were all shortsighted, but they made their mistake because they put their quest for power over their responsibility to show real moral leadership.
I can’t identify a single thing that President Obama has gained by being subjected to this racism, and he certainly didn’t encourage it. I doubt very much that he got any votes out of it, although the Republicans certainly lost a few. On the whole, though, ramping up racial polarization helps the Republicans keep control of the House of Representatives because a racially divided country divvies up the districts in a way that is advantageous for the white party. Racial minorities are much more regionally concentrated.
The truth is, most Republican officeholders probably aren’t all that racist, but “votes lie there” and it takes actual moral fiber to make the decision that some power isn’t worth having on some terms.
Racism made a comeback because it worked politically for the out-party. But it quickly devoured them, and now they’re left with a nominee who all decent people cannot support.
By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 12, 2016
“The Character Of Our Content”: The Nexus Of Politics And Race That Drives The Right’s Opprobrium Towards Obama
Where, exactly, did people get the idea that President Obama was supposed to end racism?
At a recent commencement address at historically black Howard University, Obama noted that his election did not, in fact, create a post-racial society. “I don’t know who was propagating that notion. That was not mine,” he said.
This remark stopped me for a moment because, well, didn’t he? Wasn’t he The One we’d been waiting for? Wasn’t Obama the quintessential biracial figure who would put racial differences in a lockbox for all time?
This was the narrative, to be sure. But, if not Obama’s, then whose?
In retrospect, it was mine, yours, ours. White people, especially in the media, created this narrative because we loved and needed it. Psychologists call it projection. We made Obama into the image of the right sort of fellow. He was, as Shelby Steele wrote in 2008, a “bargainer,” who promised white people to “never presume that you are racist if you will not hold my race against me.”
Obama wasn’t so much the agent of change as he was the embodiment of a post-racial America as whites imagined it.
But Obama’s message, beginning with his 2004 address to the Democratic National Convention in Boston, has always suggested that he would be at least a messenger of unity, which sounded an awful lot like post-racial. “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America,” he said.
I’ve previously noted that there was a fair bit of nonsense in that 2004 Obama speech. However, that speech did not, by any reasonable standard, imply that Obama would be a “post-racial” leader, and anyone, Parker included, who heard a “post-racial” subtext in the message must have had some strange music playing in the background.
Parker appears to be blaming Obama for her mistaken interpretation of that 2004 speech:
That many interpreted Obama’s message as post-racial made some kind of sense. The divide between red and blue states may be seen as also splitting along racial lines in some cases.
Eight years after being elected as the first black president of a majority-white nation, Obama is shrugging off any responsibility for having contributed to the post-racial expectation. Is this because, racially, things actually seem worse? But what if they weren’t? What if there had been no “Black Lives Matter” movement, no Trayvon Martin, no Freddie Gray, or any of the others who were killed by police in the past few years, or, in Martin’s case, by a vigilante?
I’m guessing he’d have grabbed that narrative in a bear hug and given it a great, big, sloppy kiss. His remarks to a graduating class, instead of disavowing that silly post-racial thing, would have celebrated his greatest achievement — the healing of America.
It’s interesting that Parker says “The divide between red and blue states may be seen as also splitting along racial lines in some cases” because, in the Shelby Steele op-ed she quotes, the right-wing African-American pundit scornfully observes:
On the level of public policy, [Obama] was quite unremarkable. His economics were the redistributive axioms of old-fashioned Keynesianism; his social thought was recycled Great Society.
Had Obama been a right-wing Republican (instead of, as former Reagan advisor Bruce Bartlett has argued, a Democrat who is “essentially…what used to be called a liberal Republican before all such people disappeared from the GOP”), both Steele and Parker would be hailing him as a man who had healed all of America’s historic wounds, who had indisputably united the country across the lines of class and race, who had honored the legacy of Lincoln. The remarks of Parker and Steele are repulsive because they reveal the nexus of politics and race that has always driven the right’s opprobrium towards Obama.
If you’re old enough to remember the Reagan-era promotion of right-wing African-American figures such as Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Walter E. Williams and Alan Keyes (Steele didn’t become a major name on the right until the George H. W. Bush years), you’ll remember that right-wing white commentators would constantly push the idea that Thomas, Sowell, Williams and Keyes were the “real” voices of the African-American community, as opposed to, say, Jesse Jackson. The right’s rhetoric about the so-called “Democratic plantation” is an offshoot of this sort of thinking: right-wingers really do believe that where it not for chicanery on the part of Democrats, the vast majority of African-Americans would be on the Republican team.
The folks who promoted this narrative about right-wing African-Americans being the only “authentic” voices in the African-American community never got over the fact that Barack Obama discredited their arguments. They cannot stand the fact that the first African-American President is a Democrat; had Obama shared the Thomas/Sowell/Williams/Keyes vision of the world, right-wing whites would have defended him just as ferociously as they have attacked him since the late-2000s.
Parker assumes her readers are stupid. She doesn’t think her audience fully understands that she would be glorifying Obama as a healer and hero if his politics were closer to hers. Her column is one of the year’s most deceitful to date
By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 29, 2016
“Marco Rubio’s Mad Rush To The Right Continues”: On The First Day In Office, My True Love Gave To Me…
From the outset of the 2016 campaign, Marco Rubio has tried to adopt a clever straddle on immigration. He has edged towards the hard line stances of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, while carefully keeping the door ajar to re-entering in the general election as the GOP’s Great Hispanic Hope, the candidate whose background and relative moderation on the issue would allow him to solve the GOP’s demographic woes.
Rubio may have just slammed that door shut — or, at least, made it a whole lot harder for himself to pull off this long planned reentry.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Rubio clarified that on Day One of his presidency, he will end President Obama’s executive action protecting the DREAMers — people brought here illegally as children — from deportation.
In the interview, Rubio was asked to respond to Ted Cruz’s ongoing insistence that Rubio has not said clearly that he would end Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on Day One, something Cruz has repeatedly said he would do. To buttress his point, Cruz has cited an interview Rubio gave to Univision in which he said DACA would have to end at some point, while saying he “wouldn’t undo it immediately,” and keeping his timeline vague. Asked for comment, Rubio replied:
“Right after that interview, Univision reported that I said that DACA has to go away, and that it will. I will on my first day in office get rid of it because it’s unconstitutional. I was against it when the president did it. I remain against it now. It cannot be permanent policy. And I’ve said that repeatedly.”
So there you have it. Under President Rubio, hundreds of thousands of people would lose their temporary reprieve from deportation — and the other benefits of DACA, such as work permits — on the first day of his presidency.
It’s important to understand that this has serious substantive significance. It’s true that Rubio has repeatedly said, albeit vaguely, that under his presidency, DACA would end eventually. (See this Politifact article documenting his repeated statements to this effect.) But saying you’ll end DACA on Day One — as Rubio has now done — is very, very different from this. That’s because DACA is granted in stints of several years; it needs to be perpetually renewed over time by the president. The pledge to end it immediately is a flat out promise not to renew it, and to cancel it on a hard date. The president has the authority to do this, since the original grant was done by executive action. And it would mean instant disruption.
Indeed, Rubio himself believes this to be the case. Here’s what he said in February 2015, according to Politifact:
“What I’m not advocating is that we cancel it right now at this moment, because you already have people that have signed up for it. They’re working, they’re going to school. It would be deeply disruptive. But at some point, it has to come to an end.”
Rubio previously thought doing this would be “deeply disruptive,” but he is now advocating for “canceling it right now at this moment,” or at least, on his first day in office.
To be sure, Rubio can legitimately vow to end Obama’s executive deportation relief while simultaneously supporting the general goal of legislative legalization for undocumented immigrants later (which Rubio has hedged on, too, by saying he’ll only back legalization once some undefined state of border security is attained first). But Rubio himself has been reluctant to say he’d end DACA on Day One, very likely because he understands that this would complicate his hopes of moderating on the issue as the nominee. That’s now changed. And apparently, he shifted precisely because he’s been getting attacked hard from the right over it, and needed a way to defuse these attacks. That immediate set of political imperatives has apparently won out over his longer term ones. And Democrats will surely conclude that Rubio has now saddled himself with a major vulnerability in the coming general election battle for Latino voters.
By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, February 19, 2016
With his unexpectedly strong third-place showing in the Iowa caucuses, Marco Rubio demonstrated that he’s the Republican establishment’s best shot to scuttle the Donald Trump and Ted Cruz insurgencies. And now, in the aftermath of Iowa, thoughtful critics of that establishment, from the liberal Jonathan Chait to my paleoconservative colleague at The Week Michael Brendan Dougherty, have begun to describe Rubio as the second coming of George W. Bush.
The comparison makes sense in a purely formal way. Like W in 2000, Rubio promises to unite the party’s grumpy, warring factions (which have grown much grumpier and more belligerent over the past 16 years), making Rubio a strong consensus choice within the party. It’s also true that this formal unity would be built out of the same old planks that have formed the party’s platform since Reagan’s first election: deficit-fueled tax cuts for upper-income earners, strident military interventionism abroad, and lots of speeches (but few policies) in support of traditional faith and families.
But this obscures the fact that substantively, Rubio is far, far more right-wing than George W. Bush ever was. That Rubio has a chance of serving as a consensus candidate positioned somewhere near the ideological center of his party is a tribute to just how far right the GOP has lurched since Bush left office seven years ago.
Here are five areas where Rubio clearly and sharply outflanks W on the right.
Bush signed Medicare, Part D into law, vastly expanding drug benefits for millions of Americans. Rubio, by contrast, has promised with great fanfare that he will eagerly work with Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would strip millions of Americans of health insurance. It’s also true that, like all the Republican presidential candidates, Rubio talks vaguely about replacing the ACA with a wonderful, unspecified market-based alternative. But no informed commentator on either side of the issue expects any Republican proposal to strive for coverage of as many people as the ACA currently does — let alone as many people as it would have covered if a series of Republican governors hadn’t refused to participate in the law’s expansion of Medicaid.
Bush cut taxes drastically. Rubio, meanwhile, would cut them…even more drastically. How much more? His proposed tax cut amounts to more than three times the size of the Bush tax cuts, with nearly half of it going to the top 5 percent of income-earners. These cuts would produce a revenue shortfall of $6 trillion after 10 years. That’s an amount that even staunch conservatives have described as “huge” and “irresponsible.”
Pro-lifers loved Bush, and for good reason. He appointed a string of conservative judges to the bench, and he spoke frequently about how every child, born and unborn, should be “protected in law and welcomed in life.” Yet on abortion, too, Rubio manages to place himself several steps to Bush’s right, refusing to permit exceptions for terminating pregnancies in cases of rape or incest.For all of Bush’s manifest foreign policy failings, he consistently upheld the distinction between the religion of Islam and terrorists who murder in its name. Compare that to Rubio, who has picked up the bad habit common to post-Bush Republicans of speaking much less precisely and responsibly about the supposedly severe danger that Muslims pose to the United States. Rubio has even suggested that the federal government should shut down any place that Muslims gather to be “inspired,” including mosques — a move that would place Rubio on a collision course with several clauses of the First Amendment.
Rubio resembled Bush most closely in the months following the 2012 presidential election, when the junior senator from Florida took on a leadership role in the Senate’s efforts to revive a failed initiative of W’s second term — a reform of the nation’s immigration laws, including a push to devise a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The reform effort failed, and his role in it is now widely presumed to be Rubio’s greatest electoral liability. (Sort of like how the rightward listing GOP treated Mitt Romney’s signature achievement as governor of Massachusetts as a potentially fatal electoral defect during his 2012 presidential campaign.) The result? On immigration, too, Rubio now finds himself far to Bush’s right, railing about the need to close and seal the nation’s southern border before even beginning to talk about any other kind of reform.
The lesson? Don’t oppose Rubio because his presidency would amount to a third term for George W. Bush. Do it because a Rubio presidency would be a whole lot worse.
By: Damon Linker, The Week, February 3, 2016
There are still quite a few pundits determined to pretend that America’s two great parties are symmetric — equally unwilling to face reality, equally pushed into extreme positions by special interests and rabid partisans. It’s nonsense, of course. Planned Parenthood isn’t the same thing as the Koch brothers, nor is Bernie Sanders the moral equivalent of Ted Cruz. And there’s no Democratic counterpart whatsoever to Donald Trump.
Moreover, when self-proclaimed centrist pundits get concrete about the policies they want, they have to tie themselves in knots to avoid admitting that what they’re describing are basically the positions of a guy named Barack Obama.
Still, there are some currents in our political life that do run through both parties. And one of them is the persistent delusion that a hidden majority of American voters either supports or can be persuaded to support radical policies, if only the right person were to make the case with sufficient fervor.
You see this on the right among hard-line conservatives, who insist that only the cowardice of Republican leaders has prevented the rollback of every progressive program instituted in the past couple of generations. Actually, you also see a version of this tendency among genteel, country-club-type Republicans, who continue to imagine that they represent the party’s mainstream even as polls show that almost two-thirds of likely primary voters support Mr. Trump, Mr. Cruz or Ben Carson.
Meanwhile, on the left there is always a contingent of idealistic voters eager to believe that a sufficiently high-minded leader can conjure up the better angels of America’s nature and persuade the broad public to support a radical overhaul of our institutions. In 2008 that contingent rallied behind Mr. Obama; now they’re backing Mr. Sanders, who has adopted such a purist stance that the other day he dismissed Planned Parenthood (which has endorsed Hillary Clinton) as part of the “establishment.”
But as Mr. Obama himself found out as soon as he took office, transformational rhetoric isn’t how change happens. That’s not to say that he’s a failure. On the contrary, he’s been an extremely consequential president, doing more to advance the progressive agenda than anyone since L.B.J.
Yet his achievements have depended at every stage on accepting half loaves as being better than none: health reform that leaves the system largely private, financial reform that seriously restricts Wall Street’s abuses without fully breaking its power, higher taxes on the rich but no full-scale assault on inequality.
There’s a sort of mini-dispute among Democrats over who can claim to be Mr. Obama’s true heir — Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Clinton? But the answer is obvious: Mr. Sanders is the heir to candidate Obama, but Mrs. Clinton is the heir to President Obama. (In fact, the health reform we got was basically her proposal, not his.)
Could Mr. Obama have been more transformational? Maybe he could have done more at the margins. But the truth is that he was elected under the most favorable circumstances possible, a financial crisis that utterly discredited his predecessor — and still faced scorched-earth opposition from Day 1.
And the question Sanders supporters should ask is, When has their theory of change ever worked? Even F.D.R., who rode the depths of the Great Depression to a huge majority, had to be politically pragmatic, working not just with special interest groups but also with Southern racists.
Remember, too, that the institutions F.D.R. created were add-ons, not replacements: Social Security didn’t replace private pensions, unlike the Sanders proposal to replace private health insurance with single-payer. Oh, and Social Security originally covered only half the work force, and as a result largely excluded African-Americans.
Just to be clear: I’m not saying that someone like Mr. Sanders is unelectable, although Republican operatives would evidently rather face him than Mrs. Clinton — they know that his current polling is meaningless, because he has never yet faced their attack machine. But even if he was to become president, he would end up facing the same harsh realities that constrained Mr. Obama.
The point is that while idealism is fine and essential — you have to dream of a better world — it’s not a virtue unless it goes along with hardheaded realism about the means that might achieve your ends. That’s true even when, like F.D.R., you ride a political tidal wave into office. It’s even more true for a modern Democrat, who will be lucky if his or her party controls even one house of Congress at any point this decade.
Sorry, but there’s nothing noble about seeing your values defeated because you preferred happy dreams to hard thinking about means and ends. Don’t let idealism veer into destructive self-indulgence.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 22, 2016