Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Vote the way I tell you or I'll call you a racist"

Melissa Harris-Perry is still saying that you're a racist if you're an anti-Obama liberal.
But the responses to this recent article have been revealing in ways that I find typical of our contemporary epistemology of race....
No, the responses revealed that the 2008 Obot strategy of "racist-baiting" all critics just won't cut it these days.

Her argument comes down this: She says that her critics have unfairly demanded that she prove racist intent. (No, they haven't. Her critics have said that she was full of crap. That's very different.) She goes on to argue that you often cannot prove the existence of racist intent behind racist action.

Harris-Perry is engaging in a very clever variant of our old friend, petitio principii -- begging the question. Her argument requires us to accept as a given the very premises which are under debate. There is no racist action at work here -- just a whole lot of liberals making legitimate complaints about a bad, bad president, much worse than Clinton was. Obama sold himself as the Prog Messiah and then he turned out to be somewhere to the right of Bob Dole. Damn right liberals are gonna be pissed off.

I posit that the race factor worked, and continues to work, in Obama's favor. (At least among liberals and centrists. Obviously, there is a fair amount of genuinely nasty racism at play on the right.) If Obama were white, the Democrats would be fielding another candidate right now.

I like what Naked Capitalism has to say...
When Clinton got in big time trouble in the polls, he took aggressive corrective action, firing staffers (including Hillary as co-president), changed many of his policies, and became fixated on job creation. The economy was beginning to boom in 1996 when he was up for reelection. Whether you attribute that to dumb luck of how Presidential elections mapped against economic cycles versus sound policy moves, Clinton faced voters when most had reason to think their personal prospects were on the rise.

By contrast, as Obama’s economic policies have failed to pull the economy out of its crisis-induced deep malaise, he has done nothing different save get more pissy and double down on his failed strategy of selling out the middle class. His recent, and no doubt desperation-induced effort to rekindle the support of his badly abused base via gestures like a millioniares’ tax, are likely to go the way of past promises of change: they will be watered down to thin gruel so as not to ruffle his moneyed backers. It is remarakbly disingenuous for Harris-Perry to contend that dissatisfaction with Obama results from racism, as opposed to (among other things) ineffective policy responses to substantial and widespread economic stress.

Although this article is not worth taking seriously on its (de)merits, it has nevertheless created a bit of a firestorm, proving that the scurrilous use of the race card is an attention-getter.
I don't like all of what Riverdaughter has to say, but this part is worth quoting...
The biggest differences that I can see between the Clinton years and the Obama years is that when the Republicans amped up the crazy starting in 1992, no one had ever seen anything like it before. It wasn’t like Watergate when Nixon really did something criminal and both parties took him out. No, this was a political media Dresden that seemed determined to wipe Clinton off the map. He and Hillary didn’t always navigate the firestorm very well. They were the first that had to go through it. No other president in my lifetime has had every crevice of their personal and political lives examined in such humiliating detail. And what did the millions of dollars of investigations turn up? A blow job. That was it.
Actually, I would argue that the crusade against Jimmy Carter was the first case of "amp up the crazy." Few now recall some of the weirder things going on in the culture in those days, especially on late night radio, and especially in the wake of the Iranian hostage crisis. There was a guy named Ray Briem who had a radio program that played throughout the night and well into the morning. He was a bit like Limbaugh and a bit like Beck, though much more gentlemanly than either. His show traded in bizarre conspiracy theories involving the Trilateral Commission, and he routinely insinuated that Jimmy was somehow in league with those dreadful Russians.

There was a lot of mondo bizarro propaganda like that percolating throughout the culture back in the 1970s, especially as the televangelists found their muscles. Academics like to pretend that these appeals to conspiranoia have only a limited impact, but I disagree. I think that a well-funded campaign of incessant smear and fear can change the way millions of people perceive reality. A good portion of the "malaise" that Carter addressed in that infamous speech was fostered, even created, by that propaganda barrage.

Needless to say, the left press detested Carter. Without exception. Like Clinton, the guy had no defenders anywhere in the press.

Now that's an interesting comparison. Instead of asking why liberals are so much harsher on Obama than on Clinton (even though they aren't and weren't), perhaps Melissa should tell us why left-leaning organs like The Nation were so much tougher on Carter than on Obama? I never cared for Jimmy, personally -- and I strongly supported the Kennedy insurgency in 1980. But Carter looks rather good compared to our current president.

Let's get back to the present day. Naked Capitalism brings it all home:
The left is obsessed with what ought to be peripheral concerns, namely, political correctness and Puritanical moralizing, because it is actually deeply divided on the things that matter, namely money and the role of the state. The Democrats have been so deeply penetrated by the neoliberal/Robert Rubin/Hamilton Project types that they aren’t that different from the right on economic issues. Both want little regulation of banking and open trade and international capital flows. Both want to “reform” Medicare and Social Security. Both are leery of a welfare state, the Republicans openly so, the Rubinite Dems with all sorts of handwringing and clever schemes to incentivize private companies that generally subsidize what they would have done regardless...
This, I think, is why someone like Elizabeth Warren (recently endorsed by Progressives United) is so important. She articulates a political/economic worldview that stands outside the Rubin/Reagan/Randroid sphere. Barack Obama doesn't.

That's why we dislike him. Skin color has nothing to do with it.


Gus said...

If Obama was a liberal, or even a Democrat, I don't think he'd be loosing support like he is. The fact that he is African American is probably the only reason he hasn't lost ALL support from the left. Some people are so filled with "white guilt" that they just can't accept the reality of his Presidency.

Let's not kid ourselves. Obama was groomed for this position, his skin color was a bonus for his elect-ability. The race card was played very heavily by his supporters, and I see they are STILL very much at it. So, who are the REAL racists here, hmm?

Anonymous said...

I would say that electing someone President is about as far from discriminating against someone as you could possibly get.


Mr. Mike said...

Has Melissa Harris-Perry ever written on the misogyny that was so apparent during the 2008 primary season directed at Hillary?

What about what Sarah Palin faced in that department during and after the general election?

We have been working as a nation to end racial discrimination since the Eisenhower administration back in 1950's for women's rights, not so much.

She wants to play the Race Card?

Push back with the Misogyny Card.

Anonymous said...

Carter crazy criticism:

I remember back in the day, Cosmic Awareness (a semi-anonymous newsletter) said Carter and many top world figures had been replaced by an automaton (a cybernetic simulated human).

For some odd reason, at a mature age, Carter had changed his part on his head to the other side. This was taken as a key clue!


Anonymous said...

Wow! You knocked it out of the park, Mr. Cannon. The article you referenced has definitely shook a hornet's nest. Frankly, I don't think the charge of racism will work this time. The Obamacrats diluted the accusation to the point of making the charge meaningless, which is an unfortunate by-product of the mindless pursuit of winning at all costs. And, of course, the inability or unwillingness to admit that Barack Obama is simply a lousy President with no discernable leadership skills as well as a man who betrayed every promise made and the party he rode in on. His race has nothing to do with it.

Btw, I'm a huge fan of Naked Capitalism. They are nearly always on point.

Peggy Sue

Woman Voter said...

A professor Hunter has joined in calling the AP 'racist' for transcribing Obama the way he was speaking at the CBC...and the shocker is Hunter teaches journalism.

Melissa Harris Perry really got me upset, as she must think we don't see our bank accounts...nor aware of the rising health insurance premiums. In 2010 my premiums rose by 83% + and in 2011 they rose again by 11%. Today I have the highest deductible, with a large out of pocket cost in the thousands if I am hospitalized. The Kaiser Foundation found that health insurance premiums are soaring, outpacing wages, with the yearly premium of $15,000 after Obama's Give Away to the insurance industry. Did he read it? Does he care?

If I had kept my insurance with the increase (the co-pay was $10.) my annual cost for a family of three was going to be $27,600.00. If I complain I am a racist, according to Melissa Harris Perry I would be a racist, because my job is to make Obama successful.

Obama blocked Single Payer, he blocked the Public Option and then the bone he wagged in front of us The Medicare Buy In (people 45 and over have the highest death rate when they lose their coverage and are being laid off in droves due to these health premium increase) he took off the table too...essentially he didn't yell 'Let them DIE', but actions speak louder than word here.

I support the youth Occupying Wall Street because they finally broke through and are bringing to light all the corporate welfare, the fact that the 1% doesn't pay their share, the fact that US corporations the have the second lowest tax rate in the world (yet GOP continues to lie) and the fact that in WI it was the health premiums that broke the camels back. My eldest family was laid off in june, as many teachers across the nation have and are...and the press is still pretending Obama did some great thing when we were ALL screwed (sorry for the language)...and called RACISTS for complaining.

prowlerzee said...

There's no communicating with those people....oops, I said "those people." Racist, huh...yup, I specifically meant the white Obots who made a "Magic Negro" fetish out of Obama and sit on the Emperor's High Horse and have no clue their asses are hanging out there for all to see.

They may not know everyone sees thru their race card, but that's all they have to play.

Well, there is one more card in their game (making them 50 short of a full deck) ... how awful the "other side" is. They clutch their pearls (both of them) and wail how never before has there been such CRAZY on the Republican side. Short memories or ignorance, take your pick.

Hoarseface said...

I would agree that "a well-funded campaign of incessant smear and fear can change the way millions of people perceive reality." An example: many people still assume the Clintons were 'dirty' in the Whitewater issue simply because of the lengthy investigation; the fact that no charges were ever filed is a footnote. I've encountered this even among liberal-minded friends and co-workers. It's like the apocryphal story about LBJ's first Senate race where his opponent was accused of having carnal knowledge of his farm animals: as I've heard it told, when someone said to Johnson "But it's not true!" LBJ's response was "So what? Let the bastard deny it!" The smear sticks in peoples' minds, the acquittal does not. The right knows this and plays it to the hilt, whereas the left...

And the other thing I wanted to say: Elizabeth Warren is FANTASTIC. I loved her "nobody gets rich in America by themselves" bit - pure gold. Sometimes I wonder if the Democratic party just needs someone to provide the template for electoral victory - someone who can convey the messages succinctly, explain complex problems in layman's terms, and connect with voters on a non-bullshit level.

If we had more people like Warren winning electoral victories, it might make the establishment Democrats more inclined to replicate her rhetoric and policy proposals. After all, a populist movement should - by definition, I would say - be left/liberal by definition. If they weren't so willfully ignorant and/or co-opted - if they were a true 'populist' movement - the Tea Party would be fighting the Democrats for being too right-wing instead of fighting Republicans for being too centrist (read: rational).

Peter of Lone Tree said...

"I would say that electing someone President is about as far from discriminating against someone as you could possibly get. Harry"

This from Salon:
Diebold voting machines can be hacked by remote control.

Anonymous said...

The feminists who believe gender trumps race...didn't they see the video of black women, coast to coast.. even in battered women shelters, cheering when the OJ verdict was announced?

Joseph Cannon said...

Anon, I really should not have let your comment go through, if only because you are anonymous. I don't think that "feminism" is any kind of monolith. Neither are racial attitudes; there are many shades of opinion within just about any group or subgroup you can imagine.

As for OJ -- one day, I'll post on that. I strongly suspect that the guy was guilty of murder. But if I were on that jury, I too would have voted to acquit. What choice would I have had, when shown such obviously tainted evidence? Alan Dershowitz has pretty much admitted that he thinks the OJ imbroglio was a classic case of the cops "framing a guilty man," and I think that his argument is persuasive. You have to punish such police behavior, even at the risk of letting a guilty man walk.

Anonymous said...

Old enough to remember the rabid attacks against Carter too, glad you brought it up. I remember as well how the then just starting to be corporate owned news media fawned all over Reagan- in 1979, and look how they shove under the rug the slimy Iran-Contra deal that Reagan used to gain the White House... not to mention the economic horror he unleashed on the poor and lower middle class as president to benefit the rich. Before W I counted Reagan as the worst president ever.

Some of the hatred of Carter and Clinton comes from Beltway hatred of southern white politicians who happen to be liberal leaning on racial issues and exhibit intelligence and sanity- in other words don't fit the elite stereotypes. Johnson knew how to manipulate that stereotype and get what he wanted passed. Carter and Clinton wanted to show America and the world that many southerners did not fit that stereotype. The media and other elites can't stand that. Thus their enthusiastic embrace of white southern politicians (including pseudo southerners) who fit some version of stereotype- W, Gingrich, Perry, etc...