Friday, October 31, 2014

Same old century over and over

Bobby Jindal, usually not shy about turning back the clock on various aspects of social and economic policy, is upset with Mary Landrieu for "living in a different century."
"Senator Landrieu's comments are remarkably divisive," Jindal said. "She appears to be living in a different century."
We already know Jindal has an affinity for the 19th Century so we can't imagine that he'd be too critical of Mary for wanting to live there.  What century is she living in?   The one when we told the truth about racism, apparently.
"I'll be very very honest with you," Landrieu said. "The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It's been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader. It's not always been a good place for women to present ourselves. It's more of a conservative place. So we've had to work a little bit harder on that, but you know, the people trust me, I believe. Really they do. Trust me to do the right thing for the state."
Actually maybe I'm giving Mary too much credit for truth telling here.  "Has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans."  Jesus, that is some mealy-mouthed euphemistic shit or what.  Mary, if you're going to... correctly... say that racism is a major source of the Obama antipathy in Louisiana, you can't describe the racism as some past tense unfriendliness. No wonder Republicans are jumping on Mary over this. She's practically making half of their argument for them.

The pitch the Republicans reacting to this story are making is that racism is a thing that happened once, a long time ago, before America got over it... sometime around.. you know.. just before whenever you were born, probably.   The upshot being that anyone, particularly any Democratic politician who even brings it up is "living in the past" or, worse, guilty of something called "reverse racism" which is what they call it when you get too explicit in pointing out the privileges enjoyed by the privileged.  Mostly it's about telling white people they are the real victims.

And it's nothing new.  Bob Mann cites the rise of David Duke during the early 90s as a counterpoint to the "racism is over" argument.  
But Bobby Jindal wants you to know that he’s outraged by even the suggestion that there exist racists in a state in which 60 percent of white voters gave David Duke their vote (in the 1990 U.S. Senate and 1991 governor’s races).

I guess all those Duke voters are dead, right?  Now, it’s all sweetness and light in Louisiana.
It's worth noting also that, "racism is over" was a central argument of Duke and his supporters even then.  People concerned about Duke's Klan background were, "living in the past," they would say. Anyone hung up on such a detail was probably one of the real racists. (It didn't help that the local media tended to treat Duke's assertions as legitimate arguable points, by the way.. but that's a story for another time.)   That was 20 years ago.  But really, this stuff goes back further.

The modern iteration of the GOP was made out of the white backlash politics of the 1970s.. a time in which we seem to have become forever stuck.  This is from Joan Walsh's review of Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge.  (Read this book, by the way.)
Of course everything Perlstein covers in “Invisible Bridge” feels eerily current and familiar. The parallels to the backlash to President Obama are obvious.

The revolt against the Equal Rights Amendment and Roe v. Wade that began in the mid-1970s continue, in the renewed attacks on abortion rights and even contraception today. The conservative backlash against Common Core has its roots in the right-wing uprising against ’70s curriculum standards abetted by those early Heritage Foundation staffers. When Joni Ernst talks about “nullification” of laws passed under our first black president, she represents the enduring Goldwater alliance between anti-Washington Northerners and states’ rights Southerners that powered the presidencies of Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes, too.

When Sen. John McCain calls President Obama “cowardly” for not castrating Vladimir Putin over meddling in Ukraine, or neocons bray that the president has “abandoned” Iraq, we are living with the results of refusing to face up to the limits of American power, even as the lone remaining “superpower.” They’ve been screaming about this since Jerry Ford had to go out and attack Cambodia to “rescue” the SS Mayaguez – unnecessarily killing 49 American servicemen because Henry Kissinger believed “the United States must carry out some act somewhere in the world which shows its determination to continue to be a world power.”

Again the media are complicit, covering the Tea Party as though it was something new and novel and tailored to the times, rather than the Goldwater-Nixon-Reagan coalition dressed up in funny costumes, many of them still animated by an abiding racism. In fact, the American right has lost some of the authentic anti-Wall Street, anti-crony capitalism energy that powered Goldwater’s rise. But Perlstein shows how Democrats have been complicit too, from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama.
Democrats like Carter and Obama are "complicit" in that they concede too much of the culture war argument to effectively refute it. Which is precisely what Mary Landrieu does wrong when she says, "The South has not always been friendliest.."

Partly that is just Mary being diplomatic.  But it's also a manifestation of Perlstein's major complaint against the post-70s Democrats' ability to communicate with voters.  
In all three of his books Perlstein rubs liberals’ noses in the difference between the way we face adversity, and the way the right does. We trust in our own moral superiority – and lately, in our moral superiority tied to demographic destiny, which seems unbeatable. But they just get busy trying to out-organize the other side – whether the other side is Ford Republicans or Obama Democrats – and after a few setbacks, they beat us anyway. Over and over since the rise of Barry Goldwater, Democrats and much of the media have concluded that the Republican Party is dead if it won’t court new voters, and over and over they don’t do that – and they win.
We... meaning those of us who tend to side with Team D for various reasons.. think, hey we're the good guys here. This is so obvious to Team D that we hardly deign to spend any time telling anyone.  Surely these voters will know this about us. What's wrong with all these ignoramus voters who don't get it? 

Hence the indignation when we find out...
People Think The Economy Is Rigged To Favor The Wealthy
Q: Do you think the U.S. economic system (generally favors the wealthy) or (is fair to most Americans)?
Generally favors the wealthy 71%
Is fair to most Americans 24%

People Think Republicans Will Fix This
Other polls show something ironic: People trust Republicans more than Democrats to fix this and make the economy favor regular people again.

An October 13 Gallup poll: “On the No. 1 issue, the economy, Republicans have more than doubled their April lead over Democrats, to 11 percentage points.”

So, yes, voters are clearly ignorant of even the most very recent history.  But it is the Democrats' combination of condescension and laziness that allows us to keep repeating it

1 comment:

Ibew New Orleans said...

You got it nailed. You are just the best.