Trying Too Hard To Make It About “Aggrieved White Guys”
Michael Crowley has a post at The New Republic’s blog (“The Plank”) in which he works is hardest to push a new meme. Yes friends, we’re now in the “post-Bush” era of “the aggrieved white guy”.
Apparently the Gates/Crowley (no relation I’m sure) dustup provided him the final and definitive proof. Apparently it wasn’t a cop and an increasingly hysterical man pushing each other’s buttons and, as usual, the guy with the badge and gun winning. Oh no, it is a “teachable moment” that was ripe for our teacher-in-chief, sans all the facts, to conclude it was the cop’s fault. And, of course, the cop being white and the homeowner who was misidentified as a burglar being black and a FOO, well what more needs to said, hmmm?
And, as proof, Michael Crowley offers one of the left’s favorite punching bags – Joe the Plumber. Yup, Joe was the guy who began to clue Crowley into this phenomenon – “the aggrieved white guy”. Uh, sorta:
This is the third time in the past year that Obama has squared off, directly or indirectly, with working-class white men. First, there was Joe the Plumber. Last fall, John McCain’s campaign became, to an astonishing degree, connected to the grievances of an (unlicensed) Ohio plumber. JTP’s message wasn’t explicitly racialized–he complained primarily that Obama was leading America down the path toward socialism. But it was impossible to ignore the way he embodied a working-class white everyman who has traditionally felt threatened by minority groups in America. Although McCain lost badly, JTP did allow him to abandon his ineffective emphasis on foreign policy issues like Iraq and Russia and focus his message late in the campaign around Obama’s social spending–a preview of the GOP’s most potent line of attack today.
Well Joe, you know, he wasn’t “explicitly racialized” (I mean when you’re trying to make a point about race and you can’t even figure out a way to brand one of the main figures you’re using to make your point as racist or “racialized”, maybe you ought to hit the “delete” button and try something else). Nope, Joe complained mostly about “spreading the wealth around”.
But, concludes Crowley, even though Joe wasn’t racialized and mostly complained about socialism, he “embodied” – emfreakinbodied – “a working-class white everyman who has traditionally felt threatened by minority groups in America.
Really? Where did you make that point, Mr. Crowley? Where did you even get close to it? Talk about trying too hard.
Second “aggrieved white guy” moment? Sotomayor:
Then, there was the Sotomayor nomination. His Supreme Court nominee was controversial for a recent court ruling which denied promotions deprived a group of white firefighters, coupled with her ill-advised advised assertion that “a wise Latina” might reach a better decision that a white male judge. Senate Republicans and conservative pundits clobbered Sotomayor for the implication that she was biased against white guys. Their point was illustrated with potent stagecraft, in the form of uniformed white firefighters–the losers in the New Haven case–who attended Sotomayor’s Senate confirmation hearings in their dress uniforms. They were icons of the heroic working-class white guy. Sotomayor’s hearings went about as smoothly as possible, but the GOP did use them to lay the groundwork for a narrative that the Obama administration gives special preference to minority groups.
Smoothly missing from Crowley’s analysis is the fact that the racist phrase in question here came from the Supreme Court nominee, not some “aggrieved white guys”. You have to wonder if her example of a wise Latina woman making a better choice had instead used a black male judge. I’m sure we all know how that would have worked out.
Instead, it is apparently assumed, in the post-racial Obama era, we’re just supposed to let what appeared to actually be a racist statement slide. Or, when exception is taken too it, hand wave that away as “the aggrieved white guy” thing. Had Sotomayor never uttered those words, they’d have aggrieved no one, regardless of race. That is the salient “post-racial” point.
And now we come to the point of this “analysis” which will try to hand us “the aggrieved white guy” label to play with over the next few years:
Now comes Sergeant Crowley. Conservatives could hardly ask for a more effective vehicle for this burgeoning narrative. While Joe the Plumber was an obvious moron, and Sotomayor too sympathetic and skillful to demonize, Crowley (no relation, sorry) is political gold.
Clever, huh? He must have stayed up late trying to figure out how to stitch Joe the Plumber, Sotomayor and Sergeant Crowley together to make this rather lame attempt at launching his AWG meme. Get ready for it, here comes the “thud” as it hits the floor. Speaking of Crowley, the other Crowley says:
He is the hard-working white man who wears a uniform and risks his life for his country. Note that such a uniformed civilian hero is especially valuable for a Republican party which, through the fiasco in Iraq, has largely lost its monopolistic claim on representing the uniformed American soldier. And while it’s hard to defend Crowley’s arrest of Gates, he does seem to be winning the spin war over character and temperament (particularly after African-American members of the Cambridge police force came to his defense last week). Crowley also plays into the only theme conservatives like more than race, which is class. For Obama to be in the defense of a Harvard professor who summers on the Vineyard against a police officer who attends neighborhood softball games at night–particularly after Obama admitted during his first comments about the case that he did not know all the facts–is almost too good to be true, from the GOP’s perspective.
Have you picked up on it yet? Are you aware of how Crowley is using the words “Republican party” in this? As a pretty obvious code phrase for – heh, yup, you’ve got it – “aggrieved white guys”. See they’re obviously not taking offense at the President of the United States using a nationally televised news conference to call the cop stupid even while admitting he didn’t have all the facts. Nope they’re trying to develop something which the President had every opportunity to avoid and didn’t. Who was trying to develop what? And if Obama considered it a teachable moment as Crowley contends, why isn’t it a teachable moment for Obama as well?
Frankly that’s how it came out as I’ve observed it. Obama stuck his foot fully in his mouth and paid for it. He hasn’t yet learned what is or isn’t appropriate in his new office. Crowley of course, seems to have forgotten the glee of Democrats each time Bush did something like that – but I don’t remember him trying to push some “aggrieved” meme then although I believe for some at the time, “aggrieved loon” might have fit nicely.
Obama and his advisors surely realized this. They understood that Crowley represented something far more dangerous to their post-racial narrative than either Joe the Plumber or those uniformed firefighters. For once, conservatives stood to gain real traction on both issues of race and class in one simple episode. It wasn’t going to ruin his presidency, but it was too volatile to be ignored. Obama had to take control of the story before it took control of him.
Nonsense. Utter balderdash. All Obama had to do was look at the questioner and politely say, “I don’t have all the facts and prefer not to say anything until I do,” and then call on the next questioner.
In fact he caused the ruckus and managed to overshadow the message he was trying to push that night – health care. As it turns out, I’m glad he did.
However let’s not pretend that Obama exercised any “control over the story”. He reacted to his own stupid statement and tried to cover it up like a cat trying to cover, well, you know.
And, by the way, Mr. Crowley – it didn’t work.
“Aggrieved white guy”, my rear end.