Sunday, September 5, 2010

Backlash!

Cynthia Tucker declares that this summer was "weird". Why was it weird?
Average Americans, normally sober-minded citizens, came undone over exaggerated threats and imagined enemies; rallied here by the thousands to “restore honor;” and denounced mosques, minority rights and the 14th Amendment — all the while demanding strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution.
Exaggerated threats, imagined enemies, denunciations of mosques, minority rights and the 14th Amendment. That's quite a list. No specifics are given, but a couple of the references are clear. I read and reread her article several times. I missed everything in that list except imagined enemies and denunciations of mosques. I am sure someone will point out to me where she talks about the rest.

So, what might be causing normally sober-minded average Americans to come undone in such a way?

Is it the economy, stupid? Well, not entirely.
... [E]conomic uncertainty alone cannot account for this summer’s strange currents. The runaway inflation and deep recession of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s didn’t produce a similar season of civic craziness.
That's true, the runaway inflation and deep recession of the late '70s/early eights produced Reagan. Does Ms. Tucker believe it was less "weird" for normally sober-minded Americans to support Reagan then than it is for the same people to do whatever it is that Tucker is complaining about now? Somehow I doubt that.

So, if its not the economy alone, what added ingredient is present now that wasn't present then? Ahhh, there it is: demographic change.
Over the last year and a half, many Americans have begun to see a deeper message in President Obama’s inauguration — the end of the white majority. For some, especially those who are middle-aged and older, it’s a jarring and unwelcome message.
So no one could see this demographic inevitablity prior to Obama's January, 2008 inauguration. It took a severe recession to make it apparent?
Before you assume that I’m stereotyping all of the president’s critics as racists, let me be clear: I’m not. Many voters have legitimate criticisms of the Obama’s policies. I’ m talking about something more subtle and yet more profound: a fear of minority status. (Actually, by the year 2050, demographers expect that whites will be a “plurality,” the largest easily- identified ethnic group.)

Ms. Tucker is not calling average normally sober-minded Americans racists. No, not at all. In fact, she generously assumes that "many voters" have legitimate criticisms of "the Obama's policies." Instead of calling the majority of Americans who believe that the nation is on the wrong track racists, Tucker tries something less direct:
Most human beings are more comfortable surrounded by others who look and sound as they do. It’s innate. That’s why most of us attend churches, join clubs and look for friends who reinforce our sense of identity, usually along lines of color and class. Successful black and brown professionals have had to learn to be comfortable in a sea of white faces, but most white Americans have not experienced the reverse. And many are not eager to have that experience.

While some prognosticators were na├»ve enough to believe that Obama’s election signaled the beginning of a post-racial era, it prompted something altogether different: a backlash against the browning of America.
That's right, you average normally sober-minded American. You're not a racist, you just don't want those with different colored skin in charge of anything. This country is now majority white and you, quite understandably, are extremely upset that it is predicted to be different 40 years from now. You want it to stay that way so that you can be in charge. That's not racism at all, its pre-emptive affirmative action.

Oh, and you're really really stupid, too:
Just as many Americans came to understand that the nation they knew was undergoing a dramatic demographic change, the economy collapsed. Unable to account for the disappearance of jobs and financial security, they linked those developments as cause and effect. The backlash is now at gale force.
So we’ve seen a summer of fury over illegal immigration, despite the fact that illegal border-crossings have plunged in the last two or three years, according to a new study by the Pew Hispanic Center.
No average, normally sober-minded American could possibly believe that illegal aliens have stopped arriving in massive numbers (or may even have begun to leave the country) because the jobs they are coming for are not there any more. Of course not. Average, normally sober-minded Americans could not possibly be this upset about a "Summer of Recovery" that started with 9.5 percent unemployment and ended with 9.6 percent unemployment after spending close to a trillion dollars with the promise that that very outcome would be avoided. No, the answer must lie in non-racist racial group friction which is scheduled to occur when my children are retired.

And has there ever been a time when the nation has not been undergoing a dramatic demographic change?
Islamophobia spiked as conservatives made a case against a proposed Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero, claiming that it would represent a victory for jihadists. It didn’t seem to matter that the imam proposing the center has publicly denounced jihadists.
Just as it doesn't seem to matter that the imam proposing the "center" which no longer appears in print as a mosque, (a) won't say where the money is coming from and (b) won't call Hamas, those friendly folks who just murdered 4 Israeli civilians, including a pregant woman and proudly claimed responsibility for it, a terrorist organization. Just as it doesn't seem to matter that supporters of the Islamic "center" have also contributed to the Holy Land Foundation, a terrorist support organization whose leaders and founders have been convicted of supporting Hamas. Just as it doesn't seem to matter to Tucker that mosques around the world have been used for recruiting, financing and training terrorists and as terror bases for years. Just as it doesn't seem to matter that Islam has a habit of building mosques on the sites of its military victories (see the Hagia Sophia). No, no, no, no, no. No one can question the word of an imam who says that he opposes terrorism. No one can look at what he does, who he associates with, who gives him money. That would be racist Islamophobia. Oh. Sorry. That would be fear and anxiety about demographic change. Well, maybe it would be both.
The birthers picked up the support of a retired three-star Air Force general, Thomas McInerney, who filed an affadit in support of Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin. Lakin, an Army doctor, faces a court martial for refusing to report for duty in Afghanistan because, he says, Obama isn’t a citizen and, therefore, can’t be commander-in-chief.

"The birthers" are not what anyone would call "average normally sober-minded Americans." They are a fringe group on the right gleefully and continuously quoted as representative of the entire right by the pundits of the left, including, apparently, Ms. Tucker.

And, just for good measure, nearly 20 percent of Americans now believe the President is a Muslim--despite the 2008 controversy over his then pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

But of course, unmentioned here is the fact that a majority of that 20% got the idea that Obama was a Muslim from the media. In other words, from people like Ms. Tucker endlessly repeating it.
To drain the vicious energy from the backlash, the nation needs a broad economy recovery — not just jobs but also good wages that will support a middle-class lifestyle. There would still be those among us who resent the changing face of America, but there would be less anxiety, less fear and less anger.
Well, the nation needs a broad economic recovery anyway. Would it reduce the "anxiety, fear and anger" over the changing face of America? To the extent that anxiety, fear and anger over the changing face of America exists and was caused by the economy, yes. What is that extent? I don't know. One of the reasons I don't know is that Cynthia Tucker doesn't say.
The return of broad prosperity would restore faith in the animating idea behind the American Dream: the promise of opportunity for all. That faith is fading right now, and citizens who ought to know better are looking for scapegoats. Those who call God “Allah” are easy targets. So are those who say “Dios.”
Some of those easy targets who say "Allah" want to kill me because I don't believe as they do, because I "allow" my wife to work and (shudder) drive and (double shudder) go out of the house dressed as she chooses and unaccompanied by a male relative. Sometimes the easy target is the one you really need to hit.

Over and above that, perhaps the reason for the supposedly fading faith in promise of opportunity for all is that the opportunities available to the average, normally sober-minded American are being rapidly eliminated. Because our President believes that at some point, I will have made enough money. Because our President believes that we should spread the wealth. Because our President believes that only the government should decide when I have made enough money and how and where my wealth should be spread. Because our President has a Congress that is entirely under the control of people with similar views. Does Ms. Tucker really not know what that does to the opportunities available to the average normally sober-minded American?

It's not fear (racist or otherwise) of some slow moving, far off demographic change that has hundreds of thousands going to see Beck and Palin in Washington or caused two thirds of the electorate to unite in opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque. There are rational, present day, real world reasons for the opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque.

It's not the possible browning of America after I am dead that has caused people to question the economic policies of this administration. There are rational, present day, real world reasons for the opposition to Obama's policies.

The refusal of the President and other political leaders to acknowledge and deal with those reasons is the main cause of the mood of the electorate. Politicians ignore (or worse, lecture and deride) majorities at the peril of losing their jobs in the next election. A number of incumbents are going to re-learn that rule the hard way in November. It remains to be determined whether Obama will profit from the examples of the soon to be unemployed politicians who have been calling us racists because we disagree with their policies.

No comments:

Post a Comment