The Birtherism of a Nation

Mitt Romney is now and has always been running the “I’m the white guy” campaign. The strategy’s not his alone. The GOP’s four-year approach to the 2012 election has been, “The President’s black! The President’s black!”

In case you missed it, Romney went birther today during an appearance in Michigan. “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.” Wild cheers from the all-white crowd followed.

Romney campaign officials tried to shrug it off as an off-the-script joke. It is not a joke. Nor was it off script. They’ve run at least five ads lying about President Obama’s welfare policies, claiming against all known facts that the President has eliminated the work requirement. Message: white America, Obama’s taking your money and giving it to lazy non-whites. Across the country, the Republican Party has led efforts to make it harder for non-white citizens to vote.

The Romney campaign believes it can win if just one clear thing about Romney is sold to voters: Romney is white. That’s why they are content to avoid all specific policy discussions, to hide their finances, to flip flop on issues they do discuss. None of it matters. This year’s election is, you might say, black and white.

We’re at a strange place in America with regard to race. Somehow, it is considered less polite to call racism racism than it is to do or say racist things. I don’t believe most Republicans are racist. I think many racists are Republicans. And I think many GOP candidates are more than willing to exploit racism and bigotry if it helps them win elections. Everyone knows this was Nixon’s famously successful “Southern Strategy.”

That just makes our reluctance to talk about these things publicly all the more shameful. None of the facts at hand are in dispute. It’s just that we don’t like talking about these things as they appear within the frames and narratives of race.

Over the years, conservatives have grown far more sophisticated in their use of race. While building the foundations of a New American Apartheid, they quickly turn accusations against them into attacks on their accusers. They say their critics are “playing the race card.” They talk of dangerous divisiveness. They make up stories of “voter fraud.”

More sophisticated, but no less morally condemnable. The Republican campaign has turned into a remake of D.W. Griffith’s sadly racist “Birth of a Nation.” Call it “The Birtherism of a Nation.”

Rick Perry and Race

In the aftermath of revelations about the ugly name of Gov. Rick Perry’s hunting lease, some Democrats and pundits, including some friends of mine, are pardoning Gov. Rick Perry on the question of race. I’m not certain how you issue such a blanket pardon to a sitting Southern governor who tossed out the idea of secession or who signed a Voter I.D. law everyone knows is aimed at disenfranchising minority voters.

It’s true that contemporary racism doesn’t look exactly like yesterday’s racism. In many social circles white people no longer use the N-word. Lynchings have disappeared it hate crimes haven’t. We can all eat at the same restaurants and use the same drinking fountains and restrooms. But this self-contratulating myth that we as a generation have magically transcended race is not just immoral, it’s destructive. It blinds us to a racism that continues to have terrible consequences.

Rick Perry’s policies punish people of color. He’s tried to walk back his talk of secession, but he mentioned in purpose multiple times in order to fire up right wing nuts who heard the code for just what it was: a harkening back to a time when white people ruled and people of color were considered less than human.

We are very reluctant these days to brand anyone a racist. Even racists. I suppose there’s some good in that. At least we realize that racism is so evil we shouldn’t toss the word around lightly. Is the name of a hunting lease enough to earn Perry the brand? I don’t know. But the rush to issue a blanket pardon — “Rick Perry is not racist” — seems a bit too much to take. A governor who plays upon racial prejudice as Perry did with his secession comments should not be pardoned for their racial implications.

Tea Partiers, Keep Your Damned Authoritarian Hands off of Thomas Jefferson

oklahoma-city-bombing-4I got an email from the conservative website, Texas Insider, pointing me to a blog by one Bernie Quigley. It’s all about how the Tea Party movement is all about the restoration of the power of individual states and the illegitimate power of the federal government. So much for interstate highways, the Post Office, and the military the secures all 50 states, not one or two. Whatever became of the National Anthem? Or the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States?

Speaking of the military, some Republican legislators in Oklahoma and that state’s Tea Partiers are calling for the creation of a state militia to go to war with the U.S. government. You can’t make this stuff up. And,  you’d think the citizens of the state victimized by a “volunteer militia” in the horrible 1995 Oklahoma City bombing would be just a wee bit skeptical about using their tax dollars to pay for  a, uh, “volunteer militia.”

Anyway, Mr. Quigley, after taking the broadest possible mud brush to the 1960s, complains about the broad brushing of the Tea Party movement. He does, however, have the good sense to note that the movement will fail if it continues to call for the creation of state-based armies to go to war with the rest of the country. Top notch thinking, Mr. Quigley.

You will enjoy E.J. Dionne’s masterful teacup-smashing analysis here.

What most irks me about the Tea Party — besides the thuggish racism and the constitutional ignorance — is its defense of the corporatist status quo and dis-empowerment of individuals and communities by, say, the insurance industry, which kowtows to neither state nor fed. I’m with the Tea Party on individual liberty, and I’m stronger than they seem to be on individual responsibility (I’m still waiting for the first Republican this millennium to accept responsibility for something, anything).

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Democrats and the Rise of the New Confederacy

It’s hard to ignore the irony. The wannabe Republican heirs of George W. Bush gather in New Orleans, the city Bush’s callousness and ineptitude all but destroyed, to advance a movement best called the New Confederacy.

At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference here, Texas Gov. Rick Perry invoked his love for the Tenth Amendment, the New Confederacy’s code term for “get the black man out of the White House.”

Touting his states’ rights bona fides, [Perry] said, “I believe in the 10th Amendment with all my heart. Basically what is says is that the federal government was created to be an agent of the states, not the other way around.

Sarah Palin was here. So was Newt Gingrich. Mentions of Hurricane Katrina were few and far between. “We are so over Katrina,” said a New Orleans GOP activist. But the full collapse of the moral levees that once held back a tide of hatred and prejudice was evident. The New Confederacy – despite Mitt Romney’s one-vote win and Palin’s third-place finish in the Southern Republican Leadership Conference – is now the GOP’s dominant political force.

Republicans’ coded racist appeals, beginning with Richard Nixon’s infamous “southern strategy,” weakened the Democratic Party in the South. In the wake of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, white voters fled the Democrats’ Big Tent for the Republicans’ Big Box, the wall-to-Walmart, magnolia-white land of confederate dreams.

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Republicans Reserve the Right to Deny Service

reserve the rightThere used to be signs in Texas cafes that said, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” It represented post-integration segregation. “It’s not because you’re black (or Hispanic) that we don’t serve you bacon & eggs. It’s because, well, we don’t have to tell you why.”

Now, consider this sentence, from Victor Carrillo, an incumbent Republican Texas Railroad Commissioner defeated in the GOP primary by an unknown named David Porter.

…unfortunately, the Hispanic-surname was a serious setback from which I could never recover although I did all in my power to overcome this built-in bias.

In other words, in today’s Republican Party, you gotta be white, real white, and you gotta agree to refuse service to any and all non-whites. I am friends with many misguided souls who continue to vote for GOP candidates. They are not racists. Many are good, hard-working people. They’re just wrong. Anyway, these good folk have to be stunned at what’s happened to their party. The ghost of George Wallace has invaded the heart of the party, and it’s an ugly site.

It’s time for moderates to drive this sickness back into exile where it belongs. I know that in the wake of the Civil Rights Act it was convenient for conservatives to make an alliance with ignorant bigots, to create a kind of us-against-them world to drive up fear and exploit deep-seated racism. It’s not funny anymore. And it will lead to chaos. Continue reading “Republicans Reserve the Right to Deny Service”


gotcha_logoHarry Reid is the latest hapless officeholder to fall into the trapdoor of Gotchaville as Republicans turn suddenly anti-racist and demand he resign because of his remarks about Barack Obama’s light skin and speaking style.

Will this adolescent game of Gotcha ever end? Are America’s political elite so juvenile they can’t think of anything more productive to do than hop in a circle of ridicule around their victims, pointing fingers, sticking out tongues and shreiking, “Na na, na na na?” It probably won’t end, because it’s a game that requires zero intelligence, zero moral insight, no courage and little chance of bad consequences.

This reminds again of the old Smothers Brothers joke.

Tommy:  It’s just that you can tell who’s running the country by how much clothes people wear.

Dick:  Running the country?

Tommy:  You can tell it by how much clothes people wear…

Dick:  You mean like some people can afford more clothes on and other people less clothes on?

Tommy: That’s right. Exactly. See, the ordinary people are the less-ons. See?

Dick:  Uh-huh. They’re the less-ons. Then who’s runing the country?

Tommy:  The morons.

Continue reading “Gotcha”

Officeholders Flee Bigfoot in East Texas!

palinkillsbigfootDescribed as “enormous and black” on the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy web site, Bigfoot is stalking East Texans. And their elected officials are retreating to the Republican Party. Coincidence? I think not.

Back in September, a Big Thicket hunter (buckwild107 on Youtube) took some pictures of a Bigfoot-like creature hopping across a clearing. He posted them to Youtube with the following introduction:

“Bigfoot in Hardin County? Pictures from my deer blind…you decide.”

This led the Beaumont Enterprise’s terrific Bayou blog to note that Sarah Palin had already one-upped the Hardin County Bigfoot posse:  Palin bagged a Bigfoot!

You can’t make this stuff up – by stuff I mean what the yahoos make up. No sooner does America get an African-American president than certain folk start seeing “enormous and black” monsters in the woods. And, predictably, the land of the yellow dogs just turns yellow. State Rep. Chuck Hopson is elected from the area between the Bigfoot sitings and the location of the Texas Bigfoot Research Community’s 2009 convention in Tyler. Hopson abandoned his colleagues to join the Bigfoot Brigade, otherwise known as the GOP.

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Little Red Riding Hood Lied About Her Age!

red riding hoodWell, she didn’t lie, exactly. But a British anthropologist has suggested the fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood, is far older than previously known. The Telegraph has the details:

Dr Jamie Tehrani, a cultural anthropologist at Durham University, studied 35 versions of Little Red Riding Hood from around the world. Whilst the European version tells the story of a little girl who is tricked by a wolf masquerading as her grandmother, in the Chinese version a tiger replaces the wolf.

Contrary to the view that the tale originated in France shortly before Charles Perrault produced the first written version in the 17th century, Dr Tehrani found that the varients shared a common ancestor dating back more than 2,600 years.

Using techniques biologists use to create taxonomies, Tehrani traced variants of the story as far as the sixth century B.C., and speculated a common ancestor in the even deeper past. Our narrative habits go way back.  Therein lies a tale.

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Did GOP know Joe Wilson Scream Was Coming?

There’s something mighty strange about the immediate reaction of those listening as U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson screamed “you lie” at President Barack Obama. Look at these pictures.

No heads turn
No heads turn
Heads Turn
Heads Turn

Now, all of us have been in a room when a scream comes out of nowhere. It’s impossible not to look. Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned. Vice President Joe Biden Turned. Obama turned. Why aren’t Wilson’s Republican colleagues startled? Not one has turned to see what the outburst, coming from right next to them, is all about. This is, at the very least, quite odd. One thing that might account for the stoic response from those around Wilson is that they knew it was coming. Were they prepared? It’s a question that should be pursued. Despite the feigned GOP repudiation of Wilson, one could conclude it was a planned disruption.

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Texas Political Guidebook — Chapter Two

Gretings from TexasTexas is a place bursting at the stock-pens with proud and determined individualists who live by the motto:  conform, or I shoot.

To those not fortunate enough to have lived in Texas, there is in this a mild suggestion of hypocrisy. A visitor from back East might be shrewd enough to put it gently, especially if he is still here. “Texans are a paradoxical people,” he might say.

In response, I’d resort to the Bible – “Let he who is without sin…” – except the phrase makes me edgy as the preacher whose eyes dart nervously about the sanctuary when he comes to that “without sin” part. The good pastor is well aware that his congregants, in their innocence, believe he’s been qualified by Jesus Himself to throw stones. They have come, he’s certain, to watch him hurl a few. In his dilemma is the origin of the phrase, “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

The thing is the congregants know they’ve got the preacher in a tight, and they know he’s going to have to put some lumps on a few heads to get out of it. It’s how they guarantee a Sunday’s salvific entertainment.

Continue reading “Texas Political Guidebook — Chapter Two”