Category Archives: Politics

On Politics and the Sorry State of Affairs (or, you know, the Democrats)

(x-posted at Forbes Avenue)

I’ve been having a hard time figuring out what to say about politics of late.

Part of it is that life gets in the way and a brotha ain’t always got time to sit down and take stock of everything that is happening. And part of it is that I’m losing faith that we liberals always taking to the innanets is even effective.

But this was a big week, folks. Big education speech. Big health care speech. White folks still freakin’ out about the fact that the president got some melanin. And one of the tried and true liberal visionaries lost his job, leaving Obama with pretty much no one on the Left with which to work.

Time to say something.

But what do I say that I haven’t said already? I wrote a few months ago about my frustration with the Democrats? But I wanna take it a step further:

I do not believe there is a progressive movement in this country, which is why I think the Democrats are so ineffectual.

To wit: Brilliant reporting on how the Democrats fucked up health care from jump.

To wit:

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What’s Wrong with Obama’s Speeches on Race

(cross posted at Forbes Avenue)

Well, first. There are so few.

No, seriously — let me start by saying that the fact that we have a president who talks about race seriously at all is a huge step in the right direction.

That said, I am frequently distressed by what the president actually says when he does speak about race. Because I think he is (perhaps unintentionally) intellectually dishonest about how race truly operates, what life is actually like as a Black person, and what it will take to really create equality of opportunity and an equitable division of resources (which are two very different things that require two separate, but specific, approaches).

Unlike most people, I thought the Philadelphia speech was terrible, ahistorical, and dangerous. I thought in his attempt to appeal to both White and Black, he made a crucial mistake that many people make when discussing race — equating Black and White feelings about, and experiences with, race symmetrically. Meaning White people’s resentment at Black progress was the same as Black frustration with being oppressed.

Simply – though both are legitimate, they are not equal.

To suggest, as he did, that they are, I think is dangerous. I think it contributes to a feeling of fatigue in America. Fatigue with remedies for past wrongs. Fatigue with talking about Black people when we can talk about White people. Fatigue fatigue fatigue.

This is perhaps unavoidable. He is a politician and there are many more White people than there are Black people. He must say what will allow him to stay in power and do what he wants to do to help everyone. I get that.

But because race operates the way it does, what any prominent Black person says carries enormous weight. In this case, what he’s saying is incredibly detrimental to a concerted, real fight to end racism (it’s great, if you’re goal is bettering race relations…but yea, that’s a different goal).

We’ve got to find language that talks honestly, directly, and passionately to the specific and unique experience of being Black in America without it being assumed that, by doing so, we ignore everyone else.

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Beating the Racial Double Standard Horse Dead; Or, How We Continue to Miss the Point

Perusing The Root during my lunch break today, I came across this headline, "TV's Golden Age of Rage: O'Reilly, Hannity, Olbermann and the rise of white rage on cable television."  I immediately clicked on the link, ready to read what I thought would be a brilliant dissection of white paranoia and white frustration with non-white male progress (and its perceived byproduct, white male stagnation) as propagated by the "news media."

But then I got to this part:

But now, try to think of a single African-American newsman who's exhibited—and gotten away with—the type of antics their white counterparts do each and every day on America’s top news channels. Don’t feel ignorant if you can’t. There aren’t any. But why?

Ugh.

This article, which isn't entirely wrong about the racial double standard, does succeed in diluting the force of an argument against such a standard by arguing that what Black folk want is the ability to do stupid ass shit too. 

Look, I'm all for reminding people of racial double standards.  But in this case, I don't know that we should be arguing for Black people to act a damn fool on the news. 

Or, to put it another way, the article misses the point.  The issue with cable news right now isn't that its unfair that Black folks can't behave the way Hannity, Beck, and O'Reilly behave. 

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A Democratic Majority: What Does It Mean?

So Al Franken will be seated and Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Jamelle, like me, is skeptical that this means what Democrats and the mainstream media will try to tell you that it means:

The past few months have demonstrated the extent to which there are real ideological/interest-based fissures within the Democratic caucus. Or put another way, Ben Nelson is still the 60th vote, Evan Bayh the 59th, Blanche Lincoln the 58th and so on.

Precisely.

I think the problem with this "super-majority"/"filibuster proof" meme is that it obscures the reality that the Democratic party is a collection of loosely aligned points of view.  Sixty Democratic votes doesn't mean the same thing as 60 Republican votes (or even 58 Republican votes). 

I suspect the reason Democrats fall out of favor is that people view them in a way that is not at all based in reality. Meaning, people expect Democrats to behave as Republicans…you know, like a party and using their majority to ram things through Congress.

There is a part of me that would like this to be the case (at least, partly).  I sorta think winning an election gives you some leeway to do what you think should be done.  I know, crazy, right?

However, I never look at the Democratic party as a party in the way I view the Republican party as a party. And it is not that I don't think they believe in anything, so much as I don't think they are organized around a central ideology like the Republicans.  And that makes things different.

But the meme out there will be that Democrats will push through whatever it is they want, or should, whether they do that or not.  But no one will define what it is the Democrats want.  Because no one knows.  What the Blue Dogs want isn't the same as what a Chuck Schumer wants. 

Why does no one say this (enough)?

Jamelle rightly deconstructs Ezra Klein's primary message that Democrats should use this majority to get some stuff done because Klein fails to account for the fact that there is no there there.  What do Democrats want?

Democrats in the past may have been the overreaching liberal party, but they aren't that now.  But you wouldn't know that to listen to the Right and the mainstream media.

Ultimately, I think what will happen is that Democrats will fall apart on health care and everything else (and probably never even get to the "black" issues like mandatory minimum sentencing) and people will vote some of them out of power, thinking (I would argue incorrectly) that Democrats squandered their majority.

I would say this is good because the Democratic party is so disjointed that it serves no one well at all, but what is the alternative?