The name “Michael Kinsley” is not an indicator of quality these days–he was last seen advising President Obama to surrender over the debt ceiling for no reason at all–but I read his review of the newest Game Change franchise spawn and was actually enjoying it. Kinsley mocks the book’s writing style, research methods, and excessively narrow focus that turns such a seemingly epic story as a presidential election into something much smaller, an anti-epic in fact. This part is a killer:
The authors lend a sympathetic ear to Karl Rove, the Republican Rasputin, as he describes his disgust at hearing that Newt Gingrich took a few hours off one Saturday morning in Chicago to go see the dinosaurs at the Field Museum. Can you spot the gaffe? It’s not Rove dissing Gingrich for going to a museum. The gaffe is Gingrich taking time off from politics to go to a museum. Shame on him! As the authors put it, he “frittered away” valuable time.
To me, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever heard about Newt. God forbid he should take a Saturday off and go to a museum. God forbid someone running for president should have any interest except politics.
Precisely, and well said.
However, the conclusion simply doesn’t wash:
One subject that gets barely a mention in “Double Down” — because it played virtually no role in the 2012 campaign — is race. In a book that aspires to be, and largely succeeds in being, the dispositive (or do I mean definitive?) account of the election, that may be the most remarkable fact of all.
I had to read this several times to make sure this was not ironic. It is ironic, of course, but unintentionally so. Look, I could bring up the greatest hits from 2012, but that’s Mark Halperin’s job and nobody really wants to relive “self-deportation” and all that. So let’s just note a couple of facts:
- In 2008, black voter participation spiked historically, which everyone concluded was a one-off in order to vote for a black presidential candidate for the first time ever. In 2012 it spiked again.
- John Kerry won Asian-Americans by roughly 17 percent in 2004. In 2012, Barack Obama won with the group by over forty points. And their turnout spiked as well.
- In 2004, George W. Bush performed better among Hispanics than any Republican candidate in modern times. In 2012, Mitt Romney performed worse among Hispanics than any Republican candidate in modern times.
Well, given these facts, it sure seems like some people didn’t get the memo that the 2012 campaign had nothing to do with race! You have to ask yourselves, why were all these minority groups so desperate to vote against Mitt Romney if race didn’t play any part in the election? Minority groups don’t just randomly decide to swing wildly to one side or another and surge to unprecedented turnout levels, it occurs in the context of a political environment in which one party brands itself as the party for old Southern white men. The Romney campaign’s stated goal was to rack up as many white voters as it possibly could, which lest we forget is a racial strategy. Republicans across the country did their best to suppress the vote among nonwhites, a strategy that palpably backfired last year (and probably backfired again in Virginia a week ago), but one which continues to be a top policy goal of the GOP because disenfranchising minorities is apparently now a conservative first principle that is something you suffer damage to enact, rather than merely a tactic for electoral gain that would presumably be dropped when it stops working. And much of Romney’s policy agenda Chait explained this all some time ago:
Romney’s political-policy theme is an unmistakable appeal to identity politics. On Medicare, Romney is putting himself forward as the candidate who will outspend Obama, at least when it comes to benefits for people 55 years old and up. Romney will restore the $700 billion in Medicare budget cuts imposed by Obama to its rightful owners — people who are currently old.
He will cut subsidies to the non-elderly people who would get insurance through Obamacare — a program that, Romney’s ads remind older voters, is “NOT FOR YOU.” Romney’s repeated ads on welfare, blaring the brazen lie that Obama has repealed the welfare work requirement, hammer home the same theme. The purpose is to portray Obama as diverting resources from us to them.
I really don’t understand how Romney’s months-worth of demagogic welfare attacks (!) and obvious “they’re robbin’ you” thinly-veiled stuff gets dismissed as having nothing to do about race. Or the fact that every group of nonwhite people (including several, like Cuban-Americans and Asian-Americans, who used to be part of the Republican coalition) continues to flee the GOP in ever-increasing numbers. Admittedly, anti-Communism waning as a political force probably had something to do with this. But the rapid rate of collapse suggests something more than the mere lessening of ancestral ties to party…
With that said — and I pre-apologize for giving Johnny Walnuts more airtime — the story of the ever-mercurial McCain finding a new back to stab is somewhat legitimate news.
Because my fingers are feeling like they’re scraping on a chalkboard even typing this, I’ll keep it brief:
President Obama on Friday made his most extensive comments on race since entering the White House, and they are generating extensive commentary.
Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who lost the 2008 presidential race to Obama, called the president’s remarks “very impressive,” and said they should help all Americans think about how to improve race relations in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death.
“I think we continue to make progress,” McCain told CNN’s State of the Union, but recent events show “we still have a long way to go.”
Compare this, of course, with Fox News’s parade of black conservatives spitting bile at President Uppity McDarkerson for daring to talk about race:
I’m not sure just how many more of these black conservatives the media can manage to drag out there to go after President Obama and the speech he gave this Friday on what the George Zimmerman verdict means for the state of race relations in America, but this Saturday, old HuckaJesus and his producers at Fox managed to find one more to attack President Obama — and of course repeat, verbatim, every Republican talking point we’ve been hearing for ages now.
I don’t know what the salary is to be a spokespuppet for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher like Tara Setmayer, who appeared on Huckabee’s show this Saturday and attacked President Obama’s speech, but my guess is someone is paying her well with a lot of wingnut welfare for her to be willing to spread this much hatred and bullshit on national television and still look herself in the mirror when she gets up the next morning.
Setmayer wants the audience at Fox to believe that it’s somehow “beneath the President” for Obama to talk about race, because, you know, no one’s allowed to do that other than the race baiters over at Fox. How dare our first President of color think it’s his place to talk about racism, or what he experienced first hand. How arrogant of him to do that and upset all of these right-wingers who want to pretend racism is dead in America because President Obama was elected.
Reagan’s electorate was 88 percent white, and Romney’s was only 72 percent white, but [South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan] hinted at a solution for that. Get more whites to show up! “In Florida, 350,000 white Republicans did not show up on Election Day.”
Douglass was “born below poverty”. What does that mean? “Slavemaster-run health care,” Smith says. “Slavemaster entitlements.
Continue reading »
The authors of Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” self-defense law say George Zimmerman should probably be arrested for shooting Trayvon Martin, reports the Miami Herald. “He has no protection under my law,” former Sen. Durell Peaden told the newspaper. [...] It is the fact that Zimmerman ignored the 911 operator’s advice not to follow Martin that former Sen. Peaden says disqualifies him from claiming self-defense under the law. “The guy lost his defense right then,” Peaden told the Miami Herald. “When he said ‘I’m following him,’ he lost his defense.” Rep. Dennis Baxley, Peaden’s co-sponsor in the Florida House, agrees with his former colleague, telling the newspaper that the law does not license neighborhood watch or others who feel “like they have the authority to pursue and confront people. That is aggravating an incident right there.”It’s pretty simple. You can stand your ground and have the defense apply to you, or you can take it upon yourself to chase after the perpetrator (i.e., you are no longer STANDING your ground) and lose the defense. The cops involved in this should be ashamed of themselves.
This made me throw up a little in my mouth just now:
GOP presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry (TX) has faced severe backlash this week as the result of stories that he had opposed a campaign to remove the Confederate battle flag from statehouses across the South and that he had hosted family and friends at a West Texas hunting camp that once read “Niggerhead” on its entrance gate.
Yesterday on Mike Gallagher’s radio show, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) defended Perry. “Rick Perry is not a racist,” Graham said, saying the Texas governor is the victim of an “intimidation” campaign. “You know if you’re a southern white guy, it is part of your life.”
The Economist’s Lexington columnist explains:
Working-class whites are angry with the Democrats for lots of reasons. Race is not one of them.Maybe not skin color, exactly, but some people did make a racial issue out of the opposition to Bill Clinton… in writing about the impeachment in 1998, Toni Morrison wrote in The New Yorker that he’d been mistreated because of his “Blackness”:
..the prospect of a Democratic rout prompts an inevitable question. Have such voters turned on the Democrats because Mr Obama is black? His election was hailed as proof that America had moved beyond race. And yet voting in the mid-terms will be polarised by race. Most whites will pull the Republican lever. Almost all blacks and most Hispanics will vote Democrat.
Race was a factor in 2008, and still is. Why else would blacks alone have stuck so staunchly by their man? As for working-class whites, they did not much care for Mr Obama even in 2008, preferring John McCain by a margin of 18%. But as Mr Obama campaigned, his colour seemed to count for less.
For 20 years Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, studied the blue-collar white voters of Macomb County near Detroit. In 1984 they voted by two to one for Ronald Reagan because, Mr Greenberg found, when such voters heard Democrats talk about economic “fairness”, they saw this as code for transferring money to blacks. Nonetheless, in 2008 Mr Obama won Macomb County with a margin of eight points. Over the course of his campaign, the proportion of Macomb voters who said they were “comfortable” with the idea of Mr Obama as president rose from 40% to 60%. Having watched Mr Obama closely, Mr Greenberg concluded, they “became confident he would work for all Americans and be the steady leader the times required.”
If such voters have now changed their minds, the reason is not that Mr Obama is black—he was black in 2008. And for all its momentous symbolism, his election is not the most recent evidence that America has turned the page on race. In June, in South Carolina of all states, Tim Scott, a black Republican, defeated the son of the segregationist Strom Thurmond in a primary, and is on his way to a seat in the House. Compare that to 1983, when a disgraceful number of Democrats in Chicago voted for the Republican rather than send the black Harold Washington to city hall.
All of that has gone. The electorate may be divided by race, but no longer mainly because of race. Some of Mr Obama’s enemies have tried to harness pockets of bigotry by painting him in various ways as un-American. But outright racism in politics is now beyond the pale and will probably have little to do with the coming rejection of the Democrats by the white working class. A wrecked economy and the feeling that their president is out of touch are reason enough. It has, after all, happened before. In two short years from 1992 to 1994, when Bill Clinton was president, white working-class support for the Republicans soared like a rocket from 47% to 61%. Nobody blamed that on skin colour.
Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.
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