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Monday, July 1, 2013

Confessions of a Barack Blocker

Traditionally, opposition parties in America don't exist to simply oppose the president on everything. Though conflict is a central element to democracy, so is compromise. It is rare that a president can achieve his or her entire agenda over the course of their time in office, but there has always been common ground in Washington. Convincing people that the current obstruction is unprecedented is an uphill battle because most people who don't really pay attention assume that "both sides do it." Then when you ask for specific examples, they admit their lack of knowledge won't allow them to give a comparative analysis. You could turn around and gloss their eyes over with data on the constancy of the filibuster since Obama has been president, but what's the point? 

That's why it's so gratifying when a Republican slips up and admits clearly what the Republican modus operandi regarding the Obama presidency is. For example, following the 2008 election, a slew of states where Republicans held legislative majorities passed voter ID laws. The public justification for this was to combat voter fraud. The main argument against these measures was that the voter fraud they were claiming to combat was nearly non-existent as the data proved and that the new laws would overwhelmingly and adversely effect lower income, and minority voters who tend to vote Democratic.  As it turned out, that was the point of passing the voter ID laws in the first place, but no one would publicly admit it until Mike Turzai, Pennsylvania's Republican House Majority Leader stated publicly that voter ID laws were "gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."

Turzai's brain fart was a full admission that voter ID laws were designed to weight voter turnout. No one besides Turzai would admit this because tactics like this are nefarious and immoral. Also, it would only help prove the charge that Republicans dislike the very people voter ID laws would adversely effect, a charge that Republicans vehemently deny. Unlike the old days, it is not politically advantageous to cop to racial or economic prejudice. So what are biased people to do? They disguise their true motivations with fake nobler sounding bullshit. So when Republicans want to  suppress Democratic voters, they pass laws claiming they want to combat voter fraud. 

So how can someone like me further prove the racial motivations for opposition to Obama or Obam-ositition? I have not been alone in alleging that much of the enmity for Obama and his agenda is racially motivated, but without confessions one can only extrapolate from people's behavior what their motivations are. As I stated, it is not the American legislative tradition for the opposition party to stonewall everything the president wants to do. Obama slanderer Newt Gingrich still brags about the bipartisan budget deals he made with Bill Clinton in the nineties. It took a government shutdown for the two to get together, but they finally found common ground.

The difference today is that more frequently than not, Republicans who are seen as cooperating with the president are targeted for ostracism and ousting by a hostile and vindictive Republican electorate. What accounts for cooperation these days can be as little as suggesting discussing negotiating with Obama. The proof is ample as in this excerpt from Sam R. Hall blogging for Mississippi's Clarion Ledger:
"On local conservative talk radio, [Sen.] Cochran has become a favorite target of guests and some hosts alike. He was recently berated right along with Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both Republican lawmakers who were part of a dinner Obama hosted for several Republican lawmakers two weeks ago."
So a group of Republicans have dinner with Barack Obama and draw ire from constituents and critics. Hall's post goes on to mention how Cochran is in the crosshairs of Tea Party Republicans, a group that has successfully reappropriated the word "primary" as a verb since 2009 with their goal to "primary" any Republican with with a reputation for being bipartisan. Whereas bipartisanship has previously been a virtue among our legislators, since 2009 Republicans have branded any of their own that have been deemed to be bipartisan as traitors. In their eyes, a bipartisan Republican in Washington is not a practical representative, but an Obama collaborator. 

This is part of the extreme reaction to the Obama presidency and anyone who suggests that "Democrats do the same thing" needs the neurological equivalent of a punch in the mouth if only as a corrective measure. To set the record straight, no Democrat has ever been "primaried" for their bipartisan tendencies. Imagine Ted Kennedy being ousted for helping craft W's No Child Left Behind. It just don't happen. 

It also didn't used to happen in Republican ranks, but something is different. What can it be? It's not Obama's policies, really. The signature items in his agenda include returning tax rates to what they were during the Clinton years. Bill Clinton was never reviled by Republicans as a socialist for the tax rates he marshaled. When the super conservative Heritage Foundation called for an individual mandate for health insurance, no Republicans cancelled their Heritage Foundation newsletter or membership. What exactly is it about Obama that incites extreme, over-the-top histrionics from the right? Quite simply, Obama's (half) black. 

Republican David Gergen commented during the 2012 presidential race how the use of "code" was being used to trigger a racial call to arms against Obama. Code is necessary in an era when you can't openly refer to race as a reason to oppose someone. After all, race is an unacceptably shallow reason to object to a person or so I thought. Thanks to South Carolina Republican State Rep Kris Crawford, the code has been cracked. Crawford, a physician has supported the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, but admitted politics prevents the expansion from becoming a reality in many states including South Carolina. Said Crawford in a January, 2013 interview: 
"The politics are going to overwhelm the policy. It is good politics to oppose the black guy in the White House right now, especially for the Republican Party."
 In the end, the politics ended up overwhelming the policy to the point where Crawford voted against the position he supported. what makes it good politics for people like Crawford to oppose the black guy in the White House? There is a proportion of the Republican electorate who can only see things in an adversarial light. When they hear Democratic calls for equality, fairness, justice, and universally accepted notions of the like they assume it to mean (simplistically speaking) taking things that belong to the hard-working white people and giving it to the lazy undeserving black people. By that measure a black Democratic president, according to them would be most aggressive at that mythical model.

I enter as "exhibit A" excuses made by Mitt Romney following his loss in the 2012 presidential election. Romney claimed that he lost because he could not compete with the trillions of dollars in "gifts" Obama gave to minority and young voters. He cited free health care in perpetuity as an electoral inducement. So by Romney's claim, black and brown loafers showed up to the polls in droves because a provision in the law that had not yet taken effect. This is a lie of course. Black and Hispanic people did vote overwhelmingly for Obama, but it probably had more to do with historical trends and backlash from Republican attempts to curb the votes of minorities. Also, Obama won 71% of the Asian vote while Asians only make up 5.6% of the nation's uninsured. I'd almost pay money to hear Romney's racist out-of-touch assessment of why Asian-Americans preferred the black guy. 

My point is that even after losing the race, Romney continued his attempts to capitalize on racially adversarial sentiments of white people who are angry and resentful at the idea of a black president. Why bother? Romney is political toast. On the other hand, it's clear why people like State Rep Kris Crawford ride the race bait bus. He has political potential in a party that has proven itself to be vindictive against members who carry on normally with the people's business as if the president was white. 

I appreciate Kris Crawford's honesty and I see the short-term practicality of him opposing the black guy in the White House, but I don't agree with him that it's "good politics." Compromise in good faith is good politics. Encouraging race bias is not. It is odd to watch a party indignantly deflect charges of racism again and again then continue to cultivate false stereotypes that feed the ill-will of its most extreme members. 

It kind of reminds me of Atticus Finch's closing statements in the Tom Robinson trial from "To Kill a Mockingbird."
"The witnesses for the state with the exception of the sheriff of Maycomb County have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court with the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption, the evil assumption that all Negroes lie. All Negroes are basically immoral beings. All Negro men are not to be trusted around our women. An assumption that one associates with minds of their caliber."
Minds of that caliber still exist and serve on juries and vote. They have taken control of the Republican Party and they don't take kindly to any of their elected officials doing anything that would contribute in any way giving a black president a legislative victory. They will cross any number of state lines to get back at that person by "primarying" them out of office. You would have to go back over 60 years to the 80th Congress when Republicans used their majorities in the House and Senate to block Harry Truman. No, Harry Truman wasn't black, but because of that, his opponents could not rely on racial appeals to bolster their agenda as can members of the 113th Congress. Lucky for Harry S., the Republican domination of Congress only lasted for two years after which both houses were returned to Democratic control. 

The U.S. census does not account for racists so it is really difficult to determine how many people are responsible for the lagging pace of progress in Washington. It is elementary that we do not suspect white liberals of harboring this anti-black president sentiment. A million dollars says that not one of the authors of the scads of racist tweets about Barack Obama considers themselves a Nancy Pelosi San Francisco liberal. If I am wrong, please tell me because I am dying to meet the person who HONESTLY tweets "I think Obama is a watermelon eatin' ape nigger, but I'm all for gay marriage and gun control."

The fact is, scientifically speaking, the anti-blacks (and anti-hispanics, etc.) will tend to identify as conservatives. If we're all mature about this, we can accept this as true. I'M NOT SAYING ALL CONSERVATIVES ARE RACISTS. Some conservatives like Grover Norquist are just over-reactive financial obsessives and actually draw ire from racist conservatives because they happen to be married to a Muslim person. Mitch McConnell has some love for at least one Asian person, his wife Elaine Chao (unless those gay rumors are true). Former Defense Secretary William Cohen is married to a black woman. 

Now that I have shamelessly qualified myself to judge, let us revisit the ugliness of Kris Crawford's statement. He fully acknowledges, perhaps cynically, that racism is a major factor in the Republican base's opposition to Barack Obama. In order to keep their seats, elected Republicans have to be on board with their base. To do this, elected Republicans must not only stand counter to nearly anything Barack Obama wants to do, they must create a cogent sounding justification for their position that doesn't make them seem that they are being as petty as they are. In addition, they play up any fears or ignorance that already exist. When the 112th Congress met, one of the first actions of the Republican House was to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They called HR 2 (112th) "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act" because it sounded scary. Incidentally, House Speaker John Boehner instructed his caucus to drop the "job-killing" because it wasn't polling well

Upon becoming chair of the House  Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2011, Darrell Issa vowed to uncover corruption in the Obama Administration. As chair, Issa's method has been consistent. He takes an event. He exaggerates or twists the event into some type of travesty. He accuses Obama of creating the travesty Issa made up. He holds hearings. Testimony contradicts his fake travesty. Then the issue silently goes away. Here is Issa's track record as committee chair:
Solyndra probe - fail
Fast and Furious probe - fail
EPA emissions ruling probe - fail
Benghazi probe - fail
IRS probe - fail
Everything else Issa has pursued - fail

In all these cases, Issa's impotence is not a function of his ability, but of his choices. The same goes for the Republican party as a whole. In the scope of the interest of the American public, they are dead-ending. In their own eyes, they are placating and pandering to a constituency that is dying for Obama's blood. They are programmed to fulfill the outdated Republican agenda of "we just need to scare enough white people." That may have worked at one point, but whatever demographics used make that a winnable scheme are shifting, which is part of what is causing all the racial resentment in the first place. If their response is to double down to placate a shrinking ill-willed few, they have set the alarm for their own demise. Several Republicans warn that their party is in danger of extinction, but if this is how they're going to act, good riddance. 

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