Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Why Democrats Can’t Win White Working-Class Voters

This post in some ways follows up on the last one and looks at the lingering problems faced by Democrats who are seen as the party of minorities.   The good news in the long term is that eventually, minorities will be the majority and white voters the minority.  Until then, the issue becomes one of finding policies and candidates that can win back some of the white working class voter block.  A piece in Slate looks at the issue.  Here are excerpts:
The Democratic Party styles itself a fighter for the working class. But a substantial part of that class—the white part—wants nothing to do with it. If we count the white working class as whites without college degrees, then congressional Democrats lost them by 30 points in last week’s elections, contributing to losses in states as diverse as Iowa, Maine, Colorado, North Carolina, and Florida.

Democrats don’t have to win this group as much as they have to avoid a rout. If they can do that—and hold Republicans to a majority rather than a supermajority—then they can avoid the Republican waves of the recent midterm elections, and strengthen their presidential majority.

Hence the recurring debate of how to win these voters, or at least a portion of them. In a recent feature for the Washington Monthly, for example, Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin argue that Democrats can capitalize on the generational divide in the white working class.  . . . “Today’s young white working-class voters are notably more liberal on issues concerning the role of government” than their older counterparts note Teixeira and Halpin. And significantly these young whites are “significantly more open to rising diversity than the white working class as a whole.”

Implicit in all of this is the assumption voters will believe the pitch. That they’ll hear the case for stronger programs, higher minimum wages, and higher taxes on the rich, and believe Democrats are advocating for them, and not some other group.

The problem is I don’t think we can make that assumption.
After all, working-class whites didn’t leave the Democratic Party over insufficiently populist policy and rhetoric. . . . . No, the proximate cause of the break was the Democratic Party’s close identification with black Americans, who—after the riots of the late ’60s and ’70s—became identified with urban disorder and welfare.

 Specifically, whites were bewildered and infuriated with liberals who defended rioting communities—correctly noting the decades of deprivation and abuse that led to those violent outbursts—and pushed anti-poverty programs to address the underlying conditions. Black incomes rose while at the same time, many white incomes were beginning to stagnate or even fall. Why was the government spending our tax dollars on them, working-class whites asked, when they destroy their neighborhoods and refuse to work, and we’re losing our jobs and our homes?

Part of this was just racism. For most of the post-war era, whites were empowered by the federal government to separate themselves and their lives from black Americans. 

But part of it was something broader. After all, there wasn’t a backlash to government programs writ large. Then, as now, working-class whites are ardent supporters of Social Security and Medicare. But to them, our retirement programs came with an implicit social contract: If you work and contribute to society, society will care for you into your old age. By contrast, you didn’t have to work to benefit from anti-poverty programs, in fact, you could riot and still receive government benefits.

What matters is that they pay taxes but don’t get the same kind of benefits. Again, here’s Drum:
It’s pointless to argue that this perception is wrong. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. But it’s there. And although it’s bound up with plenty of other grievances—many of them frankly racial, but also cultural, religious, and geographic—at its core you have a group of people who are struggling and need help, but instead feel like they simply get taxed and taxed for the benefit of someone else. Always someone else. If this were you, you wouldn't vote for Democrats either.
Democrats can adopt populist rhetoric, but there’s no guarantee working-class whites will buy it. Indeed, in parts of the country—like the Deep South—it’s a lost cause. The Democratic Party is too associated with blacks and too associated with welfare to win over enough whites to make a difference.

[F]or a new rhetoric of populism to work—or at least, attract the winnable whites identified by Teixeira and Halpin—it needs to come with a commitment to universal policies that working-class whites like and support . . . . But the United States doesn’t have a political party to support that kind of social democracy. Instead, it has the Democratic Party, a collection of disparate interests which—at its best—is nervous about economic liberalism and hesitant to push anything outside the mainstream.

Is Race the Motivation Behind Opposition to Obama's Immigration Order?

In my days as a Republican activist there were some in the GOP base who were out and out racists and most considered them to be unwanted outsiders who were truth be told viewed as an embarrassment to the party.  All too often, these folks were also far right Christians.  With the rise of the Christofascists in the GOP, these people have gone mainstream in the party base and the leadership, even if it tries to disguise its motivation by evasive language generally plays right along with the ugly sentiments of this element of the GOP base.  With a black man occupying the White House, many in this racist element of the Republican Party believe the world is ending.  What they are really frantic about is the growing reality that their power and white privilege is dwindling.  A column in the New York Times looks at this phenomenon in the context of Barack Obama's immigration executive order.  Here are excepts:
When The Journal looked at some of the people who “say they want to see a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants — which is beyond what Mr. Obama’s executive order would do — but say they disapprove of presidential executive action,” it found that the group was “overwhelmingly white and more likely to be Republican than not” and some said that they simply “don’t like anything associated with the president.”

Pay attention to the overall response from all sources, particularly the rhetoric in which it is wrapped.

There is no denying the insinuations in such language: a fear of subjugation by people like this president, an “other” person, predisposed to lawlessness.

As usual, issue-oriented opposition overlaps with a historical undercurrent, one desperate for demonstration (of liberal folly) and preservation (of conservative principles and traditional power).

Maybe that’s why the president cited Scripture when laying out his immigration plan: “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.”

But that is surely to have fallen on deaf ears, if not hostile ones. Conservatives slammed the usage, and Mike Huckabee went so far as to accuse the president of trying to rewrite the Bible . . .

How dare the president — seen by some as a threat to Christianity — invoke Christianity in his defense!

As Paul Ryan put it in 2012, the president’s policies put us on a “dangerous path,” one that “grows government, restricts freedom and liberty, and compromises those values, those Judeo-Christian, Western civilization values that made us such a great and exceptional nation in the first place.”

Senator Tom Coburn upped the rhetoric last week, suggesting to USA Today that there could be a violent reaction to the president’s actions:  “You’re going to see — hopefully not — but you could see instances of anarchy.”

Make no mistake: This debate is not just about this president, this executive order or immigration. This is about the fear that makes the face flush when people stare into a future in which traditional power — their power — is eroded, and about their desperate, by-any-means determination to deny that future.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Anxieties of the Republican Majority

Now that the Republican Party will hold a majority in both houses of Congress come January, the big challenge will be facing the reality that the GOP must govern and - the horror - come up with legislative proposals to address the nations problems.  This from the party that opposes anything and everything that Barack Obama and the Democrats propose but which has offered no real plan for alternatives to things ranging from the Affordable Health Care ct to how to deal with children born in this country to illegal immigrant parents.  Saying "no" and opposing everything is easy.  Now it's time to see concrete proposals and alternatives.  Not surprisingly many in the GOP (outside the Kool-Aid drinking party base) are anxious.  Here are highlights from a piece in Politico:

Outwardly, Republican rhetoric toward the president hasn’t softened much, especially since Obama’s speech Thursday night. The consistent meme is that he is behaving like an unconstitutional monarch.

What has changed is the underlying balance of power in the party and, perhaps, the terms of debate within the GOP over how to deal with the Democratic Party and its surprisingly aggressive leader. Obama might be behaving like a usurping monarch without a mandate, in the eyes of the newly powerful GOP, but no one is seriously threatening to impeach him — as Republicans have repeatedly done in past years. Nor, despite the angry rhetoric, does there seem to be a serious possibility of government shutdown.

Call it thoughtfulness — or call it confusion. All in all, the mild, somewhat subdued response to Obama’s immigration move is evidence that the uncompromising GOP insurgency that so paralyzed Washington in 2013 has lost some potency.

Even some of the House’s most conservative members have little appetite for a government shutdown, saying that while they’re determined to level sharp criticism against the president, they’re not thinking about going much further than that. According to the head of a national, GOP-aligned Republican group, party leaders strongly suspect that Obama is trying to goad conservatives into throwing a fit: “I think the president is counting on a Republican overreaction, where it really takes over the agenda of the new Congress. … I think this president is counting on an overreach.”

The immigration issue, of course, is also about the reckoning of 2016, which is a lot closer than it was during the shutdown crisis. With the race for the White House rapidly approaching, a growing number of Republicans are concerned about alienating Latinos, whom many in the GOP see as a natural constituency.

In 2014, Latino turnout was seen as low across many crucial races. But that’s likely not to be the case in a presidential election. In 2012, Obama amassed an astonishing 71 percent of the Hispanic vote to 27 percent for Mitt Romney, who had declared during the primaries that he would make it harder for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. to get jobs, leading them to “self-deport.” Party leaders legitimately fear a kind of demographic death for the GOP if it doesn’t find a way to appease the burgeoning Hispanic population, particularly since the 2010 census showed, for the first time, that white births are now a minority in the United States.

Some influential conservatives are outraged by what they see as the latest GOP retreat in Washington.

Tea Party Patriots, the conservative group that supported several challenges to Republican incumbents, has demanded that McConnell pledge to block every presidential nomination or appointment (save for the national security ones) in response to his executive action. The group has already blasted out fundraising appeals that hammer McConnell as soft on “amnesty.”

But it’s not just in Washington that the party seems more divided than ever on immigration. Speaking Wednesday in Boca Raton, Florida, at the Republican Governors Association meeting, Ohio Gov. John Kasich sounded to some like an apostate.

“My sense is: I don’t like the idea of citizenship when people jump the line, [but] we may have to do it,” he said. Maybe Kasich, like Nixon going to China, is that rare pol who’s confident that he — with his conservative pedigree dating to the Gingrich revolution — can move to the center on an issue that has much of the rest of the Republican Party in a barely contained uproar. But it’s also likely that Kasich, who is said to have presidential ambitions, is trying to look over the horizon to 2016, and prodding his still-confused party forward on immigration.
The GOP needs to show that it can govern.  Equally, it will need to decide between embracing objective reality or the lunacy of the Christofascists/Tea Party base.  The party leadership cannot have it both ways.

The University of Virginia - Searing Allegations of Campus Rape

It has been decades since I graduated the University of Virginia, first with a history major and then with a law degree.  During my days at "UVA," I attended many a fraternity party and it is not without reason that the school is known as a party school despite the rigorous academics that are the norm.  This week, Rolling Stone published a story that has sent the University administration reeling and let to the unusual move of the suspension of all fraternity and sorority activities until January 9, 2015.  The story alleges a gang rape in 2012 at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house (pictured above).  I did not belong to Phi Kappa Psi but did attend some parties there from time to time (I initially belonged to Zeta Psi and shifted my allegiance to Kappa Sigma later).  Back then, let's just say the Phi Kappa Psi parties were wild even by UVA standards.   

I don't know if the allegations of the rape are true or not, but I do know two things: (i) like most institutions, UVA tends to place maintaining its reputation above all else and (ii) here in Virginia, too often the authorities, including the police, tend to put too little effort into protecting the rights of minorities, gays, and yes women.  In the latter regard, we have a bunch of aging white male Republicans in the General Assembly striving to maintain control of women's uterus yet paying little attention to the other needs of women.  The male chauvinism can be intense, especially when Republicans hold power.  The problem is part of the overall problem of needing to drag Virginia fully into the 21st century and insuring that ALL Virginians are protected be they male or female, gay or straight, white or belonging to to a racial minority.  

The Rolling Stone articles is in many ways not accurate - e.g., most students are from average family backgrounds and while there are still self-imagined "Southern aristocrats," things today are far more egalitarian than 40 years ago - and doesn't paint an unbiased picture of the university.   Here are some article highlights that seem off the mark:
But the dearth of attention isn't because rape doesn't happen in Charlottesville. It's because at UVA, rapes are kept quiet, both by students – who brush off sexual assaults as regrettable but inevitable casualties of their cherished party culture – and by an administration that critics say is less concerned with protecting students than it is with protecting its own reputation from scandal. Some UVA women, so sickened by the university's culture of hidden sexual violence, have taken to calling it "UVrApe."

"University of Virginia thinks they're above the law," says UVA grad and victims-rights advocate Liz Seccuro. "They go to such lengths to protect themselves. There's a national conversation about sexual assault, but nothing at UVA is changing."

Prestige is at the core of UVA's identity. Although a public school, its grounds of red-brick, white-columned buildings designed by founder Thomas Jefferson radiate old-money privilege, footnoted by the graffiti of UVA's many secret societies, whose insignias are neatly painted everywhere. At $10,000 a year, in-state tuition is a quarter the cost of the Ivies, but UVA tends to attract affluent students, and through aggressive fundraising boasts an endowment of $5 billion, on par with Cornell. "Wealthy parents are the norm," says former UVA dean John Foubert.

Attorney Wendy Murphy, who has filed Title IX complaints and lawsuits against schools including UVA, argues that in matters of sexual violence, Ivy League and Division I schools' fixation with prestige is their downfall. "These schools love to pretend they protect the children as if they were their own, but that's not true: They're interested in money," Murphy says. "In these situations, the one who gets the most protection is either a wealthy kid, a legacy kid or an athlete. The more privileged he is, the more likely the woman has to die before he's held accountable."
Thankfully, the story does contain a small amount of somewhat balanced language:
S. Daniel Carter, who as former director of public policy for the advocacy group Clery Center for Security on Campus is a national expert on college safety, points out that UVA's sexual assault problems are not much worse than other schools; if anything, he says, the depressing reality is that UVA's situation is likely the norm. Decades of awareness programming haven't budged the prevalence of campus rape: One in five women is sexually assaulted in college, though only about 12 percent report it to police.
UVA president Teresa Sullivan denies the administration sweeps sexual assault under the rug. "If we're trying to hide the issue, we're not doing a very good job of it," she says, noting that this past February UVA hosted the first-ever sexual-assault summit for college administrators. It's true that recently, while under close government scrutiny, the school has made some encouraging changes, including designating most UVA authority figures as mandatory reporters of sexual assault and teaming up with student activists to create a bystander-intervention campaign. Students praise UVA's deans as caring folks who answer late-night calls from victims and even make emergency-room visits.
Am I saying that things cannot be improved at UVA?  Certainly not.  But,  I cannot help but suspect that if UVA were a lesser tier school, this story would never have been written.  Especially, if the S. Daniel Carter is correct that its problems are not out of the norm.  I further know that of my family members who attended the University, none to my knowledge ever encountered anything like what this article would have readers believe is a rampant problem (my oldest daughter graduated from UVA with an undergraduate degree and I have 6 other relatives - not counting my former wife and her family members - who have attended UVA).  Were we all living in a vacuum?

Quote of the Day: Catholic Church Neurosis on Sexual Issues

The New York Times in its opinion section has a debate going on the Catholic Church and marriage that includes allowing gay marriage and ending priestly celibacy.  One of the position statements made is by Daniel Maguire,  a professor of moral theology at Marquette University who was ordained a priest in 1956 but left the priesthood and later married and now has two children and seven grandchildren. He is the author, most recently, of "Christianity Without God: Moving Beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative."  Here's the pertinent quote:

Peter, whom some consider to have been the first pope, was a married man according to the Bible. Had popes and priests followed his lead who could doubt that we would have a different church today?

Christianity strayed from the healthy sexual joy that Judaism offered in its poetic Song of Songs. Instead, influential neurotics like Augustine, who binged on sex in his youth, cast the negative shadow of his penis-obsession on the subsequent Christian view of human sexuality. The result? Women were a threat to the officially celibate male leaders; this poisoned the hierarchical attitude toward women. This is not the whole story of Catholic sexism, but it is a part.
The more one reads about the Church's 13th century "natural law" and  its obsession with all things sexual, the more one discovers that some of the "leading Church fathers" were seriously mentally ill.  Augustine is but one of the cavalcade of neurotics.   These psychologically disturbed men would have gotten along well with nutcases like tortured, self-loathing closet  cases Rick Santorum and Ken Cuccinelli.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

Republicans Finally Admit There Is No Benghazi Scandal

One has to wonder what the reality free members of the GOP base will do now that Republicans have finally admitted that there was no Benghazi scandal after a two year endless search for a grand conspiracy.  But at last tThe House Select Intelligence Committee—controlled by Republicans—has finally released its report that concludes that there was no conspiracy or scandal - after, of course, the midterm elections have safely pasted.  Will the report sway the irrational elements of the GOP base?  Probably not.  After all, these folks still haven't accepted the reality that Barack Obama was born in America.  Mother Jones looks at the release of the House Committee report.  Here are excerpts:
For two years, . . .  Republicans have been on an endless search for a grand conspiracy theory that explains how it [the Benghazi attacks] all happened. Intelligence was ignored because it would have been inconvenient to the White House to acknowledge it. Hillary Clinton's State Department bungled the response to the initial protests in Cairo. Both State and CIA bungled the military response to the attacks themselves. Even so, rescue was still possible, but it was derailed by a stand down order—possibly from President Obama himself. The talking points after the attack were deliberately twisted for political reasons. Dissenters who tried to tell us what really happened were harshly punished.

Is any of this true? The House Select Intelligence Committee—controlled by Republicans—has been investigating the Benghazi attacks in minute detail for two years. Today, with the midterm elections safely past, they issued their findings. Their exoneration of the White House was sweeping and nearly absolute. So sweeping that I want to quote directly from the report's summary, rather than paraphrasing it. Here it is:
  • The Committee first concludes that the CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi....Appropriate U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night, and the Committee found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support....
  • Second, the Committee finds that there was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks. In the months prior, the IC provided intelligence about previous attacks and the increased threat environment in Benghazi, but the IC did not have specific, tactical warning of the September 11 attacks.
  • Third, the Committee finds that a mixed group of individuals, including those affiliated with Al Qa'ida, participated in the attacks....
  • Finally, the Committee found no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress, or polygraphed because of their presence in Benghazi. The Committee also found no evidence that the CIA conducted unauthorized activities in Benghazi and no evidence that the IC shipped arms to Syria.
It's hard to exaggerate just how remarkable this document is. It's not that the committee found nothing to criticize. They did. The State Department facility in Benghazi had inadequate security. Some of the early intelligence after the attacks was inaccurate. The CIA should have given more weight to eyewitnesses on the ground.

But those are routine after-action critiques, ones that were fully acknowledged by the very first investigations. Beyond that, every single conspiracy theory—without exception—was conclusively debunked.

Late on a Friday afternoon, when it would get the least attention, a Republican-led committee finally admitted that every single Benghazi conspiracy theory was false. There are ways that the response to the attacks could have been improved, but that's it. Nobody at the White House interfered. Nobody lied. Nobody prevented the truth from being told.

It was all just manufactured outrage from the beginning. But now the air is gone. There is no scandal, and there never was.
Why does the cynic in me now suspect that the GOP base will claim that the GOP controlled report was the result of a conspiracy?  

McAuliffe: Same-Sex Marriage Equality Aids Economic Development

Statements by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe must be causing spittle flecked shrieks and convulsions at The Family Foundation, Virginia's leading Christofascist organization that seeks to return Virginia society to the 1950's.  Last week McAuliffe announced the creation of a new LGBT tourism task force aimed at attracting more LGBT travelers to Virginia.  LBGT tourists as a group  tend to stay longer and spend more on their vacation than other tourists.  Yet heretofore, other than the city of Richmond over the last few years no effort has ever been made to attract LGBT travelers.  Indeed, the Virginia Beach oceanfront area with its police state atmosphere and obsession with "family tourism" has done all but put out a "gays not welcome" sign.  Now, McAuliffe is lauding same sex marriage equality in Virginia as enhancing the state's hand at economic development.  Here are highlights from the Richmond Times Dispatch:

Gov. Terry McAuliffe told a local business organization Thursday that he considers same-sex marriage equality to be good for economic development in the state.
McAuliffe signed an executive order last month directing state agencies to comply with legalized same-sex marriage in Virginia.
And earlier this week, he announced the creation of an LGBT Tourism Task Force that will focus on showcasing Virginia as a friendly destination for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender visitors.

McAuliffe said one of his priorities as governor is to foster “a climate that is open and welcoming to everyone.”

“My point, and the signal I try to send to everybody, is if you want to come to Virginia, and you want to start a business, we want you,” he said in a speech to about 150 members of the Greater Richmond Chamber.

“If you want to come here and create economic activity, I want you here,” he said during the meeting, held at the Williams Mullen law firm office in downtown Richmond.
“We really have to diversify our economy,” he said, after noting that cuts in federal defense spending could cost the state 150,000 jobs.

Feel the Love: Liberty Counsel - Gays Are Diseased

Liberty University and the toxic Liberty Law School are a blight on Virginia and long term I suspect will be a detriment to the city of Lynchburg.  What progressive, decent business will want to be based in a city where a university that rants against modernity and longs to see gays back in the closet and blacks back on the plantation is located?   A taste of the gay animus that plagues Liberty was provided by the amicus brief filed by Liberty Counsel in gay marriage case now pending before the 5th Circuit Court of appeals.  Liberty Counsel's main arguments for bans on same sex marriage: (i) gays are diseased and a health risk, and (ii) mob majority rule should trump minority rights.  One would think the brief had been drafted by Joseph Goebbels for the Nazi regime.  Simply substitute the word "Jew" for "gay."  The full brief can be found here.  Here are some excerpts:

Not only is there no bodily good or function toward which two same sex bodies can coordinate, but there are in fact inherent harms associated with same sex unions.  Gay and bisexual men (who have sex with other men) are about 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than men who only  have sex with women.” These increased rates of disease cannot be attributed to “stigma” or discrimination, since the rates of AIDS infections is the highest in California which offers homosexuals broad protection from discrimination.  Instead, there is a biological basis for the high incidence of anal cancer and other diseases among those who engage in homosexual behavior . . 
The personal, social and financial costs of these homosexual-specific health problems concern not just those who engage in homosexual activity, but also the larger community of citizens who help provide services and who must bear part of the burdens imposed by the health challenges. It is eminently rational, if not compelling, for the voters of Florida to seek to minimize the deleterious effects of these conditions on public health, safety and welfare by affirming that marriage in Florida remains the union of one man and one woman. In addition, same-sex relationships, particularly relationships involving two male partners, carry greater risks for domestic violence than do marriages. 
Even if one were to believe what Liberty Counsel claims, stable, monogamous same-sex relationships greatly reduce promiscuity and related health concerns.  Moreover, banning same sex marriage doesn't automatically equate to less same sex activity.  Nor does it address the biggest cause of HIV exploding in the African American community: closeted and married men having unsafe "down low" sex and then spreading HIV to their girl friends and wives.  Hence, we get to Liberty Counsel real argument: the majority should have the right to determine the rights of minorities:
To hold that the FMPA does not even pass rational basis would be to hold that 5 million Florida voters acted irrationally in voting for the Amendment. Furthermore, such holding would essentially proclaim that billions of people in every government and major religion worldwide, as well as every state in the union from the founding until 2003, were irrational in their universal support of man-woman marriage. (Marriage was defined as the union of one man and one woman by every government, world religion and state until 2003.) Such a conclusion is breathtaking.
Part of me longs for the day when Christians have become a minority.  Then we can employ Liberty Counsel's argument to strip them of civil rights.  Now that would be divine justice!