Twitter campaigns necessary but probably insufficient.

There’s a “Hands up/ Don’t shoot” Friday campaign going on over at Twitter. It’s a nice gesture, no pun intended. But I can’t help thinking about how much more powerful the message would be if we could get ordinary Americans, not just the social media savvy and political activist types, out on the sidewalks banging pots together.

I used to think that internet campaigns would be enough.  Not anymore.  Non-violent, but non-silent demonstrations are probably the way to go.

MLK Jr. would approve.

Update: My sisters-in-law were a little uncomfortable with me using the word “thug” to describe Michael Brown in a post the other day.  I see their point.  I based my assessment on the video that was released of his actions in the convenience store.  One of the things that struck me as I watched it was that I really couldn’t tell what was going on with him and the clerk behind the counter.  Reaching over the counter to get something doesn’t mean stealing, not that stealing something in a convenience store is justification for getting shot 6 times.  It’s not, by the way.  This is not 18th century Williamsburg where a servant could be hanged for stealing a silver spoon.  But I couldn’t tell with any certainty what was transpiring at the counter. Plus, the volume on the video was off so for all I know, he might have had a perfectly friendly interaction with the proprietor.  There just wasn’t sufficient data for me to determine what was going on there.  I would not be friendly to the prosecution on a jury if the charge was shoplifting or robbery based on that video.

No, what bothered me was when he left the store and roughed up the clerk on the way out.  The clerk clearly looks distraught and Brown’s actions looked aggressive and unnecessary.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing that out.  But “thug” is a right wing word, apparently.  I’m not a cable news junky so I’m going to have to rely on the SILs here when they tell me to refrain from using it to avoid looking like a right wing nutcase.  Maybe “bully” would be more appropriate.  Still not a killing offense, though probably more prosecutable than we can feel comfortable with, considering what happened shortly afterwards.  It looked like a minor assault to me.  I guess it would have been up to the clerk as to whether it was worth pursuing.  For sure Brown needed a stern talking to, but, um, not 6 shots to the torso.

I’m troubled by this piece of footage for many reasons.  Matt Taibbi’s book, The Divide, describes so many instances of young black men being arrested and harassed just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like on the sidewalk or the stoop in front of their apartment buildings.  And the trouble they face because of these arrests is unconscionable.  Really, it’s overkill and debilitating.  Then I see this video and I think, that kid definitely needed correction.  Maybe not jail, and not a mark on his permanent record and certainly not death, but something.  Like, maybe his grandmother should have been sent that tape so she could see he wasn’t a choirboy.  Shaming your grandmother might have been enough.

So, this one time, I’m correcting my language from the right wing “thug”, which I came to independently of cable news based on my first impressions, to “bully”, because that’s what Brown’s actions show.

We shouldn’t be afraid to tell it like it is though.  That kind of behavior is unacceptable.  Not worth dying for but certainly not good.  It doesn’t diminish the horrible and unnecessary impact of Brown’s death.  Or of Eric Garner’s death as he was chokeholded by police.  Or any of a number of tragic deaths at the hands of people who think black people are less than human.

So, to all you Fox News watchers out there, there is a reason why racism is not acceptable, in thought, word and deed.  If you are thinking it, it becomes OK to hurt people who are not like you.  You need to ask yourselves if it’s Ok to be an anti-semite in your head as well.  Of course it’s not OK.  What we are seeing in Ferguson is a variation of the dehumanization and malignant behavior described by Phillip Zimbardo based on his Stanford Prisoner Experiment and his investigation of Abu Graihb in his book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

It starts in your head when you allow yourself to think other people are less than you are and it’s all downhill from there.

Don’t start down that road.

 

Confirmation bias and bias

Someone on the internet is wrong.  That someone is Melissa at Shakesville.

Earlier today, she tweeted about the case of the unfortunate mother who was jailed for leaving her 9 year old daughter to play at a local park while she was working.  You can read a commentary on this case at Reason by Lenore Skenazy of Freerangekids.com.  Melissa and I had a difference of opinion about this case.  She seems to think race was a factor in the mother’s arrest.  I do not.  Here’s why.

As Lenore has documented over the last several years, the arrest and detention of parents because their children were left unattended is ubiquitous.  There have been cases where a mother has been pursued by family services and taken to court for leaving her kids off at the mall with a 12 year old sibling.  There have been numerous cases of mothers arrested for leaving their kids in the car while they dash into the grocery store or post office for something.  There are many other cases of mothers getting fined and served and investigated for letting their children walk to school or ride their bikes by themselves. By the way, nowhere in Lenore’s commentary does she mention race as the reason for the arrest.  That’s because it’s not the common thread that holds these instances together.

I have two personal experiences with the rampant crackdown on mothers.  The first happened when Brook was in first grade when she innocently told a Lifeskills volunteer that I had forced her to drink wine.  When the principal called me to tell me he was calling DYFS on me, I had no idea what he was talking about.  Was the kid slurring her words?  Falling off her chair?  Asking for something to treat her hangover?  I don’t keep that much alcohol in my house.  What the hell was she talking about?  Then I remembered the Easter at my mom’s house when Brook had the zooms and was driving everyone crazy and I joked about giving her a swig of my chardonnay.  That was it.  That right there nearly got me a permanent record with the state of NJ and the potential lost custody of my daughter.

In the second experience, it was about 11 am on a Sunday in November when I got a knock on my door.  There were two policemen there.  They were responding to a report that there was a mentally disabled boy wearing an orange shirt, jeans and bare feet wandering around the neighborhood doing strange and suspicious things.  They asked me if I knew anything about it.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  Then they hinted darkly that they were on the alert for that kid and left.  Then I turned around and saw my 10 year old Brook with her short hair, orange shirt, jeans and bare feet standing in the doorway trembling.  What the heck were you doing, I asked?  She burst into tears.  She got up that morning and wanted to make an art project out of acorns.  So she went out to the back of our row of townhouses without her shoes on and was looking under the trees for them.  She was very upset and neither one of us could figure out which one of the neighbors was mean enough to report her for something like that.

Butcha know, people do it all the time.

As for the case that has hit the news, I have some problems with attributing this to a race problem.  First, we have no idea who reported the kid to the police.  Are we assuming that the conscientious citizen was white and was deliberately targeting an African American mother?  We have no evidence on this.  The report doesn’t say who did the snitching or what was the race of the arresting officers or even if such a thing would have mattered in the least.

Secondly, if this were a case of race, we would have to disregard the countless reports from women all over the world who have been put through the same process.  The perps come in all shapes, sizes, colors and socio-economic groups and the punishments are all pretty much the same.

But that doesn’t seem to stop people from assuming this is a race issue or that, yes, it is primarily directed at women but maybe it’s harder on African American women or some such nonsense.  If that’s what you want to see in this case, you would be a victim of confirmation bias.  You want to see a racial angle to this when it’s much more insidious than that.

If you had been a long time follower of Freerangekids, you would see that the problem emanates from “stranger danger”.  My bet is that the person who reported that kid neglected has been hearing a steady drumbeat of stories of violence against children ever since Fox and the local news channels figured out that their audiences loved to be terrified.  Like the anti-vaxxers, it is impossible to reason with these people, particularly older white women, that the rate of violent crime has actually done down in the past 30 years.  All they see are rapes and murders of little kids on TV 24/7.  Lenore points out that the chances that your kid will be snatched is infinitesimally small but people have a hard time reasoning when their logic boards have been short circuited by violent sexual imagery.  It’s emotional, not rational.  This is what I think has happened in this instance as well.  Little girl, left in park by herself for hours playing, something I would have done when I was her age, now looks like a sitting duck for any male who can walk by to prey upon her and satisfy his filthy secret lusts.  Where is her mother??

So, if it’s not race, what do these cases have in common?  They almost always involve mothers.  You rarely hear of a father getting this treatment.  These mothers are almost always in a hurry, alone, busy, sometimes single or divorced, or simply ignorant of the unlikely possibility that their kids are going to be snatched.  What they aren’t is sheltering their children 100% of the time with their bodies, protecting with a maternal force field 10 feet wide at all hours of the day and night.  I’ve even read on some blogs that new mothers are afraid to take a shower while their newborns are sleeping because “something might happen” while they’re shampooing their hair. How did homo erectus escape the savannah??

We might speculate why the current culture in America, England and Australia, in particular, are coming down so hard on mothers but since Fox and other cable news sources seem to be popular media features in each of these countries, we can’t discount the idea that the effect that so many child rape/murder stories have on the audience is intentional.  Couple this with the attack on women’s reproductive choices and it sure looks to me like someone(s) is trying to get women to embrace motherhood or else… That is the message they send anyway.  We come down on mothers like a hammer if they step even a teensy bit outside the rigid rules of acceptable behavior that are prescribed to them.  If women give up their careers to stay home, it shouldn’t be surprising that they find it too hard to be the bodyguards to their children and work too.  Socially, they need to project full engagement with their children even when those kids don’t need it or be tagged the “bad mother” on the block.  If you’re the kind of mother who doesn’t care what people think, you may change your tune when DYFS pays you a visit.

As for women vs race, I got a little annoyed with Melissa when it was suggested that somehow we need to spread the problem around to include race.  Aren’t African American women still women?  And don’t women have the right to demand attention to the tribulations they face without having to sweep up every fricking non-priviliged group in their train?  Doesn’t that dilute the issues that women have to deal with simply because they are women?  Isn’t it about time for the African American community, the LGBT community, the Native American community to give something back?  Isn’t it time women stopped apologizing and sacrificing their primary concerns as women in order to let some other group steal the microphone?  Isn’t it enough that the accused in these cases are just women?? I only ask.

Well, I guess this makes me a racist again because I see no reason to stop championing the cause of the majority of people in the world who neglect themselves for the sake of others. Nor am I going to give in to confirmation bias because that is what my tribe would expect of me.  That’s what NOW and NARAL have done in the past and where are they now?  Seriously, where ARE they?  Why aren’t they all over these arrests?  Or did they cede too much to others and neutralize themselves?

The instances of arrest for “bad” motherhood are not going to end until women start to recognize it as another threat to their autonomy.

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Only slightly off topic, this advertisement from Pantene struck a chord with me.  How many times a day do women apologize and what makes us do it?

 

Finally, please remember that the word racism is not to be taken lightly lest it lose it’s true and serious meaning.  Use of the word will result in automatic moderation until I can fish you out of the queue.  It’s a leftover from 2008 but still a useful one.

 

Neat Trick

Dashing off a few things before I dash:

1.) The Richard Cohen thing.  The lede kind of got buried in the Richard Cohen s^&*storm.  It’s not that the Tea Party people are racist, though some of them clearly are.  It’s that they consider their views to be “conventional”.  That’s the cover that the Fox News manipulators, Limbaughians and Glen Becksters have given them.  My hypothesis about how the right wing has been able to get away with so much is that it makes it Ok for some Americans to give in to their secret desires.  They want to feel superior to some  people and exert power over others.  That’s why they tend to take it out on people of color, women, gays and immigrants.  They’re f^*(ing cowards when it comes to taking on the real culprits who are making their lives an economic nightmare.  That’s why you’ll never see them at an Occupy rally, because that might actually make a difference but would also be potentially dangerous to their physical bodies. But they’re perfectly fine bashing people who have no political power.  And they allow this because they call themselves conventional.  I think Bob Altmeyer wrote a book about conventional people called The Authoritarians.

Richard Cohen, on the other hand, makes me despair for the future of employment.

2.) When you’ve lost Bill Clinton’s support, it’s bad.  The Clintons have stood behind the party that trashed Hillary and elected an untested, inexperienced, ruthless friend of Wall Street and Obama through thick and thin.  But it looks like The Big Dog draws the line with Obamacare.  I don’t think he is enjoying this bit of schadenfreude.  Some people take policy and politics seriously.

And some people just check that box on their CVs.

3.) Sylvie Guillem recently retired from the Paris Opera Ballet but oh, how wonderful it must have been to see her dance in person.  Here’s a very short clip of her rehearsing Dulcinea.  If only every day could be like this:

The strange silence

Martin Wolf  of the Financial Times and Bill Moyers discussed the government shutdown /debt ceiling crisis last week.  Check out the whole interview here.  I was particularly struck by this part:

BILL MOYERS: Would you agree that despite what happened this week and the political victory that President Obama seems to have won, would you agree that the conservatives have really won the argument about government?

MARTIN WOLF: I think that is true. What has surprised me is how little pushback there has been from the Democrat side in arguing that the government really did have a very strong role in supporting the economy during the post crisis recession, almost depression, that the stimulus argument was completely lost though the economics of it were quite clearly right, they needed a bigger stimulus, not a smaller one.

It helped, but it didn’t help enough because it wasn’t big enough. And they’re not making the argument that government has essential functions which everybody needs in the short run. Well, we can see that with the national parks. But also in the long run the strength of America has been built, in my perspective, particularly in the post war period, since the Second World War on the way that actually the public and private sectors have worked together with the government providing enormous support for research and development.

It’s been the basic support of America’s unique position in scientific research. You look at the National Institutes of Health which are the most important medical research institutions in the world, these are all products of the willingness of the United States to invest in the long term interest. Then there’s the infrastructure, think of the highway program, which was the most important infrastructure project under the Republicans interestingly.

And those arguments seem to have been lost. So I am concerned that the government that I think Grover Norquist once said he wants to drown in the bath. If you drown your government in the bath in the modern world, we don’t live in the early 19th century, it’s a different world, that the long term health of the United States will be very badly affected.

It’s strange to me that a government which has obviously achieved very important things, think of the role of the Defense Department in the internet, has achieved such important things, that’s just one of many examples, it should be now regarded as nothing more than a complete nuisance. And the only thing you need to do is to cut it back to nothing.

And it does seem to me that the Democrats have, for reasons I don’t fully understand, basically given up on making this argument. And so in a way the conservatives, the extreme conservative position has won, because nobody is actually combating it. So it’s only a question of how much you cut and how you cut it rather than, “Well, what do we want government for? What are the good things about it? What are the bad things about it? How do we make it effective? And how do we ensure that it’s properly financed?”

I’ll touch on the effects of sequester on the future of science in this country in another post but right now, I want to talk about the strange silence from the Democrats and the dangers that wait for them if they don’t start speaking up, soon and loudly.  And part of this has something to do with Joan Walsh and Feministing and what Atrios said a couple days ago:

I don’t offer that as a defense (except for things that happened before his watch, of course), but while ultimately the man in charge is the man in charge, I think that often criticisms of things which happen during this administration are just heard as criticisms of Obama by people who are, understandably, fans and invested in his success.

I’m going to step right into this (because why stop now after five years?) and hypothesize that there are some “fans” on the left who would sell their children into neofeudal serfdom in a heartbeat before they would suffer the completely unfounded accusations of racism that other “fans” would heap upon them if they even dared to strenuously question the Obama administration.

It is pointless to tell these “fans” that there is nothing wrong with criticizing the president and his policies. It doesn’t make you the grand master of the local KKK or mean that you’ve failed Martin Luther King Jr.  In fact, I might even go out on a limb to suggest that the reason Bill Clinton gets so much negative attention from these “fans”, in spite of the fact that his record is more liberal than Obama’s, is because these “fans” are projecting their pent up frustration on a legitimate white target as a proxy. They simply cannot overcome their fear of ostracism if they criticize the president in the strong terms they would like to use.  Just thinking about it makes them feel uncomfortable and oogy.

This is ridiculous but it appears to be useless to point out that if people on the left don’t get over this conditioned Pavlovian response (courtesy of Obama’s campaign strategists) they are condemning their side to complete and utter fecklessness and continued perceptions of ineptitude.  But I might suggest that this is exactly what the bad guys want.  If you don’t raise a fuss, no effective regulation gets implemented and ideas that benefit most of the people in America never see the light of day and are considered politically impractical by the savvy people.

Not only that but I would be remiss if I did not point out that the last time the Democrats had control of the White House, the Senate and the House, they passed a much less than adequate stimulus bill and gave us Obamacare.  Yep, it had control of the executive and legislative branches and still found it politically impossible to even introduce the concept of public option or single payer or even cost controls, for gawdssakes, into the debate over a national healthcare policy.  How does that happen??  I don’t mean how does it happen that these things never even got discussed in a legitimate way with our side in complete control of the dialog.  I mean how does it happen that our side stayed so quiet about the fact that the Obama administration had effectively emasculated it?  The sequester should have been the last straw but from the “fans”?  Hardly a peep.

Russell Brand has a point.  If the side that professes to be the one that stands up for the great masses of people who are being treated poorly doesn’t do anything when it’s in charge, then why vote?  Why not do something different?

This is a BIG problem for the Democrats because there is a slim possibility that they could gain control of the House again and have complete control of government policy for 2 years starting in 2014.  And if that happens, it will be because voters will have had enough and the Republicans will have finally hanged themselves.  And if THAT happens, there’d better be some changes made.

But I personally will not take the left seriously if I don’t hear some harsh criticisms of the way this administration has squandered its first two years in office leaving millions of people unemployed, underinsured and at the mercy of very determined social security and medicare cutters.

If your demoralized, older but wiser youth vote, or ladies’ vote, or “name your base here” vote doesn’t show up for the next big election in sufficient enough quantities and decides to seek its own path, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Lambert picked out my favorite line from the Brand interview:

My new rule for when I fancy doing a bit of the ol’ condemnation is: “Do the people I’m condemning have any actual power?”

Exactly.   There’s nothing worse than spinning your wheels and becoming nasty, mean spirited old bigots in the service of the powerful.  Fox News viewers take note.

VP debate tonight and stray thought from 2008

Tonight is the Vice Presidential debate between Joe “the cop between my brain and my mouth is at the donut shop” Biden and Paul “Ayn Rand is my goddess” Ryan.  We should do another live blog but since the body language thing has become chic this year, maybe we should watch and listen this time.  OR, we could turn off the visuals and just listen.

Anyway, it just occurred to me that maybe one of the reasons Barack Obama did so poorly in his first debate appearance this year is because in 2008, he was actually running against Sarah Palin.  Oh sure he was.  That’s all the general campaign was about, how much smarter and more qualified Barack Obama was compared to Sarah Palin.  John McCain hardly entered the picture at all.  I think I noticed it back then too but it didn’t occur to me that this might be why his debate performances in 2008 were not a fiasco.  He was all confident and cocky about beating Sarah, that was the real race that his campaign had set up in everyone’s mind.

Plus, he was running a game of “whack a racist”.  ANY criticism of Obama was twisted to be a racial slur.  It was quite effective.  Combined with his race against Sarah, how was a liberal supposed to effectively evaluate Obama?  Any legitimate criticism of him was muted and he was running against a woman who the left had dehumanized and characterized as the stupidest person on the planet.

This year, it’s different.  Visually, Mitt is very presidential.  He’s a big, tall man with presidential hair and an engaging vital manner.  He’s also a Republican, which in my humble opinion, is unforgivable.  But that’s not the point.  As Obama supposedly believes, debates are sideshows.  From a policy perspective, they’re meaningless.  But I think they serve a purpose that can’t be underrated.  In the modern debate, we get as close as we can to hand to hand combat between chieftains of competing clans.  It *is* physical.  That’s why it was important that Michael Dukakis looked short, that Richard Nixon sweat and that Barack Obama looked like he didn’t want to be there.

It might have also done in Hillary because at 5’7″, she had to look feisty to compete with his taller frame and longer limbs. He took up more space and with a female opponent, he strut his macho stuff and acted dismissively when she talked. It might not have been enough that she was the smartest person in the room who had done her homework and could whip up a policy in 30 seconds flat.  To the liberals and progressives who were afraid of losing again, she had to look more like Boudicca than Hermione Granger.

Boudicca, ass-kicking queen of the Britons
(bears striking resemblance to Julia Gillard)

Nevertheless, she took him on and won her debates with him to such an extent that he refused to debate her again during the primaries after she beat him in Pennsylvania. He sought out a friendlier crowd in NC the next day to lick his wounds, flip her the bird and brush the dirt off his shoulders.  It has often been said that he doesn’t like confrontation and that NC appearance showed that he was much better at acting like the mean BMOC when he was with his adoring fans than taking her on and losing to her again.

It’s been awhile since I read MoDo but I dropped into her column yesterday and she seems to have matured ever so slightly.  She’s not so flip these days, probably because her mancrush in 2008 turned out to be far worse for women that the woman she mocked for two decades.  Maybe she’s learned her lesson.  She also seems more than a little alarmed.  Oh sure, Obama will do better next time.  Someone will have figured out how he’s supposed to debate a real general campaign opponent.  But MoDo suggests it’s more serious than that:

Just as Poppy Bush didn’t try as hard as he should have because he assumed voters would reject Slick Willie, Obama lapsed into not trying because he assumed voters would reject Cayman Mitt.

The president averted his eyes as glittering opportunities passed, even when Romney sent a lob his way with a reference to his accountant.

Obama has been coddled by Valerie Jarrett, the adviser who sat next to Michelle at the debate, instead of the more politically strategic choice of local pols and their spouses. Jarrett believes that everyone must woo the prodigy who deigns to guide us, not the other way around.

At a fund-raising concert in San Francisco Monday night, the president mocked Romney’s star turn, saying “what was being presented wasn’t leadership; that’s salesmanship.”

It is that distaste for salesmanship that caused Obama not to sell or even explain health care and economic policies; and it is that distaste that caused him not to sell himself and his policies at the debate. His latest fund-raising plea is marked “URGENT.” But in refusing to muster his will and energy, and urgently sell his vision, he underscores his own lapses in leadership and undermines arguments for four more years.

The debate was an uncomfortable window into Obama’s style in all things presidential.  What is urgent to you is not an emergency to him.  He’s smaller than we thought, less secure, confident and sure of his experience.  He doesn’t look like the alpha male commanding his clan.  He’s the guy who seeks assistance from the moderator with ingratiating comments.  That Obama doesn’t stand a chance against a real presidential candidate and not the carefully crafted illusions his campaign spun for him to do battle with four years ago.  And that is the weak prince we have had in office for four years while the barbarians knocked down the gates.

In a way, a strong showing by Joe Biden this evening might just do Obama in.

*********************************
And here’s another quote from that MoDo column that I find deeply disturbing:

Once during the 2008 campaign, reading about all the cataclysms jolting the economy and the world, Obama joked to an adviser: “Maybe I should throw the game.”

Can someone confirm whether he really said that?
Unbelievable.

White and delightsome??

Mr. Deity has a message about Mormonism.  Do Mormons running for political office really believe that dark skinned people were cursed by god?  Actually, you can apply all kinds of tests to politicians who also claim to be religious.  Is the Adam and Eve story true or is evolution true?  How should we evaluate people who believe that God cursed women to be in subjection to men?  This idea seems to be extremely important to a lot of Christians.  They need to be asked if that’s what they truly believe.  This is why I keep saying that God needs a major rewrite.  The old versions just don’t make sense anymore.

But anyway, here’s a message from Mr. Deity who was raised Mormon:

Inflection points

Black in West Virginia

You’ve probably already seen this article about race and the 2008 campaign.  Supposedly, if people in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and NY hadn’t been such ignorant bigots, Obama would have won by bigger margins.  That’s assuming that there was nothing more important on the electorate’s mind.

It’s an interesting study but I can’t imagine why this would be of any particular interest to anyone.  Obama won.  That means enough people were either able to overcome the conditioning of their culture or they were scared shitless about the market collapse.  What it *doesn’t* mean is that the people who were googling racist jokes would have voted for Obama if they had been more enlightened people.  For those of us who realize that race is a social construct and not a biological one, Obama’s skin color did not factor into our decision.  If you’re really post-racial, you evaluate the candidate by criteria that is important for successful presidents.  A candidate who weaponizes racism, whether real or merely convenient, against hard working people who are concerned for their own livelihoods, is not that much different than the guy who is googling the N word.  If anyone is being prejudiced here, it might be the Obama campaign who assumes that everyone in Appalachia is hiding an ignorant redneck heart.

There are some questions I’d like the answers to about this study, which I have only glanced at briefly.  For example, what about the people in these states that don’t have computers and have never used google.  I have relatives who fall into this category.  They’re more likely to google a recipe for halushka, if they had a computer or any interest in using one.  They were not fans of Obama but hardly racists, considering the diversity in their own families.  The study makes me think of Gallup polls that report on people the surveyers contacted by phone.  Presumably, that means landline.  But what if you don’t have a landline?  How would Gallup contact you to know what you think? A phone survey might oversample older people who may not believe in evolution while showing a drop off of people who do because younger people don’t need landlines.  Or, the study could be finding that race was part of the general atmosphere of 2008 and people were following up on stories they had heard. It might be a voyeur effect.  And how do you account for NJ turning up ranked #17 on the list?  I’ve never met any racists here in NJ and I’ve lived here for 2 decades.

Then there are the unanswered questions about whether Obama’s ill-timed remarks about bitter, gun-totin’, church goers before the Pennsylvania primary might have had any effect on the primaries in that state or the subsequent one in West Virginia. Obama seemed to go out of his way to insult everyone in Appalachia long before a single vote was cast for him there.  Why aren’t we questioning his stereotypes and prejudices towards the voters in these states? If you listened to the Obama campaign, you’d think that Appalachia consisted of nothing but toothless, moonshine smuggling rednecks.  I don’t doubt that there are some places in central PA where those people exist but I never spoke to one when I was phone banking or canvassing there.  Did the study author bother to explore the effect of Obama’s snubs on these primary outcomes?  Another question that I’m dying to have the answer to is how many searches of the form “hillary, bitch” came out of lower Manhattan or “redneck” from Chicago, Illinois?   Why don’t we find out whether making the men of this country less sexist would have lead to the first female presidency?

Or would we hear howls of protest?  Hillary must be judged by a completely different set of criteria.  She and her husband were centrists, they’ll say.

Ok, I’ll bite.  Would a guy who wanted to appoint the first female attorney general, who raised taxes on the wealthy, appointed two of the most liberal judges on the supreme court we have today, put health care reform at the front of his agenda, got the Family Leave Act passed, protected children’s health care with SCHIP, stared down Republicans when they shut down government and was in favor of having gays serve openly in the military years before Obama kinda sorta got around to reversing DADT, would that guy be considered centrist today?

I have a lot of differences with my own party even though I consider myself solidly liberal.  But one of the most striking differences has to be how history is remembered.  It is illogical to judge the Clintons as more “centrist” than Obama.  In fact, the only way that the word centrist becomes negative against the Clintons is when it is taken out of context and when the comparison to Obama is not made.  Instead, centrism is mapped to the Americans Elect, Thom Friedmanesque monstrosity, that thing without a soul.  It ignores the fact that centrism in 1993 was a primarily a description of where the Clintons were on the left.  On a scale of 1=>10, leftiest Democrat to rightiest Republican, the Clintons were about a 3.8.  Now that the scale goes to 15, it is Obama who is centrist at about an 8 and the Clintons look solidly liberal when the issues and voting records are compared.

Lefties seem disgusted by DADT and DOMA that were implemented in Clinton’s terms but forget (or were too young to pay attention) that it was during the Clinton administration when the topics first landed on the national scene and in the case of gays in the military, it was Clinton who brought it up in the first place and wanted to allow gays to serve.  I’m betting that many young Democrats don’t know that and their lefty elders aren’t setting the record straight.

What I think bothers lefties the most about Clinton was not his “centrism”, although he probably referred to himself as a centrist back then.  It was that he was not dogmatic in his lefty beliefs.  Dogmatism plagues both ends of the political spectrum. When people complain about partisanship, they’re really complaining about dogmatism, that persistence in believing in theories in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  Dogma has relatively little to do with politics and has almost everything to do with identity.  It also has little to do with rationality and a lot to do with emotion.

I was more than a little disappointed to see Charles Pierce jump on lefty revisionism in one of his latest Netroots Nation posts.  One of the reasons I stopped going to these events was because I wasn’t willing to empty my brain so that it could fully absorb the dogma saturated atmosphere.  Plus, I find crunchy granola, anti-vaccine, anti-nuclear energy, anti-genetically modified everything really irritating, not to mention that people who can’t differentiate between corporate shareholders and stakeholders have no idea what they’re talking about when they wail against all “corporatism”. Netroots Nation is not much different than a CPAC convention.  Both entities have solid beliefs that they base their solutions on but they have little to do with observation, data collection, careful analysis, construction of a model, proposing policies and evaluating the effect of those policies on the model.  Dogmatists don’t usually like to have their beliefs evaluated.

If there is a recent surge in interest in the Clintons, it’s probably because voters realize that one is still available.  And it’s not voters, specifically the working class and women, who are looking forward to Hillary in 2016.  No, voters would prefer to have her now.  It is the party leadership who wants to create the expectation of a Hillary 2016 run.  They’re hoping that delayed gratification will help focus voter attention on the here and now where they have presented Obama as the only choice.  But I don’t think that’s going to work this year.  And it’s great that Obama is finally getting feisty but I don’t think he’s trustworthy.  It’s not just his actions that make him suspect.  It’s primarily his contempt for voters in general.

Maybe quality doesn’t always triumph over mediocrity.  But I think that when people have had experience of both, without a dogmatic filter, their brains are able to synthesize an evaluation based on information they have gathered, whether consciously or not.  I made this point in 2008 about presentation and how a speaker who does his or her homework will shine over someone who has baffled the audience with bullshit.   The political consultant class who thinks that voters don’t know the difference may be indulging in wishful thinking.  Sure, there are the Fox News viewers who are suffering from acquired stupidity syndrome but what about the other half of the population?  They now have the kind of information about Obama that wasn’t available to them in 2008.

It’s not the dogmatists at Netroots Nation that will decide the election this year.  It’s going to be the base that the Democrats blew off in 2008.  I’m sure the Democrats aren’t happy about that but calling them racists is probably not going to work this time.  They gave Obama a chance and he has come up severely wanting.  This upcoming performance evaluation is based on actual performance.  And if the working people are chattering about Clinton, it’s not because Mark Penn has anything to do with it.

What we might really be seeing is frustration on the part of the party loyalists, Obama fan base and self-described intellectuals towards the electorate that refuses to eat its poison mushrooms.  Those working class idiots don’t know what’s good for them, they want a “centrist”, they’re racists, they’re stupid.  But mostly, those working people and women and independents have way too many votes.  There’s a lot of howling going on right now from the lefty dogmatists who simply want to believe what they want to believe, damn the facts and life and imminent poverty staring people in the face everyday. But might I suggest that calling people racists and politically naive is not the best way to win friends and influence people.  Since the great unwashed masses are the ones who are going to determine this election in the fall, whether the lefties like it or not, a much better idea would be to give them what they want before they go to the polls.

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