Thoughts on Life, Love, Politics, Hypocrisy and Coming Out in Mid-Life
Saturday, February 11, 2023
The "Up Is Down" GOP Universe
Political speeches, very much including State of the Union addresses, rarely make much difference. They can, however, be useful guides to the political landscape.
President Biden was evidently feeling feisty on Tuesday. In particular, he kept baiting Republicans with the suggestion that a number of them are threatening Medicare and Social Security — which they are.
Delivering the Republican response, Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that the United States is divided between two parties, one of which is mainly focused on bread-and-butter issues that matter to regular people, while the other is obsessed with waging culture war. This is also true. But she got her parties mixed up — Republicans, not Democrats, are the culture warriors who’ve lost touch with ordinary Americans’ concerns.
First, about Medicare and Social Security. When Biden said that “some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset,” he was greeted with shouts of “Liar!” But last year Senator Rick Scott, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, released a “plan to rescue America” that explicitly included as one of its reforms “All federal legislation sunsets in five years.”
Yes, a program that sunsets can be renewed. But what Biden said was true — and how sure are you that the modern G.O.P. would, in fact, vote to maintain Social Security and Medicare as they currently exist?
There’s also the matter of arithmetic. Republicans have pledged to eliminate the budget deficit within 10 years, and unless we raise taxes — which they vehemently oppose — that’s essentially impossible without drastic cuts in Medicare and Social Security.
And let’s not forget that these are programs for seniors — programs that are central to Americans’ long-term financial planning, the bedrock on which most people’s hopes for a decent, dignified retirement rest. Putting them on the chopping block every five years, even potentially, would create immense anxiety. . . . Hence the hysterical G.O.P. response to Biden’s claims. But those claims were entirely true.
Sanders’s speech was a diatribe against wokeness. This is standard G.O.P. fare these days and exactly what you’d expect in, say, an address at the Conservative Political Action Conference. But this wasn’t a CPAC speech; it was meant to address the nation as a whole and rebut the president of the United States.
[I]t was remarkable that Sanders spoke largely in right-wing insider jargon. She boasted of eliminating C.R.T. in her state, without even explaining the abbreviation; how many Americans know that it stands for “critical race theory,” let alone why that’s supposed to be such a bad thing?
For that matter, focus groups suggest that most people don’t know what “wokeness” means, or why they should fear it.
But wait, it gets worse. Sanders seemed to say (although her syntax was a bit garbled) that woke policy was responsible for “high gas prices” and “empty grocery shelves.”
How did critical race theory cause a global spike in crude oil prices, which raised prices at the pump all around the world? How did it snarl supply chains and cause a worldwide shortage of shipping containers?
[A] politician who was actually in touch with real people’s concerns would know that the examples she used to illustrate Biden’s policy failures are well past their sell-by date. Gas prices did indeed surge for a while, hitting around $5 a gallon last summer. But they’ve fallen drastically since then. . . . . And the complaint about empty shelves is even more out of date.
Sanders’s version of the problems facing ordinary Americans seems to be based, not on any direct sense of people’s lives, but on Fox News reporting that hypes bad things under Biden and never mentions when things get better again.
Just to be clear, there are culture warriors on the left, and some of them can be annoying even to social liberals. But few have significant power, and they certainly don’t rule the Democratic Party, which isn’t locked into a closed mental universe, impervious to inconvenient facts, whose denizens communicate in buzzwords nobody else recognizes.
Republicans, however, do live in such a universe — and what Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed us was that they can’t step outside that universe even when they should have strong political incentives to sound like normal people and pretend to care about regular Americans’ concerns.
Friday, February 10, 2023
Christian Nationalists: the Root Threat to Democracy
When you hear the phrase “Christian nationalists,” you might think of antiabortion conservatives who are upset about the phrase “Happy Holidays” and embrace a vaguely “America First” way of thinking. But according to a Public Religion Research Institute-Brookings Institution poll released Wednesday, Christian nationalists in fact harbor a set of extreme beliefs at odds with pluralistic democracy. The findings will alarm you.
“Christian nationalism is a new term for a worldview that has been with us since the founding of our country — the idea that America is destined to be a promised land for European Christians,” PRRI president and founder Robert P. Jones explained in a news release on the survey . . . . “While most Americans today embrace pluralism and reject this anti-democratic claim, majorities of white evangelical Protestants and Republicans remain animated by this vision of a white Christian America.”
- “The U.S. government should declare America a Christian nation.”
- “U.S. laws should be based on Christian values.”
- “If the U.S. moves away from our Christian foundations, we will not have a country anymore.”
- “Being Christian is an important part of being truly American.”
- “God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society.”
PRRI found that 10 percent (“adherents”) of American adults believe in these ideas overwhelmingly or completely; 19 percent agree but not completely (“sympathizers”); 39 percent disagree (“skeptics”) but not completely; and 29 percent disagree completely (“rejecters”).
“Nearly two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants qualify as either Christian nationalism sympathizers (35%) or adherents (29%).” Thirty-five percent of all Whites are adherents. Put differently, Christian nationalist adherents are a minority but when combined with sympathizers still comprise a stunning 29 percent of Americans — many tens of millions.
Christian nationalists also make up the base of the Republican Party. “Most Republicans qualify as either Christian nationalism sympathizers (33%) or adherents (21%), . . . . In total, “Republicans (21%) are about four times as likely as Democrats (5%) or independents (6%) to be adherents of Christian nationalism.”
Some promising news: There are fewer adherents and sympathizers among younger Americans. “More than seven in ten Americans ages 18-29 (37% skeptics, 42% rejecters) and ages 30-49 (37% skeptics, 35% rejecters) lean toward opposing Christian nationalism.” Support is also inversely related to educational attainment.
Christian nationalist adherents are emphatically out of synch with the pluralist majority. . . . They also are much more likely to hold authoritarian and racist views.
“Adherents of Christian nationalism are nearly seven times as likely as rejecters to agree that ‘true patriots might have to resort to violence to save our country’ (40% vs. 16%),” . . . . half of Christian nationalism adherents and nearly 4 in 10 sympathizers (38%) support the idea of an authoritarian leader.”
There is also a strong racist/white grievance element:
Around four in ten Americans (41%) agree that discrimination against white Americans is as big of a problem as discrimination against Black Americans and other minorities, compared to 58% who disagree. Approximately two-thirds of Christian nationalism sympathizers (66%) and more than three-quarters of Christian nationalism adherents (77%) agree with this statement. Among Christian nationalism sympathizers and adherents who are white, agreement with this sentiment rises to 73% and 85%, respectively.
Moreover, a stunning 83 percent of adherents think “God intended America to be a new promised land where European Christians could create a society that could be an example to the rest of the world.” Two-thirds of Americans overall reject this explicitly racist statement
More than 70 percent of adherents embrace replacement theory, nearly one-quarter harbor the antisemitic view that Jews hold too many positions of power and 44 percent believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than America, the poll found. More than 65 percent think Muslims from some countries should be banned. Almost 70 percent believe “the husband is the head of the household in ‘a truly Christian family’ and his wife submits to his leadership.”
If you thing this sounds like MAGA tripe, you’re right. This is the hardcore MAGA base. More alarming: “Nearly six in ten QAnon believers are also either Christian nationalism sympathizers (29%) or adherents (29%).”
The findings highlight challenges to those who cherish the American creed that “All men are created equal” and who embrace the anti-establishment clause of the First Amendment. And because Christian nationalists adopt their views as articles of religious faith, they might be far less willing to reexamine them.
Given their numbers and potential staying power, the response to this threat to pluralistic democracy must be cross-partisan. And it will have to go beyond politics. To counteract Christian nationalism we will need a positive, optimistic message that celebrates an inclusive, diverse democracy in which no American is more “real” than another.
What makes us unique — or “exceptional” as the right likes to say — is that America isn’t defined by race or religion. Believers in American values have their work cut out for them.
Given the inverse relationship between educational level and support for Christian nationalism it is little wonder that we are seeing attacks on public schools across Republican controled states - in Montana a GOP bill would ban the teaching of scientific theory. These people and politicians who pander to them are very, very dangerous. The rest of us need to be awake to this reality.
Thursday, February 09, 2023
Sarah Sanders Embodies What's Wrong With the GOP
While delivering the Republican response to President Biden’s State of the Union address, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to link the 80-year-old Biden to a “woke” mob and bragged of banning “CRT” in her state. Sanders didn’t define either term. She used the initials “CRT” without spelling out “critical race theory,” apparently certain most Americans know what that means.
Watching Sanders toss around those extremely online terms — only months after her party badly underperformed in the midterm elections while campaigning against those very things — vividly demonstrates a problem for the GOP. Republicans are extremely skilled at grabbing attention, leveraging their formidable media apparatus to turn the spotlight on the manufactured controversy of the moment. But these days they are far less good at persuading the broader public.
Given a rare opportunity to communicate a conservative vision to the entire country, Sanders delivered a message that was, as Matthew Sheffield put it, “filled with far-right buzzwords that were likely incomprehensible to most Americans who had bothered to watch.”
To be moved by that argument, you’d need to know that “wokeness” refers to a constellation of contested views about race, sex and transgender rights. You’d need to know it’s a ubiquitous right-wing media trope to scoff that liberals can’t define the term “woman.” You’d need to know why this is supposed to be terribly threatening.
This rhetoric did little for Republicans in 2022. The New York Times reports that virtually all GOP spending on ads mentioning critical race theory was spent during primaries, a tacit admission it had little general election potency.
Last September, a polling memo from the Republican National Committee admitted that focusing on CRT was only exciting the “base.” To move independents, the memo said, GOP candidates should emphasize “parental rights.” That, too, was misplaced confidence after Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s victory in 2021: Many Republicans did run on such issues in the midterms, but the party dramatically underperformed expectations — including among independents.
Yet, Republicans continue speaking mainly to their most committed supporters. More of this is coming: House Republicans are planning investigations of a menu of right-wing obsessions, from fantasies of conservative oppression by federal law enforcement to whether Twitter is conspiring to suppress the truth about Hunter Biden.
House Republicans have failed to persuade the moderates in their own caucus to support the party’s extreme new border security bill. They can demagogue an issue brilliantly, but they can’t persuade the middle to support their policies.
There does seem to be a theory guiding these efforts, one developed during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Pour enough wild accusations and feigned outrage into the discourse and whip the base into a frenzy, and swing voters might develop general unease about the opposition and the country’s direction. Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg calls this the right’s “negative sentiment machine.”
We might be overreading how significant it is that Sanders failed the generally impossible task of delivering a cogent and effective State of the Union response, or what 2022 meant in terms of rejection of the right’s culture-warmongering. After all, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won a big reelection victory in November as the foremost culture warrior on the right and plainly intends to take his approach national in 2024.
Still, recent focus groups of Florida swing voters found that few could define the term “wokeness,” raising doubts about how important it was to DeSantis’s reelection. And again, similar GOP candidates lost in many places outside Florida.
Yet DeSantis’s victory appears to have instilled a touch of hubris among right-wingers about the national potential of his type of cultural politics. On Tuesday night, Sanders seemed deeply in the grip of that hubris.
But consider what happened that night. Biden talked about protecting Social Security and the need to continue creating the green and tech manufacturing jobs of the future, many for Americans without a college degree. Then Sanders fulminated about confusing acronyms.
Democrats should relish taking that contrast into 2024.
Wednesday, February 08, 2023
Republicans Are Leading Themselves Into a Trap
House Republicans are planning a long-running extravaganza of hearings designed to dramatize the notion that the “deep state” is persecuting conservatives. In one sense, this will find a receptive audience: A new Post-ABC News poll finds that 55 percent of conservative respondents believe federal agencies are “biased against conservatives.”
But among all American adults, only a measly 28 percent believe this, and solid majorities of independents and moderates do not. Therein lies a trap that could prove dangerous for Republicans — if Democrats properly exploit it.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has subpoenaed top Justice Department officials, supposedly to investigate the department’s suppression of information about the persecution of conservative parents. Republicans have long alleged that federal jackboots have terrorized parents for protesting at school board meetings about covid-19 restrictions and teachings about race and sex.
Democrats will no doubt respond by noting that this claim has been decisively debunked. But Democrats should use these hearings not just defensively but also affirmatively: to show that GOP rhetoric, much of it degenerate nonsense, has helped fuel a toxic atmosphere of threats and violence toward educators that has no business anywhere near your child’s school.
I asked Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, how far Democrats might go in this regard. Swalwell suggested they would treat such GOP oversight as a “committee to obstruct justice,” in that it seems designed to chill law enforcement efforts to deal with actual threats made against educators.
“They don’t want the FBI to investigate people on their side who they’ve spun up over frankly bulls--- claims,” Swalwell told me of Republicans. “You have a right to say just about anything you want, but you don’t have a right to threaten violence.” Swalwell added that under the circumstances it was reasonable to want the FBI or local police to investigate genuine threats.
Republicans appear determined to bury this aspect of the story. Their subpoenas seek documents related to “alleged threats posed by concerned parents at school board meetings.” Note the word “alleged,” as if threats didn’t actually happen.
Republicans also want documents relating to a 2021 letter by the National School Boards Association to President Biden, which detailed numerous specific threats against school officials and referred to them as “equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism.”
While the school boards association did use language that would be indefensible if applied to parents, many threats actually did happen, and lurid claims about FBI overreach haven’t been borne out: The FBI focused on those threats, not on conservative speech.
Democrats can’t function just as fact-checkers, accusing Republicans of “conspiracy theories” and complaining they are “stoking the culture wars.”
Instead, Democrats should make these hearings about what Republicans did. This entails using spectacle to show what happened to educators as a result of Republicans systematically smearing them with hateful propaganda. Why not try to bring in educators to testify emotionally about the threats and harassment they’ve faced?
Asked about this, Swalwell said it’s possible. “The American people need to see these people’s faces and understand the fear that they’re living in,” Swalwell told me, speaking about targeted educators. “Republicans feel that fear should have a green light to continue.”There is a danger for Democrats: Republicans could successfully define themselves as the party that uniformly speaks for “parents’ rights” while maneuvering Democrats into being seen as protecting educators at parents’ expense.
Democrats can try to rebut this by bringing in ordinary parents to testify that they don’t want their kids’ educators to face a climate of reactionary hate. They could seek the testimony of those who want law enforcement to deal with real-world threats.
This debate could backfire on Republicans. If a large majority of conservatives believe the feds are persecuting them, as The Post poll suggests, that could incentivize Republicans to use hearings to activate those grievances with ever-more-hallucinatory inventions. This could further alienate the large percentage of moderates disinclined to believe this to begin with.
Democrats should try to speak to those moderates on their own terms. The country deserves a real debate about the real consequences of our culture wars, not one that unfolds strictly in the information universe Republicans are manufacturing.
Tuesday, February 07, 2023
The World of "1984" Comes to Florida
In late January, at Greenland Pines Elementary, kids attended a party for an annual event called Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida! There was an escape room and food trucks. Brian Covey, an entrepreneur in his late thirties, came to pick up his daughter, who’s in second grade, and his son, who’s in fifth. His kids looked confused. “Did you hear what happened at school today?” his daughter asked. “They took all the books out of the classrooms.” Covey asked which books. “All the books,” she said. Covey’s son had been reading “Measuring Up,” a coming-of-age story about an immigrant to the United States from Taiwan. Students who read from a list of pre-selected books, including this one, were rewarded with an ice-cream party. “They even took that book,” Covey said.
Covey went into the school classrooms to see what his children were talking about and found bookshelves papered over to hide the books. (He also went to another local school and later uploaded a video to Twitter showing that its shelves were bare.) “This has never been an issue before,” Covey told me, noting that he’d grown up in the same public-school system, in Duval County, which includes Jacksonville. “But I read books about the consequences of this kind of thing when I was in school.” He was thinking of “Fahrenheit 451” and “1984,” he said. His kids, he added, seemed confused about what would make a book inappropriate for school. . . . (Communications officials for the public schools in Duval County insisted that some approved books remained available to students, including those on the list that Covey’s son was reading from.)
Farther south, in Manatee County, on the Gulf Coast, Nicole Harlow has recently begun to see local social-media posts about teachers having to remove or cover up their classroom libraries. Harlow, a veterinary nurse in her early forties, has three children in county schools.
Harlow pointed me to the Web site of a local group called Community Patriots Manatee. The site features a call to action under the heading “Woke Buster’s Wanted.” The call reads, in part, “Whether your a Tax Payer, Parent, Grandparent, or Community Member, the society that is trying to be created by this deranged wokeness is nothing more than Mental Abuse for Children which WILL ultimately lead into Physical Abuse!” It informs prospective Woke Busters, “We may be in the process of removing books, reviewing curriculum, and making our case with the administrators and school board but this is only the tip of the iceberg. . . . Harlow believes that members of the group may have pressured the school to remove its books. (The group did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment.)
“They seem to be opposed to books that represent all kids,” Harlow said, referring to conservative government officials and advocacy groups in the state. She noted that two of the books that had been challenged or pulled from high-school libraries in previous purges—according to a 2022 PEN America report, Florida has the second-highest number of book bans in the U.S., trailing only Texas—were “The 57 Bus,” a nonfiction Y.A. book about an agender teen-ager whose skirt gets set on fire by another teen, and “The Hate U Give,” the popular fictional story about the aftermath of the shooting of a young Black man by a white police officer. “The books they’ve pulled make their political agenda so clear,” Harlow said.
“Our teacher has recently been teaching things that were supposed to come later in the year, closer to the A.P. exam, like slavery and, like, Native Americans.” She went on, “It felt like she’s rushing it towards us, like she’s scared it’s going to be taken away and she wants us to learn about it before they do. It’s, like, if these things don’t get taught, then we end up forgetting.” She added, “It’s kind of scary to think about.”
A spokesperson for the Manatee County Schools sent me a statement: “In regards to books in school media centers or classrooms, the School District of Manatee County is abiding by all applicable laws and statutes of the state of Florida, and adhering to the guidance of the Florida Department of Education.”
Spar estimated that public-school teachers in a third of the state’s counties have been instructed to box or cover up books until they’ve been reviewed for compliance with the new law. In Palm Beach County, two books were removed last spring in anticipation of the law, according to PEN America, and Brevard County’s classroom libraries were “taking a pause” by the summer. But this sort of thing has been happening much more in rural and conservative parts of the state, Spar said. “It’s just not getting out as much from there,” he added.
“Most teachers I know are in disbelief,” Covey, who has worked as a substitute teacher, told me. “I can only imagine how heartbreaking it is for career educators to have to take kids’ books away and what kinds of threats would have to be passed down to them so they’d feel they had no choice.” The new law also seemed like a logistical nightmare, the burden of which would likely fall on modestly paid school employees. . . . . Covey added, “If I weren’t living through it, I wouldn’t believe it’s happening.”
Both Covey and Harlow see the law as a reflection of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s Presidential ambitions. DeSantis previously pushed for the passage of a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which disallows the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity through third grade, and another bill, known as the Stop WOKE Act, which prohibits teaching that someone “must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress” on account of their race or sex. (In November, a judge temporarily blocked the bill from being enforced at the college level.)
Covey, who describes himself as an independent, said, “I’ll never support a politician that’s using my kids as pawns.” His son, he told me, was still puzzling over the logic of the book removals. “They couldn’t have done permission slips or something?” . . . He’s been encouraged, at least, by the way his daughter has grappled with the problem. “She started writing a list of her thoughts, and she decided to make a book out of them,” he said. “It’s right here on the table.” He read the working title to me: “The One Who Took All the Books.”
Harlow said, “Instead of talking about guns, we’re banning books! I’d be lying if I said we’re not looking for a way out of this state.”
Meanwhile, Iknow some teachers in Florida who are saying they will leave the profession at the end of the current school year. I can't blame them given the Nazi-like regime under DeSantis.
Trump Threatens to Turns on His Own Party
It’s begun to dawn on Republicans that they face a potentially catastrophic political problem: Donald Trump may lose the GOP presidential primary and, out of spite, wreck Republican prospects in 2024.
That unsettling realization broke through with the release of a Bulwark poll earlier this week. The survey found that a large majority of Republicans are ready to move on from Trump—but at the same time, more than a quarter of likely Republican voters are ready to follow Trump to a third-party bid. Two days after the poll results were released, Trump was asked in an interview whether, if he lost the nomination, he would support the GOP nominee. Trump answered, “It would have to depend on who the nominee was.” Translation: no.
[A] third-party campaign by Trump would cripple the GOP in 2024, because almost all of Trump’s votes would come from people who would otherwise vote Republican. In some key states—Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan—that could make all the difference. (In a handful of other states, “sore-loser laws” might bar Trump from the ballot.)
But even if Trump doesn’t run as a third-party candidate, he could ensure that Republican presidential and congressional candidates lose simply by criticizing them during the campaign, accusing the Republican Party of disloyalty, and signaling to his supporters that they should sit out the election. That course of action is more straightforward, and perhaps even likelier, than a third-party bid, but it would be just as devastating to Republican prospects.
If Trump does decide to sabotage his party’s chances in 2024, no one should be surprised. After all, Trump has flirted with third-party runs before, including in 2000, and he refused to rule out a third-party run in 2015. “In 2015, Donald wasn’t initially being taken seriously by the GOP as a potential candidate, . . . “His threat to run as a third party candidate was to ensure people knew of his intent and that he would have no problem with destroying the party if they stood in his way.”
Trump has no attachment to the Republican Party or, as best as one can tell, to anything or anyone else. His malignant narcissism prevents that. Trump is an institutional arsonist, peddling conspiracy theories, spreading lies, sowing distrust. That’s his skill, and he’s quite good at it. But Trump is now causing growing unease among his past supporters and the GOP establishment by signaling that he may very well turn that skill against their party. Trump . . . . could inflict tremendous harm on the GOP if he turns against it.
Earlier this week, an individual in the radio-talk-show world, who requested anonymity so he could speak candidly, told me, “Many listeners are starting to call and email with dread over the prospect of him running third-party. There is absolutely a growing chorus of opposition to Trump—coming from former Trump supporters. It’s unmistakable.” As Trump dials up his threat to break with the Republican Party, the anger is sure to rise. So, too, is the fear that, in the words of Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr, “Unless the rest of the party goes along with [Trump], he will burn the whole house down by leading ‘his people’ out of the GOP.”
When Trump was torching other institutions—America’s intelligence agencies, the FBI and the Department of Justice, the military, scientific agencies, the courts, Congress, media, those charged with overseeing our elections—Republicans cheered him on. . . . That, in turn, gave rise to other public figures who share his tactics, and his ethic.
One example: Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene—who at various points in her career has embraced QAnon conspiracy theories, insisted that 9/11 was an inside job and that the mass killings at Sandy Hook and Parkland were staged, voiced support for executing prominent Democrats, attended white-nationalist rallies, and blamed wildfires on a Jewish space laser—has been elevated and showcased by House Republicans.
A party with so many layers of rot won’t abandon Trump because he is a moral wreck and a constitutional threat; it will abandon him only when he’s deemed to be a surefire political loser. Which he almost certainly is. But in many ways, Trump has the whip hand. If Republicans turn on him, he is likely to turn on them, filled with the burning rage of a thousand suns. As MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough put it, “He was willing to take down American democracy when he lost. Why wouldn’t he be willing to take down [Glenn] Youngkin or [Ron] DeSantis or any other Republican that won the nomination over him?”
In the movie The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne struggles to understand why the Joker does the things he does. Alfred, Wayne’s trusted butler, describes a bandit in Burma who couldn’t be negotiated with. He destroyed for the sake of destroying. In Alfred’s words, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
Donald Trump delights in watching the world burn. And now Republicans are belatedly discovering that their party, too, is part of that world.
Monday, February 06, 2023
Why "The 1619 Project" Terrifies Some Whites
I am old enough to remember when Alex Haley’s “Roots” was first aired on television 46 years ago — and what happened afterward, at least where I lived.
“Roots” is the story of Haley’s family, its struggles, triumphs and its decades in slavery. The series aired over a week in January 1977. It led to fights in my school district. Black students, having not heard or seen or been taught any specific truths about our origins in America, directed their anger at White students and fights ensued. “Roots” was a shock to the system.
Keep in mind that “Roots” featured a tame version of slavery. It showed whippings. It showed Black children separated from their parents. It didn’t show the rapes by slave owners or the forced “breeding” of African people. It could not show the full scale of the depravity, emotional abuse, torment and murder that drove and sustained American chattel slavery.
Nikole Hannah-Jones’s documentary series, “The 1619 Project,” which premiered last week on Hulu, doesn’t shy away from the full inhumanity of American slavery. It makes clear that Black Americans were treated no better and often worse than livestock. It confronts the fact that Black women were bred as if they were oxen. It reveals the full cruelty of American slavery and shows how Jim Crow by design broke African American psyches for decades. And, once more, people will be angry.
And that’s what some White people are now worried about. In Florida and in other states, efforts are being made to stifle the teaching of Black American history. When Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) says, “No one should be instructed to feel as if they are not equal or shamed because of their race,” I believe he means White children.
These people aren’t interested in racial harmony. And they certainly aren’t interested in Black children. Their continued campaign to discredit Hannah-Jones and the teaching of Black history is about two things: protecting White children — and preventing any initiative to help correct the actions of White ancestors that still afflict Black Americans today.
Many White people watch programs like “The 1619 Project,” and see only a story about White people. That leads to another tragic misunderstanding of why this curriculum is so good for America.
When I watched the first two episodes of “The 1619 Project,” I thought very little about White people. . . . And while I am aware that it was White people who did all these things, I was not thinking about them as I watched. That’s because these stories aren’t about them, which in America is still rare.
Instead, my overwhelming feeling was of deep gratitude. Of awe at what Black Americans before me had to endure and what we are still enduring. I felt pride. And I felt like an American in a way that has eluded me for most of my life. I didn’t dwell on the people who perpetrated these atrocities. I found myself drawn only to the strength, resilience and resolve of the people who overcame them.
Those who focus on the idea that telling these truths is “divisive” are centering White feelings about our real history. Why deny Black students the feeling of gratitude and pride that comes with knowing how your people endured — so that they can overcome and thrive?
I don’t agree with everything presented in “The 1619 Project. ” At one point, Hannah-Jones suggests that the very foundation of America was about slavery. I don’t think that’s true.
But the fact that I don’t believe that doesn’t invalidate the rest of her accounting — any more than I dismiss our broader history just because I don’t buy the myth that “the Indians” welcomed “the Pilgrims” with open arms and they became great friends — or the lie that every Founding Father was a hero and every “savage” needed to be “civilized.”
“The 1619 Project” is not divisive or anti-American. It’s about showing Black Americans what we’ve been through and what we’re capable of and honoring those, Black and White, who sacrificed so much so that we could continue our fight against racism. Teaching Black history is about showing us, after all we’ve been through and are still going through, that we are all truly Americans.
No wonder some are so desperate to stop it.
Disclaimer: having researched my ancestry, I have ancestors from Charleston, South Carolina who were slave owners. I have seen wills where slaves were devised as if they were chattel property - which they were. Am I proud of this aspect of my ancestry, no, of course not. But I cannot change the past and need to know the good, the bad and the ugly. Only by knowing the full story can we all move forward to make a better society.
Sunday, February 05, 2023
Arizona: Republican Insanity on Open Display
In a megachurch where the Arizona Republican Party met over the weekend to chart its course following heavy losses in the midterms, a package of resolutions was up for consideration, including one to censure Republican officials involved in running past elections.
The question on the floor was how. Stepping to the microphone in the sanctuary, a man who introduced himself as a combat Vietnam veteran suggested that the way the party censures politicians — a punishment previously slapped on the late Sen. John McCain, his widow, Cindy, former Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake, among others – was insufficient for the times.
Instead, he said, “We should duct tape people to a tree in a dog park, so the dogs can pee on them. And then, when they’re there for a few hours and they have to crap in their pants, they can wallow in their own shit.”
In Washington, the lesson many Republican political professionals expected their party to draw from a less-than-red-wave midterm was that the most hard-right politics of the Trump era were weighing them down – that general election voters were tiring of election denialism and, if not Donald Trump himself, his grievances about the 2020 election. Many high-profile candidates the former president rammed through the primaries last year lost in November, and in Arizona, the wreckage was particularly severe.
Kari Lake, a former TV anchor and one of the GOP’s most prominent election deniers, had become such an electrifying candidate that she was compelled to tamp down speculation about a vice presidential run. But then she lost. So did the hard-liners running for U.S. Senate, state attorney general and secretary of state. For too many independents and moderate Republican voters, they were a turn-off.
Arizona was a “perfect political science experiment” for the GOP nationally, Stan Barnes, a former state lawmaker and Republican consultant in Arizona, told me.
“We had the best candidate in anyone’s lifetime in Kari Lake, and she had the Republican wind at her back,” he said. “Yet, Kari lost. And I think the post-mortem is, you can’t stand on, ‘The whole system’s corrupt’ and ‘Elections are stolen’ as a platform for why people should vote for you.” He said, “No matter what you or I think of the reality of it, if you want to win the election and you want to change things, it’s not the way to win.”
Yet denialism and its attendant conspiracies animate a large swath of the Republican Party — still. And if Arizona is any example, it suggests that a not insignificant percentage of the national electorate is determined to run the same doomed experiment again in 2024.
Inside the cavernous Dream City Church, where a conspiracy movie about the 2020 election called “The Deep Rig” premiered in 2021, and where the GOP now gathered in early 2023, there was no reckoning with midterm losses, at all.
Addressing the rank-and-file, the outgoing state party chair, Kelli Ward, said, “Things at the party are going great.”
In “Ultra MAGA” hats and pins that read “Don’t California My Arizona,” about 2,000 convention-goers streamed into a sanctuary with red and blue backlighting and large screens flanking the stage. They wanted audits of the last election, or the one before that, or of the state party’s finances itself. Some complained about voting machines, including those Arizona Republicans had used themselves that day to elect the new party chair, Jeff DeWit, a former state treasurer and former Trump campaign chief operating officer.
Yet if it’s hard to hold your own elections when election denialism is your thing, DeWit was such a consensus choice that his victory was never really in doubt. It’s the elections Democrats won that the assembled Republicans assembled still have problems with. The party rejected a proposal to accept the results of the 2020 election and “not belabor or try to overturn old elections, but work to win upcoming ones.” It rejected a proposal to honor John McCain for being a “dedicated Arizona statesman and a lifelong Republican who embraced bipartisanship.” And it voted by a large margin to censure Republican elected officials in Maricopa County, . . .
In the more than two years since Trump lost, as allegations of fraud have repeatedly been shown to be unfounded and nonfactual, it persists as an article of faith—– more an assertion of a belief that Democrats could not possibly have beaten them, even if they did.
There were things Republicans could do better, they were sure. They could raise more money or run more sophisticated turnout operations than they had last year. A candidate like Lake could learn to “pivot” more effectively for a general election audience, one strategist told me.
But these were tactical concerns. There was no reason for a more wholesale overhaul if — as nearly everyone I came across maintained — Republicans didn’t really lose.
For true believers, said Barrett Marson, a Republican strategist in the state, “it’s this whole chicken-and-egg thing. Did we lose the election because of denialism, or did Democrats fix the election?”. . . Like many more traditionalist Republicans, Marson had thought the party’s losses in November might result in some introspection. But he wasn’t counting on it, anymore. At this point, he said, “the party may have to die to be reborn.”
In an analysis of the vote in Maricopa County, where a majority of Arizona’s votes are cast, a group of elections experts, including Benny White, a former data analyst for the state Republican Party, found Lake and other hard-right candidates had turned off thousands of voters who otherwise leaned Republican. In the governor’s race, about 40,000 voters who favored Republicans in other races on their ballots did not vote for Lake; about 33,000 of them actually voted for the Democrat, Katie Hobbs, instead.
At least part of the reason so many Republican-leaning voters defected, White told me, was Lake’s insistence on feeding the base’s addiction to election denialism.
One problem is that losing may not be enough to shift the perceptions of conspiracy-minded Republicans. If anything, it may make it harder — not easier — for them to let go. . . . But in states where Republicans lost significant races — like Arizona — fewer Republicans expressed confidence in the process. In Arizona, just 56 percent of Republican voters said they were confident about how elections here were run.
But what Republicans saw unfolding in Arizona last year was something close to a convergence of the hard-right politics of its convention-going class with its primary electorate. . . . In Lake, they found someone who could beat the traditionalists — in her case defeating a credible centrist candidate, Karrin Taylor Robson. Even after losing the general election, she remains at the center of the Republican universe here.
Just as evangelicals and Christofascists proudly embrace ignorance and reject science, nowadays the much of the GOP base celebrates ignorance and loonacy. Indeed, the more insane one is, the more they will be embraced by the base to the revulsion of general election voters. Here in Virginia Glenn Youngkin won the governorship by pretending he was a "moderate." Of course, his actions since have underscore what a lie his entire campaign was in fact.