Thursday, September 27, 2012

Newt's Dog Whistle: Obama Is 'Not A Real President'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Look, we knew even before he won election in 2008 that Republicans were going to spend the next four years delegitimizing Barack Obama. After all, that was what the whole Birther thing was about, right?

Since then, of course, we've had a steady drumbeat of extremists parading various anti-Obama theories as a way to inject memes that further delegitimize Obama into the public bloodstream.

One of the points of this behavior is to assure "patriotic" right-wingers that they really aren't disrespecting the office of the presidency, and by extension the American people, in the process, because, you see, Obama isn't a "real" president. He's another fake president. You don't have to respect him. You can hate him all you like.

Of course, you would not be wrong to suspect that, for these folks, the only "legitimate" president is a Republican president. That's part of the game.

These sentiments are particularly pronounced in the South, and what you'll notice is that the memes delegitimizing Obama have a distinctly Southern flavor to them, especially when they come out of the mouths of Southerners like Newt Gingrich.

That is, they are rich with dog whistles, and they're all tailored to support a caricature of Obama as the reincarnation of the caricatures of black Southern politicians that was fabricated during the Reconstruction period and afterwards by apologists for the Klan and white supremacy: namely that of a cartoonishly lazy, grinning, chicken-eating, quarrelsome pack of crass opportunists.

Recall that Gingrich has a long record of this kind of garbage, including his suggestion that Obama is an "uppity" guy.

He built further on that suggestion the other night on Greta Van Susteren's Fox News show:
GINGRICH: [Obama] really is like the substitute [National Football League] referees in the sense that he’s not a real president. He doesn’t do anything that presidents do, he doesn’t worry about any of the things the presidents do, but he has the White House, he has enormous power, and he’ll go down in history as the president, and I suspect that he’s pretty contemptuous of the rest of us.

... You have to wonder what he’s doing. I’m assuming that there’s some rhythm to Barack Obama that the rest of us don’t understand. Whether he needs large amounts of rest, whether he needs to go play basketball for a while or watch ESPN, I mean, I don’t quite know what his rhythm is, but this is a guy that is a brilliant performer as an orator, who may very well get reelected at the present date, and who, frankly, he happens to be a partial, part-time president.

... This is a man who in an age of false celebrity-hood is sort of the perfect president, because he’s a false president. He’s a guy that doesn’t do the president’s job.
Gingrich makes all the haters feel better. It's what good Southern propagandists do: Provide a nice soothing false patina for their seething racism.

I'm reminded of the scene depicting black legislators playing with the seat of power in South Carolina after the Civil War that appeared in D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation:

This scene has been effectively endorsed by high-school history courses ever since, and to this day it remains widely believed -- thanks also to descendants of Birth of a Nation such as Gone With the Wind -- that white Southerners overthrew the "black rule" imposed by Reconstruction due to its self-evident malfeasance and incompetence.

It's also a lie. As Stephen Budiansky once explained:
A bald fact: Generations would hear how the South suffered “tyranny” under Reconstruction. Conveniently forgotten was the way that word was universally defined by white Southerners at the time: as a synonym for letting black men vote at all. A “remonstrance” issued by South Carolina’s Democratic Central Committee in 1868, personally signed by the leading native white political figures of the state, declared that there was no greater outrage, no greater despotism, than the provision for universal male suffrage just enacted in the state’s new constitution. There was but one possible consequence: “A superior race is put under the rule of an inferior race.” They offered a stark warning: “We do not mean to threaten resistance by arms. But the white people of our State will never quietly submit to negro rule. This is a duty we owe to the proud Caucasian race, whose sovereignty on earth God has ordained.”

“No free people, ever,” declared a speaker at a convention of the state’s white establishment a few years later, had been subjected to the “domination of their own slaves,” and the applause was thunderous. “This is a white man’s government,” was the phrase echoed over and over in the prints of the Democratic press and the orations of politicians denouncing the “tyranny” to which the “oppressed” South was being subjected.

A bald fact: more than three thousand freedmen and their white Republican allies were murdered in the campaign of terrorist violence that overthrew the only representatively elected governments the Southern states would know for a hundred years to come. Among the dead were more than sixty state senators, judges, legislators, sheriffs, constables, mayors, county commissioners, and other officeholders whose only crime was to have been elected. They were lynched by bands of disguised men who dragged them from cabins by night, or fired on from ambushes on lonely roadsides, or lured into a barroom by a false friend and on a prearranged signal shot so many times that the corpse was nothing but shreds, or pulled off a train in broad daylight by a body of heavily-armed men resembling nothing so much as a Confederate cavalry company and forced to kneel in the stubble of an October field and shot in the head over and over again, at point blank.

So saturated is our collective memory with Gone With the Wind stock characters of thieving carpetbaggers, ignorant Negroes, and low scalawags, that it comes as a shock not so much to discover that there were men and women of courage, idealism, rectitude, and vision who risked everything to try to build a new society of equality and justice on the ruins of the Civil War, who fought to give lasting meaning to the sacrifices of that terrible struggle, who gave their fortunes, careers, happiness, and lives to make real the simple and long-delayed American promise that all men were created equal—it comes as a shock not so much to be confronted by their idealism and courage and uprightness as by the realization that they were convinced, up to the very last, that they would succeed. Confident in the rightness of their cause, backed by the military might of the United States government, secure in the ringing declarations, now the supreme law of the land embodied in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments of the Constitution, that slavery was not only dead but that equality and the right to vote were the patrimony now of all Americans, they could not imagine that their nation could win such a terrible war and lose the ensuing peace.

Lose, the nation undeniably did. In 1879, an exhausted Albion Tourgée, an Ohio-born man who as a state judge in North Carolina had fearlessly defended the rights of the common man, colored and white; who had defied Ku Klux threats and the sneers of the conservative bar when he empanelled African Americans on juries and fined lawyers for saying “nigger” in his courtroom, gave a rueful and weary interview to the New York Tribune:

In all except the actual results of the physical struggle, I consider the South to have been the real victors in the war. I am filled with admiration and amazement at the masterly way in which they have brought about these results. The way in which they have neutralized the results of the war and reversed the verdict of Appomattox is the grandest thing in American politics.

Amazement: because such an outcome was not inevitable or foreordained; because, in the end, Reconstruction did not fail, but was overthrown, with impunity and audacity, in one of the bloodiest, darkest, and still least known chapters of American history.
Guys like Gingrich love to feed these old racist myths with dog whistles like this, cloaking it all in language seemingly devoid of racism -- but soaked throughout with exactly the kind of code words that old racists lap right up like PBR in a trough.

Eastern Washington's Republican Voters Reveal Their Racism

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
Most folks think of Washington as a solidly "blue" state full of Seattle-esque progressives, but unfortunately, that's really not the case. It's largely (though not entirely) true of the western side of the state, which is geographically and culturally divided by the Cascade Range. On the eastern side of the divide, as we saw during the outbreak of right-wing ugliness during the 2010 elections, things are decidedly very different.

The Tea Party rules there. Most of the radios, it seems, are tuned to Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News plays in all the public spaces.

And it's white. Very, very white. It's that way throughout the interior Northwest. This whiteness was one of the reasons the Aryan Nations chose northern Idaho -- and by extension, eastern Washington -- for relocation from southern California in the 1970s.

Of course, eastern Washingtonians heatedly deny that there is any racism inherent in their cultural conservatism, that the violent activities and the ongoing presence of white racists in the region is purely accidental.

Now, the evidence provided by the results from the August 7 primary election in Washington have established, definitively, that anti-Latino racism is rampant in central and eastern Washington.

The evidence is apparent in a single peculiar race, that for the state's Supreme Court, Position 8. The only serious candidate, a fellow named Steve Gonzalez, wound up winning because he easily took the massive vote of western Washingtonians. His opponent, a fellow named Bruce Danielson, had not campaigned at all, had raised exactly $0 for his election, and was described as having "zero
qualifications to be on the bench" by the head of his local bar association.

But in eastern Washington, Danielson won handily in every county, taking 29 in all. The obvious answer lay in the two men's names.

And it wasn't an ideological, Republican thing, either. A couple of University of Washington researchers delved the actual numbers from the election and reached the clear conclusion that race played a significant role in the voting patterns.

Paul Wissell at KPLU reports
Racial bias did play a role in the primary election battle between Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez and his challenger Bruce Danielson.

That’s the conclusion of research conducted by Matt Barreto, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington.

In the August primary, Justice Gonzalez was re-elected to the court by an overwhelming margin. But in some areas of the state, Danielson, who didn’t even campaign, drew a surprisingly high number of votes.

The suspicion has been that race played a factor, that many voters passed over the Hispanic name of Gonzalez to choose Danielson because he was white.

Barreto, who reviewed voting patterns in every precinct in the state, says the evidence proves that was true.
“What we found was that in central and eastern Washington, in particularly in Yakima and Grant counties, that there was a very high degree of racial bloc voting. That meant that in very heavily white precincts Danielson did exceptionally well winning as much as 75 percent of the vote," Barreto said.
And Barreto says it wasn’t just whites who voted in a bloc. In heavily Hispanic precincts in Yakima, Gonzalez garnered as much as 70 percent of the vote.
Eli Sanders at The Stranger has more:
Barreto's findings show, for example, that in Eastern Washington's Yakima County, Danielson drew a full 75 percent of the non-Latino vote (helping Danielson receive 64 percent of the vote overall in that county to Gonzalez's 36 percent). In fact, non-Latino voters flocked so decisively to Danielson in Yakima County that he outperformed fellow conservative Rob McKenna there by 14 points. "Danielson should not have outperformed anyone," Barreto says, "because he had no name recognition and no money."

Same story in neighboring Grant County: Danielson won the county 67 percent to 33 percent, outperformed McKenna by 7 points, and pulled in 70 percent of the non-Latino vote.

Contrast those results with the results in Western Washington's Snohomish County, where Gonzalez won. In Snohomish, Danielson polled roughly even with McKenna, which makes sense, and is a sign that voters there were making choices based on ideology rather than on a candidate's last name. This allowed the non-Latino vote in Snohomish to be more evenly distributed: 44 percent of non-Latino voters there went for Danielson, while 56 percent went for Gonzalez.
Baretto and David Perez published an op-ed this morning explaining why these results underscore the need for the state to pass its own voting rights law:
Our data proves what many have suspected for a long time: Race still matters. That’s why we need the Washington Voting Rights Act to provide an equal opportunity for minority candidates. Equality has eluded Latino candidates for too long in Washington. It’s time to pass the Washington Voting Rights Act.
Perez wrote a piece for The Stranger last month with an explanation of the law:
After encountering similar problems in their state, California legislators adopted the California Voting Rights Act of 2002. The Washington Voting Rights Act is modeled after the California version.

Some say that the legislature ought to leave it to the local governments to decide for themselves how to conduct their elections. But these advocates of “local control” are missing the point. A system that gives 49.2% of one county’s population less than 3% of its elected offices is not local control (see: Franklin County). A system that silences 41% of Yakima City is not local control. Using at-large elections to circumvent our democratic principles is not local control.

True local control would empower the people by making sure local government represents local constituencies. Under the Washington Voting Rights Act, local control would flourish once again.

The González race is a sobering reminder that our country’s first principle—that all persons are created equal—may be self-evident, but it certainly isn’t self-enforcing. We have yet to reconcile the values of the American Republic with the hopes of the American people.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

As Arizona's SB1070 Becomes Law, 'Dark Chapter' Of History Looms, Author Warns

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

We knew this was coming, so it didn't raise many heads last week when a federal judge cleared the way for Arizona to begin enforcing its "papers please" provisions in the anti-immigrant law, SB1070, it passed two years ago:
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled Tuesday afternoon that police officers can begin enforcing SB 1070’s provision that mandates officers, while enforcing other laws, to question the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally.

Gov. Jan Brewer has repeatedly said she’s confident SB 1070 will not lead to racial profiling but immigrant rights advocates disagree and are teaching undocumented immigrants how to defend themselves during encounters with police.

“We still see people who think that because they don’t have papers, they don’t have rights, but they do and we’re educating them about those rights,” Dulce Juarez, a member of the civil rights group Respect-Respeto, told VOXXI.
Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, bless her heart, was paying attention, and so on Monday she invited author Jeff Biggers -- whose new book, State Out of the Union, tackles the underlying issues at stake in Arizona -- on to talk about this quiet sea change:
BIGGERS: You know, I think, in effect, Amy, we’re talking about one of the—a new chapter and one of the darkest chapters in civil rights violations that we’re going to be facing in the future, because this goes beyond just looking at immigration policy. This now affects all Americans who are reasonably suspicious. And, of course, I think many think tanks and many investigations have looked at—this is not only going to open up a state of confusion, we’re talking about all levels of local law enforcements who have to make this call as, you know, who is a person who’s reasonably suspicious to be a so-called undocumented alien. I think we’re really looking at potentially some of the worst racial profiling in American history.
This is especially the case, as we've explained previously, for drivers from out of state who do not have Arizona drivers' licenses -- and especially for drivers from states such as Washington that do not require proof of citizenship or residency. That's why the ACLU issued that travel warning about Arizona.

As Biggers explained to Goodman, this fiasco is the kind of thing that always happens when right-wing extremists obtain political power and begin enacting their agendas:

When the former governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano, went off to Washington to become head of Homeland Security in 2009, Jan Brewer, our governor, took power. Jan Brewer was someone who was navigating the politics and really was not part of this anti-immigrant fervor. There was this fringe movement, led by this state senator named Russell Pearce, part of this 10th Amendment movement who believe they’re not citizens of the United States but citizens the sovereign states of the United States, that really believes to the core of states’ rights, going all the way back to folks like in the 1950s.

And it’s that small fringe that managed to take power and ram through this very anti-immigrant, extremist agenda that went beyond immigration policy. It went to all levels of government, be in healthcare, in guns, in education and, of course, down to the fact of banning Mexican-American studies.
Goodman also played a lesser-aired segment of the secret Mitt Romney videotapes -- a segment in which Romney muses about his own family history in Mexico, and makes a backhanded reflection on how lousy his Latino outreach program is going:
AMY GOODMAN: Mitt Romney, you mentioned. I want to talk about this notorious video of Mitt Romney telling a crowd of wealthy donors in Florida he doesn’t worry about the 47 percent of Americans who are, quote, "dependent" on government and see themselves as, quote, "victims." In comments that have received less attention, Romney is also heard on the original tape joking to his audience that he would have a better chance this election had he been born a Latino.
MITT ROMNEY: My heritage, my dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company, but he was born in Mexico. And had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. And he lived there for a number of years. And, I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.
AMY GOODMAN: The significance of this secret tape that was made of Mitt Romney speaking to these wealthy donors in Florida, Jeff Biggers?

JEFF BIGGERS: You know, once again, here’s the true Romney coming out, a man who is open—openly, he was the first presidential candidate in the Republican Party to embrace 1070, the attrition through enforcement policy. His informal adviser was Kris Kobach, of course, the secretary of state from Kansas, who actually shaped the bill with Russell Pearce in Arizona. Romney has been lockstep with Arizona every step of the way from the beginning. At the same time, they do realize that in 15 states of the swing states you have the vote hinging on about 3 percent in these same states where you’re going to have an increase of 6 to 8 percent of Latino voters. And so they know the Latino voter is going to be the most important vote in this election, and they want to try to coddle it sometime, but at the same time they have completely rejected and dismissed the Latinos and their needs and their rights.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, you have Mitt Romney pushing self-deportation.

JEFF BIGGERS: Right, self-deportation. And the irony, of course, is that Romney likes to invoke his family history. And so, as a historian, let’s look at his family history. In a nutshell, Romney’s family did not simply go to Mexico as polygamists, as Mormons. They fled the country on the lam in a perjury charge. They were complete outlaws. And he has completely misrepresented that in his memoir.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain.

JEFF BIGGERS: Well, his great-grandfather—in fact, there were a number of Mormon leaders, like the Udall family and the Flake family, who actually had to go to prison for polygamy charges. But at the same time, there was encroachment in land deals, and the Romney family was being persecuted for perjury over a land deal. They went—he revoked—he gave up his bond. He went on the lam. A community was left in the lurch, according to the historical documents, the diaries of the Udalls. And they actually ran off to Arizona as outlaws. And, of course, a few years later, they come creeping back to America as refugees when the Mexican Revolution—

AMY GOODMAN: When they went to Mexico.

JEFF BIGGERS: Mexico, right. And then, once again, they come creeping back as refugees looking for sanctuary when the Mexican Revolution comes by. There’s all sorts of historical contradictions with Romney’s whole relationship with Arizona.