Free Markets, Free People
That’s the theory that is being put forward by the Nation’s Melissa Harris-Perry.
It’s an interesting argument for its ignorance. I’m sorry, that’s not very kind, but frankly it’s true. Harris-Perry gives a few paragraphs at the beginning of her piece to explaining this “most insidious” of forms of racism – electoral racism. You see, it shows up, apparently, when voters refuse to vote for someone just because of his or her skin color. And she goes to the trouble of talking about Barack Obama’s last two elections and what is called “roll off”:
One way to determine how many people felt this way is to measure the “roll-off.” In presidential election years, a small percentage vote for the president, but then “roll off” by not casting ballots for state and local offices. A substantial increase in roll-off—larger than usual numbers of voters who picked John Kerry or George Bush but declined to choose between Obama and Keyes—would have been a measure of the unwillingness of some to vote for any black candidate. I tested this in 2004 and found no increase, statistical or substantive, in roll-off in Illinois. Faced with two black candidates, white voters were willing to choose one of them.
The 2008 general election was another referendum on old-fashioned electoral racism—this time among Democratic voters. The long primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Obama had the important effect of registering hundreds of thousands of Democrats. By October 2008, it was clear that Obama could lose the general election only if a substantial portion of registered Democrats in key states failed to turn out or chose to cross party lines. For Democrats to abandon their nominee after eight years of Bush could be interpreted only as an act of electoral racism.
Not only did white Democratic voters prove willing to support a black candidate; they overperformed in their repudiation of naked electoral racism, electing Obama with a higher percentage of white votes than either Kerry or Gore earned. No amount of birther backlash can diminish the importance of these two election results. We have not landed on the shores of postracial utopia, but we have solid empirical evidence of a profound and important shift in America’s electoral politics.
Got that? In both of the elections, no “roll off” was detected. So it is usually safe to say that if none happened in the elections, racism was probably not a factor, given her theory.
But … and you knew there had to be a “but”, now Harris-Perry is very concerned that there will be a form of roll off in the 2012 presidential election. And if Barack Obama doesn’t get his due in votes, it is most likely the fact that white liberals have abandoned him that will be the reason.
The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.
Really … that’s the reason? A “tendency” of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts? Well there’s news. It’s also news that he, Obama, is “just as competent as his white predecessors”. Yeah, Jimmy Carter – maybe.
This is the the old tried and true race baiter’s tactic of whipping the base into line by throwing out the race card. Pure and simple, she’s trying to use race as the basis of scaring white liberals, who would rather be called child molesters than racists, back into supporting a black president.
Harris-Perry attempts to use Bill Clinton in her comparison/justification of her claim (hey, wasn’t he the first black president?) saying that Clinton was much less impressive in his achievements yet managed to see his support increase in the days before he was re-elected:
In 1996 President Clinton was re-elected with a coalition more robust and a general election result more favorable than his first win. His vote share among women increased from 46 to 53 percent, among blacks from 83 to 84 percent, among independents from 38 to 42 percent, and among whites from 39 to 43 percent.
President Obama has experienced a swift and steep decline in support among white Americans—from 61 percent in 2009 to 33 percent now. I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation. His record is, at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton, who was enthusiastically re-elected. The 2012 election is a test of whether Obama will be held to standards never before imposed on an incumbent. If he is, it may be possible to read that result as the triumph of a more subtle form of racism.
Anyone, is Barack Obama’s tenure in office “at the least, comparable to that of President Clinton?” Well he is beginning to catch up in the scandal department. But no one really ever considered Clinton a “failed” president. Flawed, certainly. But the word “failed” is what is beginning to be whispered about Barack Obama, even in liberal circles.
I was one of Bill Clinton’s harshest critics and frankly I see no comparison between the two. Clinton, despite all of his vices and problems was at least a competent leader. Obama has never once shown comparable leadership skills. And Clinton was a vastly better politician than is Barack Obama.
Instead of racism, could it just be something as simple as all Americans, including white Americans, are disappointed in his performance and are much more likely to compare his performance to Carter’s rather than Clinton’s? Does it really have more to do with the economy, horribly high unemployment and the failure of this president to do anything meaningful to change that (see Carter)? Clinton had the good fortune of having an up economy in his second run and he was credited with that. Where Harris-Perry would find racism, most Americans see economic misery and the ineffectiveness of the man in the Oval Office to do anything about it.
Whether you believe that the president can significantly effect the economic tides, the president is the one who gets credit or blame depending on the condition of the economy (and they have no problem claiming credit on the positive side, do they?). Oh, and don’t forget, Obama promised that if he was given his stimulus package he actually would change the economic tides and hold unemployment under 8%. Three years later, we remain in an economic morass, and the man is trying to get another chance to finally do something?
Is it really racism to drop your support for some politician who promises the moon and then delivers nothing? That’s Obama’s problem, not his race. I remember very well when the meme or talking point for Democratic politicians as applied to George W. Bush was “incompetent”. Barack Obama, in the minds of a number of voters, has redefined the word. Is it really racism to drop your support for an incompetent black politician, or is it a rational decision based on performance or lack thereof.
The key to Harris-Perry’s claim is her unsupported conjecture that Obama has been at least as competent as Bill Clinton, and if you disagree with that assessment (and aren’t going to support Obama this time) you’re a racist.
Same old song, different verse, and just as tired. This time, though, it’s being deployed to keep white liberals in line. A nice little twist.
In fact, the most insidious and subtle form of racism is claiming it exists in the face of any number of factors that weigh very heavily against such a presumption. And that’s precisely what Harris-Perry engages in here.
Today’s economic statistical releases:
New home sales fell to a 295,000 annual rate, compared to 302,00 in July. This is a nine-month low for new home sales. Of course, without any serious mortgage lending by banks, we can expect home sales to remain depressed.
The Dallas Fed’s Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey index of general business conditions slipped to -14.4 from last month’s -11.4. The production index rose, however, from 1.1 to 5.9 as factory activity increased.
The Chicago Fed National Activity index fell to minus 0.43 in August from plus 0.02 in July. Employment-related indicators fell to -0.08, and consumption & housing slipped to -0.35.
I remember giddy Republicans in early 2001. At last they had won the Presidency and both houses of Congress. They were like football fans whose team had just won the SuperBowl.
What exactly did we get out of that wonderful deal, again? Oh, yeah, a higher rate of spending than under Clinton. A new entitlement we couldn’t afford. Intrusion of the federal government into education. A blatantly unconstitutional law limiting free speech during elections.
However, it was a good time for DC Republicans. There were lots of jobs and lots of opportunities to get on the talk shows.
I suppose I understand, then, why DC Republicans look at elections more like a football game. If their team wins the game, there are goodies to go around.
However, the rest of us, including many disaffected Republicans, have realized that the rah-rah, go team approach to politics is a pointless waste of time, money, and energy. This is shown in the Tea Party’s character, for example. They want to discuss issues, and they’re not dazzled by nice hair, experience in the establishment political world, or all the other characteristics that political consultants find so important when they rate candidates.
One would think that the establishment GOP would have enough self-awareness to understand that it’s time to change their view on candidates and elections. I’d like to think these people are intelligent enough to read the charts and realize that the time for playing games is past. We are very probably approaching a worldwide financial crisis that will rock the very foundations of Western society.
Unfortunately they don’t seem to notice, as I was reminded this weekend when I read this piece on The Corner quoting Mary Matalin:
…Republicans should get over their puppy love, she said, and realize that no candidate is going to be perfect. The important thing is that they can beat President Obama.
No. That’s not the important thing. That statement may sound wise and obvious to DC political types, but it’s absolutely wrong, and there are two ironclad reasons why.
First, if it gets us a Nixon or a G.W. Bush, then it actually makes things worse. Suppose we expend our limited opportunity to reverse our current headlong rush to catastrophe by electing such a person. Then suppose the catastrophe comes on their watch.
The result is that it’s probably then the last chance the GOP will ever get to fix things. The left-leaning media will pin all the blame on the Republicans, and contort every fact they find to make it look like the Democrats can fix things.
An observant, rational person might note that the notion of the Democrats fixing anything about large, intrusive, expensive, debt-ridden government is laughable. But the media will sell that ridiculous notion, and clueless moderates will buy it, just as they did in 2008. The GOP brand will then be tarnished for a generation (“See, those Tea Party types just make things worse!”), and there will be plenty more fiddling while the country burns. The Tea Party types will likely try a third party, and given the structural problems in our system, that’s highly unlikely to work fast enough to make a difference.
Second, the very idea that we can predict who can or can’t beat Obama is just silly. I remember when Reagan “couldn’t beat Carter” because he was just a B movie actor. Bill Quick is fond of saying that his Pomeranian could beat Obama, and if things continue to move in the direction they’re going now, he’s clearly on target.
Just to pick out someone, let’s look at Hermann Cain. By conventional wisdom from establishment types, he can’t possibly beat Obama.
Well, why the hell not? He won the Florida straw poll decisively, so he seems to have something in his tank to motivate the base. Given that he’s black, suppose he changes the voting in that population from 90-10 Obama to 70-30 Obama. That alone would be enough to tie him even if Obama did as well among all other groups as he did in 2008. And Obama isn’t going to do nearly as well in most groups except for those firmly on the left wing.
I’m not endorsing Cain here. I’m just pointing out that playing the “who can beat Obama” game is silly, and could even cause catastrophic long term damage to the very party these people belong to.
Contra Mary Madalin, the important thing is to find a candidate who understands the depth of the crisis we face and has the courage to go to the wall against dozens of special interest groups to fix it. Without such a person, winning the White House is pointless and possibly counter-productive in the long term.
Of course, I’m not sure the DC establishment types care much. Matalin was married to James Carville last I heard, so if there was ever a couple deeply invested in business-as-usual in DC, it’s them. They and the other DC establishment types probably expect to be safely ensconced in their nice houses, drawing a guaranteed check, so they won’t suffer as much as the rest of us when TSHTF.
But that means we need to ignore anything and everything these people have to say.* We’ve been paying attention to them for decades, and where has it gotten us? The old saw about doing the same thing over and over comes to mind.
It’s time to throw the dice and try something different. It might not work, but it has a chance, and that’s better than the certain failure of DC politics as usual.
(*) The folks at National Review are some of the main ones who need to pay attention to this. The time for standing athwart history, yelling stop, is past. Only a serious U-turn will do us any good now. And we’ll never, ever get that from establishment GOP types.
Brit Hume, Senior Political Analyst for Fox News certainly seems to feel that way given Gov. Rick Perry’s performance at the past 3 GOP debates:
Analyzing the results of Saturday’s Florida Straw Poll on “Fox News Sunday,” Fox News senior political contributor Brit Hume said businessman Herman Cain’s victory may not mean very much, and that Perry’s poor showings recently may indicate his campaign is on the verge of “total collapse.”
“Perry really did throw up all over himself in the debate at a time when he needed to raise his game,” Hume said.
“He did worse, it seems to me, than he had done in previous debates. Romney was as strong as he has been lately. He has clearly raised his game in reaction to the emergence of Perry. It’s been good for Romney in a way that one might not have predicted … Perry is about one-half a step away from almost total collapse as a candidate.”
When Perry showed up for his first national debate, he could be forgiven for not understanding the performance standards. It is a whole different level than what a governor goes through when running for office. But then you expect a better performance in the second debate incorporating the experience of the first and the lessons learned. However, the 2nd debate actually seemed to be a worse performance. And the third worst of all.
Perry’s entry into the race made him the instant front-runner. But his three performances in nationally televised debates has seen that position erode significantly.
Hume goes on:
“I don’t think we’re being too harsh on Rick Perry,” Hume said. “He still has some opportunity to recover his balance and put in a strong performance. What was so strikingly troubling about — from a Republican point of view — about this performance was that Perry was thought of as a really true conservative. Now it appears he has got this position on immigration which is anathema to a lot of conservatives.
“So this really hurts him with the base. You can’t, you know — look at all the trouble Romney’s had. He’s got some trouble with the base. That’s what’s holding him back. Now Perry has got the same trouble so his weakness is very real indeed.”
His “you don’t have a heart” comment concerning in-state tuition for the children of illegal aliens was ill advised. It was poorly stated and it was just bad politics. And as Hume points out, it may have invalidated his “true conservative” credentials among those voters on the right looking for one – whether Perry really ever had those credentials or not (perhaps that moment was inevitable). That statement removed all doubt and put him in the same place among conservative voters as Mitt Romney, at least for the time being. The difference is that the GOP voters, especially conservatives, are used to Romney and will pull the lever for Romney if they have to given the alternative. The hope was Rick Perry would be the answer to their prayers. Instead he seems to be a disappointment. Less informed, much less polished and frankly unprepared.
Unless he steps up his game he will eventually be dismissed as “Mitt light”, and folks that’s a hard distinction to earn and one no politician should want if they’re on the right side of the political spectrum.