Archives for: September 2009
On polls being kept open so black people waiting in line could vote:
"This is an outrage!"
- - Senator Kit Bond, pounding the podium, November 7, 2000
Later, Bond alleged massive fraud by St. Louis voters
Anecdote is not the singular of data, just as a focus group is not a nationwide poll. But anecdotes and focus groups are useful. They provide a human clarity that raw numbers sometimes lack. They are the music to what would otherwise be only lyrics.
When the chair of a Republican committee in a small northern state quits the party, it means little by itself. It is an anecdote. But Ivan Marte's reasoning says something about what the GOP faces.
The Research 2000 poll comes out each week and is sponsored by a left leaning blog that conservatives love to hate. The Daily Kos is openly partisan and blatantly ideological. They are close to my heart. But their poll has gradually been seen as thorough and mainstream. It shows President Obama as steadily popular. The Democratic party is fairly unpopular, in a 5 to 4 split. The Republican Party is wildly unpopular by a 3 to 1 margin.
There is a bright spot for the GOP in one, and only one, part of the country. More southerners embrace the GOP than disapprove of it, by 50 to 37%. The problem with this is that the GOP remains an increasingly regional party.
This has two effects. First, it concentrates the electoral power of the party in one section of the country. In the west, the margin for the GOP is abysmal: 14% to 75%. In the Midwest it is absurd: 13% to 78%. In the Northeast, it has become comical: 7% to 87%. The immediate future is cloudy. Each election carries its own dynamic, and the bumps and storms of the moment provide uncertainty. Republicans may surge in the next midterm election, where rage can more easily prevail over popular support.
But the longer term trend has been going on for more than a decade. Basic attitudes have been shifting. The private scandal of President Clinton swung voters to support him in 1998, and to support Bush in 2000, although Gore still got a majority. The 9/11 attacks pulled Republicans to lopsided victories in 2002 and 2004. There were other factors through the years. But, beneath the surface, a series of incremental shifts have produced a tide.
Ivan Marte has been the chairman of Rhode Island Republican Hispanic Assembly. He has been an important member of the national central committee. He was prompted to resign because of South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's disrespectful screaming during President Obama's address to Congress. But his dissatisfaction goes back to a more general disrespect toward Hispanics. Xenophobia extends beyond immigrants.
As the Republican Party becomes captive to extreme conservative elements, moderates are leaving. As moderates leave, the party becomes more extreme. It is a vicious downward spiral. Ivan Marte's departure is not earthshaking. Rather, it is one small effect of an already growing earthquake.
It is an anecdote that explains the data.
On GOP condemnation of "extremist views" and "coarse rhetoric":
Well, if we’re going to eliminate extremist views and coarse rhetoric, those House GOP caucus meetings are going to become so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
- - Jay Bookman, in Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 5, 2009
The historical narrative was simple, and easy to understand. Slavery was evil. A Civil War was fought. Slavery ended. National reconciliation, disturbed from time to time by political opportunists who wanted to take advantage of a beaten and downtrodden region.
That is how textbooks read when I was a kid. The heroic Abraham Lincoln, the best President in our history, was assassinated. His chosen successor, Andrew Johnson, tried to carry out Lincoln's moderate, healing, policies. He was thwarted by radical Republicans led by New York Representative Thaddeus Stevens. They oppressed the South for many years. They impeached Johnson on bogus charges and failed by a single Senator's vote to remove him from office. A healing track continued after that. Slavery was replaced by lynchings and violence, which moderated into Jim Crow oppression. It took until the 1960s, but discrimination disappeared after that.
It is a wonderful story. And it is largely untrue, a caricature of what actually happened. Andrew Johnson was a relentless foe of racial tolerance. The idea of equality between former slaves and former slave owners was an abomination to him. The Freedman's Bureau was an administrative structure set up by Lincoln to safeguard the rights of black people. One of the major "oppressive" measures of the Bureau was allowing black people to testify in court. Johnson tried to abolish the agency, but he was overridden by Congress. Johnson spoke out against equality at every opportunity. His fiery speeches were sometimes followed by the strange fruit of later song: black bodies swinging from nooses off the branches of trees.
The Freedman's Bureau was ended as part of a deal in 1876 to install Rutherford B. Hayes as President, in spite of the fact that the other fellow, Samuel Tilden, got more votes. In the 1880s, slavery was re-established in the south. The institution of involuntary servitude, slavery, petered out in the 1940s. It survived that long by being ignored by the federal government. The unrefined fuel was a public craving for an end to the issue of war and slavery.
That craving accounts for the false history we were taught. Historians were captives of the same slavery fatigue. They provided the raw material for what ended up in the textbooks of the next generation. And so we were taught polite lies. Only now is diligent historical research digging up the truth.
We have a new national narrative, building on the old falsehoods. America has entered into a post-racial period. The original sin of slavery and racial injustice is gone. All that are left are small little puddles of mild prejudice.
We don't want to see the truth. It is hard to admit the degree to which current right wing rage, the sort which drowns out reasoned conservative voices, is fueled by the same raw racism that has been with us since the beginning.
Not all, to be sure. But one hell of a lot of it.
Under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries and farm plantations. Thousands of other African Americans were simply seized by southern landowners and compelled into years of involuntary servitude.
Government officials leased falsely imprisoned blacks to small-town entrepreneurs, provincial farmers, and dozens of corporations—including U.S. Steel Corp.—looking for cheap and abundant labor. Armies of "free" black men labored without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced through beatings and physical torture to do the bidding of white masters for decades after the official abolition of American slavery.
- - Douglas A. Blackmon, in Slavery by Another Name, March 25, 2008
Conservative Christians rally in Washington this weekend. They believe themselves and their pronouncements to be firmly rooted in the Bible. Lower taxes on the wealthy, opposition to the science of climate change, and even military strategy are said to be endorsed by Jesus. God loves you and joins in your hatred of Obama, Government, and Gays.
Part of it comes from upbringing. When one is told from childhood that something is so, it takes a rare courage to challenge it later in life. It is easy to think it comes from God. Mark Twain wrote of his mother:
...compassionate as she was, I think she was not conscious that slavery was a bald, grotesque, and unwarrantable usurpation. She had never heard it assailed in any pulpit, but had heard it defended and sanctified in a thousand; her ears were familiar with Bible texts that approved it, but if there were any that disapproved it they had not been quoted by her pastors; as far as her experience went, the wise and the good and the holy were unanimous in the conviction that slavery was right, righteous, sacred, the peculiar pet of the Deity, and a condition which the slave himself ought to be daily and nightly thankful for.
The right has long recognized the utility of conflating personal politics with the Will-Of-God. The effect has been amplified by technology. Cable stations frequently present bigots as representatives of our faith. This delights conservatives and repels good people who are tempted to believe such presentations. While studies show America becoming more spiritual, worship attendance shrinks. This emotional reaction also has its roots. Frederick Douglass, ex-slave and eventual friend of Abraham Lincoln:
The church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors ... They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings...
The practice of self-congratulatory belief has become a tradition. In 1928, Will Rogers reacted to the GOP anointing itself as the Party of God. "If the Lord can see His way clear to bless the Republican Party the way it's been carrying on, then the rest of us ought to get it without even asking."
There are signs that more Christians are turning away from the preachings of political bigotry. If those now outside the walls see that they can of toss out the hatred, but grasp the message of Jesus, fellowship may grow again.
Feminism has wreaked havoc on marriage, women, children and men. It is time to redress the disorder it has wrought and that must start with getting the principles and ideals for a new "masculinism" right. Such a "masculinism" will have its dovetailing counterpart in a new "feminism" for they mutually define each other and, in nature, are meant to be complementary.
- - Conservative Christian Value Voters, September 19, 2009
Summary, panel discussion topic, THE NEW MASCULINITY
Nuggets of internet gold:
A favorite conservative, James Wigderson is excited about an appearance tomorrow by Michelle Malkin. James, ever the gentleman, does not identify Malkin as the pundit who published driving directions to the home of a pair of injured children she didn't like. Fortunately, I am seldom accused of being a gentleman.
The World of Doorman-Priest laments his being saddled in class with a pair of very trying kids. Will they grow up to be conservatives?
- Bryan Lee Peterson at Johnny No One: I Hope You’re Happy has some pithy observations about health care denial.
Have a safe weekend. Pray for someone in pain. A lot of them out there this week, the next few could find any of us among them. Be careful out there.
As a matter of fact, just today I think, Michael, you said someone had put a report out that the first state that’s coming out of the recession is going to be the State of Texas. I told him, I said, ‘We’re in one?'
- - Texas Governor Rick Perry, September 17, 2009
It was decades ago. An older co-worker and I had become friends. He regaled me with stories of the not so distant past. It was a little like talking with a time traveler. Historical events are closer than we think.
He told me hysterical tales of live radio in the early days, before 10 second time delays or prerecorded shows. As a kid, he rarely missed one weekly children's broadcast. But he missed the day a storyteller at the end of a show thought his microphone was off. "That ought to hold the little bastards," my friend's childhood pals told him his hero had said on the air. He did hear a radio announcer once refer to the President of the United States as "Hoobert Heever." A broadcast based on Don Quixote came to a close as the narrator ran out of time. No problem. The show would continue the next day. The protagonist was riding on a donkey, which prompted the announcer to proclaim, "and so, until tomorrow, we leave Don Quixote, sitting on his ass." My older friend had a thousand tales.
Not all were about broadcasts. Some were about real life. He once closed his eyes and began talking about the old days of his youth. "You could get an entire meal for a dime," he said. He smiled, eyes still closed, thinking about it. "Problem was nobody had a dime."
He became emotional that afternoon. He remembered his father's shame as he told his family he was no longer employed. Loss of a job could be deadly. "People were at each others' throats." People migrated across the country, often told they weren't welcome. Old folks stood on street corners selling apples in order to survive. He told me about bodies occasionally found along lonely roads or in allies, having died of starvation.
When he spoke of FDR, it was with reverence. Years later, I was reminded of those stories as I heard about a Bill Clinton speech, before he became President, describing his grandfather's reaction to the New Deal. "He thought when he died, he'd go to Roosevelt." A funny line, with more than a grain of truth about many from those days, judging by my long since departed friend. Roosevelt was variously regarded as a traitor to his class, or more simply as "that man". But ordinary people loved him.
Social Security back then was considered radical. Herbert Hoover Republicans fought it tooth, nail, and claw. But old people began living longer. There was no comparable advance until after the murder of President Kennedy, when LBJ was able to galvanize the nation into passing Medicare, "Socialized Medicine," over the objections of conservatives.
I think of how my friend would regard those too young to have known real life-or-death economic fear. Some now say they would gladly give up Social Security or Medicare if it meant government would stay out of their lives. Such talk would puzzle and repulse the man I knew, the man who lived through those hardest of hard times.
Dr. Andrew Wilper is the lead Researcher of a Harvard Medical School Study
Conclusion: 45,000 Americans die each year because they lack Health Insurance
The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors and baseline health. We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes and heart disease — but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications.
- - Dr. Andrew Wilper, September 17, 2009
We became friends, after a fashion, before he died. But this was a few years before that. He called my daughter and my adoptive kids all sorts of racial epithets. At first I was unclear just what had happened. It turned out he was seething at some horrible crime that had been covered on the evening news. Our kids were guilty of sharing the skin color of the perpetrators.
Hate crimes are a sad part of the history of the nation. And part of that comes from an us vs them mentality. A mental line is drawn. On the side are those who are different. Sometimes the difference is profound. Culture, background, values can play a part. Sometimes the differences are superficial, especially compared to the effects.
When crime is motivated by group hatred there is a different hue cast on what might otherwise be a more simple tragedy. Sometimes death is the result, as when a group of white high school football players beat an immigrant to death after he was seen with a white girl friend. They were cleared by a sympathetic jury. Occasionally, those roles are reversed, as young black toughs target some white victim.
Sometimes race is only a coincidence, as when OJ murdered his ex-wife in what looks to have been a jealous rage, only to be cleared in a hurry by admiring jury members. Some teens bully. Every once in a while race is a factor. An attack of a white student on a school bus near my home may have been racially motivated. So far, the evidence is against it. More likely, the lone white student was simply an inviting target, although the investigation is ongoing. The bullies were suspended along with several cheering students. Thankfully, some kids are reported to have intervened, helping the victim.
Public figures have also intervened, though their motives are not as altruistic. Rush Limbaugh insists the bullies represent the President of the United States, "...in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering..." Michelle Malkin, who once published driving directions to the home of children she did not like, kids recovering from a car accident, talks of the "Obama administration and tolerance for racial thuggery..."
We live in a world that is different in many ways from the one in which we grew up. The most outlandish propositions are now routinely accepted by a surprising number of folks who should know better. Bullies have always been with us. So has racism. But blaming the President for a school bus incident would never have occurred to us when I was a youngster. On the other hand, few expected we would live to see a black President.
Perhaps we should not be surprised by those who would attack all black folks, including the President, for a juvenile outrage. Limbaugh, Malkin, and others are not wrong about one thing.
Some bullies are motivated by race.
But good grief, Limbaugh is up to something wicked. He's plainly trying to rally white conservatives into thinking that now that we have a black president, blacks are rising up to attack white kids! Christ have mercy, what is wrong with these people?
- - Rod Dreher, Conservative Blogger, September 15, 2009
Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech inspired, not only because of his eloquence, but because of the commitment shown by his audience. Estimates put the size of the crowd between 250,000 and 400,000. It was a sort of benchmark ever since. The Mobilization against the War in Vietnam brought us together in Washington. Some who were there at both events said the anti-war effort was even larger.
Protesters are not the same as votes, however. President Nixon relied on what he termed the "great silent majority". He had a point. In a democracy, power is apportioned by who gets to the ballot box.
There were conservative protests this week. "Up to two million people marched to the U.S. Capitol today," proclaims a blog echoing others. Media put the figure at closer to 40,000. The difference is a factor of 50. Is it relevant? When President Nixon asked ordinary, non-protesting Americans to signal their support by flashing their headlights while driving, one protesting friend summed it up this way: "Cars for Nixon. People for Peace."
The source for conservative blogs traces back to the London Telegraph. Bloggers are mostly quoting each other, but a few who have researched it are citing Dan Bana of the National Park service as quoted in the Telegraph on "the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever."
It is valid to point out that popular support for the extreme right is not a majority, but there is something to be said for the intensity of feeling. The volume of voices measures mostly lung power, but the number of people who will get up and travel to the nation's capital does mean something more.
There turns out to be no such person as "Dan Bana." But that appears to be a minor typographical error. There is a David Barna who does indeed work for the National Park Service, and the quote itself is almost identical to what he actually said. He pointed out that the National Park Service does not conduct crowd estimates, but he does accept the estimate by the Washington Post of 1.8 million people. Let's face it. 1.8 million people is mightily impressive. They had to come from all over the country to Washington, a display of determination that cannot be ignored. The Washington Post is not to be considered a right wing publication. A reasonable person should be able to trust their very high estimate.
A preacher, my friend, often told me that a text out of context is a pretext. It was not terribly hard to locate the context in this case. In fact, Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly did a credible job.
David Barna said this: "It is a record. We believe it is the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever." One problem: He was speaking of the Inauguration of Barack Obama as President on January 20 of this year. That was the 1.8 million. Turns out the small 40,000 number is all there was this month.