America’s White Male Problem

AlterNet [1] / By Frank Schaeffer [2] January 4, 2013

The American political process is being hijacked by a reckless, whining dangerous gang of psychologically damaged white men who are far-right ideologues. I used to be one of them. It’s time to tell the truth about our white male problem…the continuous attempt by the white far-right in Congress to shut down the government rather than work with our black president has a lot to do with racism… This has less to do with politics and more to do with the fear and mental illness that grips a willfully ignorant minority of white males. But the mainstream media is talking about everything but the underlying racial, cultural and mental health issues afflicting the white male minority of far-right congressmen holding us all hostage. And the extreme insanity of the right-wing rhetoric over the last four years, from “birther” to Obama-is-a-Muslim etc., conclusively points to something other than politics…Overlay a map of the states with the safe gerrymandered congressional districts that sent us the Tea Party Republicans hijacking our country and you’ll find it’s the same map by and large of the former slave states…

The anxiety of losing white long-held power at the expense of minority and marginalized constituencies like women and gays has metastasized into outright hatred of everything and anything President Obama would suggest. Racism has combined with fear…The fear is of a world in which white (mostly) evangelical Republicans lose power… forever. …The mainstream media doesn’t have the courage to say it…The truth of the matter is that there is a subculture of frightened white Republicans who see their own government as a threat. They’ve embraced ignorance and a fact-free life that denies evolution, gay-rights, the demographic changes in America, and above all, the fact that their fellow countrymen have rescinded our entire history of racist bigotry and voted for a black man for president. They just can’t accept this...The real problem we face is racism, bigotry and willful ignorance in the face of our changing demographics, spiritual beliefs and the challenge that postmodern thought poses to people stuck in Bronze Age thinking. These haters are a minority in the South, but they have  – through gerrymandering — given the whole South a black eye. The millions of tolerant Southern white men, women and all the rest of us wherever we’re from need to rise up and condemn this charade.

 Full text

The American political process is being hijacked by a reckless, whining dangerous gang of psychologically damaged white men who are far-right ideologues. I used to be one of them. It’s time to tell the truth about our white male problem.

Not everyone who disagrees with the president is a racist. Not even most people who do are. But the continuous attempt by the white far-right in Congress to shut down the government rather than work with our black president has a lot to do with racism. And lurching from manufactured crisis to crisis isn’t about politics; it’s about pathology. It doesn’t make sense politically to take the blame for risking America’s future — and the Republicans know they will take the blame — so how can we conclude other than something else is going on here?

I’m not talking about the white young male mass murderers we’re afflicted with carrying assault rifles courtesy of the NRA. I’m talking about the white far-right males who hijacked the 112th Congress and are set to destroy the 113th. They have metaphorically done to our country what the killer in Newtown literally did to 20 children, and for the same apparent reason: alienation from the mainstream and retreat to a paranoid delusional fantasy land of — literal — mental impairment.

This has less to do with politics and more to do with the fear and mental illness that grips a willfully ignorant minority of white males. But the mainstream media is talking about everything but the underlying racial, cultural and mental health issues afflicting the white male minority of far-right congressmen holding us all hostage. And the extreme insanity of the right-wing rhetoric over the last four years, from “birther” to Obama-is-a-Muslim etc., conclusively points to something other than politics.

The manufactured crisis we face are not about economics. These self-inflicted wounds are about a few people’s fear of being marginalized.

It’s not considered polite to mention race anymore. But I’m going to mention it anyway. We have a white problem.

I’m a 60-year-old white male father and grandfather. My son served in the Marines. I own a gun. I have handwritten notes from George Bush Sr, Jr, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford both to me and to my late father expressing gratitude for our contributions to the “fight” for traditional values and the Republican “cause.” Been there, done that!

I spent my youth not only as part of the Republican Party but helping to organize the culture wars that have come near to destroying our country. I have worked with the very kind of people who are now the hard-core Republican right. But I have changed my views. I may not be one of them any longer, but I bring an insider’s knowledge to the table.

Overlay a map of the states with the safe gerrymandered congressional districts that sent us the Tea Party Republicans hijacking our country and you’ll find it’s the same map by and large of the former slave states.

The anxiety of losing white long-held power at the expense of minority and marginalized constituencies like women and gays has metastasized into outright hatred of everything and anything President Obama would suggest. Racism has combined with fear.

The fear is of a world in which white (mostly) evangelical Republicans lose power… forever. The country has moved on, but the safe Republican gerrymandered districts have not. These folks are literally living in a fool’s paradise whose time has come and gone.

The white Republican hijackers of our Congress talk about smaller federal government and out-of-control federal spending, states’ rights and the Defense of Marriage Act. These are the defenders of 30-round magazines and personal arsenals, Kevlar-piercing cop-killing bullets, access to unlimited numbers of semiautomatic weapons and lethal handguns carried in public — all in the name of the Second Amendment.

The mainstream media doesn’t have the courage to say it, but the Second Amendment “defense” is nothing to do with today’s loud defense of “gun rights.” The truth of the matter is that there is a subculture of frightened white Republicans who see their own government as a threat. They’ve embraced ignorance and a fact-free life that denies evolution, gay-rights, the demographic changes in America, and above all, the fact that their fellow countrymen have rescinded our entire history of racist bigotry and voted for a black man for president. They just can’t accept this.

The common thread that runs through the Republicans’ “issues” of the day has little to do with those issues per se. What it’s really about is the fear of a future in which traditional white male power structures dissolve.

The true crux of the friction with the White House and the Democrats and indeed with most Americans — including most women living in the South and many Southern men as well — lies in the racial history of Reconstruction, Jim Crow and slavery.

The lies about our federal government — that somehow they are in league with the United Nations, to the point where we can’t even sign an international declaration on the rights of the handicapped! – have nothing to do with the stated objectives. This is like a family argument where an uncle shows up at the dinner table and argues with everyone not because he actually disagrees but because he’s feeling alienated from the family.

Simple palpable hatred drives these people to willful ignorance. The white males insisting on carrying guns (in a country where violent crime is way down!) are scared, not of muggers, but of the fact that their imaginary reality is coming unstuck.

They’re too smart to believe that Fox News spin on reality is reality. Most of these folks are too smart to believe in their evangelical theology either. I’ll bet at heart many are atheists or at least doubters, well aware of the hypocrisies and inanities of evangelical Christianity. But they put on an act of upholding what they believe are the traditional standards we need to live by, which really boils down to little more than white resentment.

These Republicans are from safely gerrymandered districts so they have little to lose and something to gain by “holding the line” against public opinion and the president, even if it continually pushes the country to the brink.

The fact is that many flag-waving American Republican males these days are horribly unpatriotic. Not since the 1960s and the far-left of the Weather Underground have we seen people who hate America so deeply. Some of the Republican “patriots” hate this country so much they join secessionist movements and interpret their “right to bear arms” as a right to build personal arsenals against that day when the federal government comes to “take away our freedoms.”

House Republicans like to say that Americans voted for a divided government. They say that “gridlock” is what becomes it. But that’s not true. The Democrats won 50.6% of the votes for president, to 47.8% for the Republicans; 53.6% of the votes for the Senate, to 42.9% for the Republicans.

A state of panic exists because Republican members of Congress demand a state of paralysis. They want to freeze the world as it is because the new world doesn’t have room for white male bigots who base their lives on Bronze Age mythology and white, privileged, Jeffersonian-style institutional racism. Their real ideology has nothing to do with gun rights, fighting against abortion or reducing the size of the federal deficit, but has everything to do with their own personal psychological turmoil.

These people are literally ill with fear. And their world is turning lopsided. There is a black man in the White House and he’s winning, and worst of all he’s self-evidently smarter than they are. He’s not even angry!

It is time for the mainstream media to stop playing the Republican extremists’ game. Let’s talk about racism and white Southern males who can’t get with the program. Let’s talk about what’s really going on with gun rights, which has nothing to do with hunting or home protection or even the Second Amendment, but has everything to do with the delusional paranoia of people who really believe the world is out to get them because it’s changing.

Let’s talk about the fact that there never was a fiscal cliff, just a dysfunctional Congress hijacked by the white males who turned the Tea Party into their cry of anguish.

The real problem we face is racism, bigotry and willful ignorance in the face of our changing demographics, spiritual beliefs and the challenge that postmodern thought poses to people stuck in Bronze Age thinking. These haters are a minority in the South, but they have  – through gerrymandering — given the whole South a black eye. The millions of tolerant Southern white men, women and all the rest of us wherever we’re from need to rise up and condemn this charade.

The real problem we face is not economics or gun ownership or what happens to Planned Parenthood, but how we can reintegrate a few hurting marginalized white males in Congress and their most ardent delusional supporters into a better future while stopping them from using self-created political stalemate to burn down the house we all share.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/americas-white-male-problem

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/frank-schaeffer
[3] http://www.alternet.org/tags/white
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/race
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/politics-0
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/culture-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/united-states
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/slavery
[9] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy

by Rick Perlstein, The Nation, November 13, 2012

It has become, for liberals and leftists enraged by the way Republicans never suffer the consequences for turning electoral politics into a cesspool, a kind of smoking gun. The late, legendarily brutal campaign consultant Lee Atwater explains how Republicans can win the vote of racists without sounding racist themselves:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Now, the same indefatigable researcher who brought us Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remarks, James Carter IV, has dug up the entire forty-two-minute interview from which that quote derives. Here, The Nation publishes it in its entirety for the very first time.

Listen to the full forty-two-minute conversation with Atwater: http://www.thenation.com/article/170841/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy

The back-story goes like this. In 1981, Atwater, after a decade as South Carolina’s most effective Republican operative, was working in Ronald Reagan’s White House when he was interviewed by Alexander Lamis, a political scientist at Case Western Reserve University. Lamis published the interview without using Atwater’s name in his 1984 book The Two-Party South. Fifteen years later—and eight years after Atwater passed away from cancer—Lamis republished the interview in another book using Atwater’s name. For seven years no one paid much attention. Then the New York Times’ Bob Herbert, a bit of an Atwater obsessive, quoted it in an October 6, 2005 column [2]—then five more times over the next four years.

Those words soon became legend—quoted in both screeds (The GOP-Haters Handbook, 2007) and scholarship (Corey Robin’s 2011 classic work of political theory, The Reactionary Mind). Google Books records its use in ten books published so far this year alone. Curious about the remarks’ context, Carter, who learned Lamis had died in 2012, asked his widow if she would consider releasing the audio of the interview, especially in light of the use of race-baiting dog-whistles (lies [3] about Obama ending work requirements for welfare; “jokes [4]” about his supposed Kenyan provenance) in the Romney presidential campaign. Renée Lamis, an Obama donor, agreed that very same night. For one thing she was “upset,” Carter told me, that “for some time, conservatives believed [her] husband made up the Atwater interview.” For another, she was eager to illustrate that her husband’s use of the Atwater quote was scholarly, not political.

So what does the new contextual wrapping teach us? It vindicates Lamis, who indeed comes off as careful and scholarly. And no surprise, it shows Atwater acting yet again in bad faith.

In the lead-up to the infamous remarks, it is fascinating to witness the confidence with which Atwater believes himself to be establishing the racial innocence of latter-day Republican campaigning: “My generation,” he insists, “will be the first generation of Southerners that won’t be prejudiced.” He proceeds to develop the argument that by dropping talk about civil rights gains like the Voting Rights Act and sticking to the now-mainstream tropes of fiscal conservatism and national defense, consultants like him were proving “people in the South are just like any people in the history of the world.”

It is only upon Professor Lamis’s gently Socratic follow-ups, and those of a co-interviewer named “Saul” (Carter hasn’t been able to confirm his identity, but suspects it was the late White House correspondent Saul Friedman), that Atwater begins to loosen up—prefacing his reflections, with a plainly guilty conscience, “Now, y’all aren’t quoting me on this?” (Apparently , this is the reason why Atwater’s name wasn’t published in 1984 but was in 1999, after his death).

He then utters his infamous words. The interlocutors go on to kibitz about Huey Long and barbecue. Then Atwater, apparently satisfied that he’d absolved the Southern Republican Party of racism once and for all, follows up with a prediction based on a study he claims demonstrates that Strom Thurmond won 38 percent of South Carolina’s middle-class  black vote in his 1978 Senate campaign (run by Atwater).

“That voter, in my judgment,” he claims, “will be more likely to vote his economic interests than he will anything else. And that is the voter that I think through a fairly slow but very steady process, will go Republican.” Because race no longer matters: “In my judgment Karl Marx [is right]… the real issues ultimately will be the economic issues.” He continues, in words that uncannily echo the “47 percent tape” (nothing new under the wingnut sun), that “statistically, as the number of non-producers in the system moves toward fifty percent,” the conservative coalition cannot but expand. Voila: a new Republican majority. Racism won’t have anything to do with it.

Not bloody likely. In 2005, the political scientists Nicholas Valentino and David Sears demonstrated [6] that a Southern man holding conservative positions on issues other than race is no more likely than a conservative Northerner to vote for a Democrat. But when the relevant identifier is anti-black answers to survey questions—like whether one agrees “If blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites”—white Southerners were twice as likely than white Northerners to refuse to vote Democratic. As another political scientist, Thomas Schaller, wrote in his 2006 book Whistling Past Dixie [7] (which naturally quotes the infamous Atwater lines), “Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters…the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past.”

Which one particular Republican spinmeister, when he wasn’t preening before political scientists, knew fully well—which was why, seven years after that interview, in his stated goal [8] to “rip the bark off the little bastard [Michael Dukakis]” on behalf of his candidate George H.W. Bush, Atwater ran the infamous ad blaming Dukakis for an escaped Massachusetts convict, Willie Horton, “repeatedly raping” an apparently white girl. Indeed, Atwater pledged to make “Willie Horton his running mate.” The commercial was sponsored by a dummy outfit called the National Security Political Action Committee [9]—which it is true, was a whole lot more abstract than saying “nigger, nigger, nigger.”

For more on the GOP’s effort to roll back enfranchisment, read Ari Berman’s Why We Still Need Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act [10].

Source URL: http://www.thenation.com/article/170841/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy

Links:

[1] http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/

[2] http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C04E6DF1E30F935A35753C1A9639C8B63

[3] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/aug/28/rick-santorum/Santorum-Romney-claim-Obama-ending-welfare-work/

[4] http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/romney-makes-a-birther-joke-while-campaigning/

[5] https://donate.thenation.com/sitelink

[6] http://web.posc.jmu.edu/seminar/readings/4a-realignment/race+party%20realignment%20in%20the%20south%20old%20times%20not%20forgotten.pdf

[7] http://books.google.com/books/about/Whistling_Past_Dixie.html?id=jG5Jhexkjg0C

[8] http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/13/us/gravely-ill-atwater-offers-apology.html

[9] http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Elections/2012/0524/From-Willie-Horton-to-windsurfing-Five-top-political-attack-ads/Willie-Horton-erases-a-double-digit-lead

[10] http://www.thenation.com/blog/171199/why-we-still-need-section-5-voting-rights-act

How Patriarchal, Christian Backlash Politics Have Only Become More Vicious

Salon.com / By Arthur Goldwag [1], Posted on AlterNet.org, October 28, 2012 |

When I tell Republicans — and even some moderate Democrats — that I wrote a book about right-wing hatred, their response, often as not, is skeptical and disapproving. Politics is a rough game, they say. Romney might have his 47 percent, but just listen to all those class war tropes about the 1 percent you hear from the left. Sure, the far right has an unfortunate legacy of racism, sexism and homophobia, but Obama has a whole deck of race and gender cards that he plays. And anyway, the nuts are ultimately unimportant — national elections are decided in the middle.

All of that might be true, but the kind of hatred that I’m talking about goes way beyond ordinary politics and deep into the realm of abnormal psychology. In its full-blown manifestations, it is akin to what an ophidiophobe feels at the sight of a snake: visceral and existential; categorical and absolute. It turns on the gut certainty that your adversaries aren’t looking just to raise your taxes but to destroy your whole way of life: that they are not only wrongheaded, but preternaturally evil. Comparatively few people experience these feelings on a conscious level, but they lie latent in many more of us than we might suspect.

It is precisely because appeals to those kinds of feelings work below the level of consciousness that I am so alert for them — and they have been very much in evidence throughout this whole campaign. When Mitt Romney promised to “keep America America [2]” and Michele Bachmann launched a witch hunt against Muslims [3] in the State Department, when Newt Gingrich called Obama a “food stamp president [4]” and Rick Santorum railed against the “elite, smart people” who will never be “on our side [5],” those were the buttons that were being pushed.

Conspiratorial shibboleths are seeded throughout the GOP platform, which, among other things, gestures toward a return to the gold standard and repudiates the John Birch Society’s favorite bugaboo, the United Nations’ Agenda 21 (which Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate, calls [6] a George Soros-financed attempt to “abolish ‘unsustainable’ environments, including golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads”).

None of this is new. Not surprising for a nation whose founders were in large part the descendants of religious refugees for whom the devil was both literally real and ubiquitous, an undertone of paranoid dread has been a constant if largely unacknowledged feature of American politics. All the way back in the 1790s, the Illuminati — a secret society that was founded in Bavaria in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt, an ex-Jesuit whose dream was a self-ruled, secular, trans-nationalist Cosmo-political order — became the screen on which New England religious conservatives projected their anxieties about the rising tide of anarchy and atheism. “God grant,” wrote an exposé that descried the hand of the Illuminati in the French Revolution, “that the United   States may not learn to their cost that Republics are equally menaced with Monarchies; and that the immensity of the Ocean is but a feeble barrier against the universal conspiracy.” A contributor to the Hartford Courant declared that President Thomas Jefferson is “the real Jacobin, the child of modern illumination, the foe of man, and the enemy of his country.”

In the 1820s and ’30s, apprehensions about what the Masons were getting up to in their secret Lodge meetings fueled a national political movement. Former President John Quincy Adams (who had been defeated by the Mason Andrew Jackson) ran for governor of Massachusetts on the Anti-Masonic ticket in 1834. In his book “Letters on Freemasonry,” he wrote that Masonry “is wrong — essentially wrong — a seed of evil, which can never produce any good.” If the Illuminati had been feared for their irreligion, the Masons were condemned not just as freethinkers, but as occultists, Jesuits and even Jews of a sort. The anti-Masonic panic was followed in short order by the know-nothing era of anti-Catholic Nativism.

And of course there is race. From the destruction of North America’s indigenous inhabitants to the importation of Africans as chattel slaves, from Jim Crow to racially targeted voter suppression efforts today, race has played as fraught a role in the American psyche as Freud believed sex did for bourgeois Austrians. “Affirmative action” and “reparations” are two of the most resonant buzzwords in the rhetorical arsenal of the right. Republican congressman Steve King ofIowahas accused Obama of plotting to make taxpayers pay slavery reparations to American blacks. In his bestselling book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” and the top-grossing documentary “2016: Obama’s America,” Dinesh D’Souza takes the idea even further, arguing that, as the heir to his father’s anti-Colonialism, Obama’s master plan is to “redistribute” America’s power and prosperity to the Muslim world, bankrupting the U.S. and turning it into a third-world country in the process.

Going all the way back to Jefferson and Hamilton’s bitter arguments about the national bank, Americans have been deeply suspicious of finance, for both good and terrible reasons. The rise of greenback and Silverite populism in the second half of the 19th century was partly driven by the fear that British/Jewish bankers were conspiring to destroy the Republic — the same cabal that would later be accused of foisting the Federal Reserve on the U.S., orchestrating World War I and financing the Bolshevik revolution. Oddly enough, today’s populists agitate for the return of the very gold standard that their forebears fought so hard against.

All of these different strains came together in a master template in 1920 when “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a forged document that had first been published in Russian in 1903 and that supposedly provided documentary proof of an ancient Jewish/Masonic conspiracy to rule the world, was translated into English. By the 1930s, the anti-Roosevelt far right had recast American history as the story of the endless struggle between red-blooded patriotic “producers” (farmers, craftsmen and manufacturers) and the parasitic, citified financiers who sucked them dry (aided by an unlikely alliance of dark-skinned and foreign-born moochers and collectivists). Progressives like Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson had delivered the federal government to the enemy.

They have been telling pretty much that same story ever since, though the Masons would take a back seat to the Communists, the specter of Shariah law would eventually understudy for the Vatican and the Elders of Zion, and George Soros would stand in for the Rothschilds. Florida’s Rep. Allen West proved that McCarthyism is alive and well last spring when he told a town hall meeting that “about 78 or 81 [7]” of the Democrats in the U.S. Congress “are members of the Communist Party.”

But as much as the extreme right might have hated FDR, JFK, Bill Clinton and even Eisenhower, Nixon and George H.W. Bush, President Obama is the visible embodiment of everything that they fear the most. He is an elite Harvard lawyer and the bearer of a foreign name. He is an urbanite and a community organizer in the Luciferian mold of Saul Alinsky. Last week Jerome Corsi — the bestselling co-author of ”Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry”took to right-wing talk shows to share his theory that Obama is not only secretly Muslim but also gay [8].

Most of all, Obama has dark skin. Let’s face it: Racism is infinitely more resonant than recondite monetary theories and tall tales about black helicopters. The thought that Obama really is an affirmative action president — earnest and full of good intentions but hopelessly over his head (“When you’re not that bright, you can’t get better prepared,” as John Sununu, the former New Hampshire governor and Romney campaign co-chair put it [9] after Obama’s poor showing at the Denver debate) — might have even resonated, albeit guiltily and uneasily, with some of his disappointed supporters. Donald Trump’s latest publicity stunt — offering to donate $5 million [10] to charity if the president releases “his college records and applications and if he gives his passport applications and records” — plays off the presumption that Obama is hiding something (the bad grades that would prove that he is a beneficiary of affirmative action, an application as a foreign student or something “funny” about his passport that vindicates the birthers’ suspicions).

Speaking of that dreadful debate, one can’t help wondering whether Obama wasn’t overborne by his efforts to not look like an angry black man [11]. If true, it would be ironic if his own racial self-consciousness damaged his reelection prospects no less than his opponents’ overt and covert appeals to racism. Romney’s avidity to press the Benghazi non-issue in the second debate might be an example of just such a coded appeal — a cynical attempt to tap the suspicion that Obama is a crypto-Muslim who secretly sympathizes with al-Qaida’s aims.

Obama’s much stronger showing in the second and third debates did little to silence the murmuring. Writing on her Facebook page, Sarah Palin accused Obama of “shucking and jiving” on the Benghazi question. During a CNN interview, John Sununu dismissed Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama as based on a “slightly different reason [12]” than policy. When pressed, he insinuated that Powell was just being loyal to his race. “When you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United   States, I applaud Colin for standing with him,” is the tortuous exact quote. Sununu tried to walk back his comment a few hours later, releasing a statement in which he said he did “not doubt” that Powell’s endorsement “was based on anything but his support of the president’s policies” — but which elided the many specific critiques of Romney’s policies that Powell had offered. Sununu, of course, is also the person who said, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American,” back in July.

But as noisome as all this fear and loathing may be, I suspect it will prove less influential than one might expect in the long term — even though Fox News, conspiratorial websites like WorldNetDaily and pundits like Glenn Beck have been giving it wider circulation than it’s ever had. The great arc of American history bends toward greater, not lesser, tolerance and open-mindedness. Both candidates, remember, are members of minorities. For all that Romney’s Mormon faith informs his view of American exceptionalism, many Evangelicals consider his religion to be no less sinister than Islam, or for that matter, the Illuminati. Billy Graham’s organization didn’t get around to removing the LDS from its list of dangerous cults until last week. But, however belatedly, it did.

The glass is half full and it’s half empty. Things are a little like they were in 1928, when the KKK was strong enough to hurt Al Smith’s electoral chances (as president, it was said, he would extend the Holland Tunnel 3,000 miles to Vatican City), but not strong enough to keep a Catholic off the ticket in the first place.

The writing is already on the wall. According to the U.S. Census, 50.4 percent of the babies born in theU.S.between July 2010 and July 2011 were minorities — up from 37 percent in 1990. In “Suicide of a Superpower: Will AmericaSurvive to 2025?” Pat Buchanan envisions an Americain which whites “may discover what it is like to ride in the back of the bus.” Go to a meeting of white nationalists, and you’ll quickly learn that their deepest fears are demographic. “White Christians are threatened with extinction as a separate and identifiable people,” writes Dr. Michael Hill, the president of the neo-Confederate League of the South. “Demographers predict that whites will be a minority in this country by 2040 … we are sowing the wind because of our inaction regarding immigration and multiculturalism. We will likely reap the whirlwind.”

No matter how this election turns out, the endgame has already begun: Americais becoming more multicultural, more gay-friendly and more feminist every day. But as every hunter knows, a wounded or cornered quarry is the most dangerous. Even as the white, patriarchal, Christian hegemony declines, its backlash politics become more vicious. They may succeed in turning back the clock for some time.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/how-patriarchal-christian-backlash-politics-have-only-become-more-vicious

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/arthur-goldwag
[2] http://www.snopes.com/politics/romney/slogan.asp
[3] http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/DC-Decoder/Decoder-Wire/2012/0719/Michele-Bachmann-links-Clinton-aide-to-extremists.-Has-she-gone-too-far-video
[4] http://www.npr.org/2012/01/17/145312069/newts-food-stamp-president-racial-or-just-politics
[5] http://washington.cbslocal.com/2012/09/17/santorum-we-will-never-have-the-elite-smart-people-on-our-side/
[6] http://washingtonexaminer.com/so-does-ted-cruz-really-believe-in-a-un-conspiracy-to-take-away-golf-well/article/2504153
[7] http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0412/75025.html
[8] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/obama-gay-rumors-chicago-jerome-corsi-_n_1877990.html
[9] http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/10/26/1094491/john-sununus-history-of-racial-remarks-about-obama/
[10] http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505267_162-57539897/donald-trump-$5m-offer-to-president-falls-flat-joke-to-many/
[11] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/10/obama-debate-polite_n_1954559.html
[12] http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/26/opinion/martin-sununu-race/index.html
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/barack-obama
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/donald-trump
[15] http://www.alternet.org/tags/extremism
[16] http://www.alternet.org/tags/gop
[17] http://www.alternet.org/tags/hate
[18] http://www.alternet.org/tags/racism-0
[19] http://www.alternet.org/tags/right-wing-terrorism
[20] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Saving America’s Soul – expanded with links

This article expands upon a commentary published in the Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, MN, November 2012 and provides links to further information.

by Phyllis Stenerson 

We need to talk.

How did a nation founded on belief in the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all become one mired in gross inequality, obscene poverty and a corrupt political process? Opportunity for a bright future is being stolen from millions of innocent children.

Our nation’s founders brought together the best thinking of the time balancing faith with reason, materialism with moral values and the reality of struggle with the energy of hope.  For more than two hundred years the United States of America moved forward toward that dream and now we are going backward.

Democracy, one of the greatest ideas in history and the best form of government ever invented, has been corrupted by ideology, greed and lust for power of some leaders, aided and abetted by the apathy, ignorance and fear of too many voters.

The founders were abundantly clear about their intent that Americabe a nation of ideals built on Enlightenment principles of reason and the values of compassion and empathy at the core of all world religions, not one specific religion. They embedded freedom of, and freedom from religion in our Constitution and clarified this country was not established as a Christian nation.  The United States of America is now the most religiously pluralistic country in the world.

So, what has happened to our moral compass and our common sense? It is fundamentally wrong that many millions of children live in poverty while a few thousand adults live with more wealth than anyone could ever need. There is a solid consensus among scientists that climate change is real with unimaginable consequences for the future. Why are we not addressing these, and many more, crises?

The problem is awesomely complex but solutions are within reach. Democracy provides a framework for working through problems and toward answers. The founders emphasized that for the democratic process to work an educated and involved citizenry with a commitment to honor was essential.

Out of all the components in this vast puzzle, one area that is seriously out of balance is the role of money and religion in politics.  These are topics that people are uncomfortable discussing but that need attention now.

The way in which a new conservative movement was built during the 1960s and 1970s to pull power away from the dominant liberal consensus is a fascinating study. The long term strategy included investing millions of corporate dollars into think tanks and communication networks. Conservative leaders developed a sophisticated network of organizations that became known as the “right wing message machine” to influence the public. This strategy changed hearts and minds so citizens would come to hate liberals and see government as the problem, not the solution, reinforcing a radically conservative worldview. The Bible is cited as the infallible truth underlying many of the right wing’s extremist positions including opposition to gay marriage. Biblical scholars, notably the Jesus Seminars and Bishop John Shelby Spong, prove this cannot be true.

Social and cultural changes were hijacked to serve the right wing’s long term strategy. Turbulence of the time including the Viet Namwar, Civil Rights Movement and hippie’s Summer of Love, as well as women’s struggle for equal opportunity, created fertile ground in which to grow new ideas. The Supreme Court decision allowing abortion provided a “wedge issue” around which social conservatives organized society to see liberals as the enemy. “The Pill” was a major catalyst for conservatives to motivate their base. Race was always an undercurrent. Later gay rights became a wedge issue. Many Americans were disgusted by the emerging lifestyles. More recently the concept of “Biblical economics” is being used to justify right wing assertions that taxes and welfare are wrong.

Right wing religious leaders and operatives had been working for years to strengthen and grow the conservative Christian and Evangelical population. Radio and direct mail were tools in developing a cohesive power base. Many organizations including the Moral Majority were launched.  By the early 1980s this grassroots movement was becoming known to religious and social scholars but most dismissed the possibility of it making a difference.

Liberals did not adequately articulate a progressive narrative to reinforce the liberal consensus. They split off into subgroups and organized around issues instead of a cohesive worldview. This created a vacuum in the public dialogue that was filled with conservative rhetoric.

A Supreme Court decision allowing legal access to abortion and introduction of the “Pill” strengthened the women’s movement but also provided the catalyst for the conservative movement to aggressively organize opposition to liberalism among social conservatives, particularly Evangelicals.

Fast forward to 2012 when conservative Christian extremists, a small segment of the population, had gained power sufficient to select the candidates to represent the Republican Party in the election of the President and Vice President of the United States.  The party platform was strongly influenced by these religious leaders and proposes draconian cuts to the social safety net, education, health, nutrition and other programs that provide access to opportunity for all. The fringe end of the conservative spectrum includes reconstructionism, “End Times” and dominionism, the belief that the Bible should replace the Constitution.

The primary goal of the movement is to strengthen conservatism and reduce government to the bare minimum. Starving the government of tax revenue is one tactic. Obstruction by Republican Members of Congress is another.

The Republican agenda is to shift power from ordinary people to those already rich and powerful. Fundamentalist religion is used toward this goal.  When money and religion are used to control government, it is called fascism. It ceases to be democracy.

Qualities that made America great — and good – are under attack. America’s soul is in grave danger. This is what we need to talk about.

This article is adapted from commentary published in the Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, MN, November 2012    

work in progress – last updated 10/25/12

Phyllis Stenerson © 2012

How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane

By David Neiwert [2], John Amato [3] PoliPoint Press [1] posted on Alternet.org, May 25, 2010 – The following is adapted from “Over the Cliff: How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane,” [4]due out next month from PoliPoint Press.

Excerpt

On the day Barack Obama was elected president of the United States… those who opposed Obama precisely because he sought to become the nation’s first black president — it went well beyond the usual despair….So maybe it wasn’t really a surprise that they responded that day with the special venom and violence peculiar to the American Right…
We are seeing literally hundreds of incidents around the country — from cross-burnings to death threats to effigies hanging to confrontations in schoolyards, and it’s quite remarkable. I think that there are political leaders out there who are saying incredibly irresponsible things that could have the effect of undamming a real flood of hate. That includes media figures. On immigration, they have been some of the worst. There’s a lot going on, and it’s very likely to lead to scapegoating. And in the end, scapegoating leaves corpses in the street…

Full text

On the day Barack Obama was elected president of the United   States, much of the nation — particularly those who supported and voted for him — celebrated the election of the first African American to the country’s highest office. For those who voted for his opponent, John McCain, there was naturally the usual bitterness and disappointment.

Among a certain subset of those Americans, however — especially those who opposed Obama precisely because he sought to become the nation’s first black president – it went well beyond the usual despair. For them, November 5, 2008, was the end of the world. Or at least, the end of America as they knew it.

So maybe it wasn’t really a surprise that they responded that day with the special venom and violence peculiar to the American Right. Like the noose strung in protest from a tree limb in Texas.

Students at Baylor University in Waco discovered the noose hanging from a campus tree the evening of election day, near a site where angry Republican students had gathered Obama yard signs and burned them in a big bonfire. That same evening, a riot nearly broke out when Obama supporters, chanting the new president’s name, were confronted outside a residence hall by white students who told them: “Any nigger who walks by Penland [Hall], we’re going to kick their ass, we’re going to jump him.” The Obama supporters stopped and responded, “Excuse me?” — and somehow managed to keep the confrontation confined to a mere shouting match until police arrived and broke things up.

There were also the students on the North   Carolina State University campus, in Raleigh, who spent election night spraypainting such fun-loving messages as “Let’s shoot that Nigger in the head” and “Hang Obama by a noose.” The university’s administration was so upset by this behavior that it protected the students’ identities and refused to take any legal action against them or discipline them at all.

Those were just warm-ups from the student cheering section. The real thugs, exemplars of the dark side of the American psyche, were shortly to make their mark.

That night, four young white men from Staten Island “decided to go after black people” in retaliation for Obama’s election. The men first drove to the mostly black Park Hill neighborhood and assaulted a Liberian immigrant, beating him with a metal pipe and a police baton, as well as their fists and feet. They drove next to Port Richmond, where they assaulted another black man and verbally threatened a Latino man and a group of black people.

The hooligans finished up the night by attempting to drive next to a man walking home from his job as a Rite Aid manager and club him with the police baton. Instead, they simply hit him with their car, throwing him off the windshield and into a coma for over a month. The pedestrian was actually white, but this crew of geniuses managed to misidentify him as a black man. All four of the thugs wound up convicted of hate crimes and will spend the duration of Obama’s first term in prison. Look for them to turn up on Fox News in a few years claiming to be victims of the oppressive Obama administration.

The day after the election in Midland, Michigan, a discarded Ron Paul activist named Randy Gray (he had been peremptorily dismissed from the Paul campaign when his white-supremacist activism was revealed), dressed in full Ku Klux Klan regalia, stalked the sidewalk in the middle of a heavily trafficked intersection and waved an American flag. He also toted a handgun.

Police talked to Gray but let him continue his display after he told them his behavior had nothing to do with Obama winning the presidency.

A bus full of schoolkids in Rexburg, Idaho, started chanting “Assassinate Obama” just to tease the tiny minority of their fellow schoolkids who were Obama supporters. In Rexburg — where the population is more than 90 percent Mormon — that’s about three kids in the entire school. District officials didn’t discipline the children who had led the chants, but they did send a letter to the kids’ parents reminding them that students are to be told such behavior is unacceptable.

Then there were the arsons.

On election night, a black family in South   Ogden, Utah, came home from volunteering at their local polling station to discover that their American flag had been torched.

In Hardwick Township, New Jersey, a black man taking his eight-year-old daughter to school emerged from his front door the morning after the election to discover that someone had burned a six-foot-tall cross on his lawn, right next to the man’s banner declaring Obama president. It had been torched too.

Another cross was burned on the lawn of the only black man in tiny Apolacon Township, Pennsylvania, the night after the election. A black church in Springfield, Massachusetts, was burned to the ground the night of the election; three white men were arrested and charged with setting the fire as a hate crime.

And if the election itself wasn’t enough to bring the haters out of the woodwork, there was Obama’s inauguration on January 21, 2009.

Two days before the big event, arsonists in Forsyth County, Georgia, burned down the home of a woman who was a public supporter of Obama; she was in DC for the inauguration at the time. Someone also painted a racial slur on her fence, along with the warning “Your black boy will die.”

On inauguration day, someone taped newspaper articles featuring Obama onto the apartment door of a woman in Jersey   City, New Jersey, and set fire to the door. Fortunately, the woman had stayed home to watch the inauguration on TV and smelled the burning, and she was able to extinguish the fire before it spread. If only she could have done the same for the hate that sparked the act.

The day after the inauguration, a large, 22-year-old skinhead from Brockton, Massachusetts, named Keith Luke decided it was time to fight the “extinction” of the white race, so he bashed down the door of an African American woman and her sister and shot them both; one died. Police cornered and arrested Luke before he could pull off the next phase of his shooting rampage. According to the district attorney, Luke intended to “kill as many Jews, blacks, and Hispanics as humanly possible . . . before killing himself.” When he appeared in court a month later, Luke had carved a swastika into his forehead with a razor blade.

The pain and violence inflicted by these haters were just beginning.

In all, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), inMontgomery,Alabama, counted more than 200 “hate-related” incidents in the first weeks after the election of Barack Obama, a number that more than doubled after the inauguration. We called up the SPLC’s Mark Potok for his thoughts on what was happening. Here’s what he said:
I think there’s something remarkable happening out there. I think we really are beginning to see a white backlash that may grow fairly large. The situation’s worrying.

Not only do we have continuing nonwhite immigration, not only is the economy in the tank and very likely to get worse, but we have a black man in the White House. That is driving a kind of rage in a certain sector of the white population that is very, very worrying to me.

We are seeing literally hundreds of incidents around the country — from cross-burnings to death threats to effigies hanging to confrontations in schoolyards, and it’s quite remarkable. I think that there are political leaders out there who are saying incredibly irresponsible things that could have the effect of undamming a real flood of hate. That includes media figures. On immigration, they have been some of the worst. There’s a lot going on, and it’s very likely to lead to scapegoating. And in the end, scapegoating leaves corpses in the street.

Among the indicators of this spike in violent white racism was a sharp increase in business for white-supremacist Web sites like the neo-Nazi forum Stormfront. It collected more than 2,000 new members the day after the election. One poster to the Stormfront site, a North Las Vegas resident going by the moniker Dalderian Germanicus, reflected the consensus sentiment in the comments: “I want the SOB laid out in a box to see how ‘messiahs’ come to rest. God has abandoned us, this country is doomed.”

That theme popped up a lot among the denizens of the extremist Right in the weeks after the election. One middle-aged Georgian, quoted by an Associated Press reporter, voiced the typical view: “I believe our nation is ruined and has been for several decades, and the election of Obama is merely the culmination of the change.”

For the American Right, 2008 was indeed the end of the world.

From Over the Cliff: How the Obama Election Drove the American Right Insane © 2010 by John Amato and David Niewert. Reprinted with permission from PoliPointPress, LLC, Sausalito, CA [5].

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Making The Election About Race By Thomas B. Edsall

New York Times, August 27, 2012 

Excerpt

The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor.

Ads that accuse President Obama of gutting the work requirements enacted in the 1996 welfare reform legislation present the first theme. Ads alleging that Obama has taken $716 billion from Medicare – a program serving an overwhelmingly white constituency – in order to provide health coverage to the heavily black and Hispanic poor deliver the second. The ads are meant to work together, to mutually reinforce each other’s claims….

Sharp criticism has done nothing to hold back the Romney campaign from continuing its offensive – in speeches and on the air – because the accuracy of the ads is irrelevant as far as the Republican presidential ticket is concerned. The goal is not to make a legitimate critique, but to portray Obama as willing to give the “undeserving” poor government handouts at the expense of hardworking taxpayers.

Insofar as Romney can revive anti-welfare sentiments – which have been relatively quiescent since the enactment of the 1996 reforms – he may be able to increase voter motivation among whites whose enthusiasm for Romney has been dimmed by the barrage of Obama ads criticizing Bain Capital for firing workers and outsourcing jobs during Romney’s tenure as C.E.O. of the company…There is extensive poll data showing the depth of Republican dependence on white voters…Most importantly, the Pew surveys show that 89% of voters who identify themselves as Republican are white. Faced with few if any possibilities of making gains among blacks and Hispanics – whose support for Obama has remained strong – the Romney campaign has no other choice if the goal is to win but to adopt a strategy to drive up white turnout….

On television and the Internet, however, the Romney campaign is clearly determined “to make this about” race, in the tradition of the notorious 1988 Republican Willie Horton ad, which described the rape of a white woman by a convicted African-American murderer released on furlough from a Massachusetts prison during the gubernatorial administration of Michael Dukakis…

The longer campaigns go on, the nastier they get. Once unthinkable methods become conventional…

The principle media consultant for the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, which will be running many of the anti-Obama ads over the next ten weeks, is Larry McCarthy, who produced the original Willie Horton ad.

Full text

The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor.

Ads that accuse President Obama of gutting the work requirements enacted in the 1996 welfare reform legislation present the first theme. Ads alleging that Obama has taken $716 billion from Medicare – a program serving an overwhelmingly white constituency – in order to provide health coverage to the heavily black and Hispanic poor deliver the second. The ads are meant to work together, to mutually reinforce each other’s claims.

The announcer in one of the Romney campaign’s TV ads focusing on welfare  tells viewers:

In 1996, President Clinton and a bipartisan Congress helped end welfare as we know it by requiring work for welfare. But on July 12, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping the work requirement. Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you a welfare check. And welfare-to-work goes back to being plain old welfare. Mitt Romney will restore the work requirement because it works.

The ad includes the following text and photograph:

Web sites devoted to examining the veracity of political commercials have sharply criticized the ad.

The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, gave the welfare ads his lowest rating, four Pinocchios. The Tampa Bay Tribune’s Politifact was equally harsh, describing the ads as “a drastic distortion” warranting a “pants on fire” rating. The welfare commercial, according to Politifact, “inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance.”

Sharp criticism has done nothing to hold back the Romney campaign from continuing its offensive – in speeches and on the air – because the accuracy of the ads is irrelevant as far as the Republican presidential ticket is concerned. The goal is not to make a legitimate critique, but to portray Obama as willing to give the “undeserving” poor government handouts at the expense of hardworking taxpayers.

Insofar as Romney can revive anti-welfare sentiments – which have been relatively quiescent since the enactment of the 1996 reforms – he may be able to increase voter motivation among whites whose enthusiasm for Romney has been dimmed by the barrage of Obama ads criticizing Bain Capital for firing workers and outsourcing jobs during Romney’s tenure as C.E.O. of the company.

The racial overtones of Romney’s welfare ads are relatively explicit. Romney’s Medicare ads are a bit more subtle.

“You paid into Medicare for years – every paycheck. Now when you need it, Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare,” the ad begins, with following picture on the screen:

The ad continues:

Why? To pay for Obamacare. The money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that is not for you.

In essence, the ad is telling senior voters that the money they paid to insure their own access to Medicare after they turn 65 is going, instead, to pay for free health care for poor people who are younger than 65.

The Romney Medicare ads have a dual purpose. The first is to deflect the Obama campaign’s attack on the Romney-Ryan proposal to radically transform the way medical care for those over 65 is provided. The Associated Press succinctly described the Romney-Ryan proposal:

Starting in 2023, new retirees on the younger side of the line [those younger than 55 in 2012] would get a fixed amount of money from the government to pick either private health insurance or a federal plan modeled on Medicare.

Those going on Medicare after 2022 would have to choose between “premium support” – in other words, a voucher program – to pay for private health care coverage or an option to enroll in a program similar to existing Medicare but without specified funding levels – which means an end to the guaranteed medical coverage currently provided for those over 65.

The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities sums up the likely future of health care for seniors under the Ryan proposal for reform:

The C.B.O. estimates that by 2030 the House Budget Committee plan would increase the out-of-pocket share of health care spending for a typical Medicare beneficiary from the current 25-to-30% range to 68%. By 2050, the House plan would cut federal health care spending by approximately two thirds. Both plans would place substantial administrative burdens on the most vulnerable and infirm of Medicare’s enrollees. And both would surrender the considerable leverage that Medicare can bring to bear on providers to reduce spending and improve quality.

Polls in key swing states and nationally show that, at present, voters trust Obama more than Romney to deal with Medicare, and strongly prefer to leave the Medicare program as is.

Asked whether “Medicare should continue as it is today” or “should be changed to a system in which the government would provide seniors with a fixed amount of money toward purchasing private health insurance or Medicare insurance” voters in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin decisively chose to keep Medicare unchanged – by 62-28 in Florida, by 64-27 in Ohio, and by 59-32 in Wisconsin.

When asked whom they trust more to handle the Medicare issue, Florida voters in a Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll, reported on August 23, picked Obama over Romney by a 50-42 margin. InOhio, Obama’s margin was 51-41; inWisconsin, it was 51-42.

A separate Pew Research Center survey released on August 21 found that 72 percent of voters had heard “a little” or “a lot” about what Pew described as “a proposal to change Medicare into a program that would give future participants a credit toward purchasing private health insurance coverage.” Of those familiar with the proposal, a plurality, 49 percent, opposed it, while 34 percent favored it.

The bipartisan Battleground Poll conducted August 5-9 by the Tarrance Group, a Republican firm, and Lake Research Partners, a Democratic firm, found that voters trusted Obama over Romney to handle Medicare and Social Security by a 49-45 margin. The same survey found that voters trusted Congressional Democrats over Congressional Republicans to handle Medicare and Social Security by a 48-40 margin.

Romney’s Medicare ad is designed to undermine that relatively modest but potentially crucial advantage. It is artfully constructed to turn the issue of health care into a battle over limited tax dollars between a largely white population of seniors on Medicare and a disproportionately minority population of the currently uninsured who would get health coverage under Obamacare.

Medicare recipients are overwhelmingly white, at 77 percent; 10 percent of recipients are black; and 8 percent Hispanic, with the rest described as coming from other races and ethnicities.

Obamacare, described in the Romney ad as a “massive new government program that is not for you,” would provide health coverage to a population of over 30 million that is not currently insured: 16.3 percent of this population is black; 30.7 percent is Hispanic; 5.2 percent is Asian-American; and 46.3 percent (less than half) is made up of non-Hispanic whites.

Politifact described the Medicare ad as “half true”:

Romney’s claim gives the impression that the law takes money that was already allocated to Medicare and funds the new health care law with it. In fact, the law uses a number of measures to try to reduce the rapid growth of future Medicare spending. Those savings are then used to offset costs created by the law – especially coverage for the uninsured – so that the overall law doesn’t add to the deficit. We rate his statement Half True.

Politifact also rated a claim Romney made later on the stump – that “there’s only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare,  $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare” – as “mostly false.”

The Romney campaign’s shift of focus toward welfare and Medicare suggests that his strategists are worried that just disparaging Obama’s ability to deal with the struggling economy won’t be adequate to produce victory on November 6.

The importance to the Romney-Ryan ticket of two overlapping constituencies – whites without college degrees and white Medicare recipients – cannot be overestimated. Romney, continuing the Republican approach of 2010, is banking on a huge turnout among key white segments of the electorate in order to counter Obama’s strengths with minority voters as well as with young and unmarried female voters of all races.

There is extensive poll data showing the depth of Republican dependence on white voters.

On August 23, Pew Research released its latest findings on partisan identification, and the gains that the Republican Party has made among older and non-college whites since 2004 are remarkable.

Just eight years ago, Pew reports, whites 65 and over were evenly split in their allegiance, 46 percent Democratic, 46 percent Republican. In the most recent findings, these voters are now solidly in the Republican camp, 54-38, an eight point Republican gain. Elderly women were 9 points more Democratic than Republican in 2004, 50-41, the opposite of where they are now, 51-42 Republican. Older men, who were 51-41 Republican in 2004, are now 59-33 Republican.

Similarly, white voters without college degrees, of all ages, have gone from 51-40 Republican in 2004, to 54-37 in 2012, according to Pew.

Most importantly, the Pew surveys show that 89% of voters who identify themselves as Republican are white. Faced with few if any possibilities of making gains among blacks and Hispanics – whose support for Obama has remained strong – the Romney campaign has no other choice if the goal is to win but to adopt a strategy to drive up white turnout.

The Romney campaign is willing to disregard criticism concerning accuracy and veracity in favor of  ”blowing the dog whistle of racism” – resorting to a campaign appealing to racial symbols, images and issues in its bid to break the frustratingly persistent Obama lead in the polls, which has lasted for the past 10 months.

The result is a campaign run at two levels. On the trail, Paul Ryan argues that “we’re going to make this about ideas. We’re going to make this about a positive vision for the future.” On television and the Internet, however, the Romney campaign is clearly determined “to make this about” race, in the tradition of the notorious 1988 Republican Willie Horton ad, which described the rape of a white woman by a convicted African-American murderer released on furlough from a Massachusetts prison during the gubernatorial administration of Michael Dukakis and Jesse Helms’s equally infamous “White Hands” commercial, which depicted a white job applicant who “needed that job” but was rejected because “they had to give it to a minority.”

The longer campaigns go on, the nastier they get. Once unthinkable methods become conventional.

“You can tell they” – the welfare ads- “are landing punches,” Steven Law, president of the Republican super PAC American Crossroads, told the Wall Street Journal. Law’s focus group and polling research suggest that the theme is not necessarily going to work. “The economy is so lousy for middle-income Americans that the same people who chafe at the rise of welfare dependency under Obama don’t automatically default to a ‘get-a-job’ attitude – because they know there are no jobs.”

As the head of a tax-exempt 501(c)4 independent expenditure committee, Law cannot coordinate campaign strategy directly with the Romney campaign. Nonetheless, he is sending a warning. The welfare theme, Law said, “needs to be done sensitively. Right now it may be more of an economic issue than a values issue: In other words, more people on welfare is another disturbing symptom of Obama’s broken-down economy, rather than an indictment of those who are on welfare or the culture as a whole.”

Will the Romney campaign heed Law’s advice to keep it subtle? The principle media consultant for the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, which will be running many of the anti-Obama ads over the next ten weeks, is Larry McCarthy, who produced the original Willie Horton ad.

Thomas B. Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, is the author of the book “The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics,” which was published earlier this year.

http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/making-the-election-about-race/?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120827

Fear of a Black President By Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

The Atlantic, September 2012

Excerpt

The irony of Barack Obama is this: he has become the most successful black politician in American history by avoiding the radioactive racial issues of yesteryear…This irony is rooted in the greater ironies of the country he leads. For most of American history, our political system was premised on two conflicting facts—one, an oft-stated love of democracy; the other, an undemocratic white supremacy inscribed at every level of government. In warring against that paradox, African Americans have historically been restricted to the realm of protest and agitation….Barack Obama governs a nation enlightened enough to send an African American to the White House, but not enlightened enough to accept a black man as its president…

This is a function not only of Obama’s election to the White House but of the way his presidency broadcasts an easy, almost mystic, blackness to the world. The Obama family represents our ideal imagining of ourselves—an ideal we so rarely see on any kind of national stage.

What black people are experiencing right now is a kind of privilege previously withheld—seeing our most sacred cultural practices and tropes validated in the world’s highest office. Throughout the whole of American history, this kind of cultural power was wielded solely by whites, and with such ubiquity that it was not even commented upon. The expansion of this cultural power beyond the private province of whites has been a tremendous advance for black America. Conversely, for those who’ve long treasured white exclusivity, the existence of a President Barack Obama is discombobulating, even terrifying…In America, the rights to own property, to serve on a jury, to vote, to hold public office, to rise to the presidency have historically been seen as belonging only to those people who showed particular integrity. Citizenship was a social contract in which persons of moral standing were transformed into stakeholders who swore to defend the state against threats external and internal…

The idea that blacks should hold no place of consequence in the American political future has affected every sector of American society, transforming whiteness itself into a monopoly on American possibilities…

After Obama won, the longed-for post-­racial moment did not arrive; on the contrary, racism intensified. At rallies for the nascent Tea Party, people held signs saying things like Obama Plans White Slavery…

While Beck and Limbaugh have chosen direct racial assault, others choose simply to deny that a black president actually exists. One in four Americans (and more than half of all Republicans) believe Obama was not born in this country, and thus is an illegitimate president.

More than a dozen state legislatures have introduced “birther bills” demanding proof of Obama’s citizenship as a condition for putting him on the 2012 ballot. Eighteen percent of Republicans believe Obama to be a Muslim. The goal of all this is to delegitimize Obama’s presidency. If Obama is not truly American, then America has still never had a black president…

What we are now witnessing is not some new and complicated expression of white racism—rather, it’s the dying embers of the same old racism that once rendered the best pickings of America the exclusive province of unblackness.

An equality that requires blacks to be twice as good is not equality—it’s a double standard….

politicized rage has marked the opposition to Obama. But the rules of our racial politics require that Obama never respond in like fashiona presidency that must never betray any sign of rage toward its white opposition.

Thus the myth of “twice as good” that makes Barack Obama possible also smothers him. It holds that African Americans—­enslaved, tortured, raped, discriminated against, and subjected to the most lethal homegrown terrorist movement in American history—feel no anger toward their tormentors….

The president’s inability to speak candidly on race cannot be bracketed off from his inability to speak candidly on every­thing. Race is not simply a portion of the Obama story. It is the lens through which many Americans view all his politics.

But whatever the politics, a total submission to them is a disservice to the country. No one knows this better than Obama himself, who once described patriotism as more than pageantry and the scarfing of hot dogs. “When our laws, our leaders, or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expressions of patriotism,” Obama said in Independence, Missouri, in June 2008. Love of country, like all other forms of love, requires that you tell those you care about not simply what they want to hear but what they need to hear…

In a democracy, so the saying goes, the people get the government they deserve. Part of Obama’s genius is a remarkable ability to soothe race consciousness among whites. Any black person who’s worked in the professional world is well acquainted with this trick.

But never has it been practiced at such a high level, and never have its limits been so obviously exposed. This need to talk in dulcet tones, to never be angry regardless of the offense, bespeaks a strange and compromised integration indeed, revealing a country so infantile that it can countenance white acceptance of blacks only when they meet an Al Roker standard…
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/09/fear-of-a-black-president/309064/
Copyright © 2012 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.

GOP must slip its ugly skin by Jeffrey Kolnick

StarTribune, August 22, 2012

A look back at U.S. history uncovers an undeniable vein of intolerance and right-wing fanaticism. Recent discussions about the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 revealed ugly calls for genocide and ethnic cleansing by Gov. Alexander Ramsey.

Ramsey was a Republican. But from the birth of the Republican Party in 1854 until about 1965, the real home of right-wing fanaticism was the Democratic Party.

In our own time, the far right has migrated to the Republican Party, where today it is challenging for that party’s soul.

Democrats dominated the Southern part of the United States after the Civil War and ruled Dixie in the interests of white manhood. In 1928, Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, the dean of Southern historians, proclaimed that maintaining the South as a “white man’s country” was the “central theme” in Southern history.

The South experienced regularized and public lynching for more than 50 years; disenfranchised millions of black voters, and created a segregated system of life that was dramatically unequal.

But the Democratic Party was a complicated organization. As the great American humorist Will Rogers said long ago: “I am not a member of any organized party. I am a Democrat.”

And sure enough, as the Democratic Party reorganized itself in the North following the Civil War, it became the home of millions of immigrants, most of them from Eastern and Southern Europe, and many of them Catholic and Jewish.

In 1924, the Northern wing asserted itself at the Democratic National Convention. New York Gov. Alfred E. Smith attempted to become the first Catholic to be nominated for president by a major party. Before the nomination battle, Smith’s forces attempted to pass a resolution condemning the Ku Klux Klan. The resolution failed, and, after 103 ballots, so did Smith’s run for president.

In 1928, Smith would win his party’s nomination. And 32 years later, Democrat John Kennedy would become our first Catholic president.

Al Smith and his supporters had challenged the anti-Catholic bigotry and the Ku Klux Klan that dominated the Democratic Party. After 1928, those who felt committed to anti-Catholicism had to find a new party.

Twenty years later, at the 1948 Democratic Convention, Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey delivered a speech declaring that “the time has now arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”

After Humphrey challenged the white supremacists for power, the entire Mississippi and Alabama delegations walked out of the convention and soon, with other Southern states, formed the so-called Dixiecrat party. Led by South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond, the Dixiecrats’ platform left no doubt about where they stood: “We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race.”

Americans like to believe that with the triumph of the civil-rights and women’s movements, the nation overcame its legacy of intolerance. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The far right did not disappear. It suffered setbacks between 1954 and 1973, but it never gave up, nor did it fade away.

And now, the radical right feels empowered and is challenging to dominate the Republican Party.

Just as Hubert Humphrey used to sit in caucus with notorious racists, today well-meaning Republicans caucus with crazy folk like Missouri congressman Todd Akin, who believes that women who are “legitimately” raped can shake it off to prevent a pregnancy.

Well-meaning Republicans caucus with colleagues who would deny basic human rights to gays; who oppose birth control; who protest background checks for buying the most lethal forms of firearms; who question the loyalty of Muslim Americans, and who deny the legitimacy of the president’s citizenship.

Courageous Democrats fought a struggle for the soul of their party and won. If the same struggle were to happen within the Republican Party, we might at last become a nation where no national party welcomes the intolerant and the bigoted. But who among the Republicans has the courage of Alfred E. Smith or Hubert Humphrey?

————–

Jeffrey Kolnick is an associate professor of history at Southwest Minnesota State University.

http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/167110315.html?refer=y

Not Afraid to Talk About Race by Charles Blow

New York Times, June 7, 2012
Hey, I heard that: “Oh, no, the black columnist is writing about race, again.”

Yes, I am. Deal with it. The moment we allow ourselves to be browbeaten out of having important discussions about issues that persist, we cease to command the requisite conviction to wield the pen — or to peck on a keyboard, but you get my drift.

Varying political views among racial and ethnic groups are real.

They have always informed our politics, and no doubt they will continue to do so. The idea, naively held by many, that the election of the first black president would nullify racial grievances, bridge racial differences and erase racial animosities has quickly faded. We find ourselves once again trying to wrestle with the meaning and importance of race in our politics.

In fact, one could argue that examinations of racial attitudes in politics have become more fraught as racial motives, political objectives and accusations and denials of racism and reverse-racism serve as a kind of subterfuge hiding resentments and prejudices.

Either racial attitudes are naked, blatant and visible, this thinking goes, or they’re nonexistent, manufactured by race baiters and hucksters as devices of division. The middle ground, sprinkled with land mines made up of racial labels, is now a place where fair-minded people dare not tread.

That’s a shame.

But it’s not going to stop me. Strap on your lead boots and let’s go for a stroll.

A Pew Research Center American values survey released this week offers fascinating insights into how racially divergent values and the changing racial compositions of political parties influence our politics.

Let’s look at the racial makeup of the two major parties: from 2000 to 2012 the percentage of Republicans who are white has remained relatively steady, about 87 percent. On the other hand, the percentage of Democrats who are white has dropped nine percentage points, from 64 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2012. If current trends persist, in a few years the Democratic Party will be a majority minority party. But the largest drop in the white percentage has been among Independents: they were 79 percent white in 2000, but they are only 67 percent white now.

The racial diversity among Democrats and the lack of it among Republicans means that the two bases bring differing sets of concerns to the national debate.

For instance, blacks and Hispanics are far more likely to believe that poverty is a result of circumstances beyond a person’s control than a result of lack of effort.

Blacks and Hispanics also look far more favorably on the role of government, particularly as it relates to guarding against poverty and evening a playing field that they feel is tilted. Seventy-eight percent of both blacks and Hispanics believed that government should guarantee everyone enough to eat and a place to sleep, while only 52 percent of whites agreed with that idea.

This is not to say that minorities who favor a stronger government want more government handouts. There was very little difference in the percentage of blacks, Hispanics and whites who believed that poor people have become too dependent on government assistance programs (it’s pretty high for all three groups, at 70, 69 and 72 percent, respectively).

They seem to want a chance, not a check.

To wit, 62 percent of blacks and 59 percent of Hispanics say that we should make every possible effort to improve the position of blacks and other minorities, even if it means giving them preferential treatment. Not surprisingly, only 22 percent of whites agreed with this idea. Only 12 percent of Republicans — almost all of whom are white — agreed. This percentage has been decreasing since 2007, while the percentage of white Democrats who agree has been increasing.

Now what does that mean for the presidential race?

A staggering 90 percent of Romney supporters are white. Only 4 percent are Hispanic, less than 1 percent are black and another 4 percent are another race.

Of Obama’s supporters, 57 percent are white, 23 percent are black, 12 percent are Hispanic and 7 percent are another race.

And what of the all-important swing voters (those who are undecided, who lean toward a candidate, or who say that they could change their mind)? Nearly three out of four are white. The rest are roughly 8 percent each blacks, Hispanics and another race.

That might explain why the Pew poll found that the swing voters lean more toward Obama voters on issues like civil liberties and the role of labor unions, but are closer to Romney voters on the role of social safety nets, immigration and minority-preference programs.

Put another way, Romney voters and swing voters — who are both overwhelming white — agree on the more racially charged issues.

Pointing out these correlations is not only valid, it is instructive and helpful. In large part this election will be about the role of government in our lives, and different racial and ethnic groups view that particular issue very differently.

The economy always looms large, but for those who feel left behind by the economy even when it’s roaring, but especially when it sputters, social safety nets and governmental activism can also have tremendous weight.

The trick will be to have a conversation about the direction of the country that takes that into account but lifts the language to a level where common goals can be seen from differing racial vantage points — to show a way to be merciful to those struggling while providing a path to financial independence and social equality. Contrary to what many Americans think, most people do in fact want a hand up and not a handout.
http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/07/not-afraid-to-talk-about-race/?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120607