Sunday, April 24, 2011

Republican "Southern Strategy" Moves North

To my friends up north, including a lot of relatives in Wisconsin where my wife was born, and in Indiana and Ohio and out West too, in Arizona: If you want to know where Nixon’s cynical “Southern Strategy”—baptizing racists into the Republican Party in the 1970s—is leading you—today, in 2011—read Intelligence Report, an award-winning periodical published by the famous nemesis of the Klu Klux Klan, Morris Dees and The Southern Poverty Law Center.

When Barack Obama became a presidential candidate, an explosive resurgence of Klan successors cast a sudden burden of revolutionary proportions on the Secret Service, the FBI, and on state and local police departments. According to SPLC’s latest ”Hate Map,” more than one thousand fast growing groups of armed racist militias—221 named “Klu Klux Klan;” 170, “Neo-Nazi;” 136, “White Nationalist;” another 136, “Racist Skinhead;” and 42 “Neo-Confederate.” An additional 824 violently anti-government hate groups call themselves “Patriots” or “Sovereign Citizen” organizations; and, yes, with the same blind irony, 26 of them are called “Christian Identity.”

These armed insurgencies now threaten, not only in the south, as northerners might think, but in all but two of the States of the Union. For example, there are 8 hate groups in Wisconsin, 24 in Indiana, 32 in Ohio and 22 in Arizona. Their sordid criminal activities make “Watergate” look like a girl scout sleep over. Check out SPLC’s names and addressees in your own state and neighborhood.

In the course of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, racial epithets became commonplace at political rallies. The GOP, the Party of Lincoln, and its Presidential candidate denied responsibility, and I have every reason to believe them.

My fellow southerner, Carlos Dews, distinguished author and Chairman of the Department of English Literature at John Cabot University in Rome, explained in the December 2009 issue of Aspenia, an Italian journal, reprinted in the Philadelphia Inquirer, how racists in the United States have learned one lesson since the 1960s: They cannot express their racism directly. In public, they must veil their racial hatred behind policy differences. “But I know what they mean when they say they ‘want their country back.’ They want it back safely in the exclusive hands of people exactly like themselves.”

But we live in a country of excitingly different kinds of people from every corner of the earth; of every shape, size, sex, age, appearance, language, and color; of an endless variety of religious, social, political persuasions and affiliations; all kinds of tastes, talents, interests, and skills; some smart and thoughtful; others stupid and unthinking; some healthy and whole, others sick, lame and disabled; strong and weak; rich and poor.

Absolutists here and in other parts of the world think such a diverse country as ours is ungovernable absent a strong, coercive state that disdains both the truth and the rights of its people.

I’ll take this up next in my continuing series on

“The Poisonous Fruit of the Republican Party's 'Southern Strategy' as it Moves North,”

or, “I’m not prejudiced, but. . . .”

photo credit: flickr Bob Jagendorf

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Alma Mater's Women's Lacrosse Team

When I received an invitation from the Atlanta Chapter of the Washington and Lee University Alumni Association to attend a dinner party honoring the Women's Lacrosse Team, I replied:

I'll be delighted to attend with my son, Martin. . . .

I entered W&L seventy years ago. On the day after Pearl Harbor, about half of the student body enlisted, and we freshman and others soon followed. Our football team, once nationally ranked, was left without a single letterman.

We were so hard up that, before reporting for active military duty, I played guard (at 160 pounds) on our 1942 team. Coached by a Lexington lawyer, we had an unbroken record: not a single win.

Our last game, against Maryland, was the closest we came to a victory (26-28, or something like that), thanks to a last quarter strategy engineered by a W&L linebacker from Baltimore, Lud Micheau, Captain of the Lacrosse team.

We put in a nine man defensive line to exploit the Terps’ extremely limited repertoire of line plays, pouncing on the quarterback before he could do his tricks with the new, complex T-formation backfield and end play with which Maryland had dominated East Coast football that year.

I'm sure W&L Women's Lacrosse Team is every bit as resourceful, and I look forward to meeting them.

After attending the dinner party, I reported to a dear friend:

I had a long conversation about you, your mother and your father last week, a kind of acausal connection, I suspect, to prepare me for your birthday. The occasion was a first of its kind event: a Washington & Lee Alumni party in Atlanta with its Women's Lacrosse Team.

When I entered W&L seventy years ago, there were no African American students; the closest female companionship (other than our elderly, civilizing fraternity house mothers) was fifty miles away, and the Lacrosse team was a bunch of burly boys that had at each other with sticks. I knew that sport was very popular in Baltimore; so when I greeted W&L's Lacrosse ladies, I asked how many of them were from that city. Sure enough, there were several, including Emmy, a charming senior midfielder that the team coach seemed to regard highly (as she did everyone of her players).

Emmy and I exchanged a lot of Baltimore stories, including the love I developed for your mother as my 7th grade English teacher, then for your littérateur father and last, but far from least, for you, Clarinda, my tender hearted poet and muse.

The last time I visited Lexington was shortly after returning from WWII, but I have often pondered how the Southern traditions we inherited from our once president, Robert E. Lee, have weathered the radical social changes of the last seventy years. The answer is clear, "Very well, thank you."

In any event, we all seem to have survived beautifully!

W&L Women triumphed over Sewanee the next day, as Emmy promised, 21-13.

photo of junior attacker, Britten Mathews, Washington and Lee Women's Lacrosse Team

Monday, February 14, 2011

Archaic Hatreds Threaten The Conservative Movement

Miso-‘neism, hatred of anything new (fr. Greek, misos (hatred) + neos (new), is common among primitive people because they live so close to the edge that anything new seems to threaten disaster; but it’s such an anachronism in civilized societies that the word can only be found in our biggest dictionaries. Yet terrifying calamities besiege us every morning in big, bold headlines, wearing down our thin veneer of civilizing hope. Who can honestly say that our daily diet of dreadful news does not induce in us a conscious or unconscious fear-driven hatred of change? We’re all struggling to reassure ourselves behind a happy, fearless face; but even trifling inconveniences can induce hatred of new things: I disdain improved software because I hate the thought of having to learn new ways of operating it. Mi- ’sologism, hatred of reason, discussion, learning or knowledge (misos + logos) rears its ugly head!

These archaic hatreds feed all kinds of prejudice, fanaticism, vicious, if not violent, politics, and cash for pseudo-conservative candidates in recent mid-term elections; but just as hatred of change holds back primitive tribes, so too it keeps the Conservative Movement forever behind the curve. For example, according to George W. Bush, the highest debt financed spending since WWII, expressed as a percentage of gross domestic product, occurred during the Reagan (“It’s morning in America”) years—4.23% compared with Clinton’s 0.76%, next to Eisenhower’s lowest 0.56%. Now, in the continuing dark days of the Great Recession spawned by Reagan and Bush spend-but-don’t-tax financing, “Conservative” opportunists want to retain its enormous tax cuts for the wealthy while slashing essential public services for the jobless and foreclosed who suffered most from those same debt-financed tax breaks.

They also subvert other honest Conservative values. Stern, “turn back the clock,” “no compromise” reactionary polemics of self-anointed “Conservatives” are at war with the teaching of the all-time favorite advocate of Conservative values, Edmund Burke (1729-97, a Dublin born Whig Member of the British Parliament):

“You can never plan the future by the past.”
— Letter to National Assembly,1791

“Nothing in progression can rest on its original plan. We may as well think of rocking a grown man in the cradle of an infant.”
— Letter to Sheriffs of Bristol, 1777

“Every human benefit, every virtue and every prudent act, is founded on compromise.
—On Conciliation with America, 1775

“Magnanimity in Politics is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great empire and little minds go ill together.”
—On Conciliation with America, 1775

“It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.”
— On late Publication of the Present State of the Nation (2d ed. 1769)

“By hating vices too much, they come to love men too little.
—On Conciliation with America, 1775

“A State without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.”
—Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)

“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear. “
—On the Sublime and the Reasonable (1757) pt. 2, sect. 2

Burke’s wise words are perversely scorned by pseudo-conservatives in thrall to misoneist demons. In keeping with my landsman Burke’s magnanimity, I will not name names; but I know that generous-hearted Edmund is turning over in his two hundred sixteen year old grave like a whirling dervish at what is being said and done in the name of Conservatism.

Misoneist politics—after inflicting immense pain on voters—will eventually backfire on the Republican Party; but Republican hatred of change—has been, and will continue to plague our nation’s economy for years.

Yet, as Harold Meyerson points out, decline in innovation fails to explain something far more distinctive about Republican era economics. From 1947 through 1973, “the benefits from economic growth were widely shared, while in the years following, they increasingly went only to the top.”

Stay tuned for

photo credit: flickr RubyGoes

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shalom, Baby!

I was deeply moved during John Boehner’s installation as the Republican Speaker of the House when he and the former Democratic Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, embraced.

I was reminded of the “kiss of peace” at a pre-game mass of Cincinnati’s Moeller High School football team on which John Boehner played center and linebacker. I was there as a guest of the teams’ coach, Gerry Faust, for whom I was negotiating a book deal before he became head coach at Notre Dame. I played the same positions as Boehner on my high school team; so I feel a certain affinity with him.

In our floating D.C. parish of the 60s, we substituted for the English kiss of peace salutation, “Peace be with you,” its ancient Hebrew ancestor, Shalom, to which we added an African-American colloquialism, “Shalom, Baby!”

Today intolerance is spreading like wildfire against immigrants from south of our borders (“illegal”), from the near east (“terrorists”), and tolerant citizens everywhere are damned as “liberals.”

I’m reminded that in the 1840s, bigotry landed hard on Irish immigrants (my ancestors); and later, on newly arriving Italians (Nancy Pelosi’s). Nor did German immigrants (like John Boehner’s ancestors) escape hatred’s scourge: In WWI a Catholic school was forbidden to teach the German language; and in WWII bigotry’s grip closed a famous German-American restaurant in Baltimore.

There is no cultural, religious, ethnic, gender, or belief group in the United States that hasn’t felt the lash of demagogues peddling hatred.

In my New Year blog, I hoped that the new 112th Congress, “inspired by the 111th," would “do as well or better, and that new members, including Republicans and their Speaker, John Boehner, will help the nation weather its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

The kiss of peace at Boehner’s installation reinforced my hope as did the near universal remorse over the Tucson Tragedy. The Republican Health Care stunt echoed some of last year’s muddy, deadlock trenches; but I was cheered watching senators and congress members from opposing parties sitting side by side to hear the President’s State of the Union address.

President Obama challenged both parties to work together to renew a forward looking, innovative edge to our nation’s economy. The Republican Party’s official response disclosed deep disagreement with some of the president’s proposals. The president believes, however, that our differences, vigorously argued in an open, collegial spirit, will yield new creative solutions to vanquish unemployment and other persistent, ugly remains of the 2008 recession.

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Keep the faith, baby!

photo credit, Flickr, CincMatt

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

First, to my family and friends; also,

The new 112th Congress of the United States convening in January,

John Boehner, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives,

Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, now House Minority Leader,

John Lewis, Congressman from the Fifth Georgia District in Atlanta,

Harry Reid, Majority Leader of the Senate,

President Barack Obama,

Vice President Joseph Biden, and

Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State.

The 111th Congress successfully addressed and passed, over obstinate opposition, more desperately needed, controversial legislation than any other Congress since the 89th when voter rights legislation passed in the 1960s!

I hope the 112th is inspired by the 111th example to do as well or better, and that new members, including Republicans and their Speaker, John Boehner, will help the nation weather its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

My Cousin Kathleen, focused on other issues, didn’t like the emphasis in my Taming the Borrowing Beast” blog on the fact that, "The last time the United States operated on balanced budgets. . .was during the Democratic Administration of President Clinton." In reply, my “Nation Becoming A Dysfunctional Family” blog described election feuding over divisive issues that avoid government “addiction to irresponsible credit expansion during the last forty years...

“We are a marvelously diverse and contentious country of many shapes, sizes, colors, races, religions and sexual orientations. We're a nation of immigrants from every corner of the earth; a miniature United Nations of people live on every city block and small town. Our family mirrors our country, every bit as diverse and very contentious. . . . We have married people from many distant lands. These differences make life exciting and interesting; but there are times when we have to put them aside; now is such a time.

“The answer is not to avoid discussing our differences—as if this were possible— — but in remembering the law of love that holds our disputatious family together.

“Your Father, Kathleen, as you know so well, was talented in keeping . . . rhetoric in bounds with humor. Other members of our clan share this gift. That's why no one, whatever their cultural roots, wants to miss one of our family parties.

I have but one concrete suggestion to Republicans in the 112th Congress:

Prove that I am wrong in claiming that little if any job stimulus will flow from the billions in tax breaks you recently won in the 111th Congress for your wealthiest patrons and the corporations they own and control. It’s not hard:

A. Persuade your patrons to stop hoarding their enormous cash reserves such as I describe in my “Hatching a Brand New Beast” blog;

B. Persuade your patrons to spend or invest their cash reserves and tax breaks like Warren Buffet, in new enterprises that will create jobs, instead of “safe” aging enterprises approaching the down side of their secular trend curve;

C. Persuade your patrons and the state governments they dominate to stop firing, start hiring and begin serving their constituents’ needs;

D. Persuade your patrons and the media they control to stop trashing on efforts to accomplish these things and those who advocate them, like George Soros;

E. If your patrons do these things they’ll make a lot of money, avoid a class war, and like themselves better.

photo credit: flickr, rkramer62

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Democrats Pay Scrooge Ransom

A New Republican Borrowing Beast is Born!

I have been waiting since the November election to see how Republican Borrowing Beast scams play out. That fearsome beast has now, despite campaign deficit reduction talk, once again been unleashed. We will continue to borrow money to reward our richest billionaires with new billions in tax breaks. Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit, and his impoverished family will continue to suffer; Tiny Tim may lose his health insurance; and the miserable Scrooge will continue to speculate, hoard money and foreclose.

Thursday, December 16, 2010 Congress finally approved, and the next day the President signed, an $858 billion extension of all Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for two years and created additional new tax breaks as well. One fourth of all income tax reductions go to the richest one percent of taxpayers. They are also rewarded with a $5 million inheritance tax exemption and reduced rates. Democrats were coerced into voting this monstrous giveaway to the rich as ransom for extending middle-class tax reductions and unemployment benefits for thirteen months. See a graphic illustration of the cost of this plan here.

In my August 15, 2010 blog, Paper Money Makes Voters Happy,” I quoted Canby Balderston, then a governor of the Federal Reserve Board, summing up a speech at a Wharton School Alumni luncheon during the Nixon Administration:

“We will soon run out of that nothing with which to make no down payment.”

I then explained: “Despite the warnings of true conservatives like Canby Balderston and Paul Volker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Republican politicians, beginning with President Nixon, could not resist the temptation to buy elections with ever-expanding extensions of credit.”

After some details about how this works, I quoted a moving description in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by a long unemployed, decorated war veteran of how it feels trying to live on the “nothing” of which Dean Balderston spoke.

August 30 I wrote a sequel, “Taming the Borrowing Beast,” in which I pointed out: “The last time the United States operated on balanced budgets, that is, spending no more money than collectable in taxes, was during the Democratic Administration of President Clinton. In its final annual quarters, that administration’s budgets yielded a surplus; that is, the federal government collected more in taxes than it spent.

“According to the still dominant business cycle theory of British economist Lord John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), governments should take in more money than they spend during good times so that in hard times they may ease the pain by spending more than they take in. . . .

“Continuing in the Nixon tradition, President George W. Bush, at the first sign of declining economic prospects in 2001, applied a big dose of Nixon voter happiness balm with risky inflationary tax cuts to the wealthy, and, as if that was not enough, began a war in Afghanistan. In 2003, came more tax cuts to the wealthy and the Iraq war.

“Tax cuts plus war spending are wildly inflationary. They induce voter euphoria for a while—a seemingly endless feast of dollars garnished with patriotic fervor are delicious—but eventually the happiness bubble breaks, and we are at the mercy of a grouchy Borrowing Beast.

“That beast leaves us, in the words of Alan Greenspan, with choices that are no longer between “the good and the better,” but between “the bad and worse.”

How do we, an electorate addicted to an illusory prosperity from a political financing fix, tame our Borrowing Beast?

“First, as in the ‘twelve steps’ method, we have to face the fact of our addiction.

For more on this topic: Hatching a Brand New Beast.”

cartoon credit:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Approaching Republican Armageddon

The last flood of secret Republican political spending produced Watergate; the current deluge may have more violent, lasting consequences.

E.J. Dionne Jr. reports in the Washington Post of October 18, 2010 that Republican “outside groups that refuse to disclose their donor lists. . . are doing the dirty work of pounding their Democratic opponents in commercials for which no one is accountable. The Republican candidates can shrug an innocent ‘Who, me?’ Deniability is a wonderful thing."

And then, on the far right, Glenn Beck and his allies cast President Obama as the central figure in a conspiracy against America itself, fueling participation by the most extreme 10 percent or 15 percent of the electorate.

Their crackpot ideas, as the historian Sean Wilentz documented in the New Yorker recently, originated in the 1950s and '60s, in the paranoid theorizing of the John Birch Society. But whereas responsible conservatives such as William F. Buckley Jr. denounced the Birchers and the rest of the lunatic fringe back then, Republicans this time are riding the radical wave. . . .

Frank Rich reports in The New York Times on October 17, 2010, under the title “The Rage Won’t End on Election Day,” that the current “wave of anger began with the parallel 2008 cataclysms of the economy’s collapse and Barack Obama’s ascension.”

The economic meltdown precipitated by forty years of financial deregulation and tax avoidance borrowing threatened the illusory security of Middle Class America; the election of President Obama stirred the sleeping violence of what we hoped was long dead racism. Republicans fired these twin frustrations with lies and cash to distract attention from culpably risky GOP financial adventurism.

The immediate consequence, as Rich points out, was a report in the Boston Globe last fall “that the Secret Service was overwhelmed by the death threats against the president as well as a rise in hate groups and anti-government fervor. In a cover article last month, Barton Gellman wrote in Time that the magazine’s six month investigation found that ‘the threat level against the president and other government targets” is at its highest since the anti-government frenzy that preceded Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.”

The ugly names Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and other Democrats have endured and that’s a mark of how well they’ve done their jobs in the face of bought and paid for vilification and do-nothing, filibustering opponents. Mr. Dionne’s report concludes that Republican candidates “can be calmly affable, knowing they have behind them oodles of secret cash and a far right that sees Nov. 2 as Armageddon.”

If you want a close-up up of current rehearsals for the approaching Republican- managed Armageddon—the thousands of violent participants and hate groups, their sordid criminal activities, and their connections with Fox News, read Intelligence Report, a monthly periodical published by the famous nemesis of the Ku Klux Klan, The Southern Poverty Law Center, now battling a gigantic resurgence of Klan successors.

Democratic voters must not be discouraged by what a gullible media reports as the “enthusiasm” of Republican voters (all bought and paid for).

You didn’t make any mistakes in 2008, and you’re going to do a grand encore November 2, 2010 and save us, once again, from secret, bigoted Republican money.

photo: flickr, bobster855, Harvey Comics