Saturday, April 05, 2008


In response to my last few posts, quite a few of the commenters have provided narratives of their lives, simultaneously personal and political, that have been both a delight to read (Thank you for sharing these!) and an antidote to the bile spilling out from the increasingly fearful Obamacan faction.

While I have been making pointed observations about the way in which Hillary Clinton and her supporters are demonized by Media Whores and the Loser Brigade in the DNC, I don't want to fall into a trap of merely valorizing what is being attacked. Sarana's comment to my post "Resentment" is a cold shower to simple inversions of the "Bash the Hillbillies" narrative. There really are places and people where the glib stereotypes being thrown by the Obamacans do not begin to explain the deep psychosis that afflicts those living there. These are modes of life that I, as a humanist and as a Democrat, reject. As one of my professors wryly said to us bright-eyed idealistic students breathlessly expounding on the glories of multiculturalism, not all otherness is good.

But there lies the conundrum facing us as Hillary supporters and as Democrats (whether our party wants us or not), and that is how do we refuse the arrogant reductionism of a disconnected party (DC insider) elite, yet avoid falling into narrative traps of our own making? The claim made by Obama supporters is that those who vote for him are good, non-racist progressives while Hillary is just attracting the bottom-feeders, the white bigoted Bunkers and Bubbas. If these white voters weren’t stupid racists, they would vote for Obama. The reason such claims have salience is because of stories like Sarana’s, where she watched exactly this kind of behavior by whites.

To turn this attack aside, we're encouraged to either identify with the not-Bunkers (Oh, heavens, I'm not an untutored bigot! I've got a graduate degree and live in a hip urban neighborhood!), or else goaded into total identification (Yeah, I'm a hick. You gotta problem with that?). In either case, it is difficult to craft a response that is not framed by the stereotype. We’re put into a position of reinforcing the meme that someone who hasn’t gone to college and has predominantly European ancestry is probably a hateful racist rube, something to be spurned.

I turn to the incomparable Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler, who, in analyzing the ravings of Randi Rhodes, David Sirota, and (snicker) “the person who has kidnapped Josh Marshall”, sums up the entire toxic mess far better than I can:

Long ago, we observed an unfortunate fact; some men go into stand-up comedy to ridicule women from a bright stage, with the help of a microphone. Similarly, some people seem to be become “progressives” so they can accuse average schmoes of racism, thus displaying their own moral grandeur.

It’s true: Sirota’s graph does in fact show that Obama “has destroyed Clinton” in “the states with the smallest black populations.” (The states in question on Sirota’s graph are these: Idaho, Vermont, Maine, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas. We dropped Hawaii, for fairly obvious reasons.) Sirota is careful enough to say that this pattern is “likely” due to racial dynamics “in part.” But as good pseudo-progressives must do, he then moves straight to the racial insults, failing to note other obvious factors which could explain this clump of outcomes.

One such factor is fairly obvious. These are almost all caucus states; on Sirota’s chart, all the data from these states (except Utah and Vermont) reflect caucus events. How different might these data have been if these states had conducted primaries? There is, of course, no way to know. But the state of Washington is one of the states at whose results we’re supposed to gape—and Washington did conduct a primary, ten days after its caucuses. (No delegates were awarded in the primary.) The outcomes of these two events were substantially different. Obama won the caucuses by a huge margin, 68-31, as you see on Sirota’s graph. Ten days later, he also won Washington’s primary—but only by 51-46, presumably with many more Democratic voters taking part. (It’s hard to know how many people took part in the caucuses. The numbers in this Washington Post summary seem to reflect delegates chosen at the caucuses, not the number of voters participating.)

So which is it? Is Washington a 68-31 state? Or is its “real” margin 51-46? And what would have happened if those other states had conducted primaries instead of caucuses? Once again, there’s no way to know—and the force of Sirota’s lusty charge stems from the big margins achieved in low-turnout caucus events. But in a great deal of modern “progressive” politics, the real purpose of the exercise is fairly clear—the real goal is the desire to brand “low information voters” as slobbering racists. In Sirota’s hands, this led to some very slapdash analysis. …

So Rhodes was calling Clinton a wh*re, and Sirota was calling the public racists. At TPM, whoever has kidnapped Josh was tip-toeing along behind him, trying to wink and insinuate without quite saying such things. (Click here, for example. The person who has kidnapped Josh is quite good at clearing his throat.)

Are we liberals more intelligent? Or are we name-calling ditto-heads too? Let’s return to whoever has kid-napped Josh—because, in yet another third example, that person does seem to have stifled Greg Sargent. It has now been four full weeks since the “very short break” described in this post stopped the noise at Greg’s Horse’s Mouth site. Check out the work Greg was doing right before Josh’s kidnapper acted and you will perhaps wonder, as we have, if ditto-heads now rule your world.

Greg was discussing an obvious point, a point which has absolutely nothing to do with the relative merits of Obama and Clinton. Yes, large parts of the press corps have savaged Candidate Clinton, often in repugnant ways. Surely, this isn’t a controversial notion—and it continues an obvious pattern which extends back sixteen years. Did the person who kidnapped Josh think this was too much to ask young liberal readers to bear? We have no way of knowing, of course. But the “very short break” we were told about has now extended four weeks. And yes: We progressives used to laugh at the other side for just this sort of thing.

Today, though, progressives channel “Mister Drudge” and let the world know “Where the Wh*res Are.” Could it be we’re all ditto-heads now? For years, we did tell ourselves silly tales about our goodness and brilliance.

The very real specter of racism is being used in a gratuitous and defamatory way towards Hillary and her supporters. It seeks to divide her constituency by peeling away voters who can be shamed or bullied by the “You racist bitches!” calumny. Sadly, it also provides cover for actual racists and anti-democrats through the sheer exaggeration of the claim, excusing them for acting on their worst impulses.

What it also points to, in terms of the Democratic Party narrative, is the paucity of the liberal imagination among the alleged best and brightest on the left. This is not just a cynical tactic being thrown out to derail Clinton (though it is that as well). This is something people like the person who kidnapped Josh Marshall hold as an article of faith, that working class whites in America are the problem, that they are racist, that the problem with Kansas (and Louisiana and Ohio and Idaho and Virginia, etc.) is that poor whites vote their bigoted impulses, and that any candidate who appeals to them is obviously the candidate of racist white supremacy.

When the opposition to the ineffectual upper class northeast liberal white guy (the Yankee de jour) is a Republican, the inadequacy of the argument is masked by the simple fact that it is in the Republicans’ interest to appeal to exactly the worst impulses and fears of the voters. They are unapologetic and crude about playing the race card. The Dixiecrats who were the proponents of segregation switched to the Republican Party to be able to continue their hate-filled ways, doing everything they can to keep people in the economic and psychological conditions Sarana described above – because this is how they retain power.

When the opposition to the ineffectual upper class Yankee of this round is another Democrat who has ties to the South and is irrationally hated by a certain powerful faction of the Party, we see the narrative being deployed against her, with the added spice of misogyny making it even more vile. Against this backdrop, where you can’t simply write off those voters as voting their worst impulses, the arrogance and disrespect is thrown into relief.

Which brings up the question, why have so many people in the Democratic Party been complacent about the crap thrown at Reagan Democrats? We get back to the “Oh, no, not me! I’m not an Archie Bunker! How dare you call me that?” reaction, where instead of defending the honor and integrity of fellow voters, we attempt to show that Hillary’s supporters aren’t Bunkers and Bubbas, that we’re nice, clean upper-middle class professionals thankyouverymuch. Commenters on this blog may be resisting that move, but be assured it is striking nerves among “creative class” Democrats. There’s a bigger problem going on with how the Democratic Party is failing to make itself relevant to working class voters such that a substantial portion of those voters feel more comfortable with the Republicans.

The Democratic Party has spent four decades demonizing working class whites as the stupid rubes who are a drag on the American Dream instead of taking seriously the need to assuage the hidden injuries of class. The immediate elite reaction to Hillary’s use of Rocky as a model for her campaign tells us all we need to know about their perspective on this portion of the Democratic Party – Rocky is a loser, har, har! He got beat by the black dude, snicker, nice choice of examples, bitch.

As Susie pointed out, that is not the point of Rocky’s story. He made something of himself, on his terms, and even in defeat, he retained his honor and rightful pride.

The reason why Bill Clinton endeared himself to that Democratic constituency is not because he is some crypto-white supremacist, but because he provided an honorable way out of the “lo-ser” narrative. Hillary is building upon that. “You are not invisible to me,” she says with refreshing directness. She offers policies and programs, such as universal health coverage, that will materially improve their lives. She talks about helping them stay in their homes. She speaks to them face to face about the nuts and bolts of how to make them more secure, talks that bore the Media Whores to death, and does not simply tell them to be inspired by her awesomeness.

Here is the challenge to the Democrats – how to cease treating working class whites the eternal “Other” of the party, the roadblock to fulfilling the promise of the nation, and seriously address the ways in which the party will help all Americans live their lives with dignity.



jangles said...

Anglachel: We have built a big tent but we really don't like ALLlll those people who have come to take up residence in it. Maybe one of the things we must do is refuse to use the language of name calling and hate. While I love your thoughts and posting, maybe you should consider that when you use media whore in your own frustration that it is a kind of gotcha by the other side. I've been thinking about this because I find myself saying these same kinds of things and it really isn't the discourse I want to have. This primary is causing me to really think about the Democratic party but then I know in reality that we are just a bunch of people pursuing our little share of power in the world and acting on a theme of what we think is the "right way". This election has turned some things upside down. I want blacks to be empowered and enfranchised but not anymore than me or my friends and I feel like the Obama phenomenon is about keeping score and getting even not about the joy we can all have playing the game. You are very thoughtful. I look forward to more of your thoughts on the east/south default lines---that has ancient rumors all around it.

janiscortese said...

Sometimes I think working-class whites just complicate their neat, tidy little universe. We throw a monkeywrench into the equation.

We have a such a narrow, blinkered view of class/race relations in this country, basically -- white-n-rich or black-n-poor.

White-n-poor creeps them out.

I think partly because we actually went to school and lived near black people. It amazes me how I've gotten lectured in "race relations" by people who attended 2,000 student-sized high schools with NO black students in them and absolutely not a single black face in their neighborhoods.

And yet these are the people lecturing working-class whites on race relations. What the hell do they know of the trips and clumsy starts and stops that encompass climbing over a barrier of history almost too high to get past? They are so damned ignorant about it -- they think that all you have to do is hold hands and sing a song and everything'll be fine.

I think poor whites are like Asian and Hispanic Americans. We mess up their tidy categories.

donnadarko said...

While they throw out the word racist, we have at our disposal classist and sexist which are arguably (esp classism) worse.

CognitiveDissonance said...

I'm amazed that these supposed "creative class" types don't get Rocky. How could anyone sit through that movie and not feel like Rocky was a winner in the end, someone you were proud of and would be proud knowing? He became more than just a winner of a mere boxing match, he became a hero. Clinton has reminded me of Rocky for a long time now this election cycle - well before she used the comparison in Pennsylvania - with all that she has had to fight against.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

This portion of Anglachel's post really got me thinking:

To turn this attack aside, we're encouraged to either identify with the not-Bunkers (Oh, heavens, I'm not an untutored bigot! I've got a graduate degree and live in a hip urban neighborhood!), or else goaded into total identification (Yeah, I'm a hick. You gotta problem with that?). In either case, it is difficult to craft a response that is not framed by the stereotype.

But what other choice is there? When one is in the position of power and prestige, it is easy to be gracious. But when portrayed as the lowly illiterate servant, how can the putative ruffian "graciously" let his/her putative 'betters' know that this portrayal will not be tolerated?

Graciousness is a laughable impossibility. I would choose a more mature alternative if one were available. But when I say - "I will not abide your derogatory portrayal", it is as though the greasy-haired rube has somehow stumbled unannounced into the dinner party. It just doesn't go over well and the message isn't received.

So, this is all Chinaberry Turtle has left:

Working class HULK will SMASH your damn dinner party to smithereens come November!!!!!

I don't feel very dignified doing this. It does not comport with the sense of give & take that governs my daily professional life. But this is all I have left.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Also, I would like to second Anglachel's thanks to all the commenters. For myself, I now tune into this blog not only to read Anglachel's posts, but also to see my fellow Democrats' response. Or at least, that subset of Democrats that aren't embarrassed to be in the company of a Southern podunk. There are interesting and varied views coming from a supposedly homogeneous group of idiot racists. ;-)

gendergappers said...

Well as a poor, 80 year old white woman with a PhD retired from teaching in Vermont's medical school, I've got to weigh in just a tad here.

In this very small state one can actually pick up the phone and call the governor and many times get him on the phone.

HRC's reps in Vermont were a former gov of the state and the Speaker of the House. There were many women who worked hard for HRC here and many that went to neighboring NH to work for her.

Educated? Yeah, many of them were but not all and there is a divide. The thing is that being educated and a woman does not make one rich, but it can make one fearful.

So BO's people used that to great advantage. Yours truly wrote letters to editor - quite alone supporting HRC. The whole racist charge hung over the whole state like a wet blanket. Fergodsake don't say anything against HIM!

So being a small state, those BObots who weren't calling the Gov called me and I'm sure you can imagine the sexist rants that came over the phone interspersed with charges of racism.

Ever hear of the Vermont/NY Project? Briefly, it was instigated years ago by Gov Hoff. It brought young blacks in from NYC to live and interact with white youngsters. Two of my children participated, one of each gender.

So I really don't mind the idiotic racist name calling - what bothers me most is the lack of other women coming forth and doing something for a sister, HRC - something simple like a letter to editor.

After one of mine appeared in the paper, a neighbor woman, staunch Dem for years, called out to me, "Great letter, Ruth!" I made the proper response but inside I was thinking, "if you believe that then support HRC and write some letters yourself." It never happened.

Then you all know how recently our Sen Leahy made an ass of himself. Now there is a letter to ed from women nearly every day urging HRC to get out. I'm still so far the only one answering them but I have hopes someone will join me, and when my next one appears I expect the same sort of nastiness.

I see the boomers and younger women panting for BO and realize that they know so little of the struggle. To paraphrase, "personally and professionally, they landed on third base and think they hit a triple."

CMike said...

He whose name must not be invoked was, indeed, a lousy economist. However, Karl Marx was a brilliant political and social historian.

The repeated master stroke of the Right over the centuries, is to obscure from the general public the fact that economics is the central issue in political affairs. Instead, those defending privilege and property insist in public forums that cultural concerns - religion, nationalism, family values - should be the matters of the most urgent concern to the general population. Reagan-Bushism has been very good at this.

Plutocrats make sure workers are taught that economics is a zero sum game for their class, ones gain is another's loss. Our "creative class" Dems have been suckered into adopting this view along with the working class Republicans. They have essentially internalized the fiction of trickle down economics and the necessity for global free trade.

These Dems, who are not working class themselves, believe that working class Americans will have to accept a future of more work with less security to maintain their standard of living. Our "creative class" Dems see their political role as advocating for social justice for groups within the working class not for economic justice for the class as a whole.

In the late sixties a single bread winner working a forty hour a week union job could support a family in a lower middle or a middle class lifestyle. These days that sounds decadent. Yet per capita GDP has risen steadily decade after decade since the sixties.

Where is that wealth going? Members of American households work more hours to support a middle class lifestyle today than did household members during those years when the country was poorer.

Here is a historical reality. As the median income in a society rises you see liberal advances in social justice. As median income stagnates or falls you see social conflict and reaction.

A lot of our "creative class" Democrats - the Obama wing of the party - seem to have that backwards thinking purity of the mind will lead to social fairness and thereafter, perhaps, general economic advance. Not gonna happen.

New Deal economics, the bolder the better, if given the chance to thrive again and create a new era of broad based prosperity, will bring about a general elevation of "our moral sentiments."

Achieving, or moving towards, a universal health care system as would be the most productive step our government could take on our behalf to improve the economic security and raise the standard of living for working class Americans. If, thereafter, we can find a way to put a stake in the heart of the military industrial complex then we will be back on the road to creating a more perfect union.

Shainzona said...

oh, gendergapper...what a great line about today's "feminists": they landed on third base and thought they got a triple.

I have been trying to explain my frustration with my chldren's generation (today's 20's-30's) and have not done a great job of it. This line (if I may borrow it from you...with attributation, of course) says it all.

Thank you.

Sherry said...

Anglachel and commenters -- thanks all for your willingness to actually create a sort of big tent where people can voice their frustrations without being "voted off the island" for being politically incorrect. Cmike -- I think MLK Jr saw what you're saying toward the end of his life -- it's economics. chinaberryturtle -- you're a brave man. gendergapper -- just this week here in Kentucky, we've had the anti-abortion people at the university with their fetal horror pictures and I cringe to think of the young women who are being convinced by this propaganda.

No Blood for Hubris said...

Excellent post and comments.

What's so funny about looking out for the poor and the working poor?

Why do our opponents keep telling to just shut up, lie down and die?

janiscortese said...

There's also the issue that there are a lot more Rocky movies than just the first. He got knocked down in the first movie, but came back in the next one (NH, anyone?) and by the time the series ran out of steam, he was beating Communism half to death with his bare hands. Heh.

Guess they don't teach lit-crit in elite colleges anymore ...

marirebel said...

The meme of two opposite types in the Democratic Party: The Archie Bunker working class racist against the educated elite non-racist is a false binary in an hierarchical framework. This false binary conceals the multiplicity of positions in the Democratic Party in order to maintain control in the pursuit of power. The demonization, and consequent dehumanization of the "other"--women, working class folks, others who support Hillary, is also a part of this false binary hierarchical structure with its "us," good, "them," bad, mentality. It is of course the same thinking that took us to Iraq.
Hillary's campaign needs to do a better job of refusing and deconstructing these false binaries, showing the diversity and multiplicity of her supporters. One thing I think this campaign season has shown us is that we need more than two parties. I for one am tired of the white, male power structure that heads the Republican and Democratic parties, that dominates the MSM and the blogs, discounting, hiding, and silencing our voices.

janiscortese said...

Marirebel, don't forget that the two "sides" of the party are:

The Archie Bunker working class racist (who nevertheless lives near and works and goes to school with people of all ethnicities, as a lot of working-class whites do),

against the educated elite non-racist (who very likely lives in an all-white upper-class community and went to all-white schools, and has nothing but theoretical awareness of "race relations")

I feel like I'm being lectured on race relations by a bunch of kindergartners, especially precisely the sort of white people that have driven me nuts as a white person -- the type of clueless kid who never thought too deeply about it and who boasts about being "colorblind," as if there's any such thing.

jangles said...

Just remember that it took an Edith to somehow make Archie Bunker with all his rough edges kind of "likable", maybe even "likeable enough".

marirebel said...

Yes, Janiscortese, that is my point in a way. The binaries are false and the categories are false. There are working class folks who are educated, as well as folks who are not educated. Some are racist and sexist, and some are not. The elites include racist and sexist folks too! As a partner in a women and minority owned law firm, I heard hideous things about my African-American partners and about African-Americans in general, from the white elites living in lily white neighborhoods, with whom I worked. Plenty of these people were sexist too! Let's begin talking about the diversity of all these seemingly monolithic categories!

avidreader said...

What a great post, Anglachel, and what great comments from the 14 commenters.
This all sounds so familiar but never have I heard it analyzed so clearly. I enrolled in a small state college at age 24 -almost 50 years ago, married with three children. Thrilled to be there-a country girl, dumb as a stick. My first exposure to Johnson's implementation of MLK's prescription for social change occured immediately at a cafeteria at Uof M-I don't remember why I was there, but I've never forgotten what happened. I sat in the only empty chair at a table with three young AA women who treated me to a seminar in the form of a one act play on the topic of "the white man don't need to think he can win over me or my black people with a free ride to UofM." I crept back to my state college classes and went on to graduate and teach high school. Fast forward 24 years-my children are grown, I am divorced, and enrolled in a PhD program at an inner-city [not my term]Detroit University. Twenty-five years earlier Detroit had a major insurection/riot and neighborhoods still show the signs of the fires and destruction. Detroit has lost so much population it can barely find one million souls for the ten year census. The term "racist" is interchangeable for "white" and the faculty, both AA and white, suggest it is accurate. The AIDS epidemic had flooded across the country and Detroit's population was badly damaged. My dissertation was from the anthropology department, and my subject was the management of AIDS within local volunteer groups-almost all gay white men and AA gay/substance using population. Despite the racism [directed at me], I was comfortable doing the research because it was so interesting. I regret that my analysis was tempered by my reluctance to be completely candid re; what I'd learned, but overall it was honest.
Reading Anglachel's post and your comments reinforced what I'd learned from my dissertation research, but I still struggle with trying to understand why nothing changed and whether conditions are actually worse in the AA community. And, most importantly, what could be done and by whom? Nothing in my experience gives me a clue.

curiouslypol said...

Such an interesting post, Anglachel. And such interesting comments. I am still figuring out how to leave a comment. More later, I hope.

donnadarko said...

Rocky won the next 5 movies. Hillary will bring 8 years of peace and prosperity. Plus 8 years with whoever follows her.

Rocky is dated the #1 sports movie so Obamafans make up the rules to suit their purposes.

Eleanor said...

I think partly because we actually went to school and lived near black people. It amazes me how I've gotten lectured in "race relations" by people who attended 2,000 student-sized high schools with NO black students in them and absolutely not a single black face in their neighborhoods.

Well, and it was totally disheartening in 2006 when the blogger boyz, led by imbecile Tom Schaller, decided the Party should abandon the South in favor of the mountain West - despite the fact that fully 40% of blacks live in the Southern U.S.

Who do these folks think the Democratic Party is *for*, anyway?

In a way, maybe this needed to happen. What would it take to get a genuine 3rd party effort off the ground...?

gendergappers said...

No problem, SHAINZONA use any of my posts that may help HRC. I've learned that sports analogies seem to get noticed and I use them often, like this one in a letter to ed. which really pissed of the BObots

"If you are having trouble deciding which Dem candidate to vote for please consider this sports analogy. HRC is a quarterback calling the plays, passing the ball and yes, often getting sacked. BO is a cheerleader who runs up and down the sidelines being positive and cheering the team on. A cheerleader may make us feel good and excited, but it's the quarterback that gets the job done."

SHERRY - I wonder what the anti-choice people at your U. really are showing you. Since I spent a good deal of my life in an anatomy lab I know what fills the specimen jars that line the walls. They are filled with examples [horrible to see] of where nature went wrong in the process. In most cases they were obtained well before Roe and the history shows that many were stillborn and the mother died. Drs were aware that a dead fetus was corrupting the womb but could or would do nothing about it.

I'm trying not to be too graphic here but there are much more terrible pictures than aborted fetuses and if anyone is interested, I will give you a gendergappers URL where one may view them. It's no surprise that women are not given all the facts because the politicians on both sides want to keep the abortion fight going since it revs up their base. And now again, the BO Dems are using it to scare women about a McCain Supreme Court. What a laugh. The committee chair who would make or break his nominations is Sen. Pat Leahy who fully cooperated, even lauded, the selection of Aleto and Roberts - and CONTINUES TO BE THE BIGGEST HORSES ASS THIS SIDE OF THE WHITE HOUSE AND DNCbuggers.

workingclass artist said...

My daughter asked me what the difference between Liberals andProgressives was. I said the salary.... DNC is veering so far lef that the paty leadership does'nt even recognize 2/3 of the base.
Bloombergs' 3rd wave party may be the only place left to find refuge. There's no room for someone like me in OBAMANATION. I'm the wrong age.income bracket,gender,breast size, and IQ points. I listen to the wrong music and probably watch too much PBS. Think I'll head for Canada?

Sherry said...

gendergapper -- I didn't see the pictures myself, only heard young people reacting on the local NPR outlet. Also they gave one of the anti-choice speakers -- a woman of course -- some air time. She was calling abortion rights "genocide." That infuriates me in a world where there is real genocide and rape is part of it.

I have learned to be very suspicious of appeals to the emotions over the decades but many young people have not. It's one of the things that differentiates HRC from Obama for me.

Sorry for off topic.