KRUGMAN AND REID AND TEA PARTIESOH MY! Krugman pens an important columnand fury surrounds Harry Reid: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, JANUARY 11, 2010
History starts tomorrow: Tomorrow, well launch a second web site, devoted to a basic topic from our recent political history. Well also start making the first money pitch in the eleven-plus years of THE HOWLER.
Constructing a second sprawling campus is beginning to tax our finite resources. We hope youll consider our plans, which we will discuss this week. If you think our plans are worthwhile, we hope you consider donating.
Krugman adds a log to the pile: Over the past thirty years, American politics has largely been driven by a pile of disingenuous, misleading sound-bites. In the past year, weve discussed some of the focus group-tested bites which have driven our (long-term) health care discussion. (We have the best health care in the world! National/socialized European-style health care has failed everywhere its ever been tried!)
These bites are repeated over and over, often without any real rebuttal from armies of slumbering liberals. People hear these claims again and again. They come to believe that theyre true.
This morning, in an important column, Paul Krugman adds another log to the pile. Old Europes an economic basket-case! Everyone has heard this claim. But right at the start of this mornings column, Krugman says it aint so:
Old Europes an economic disaster! People have heard this again and again. But it just isnt true, Krugman says.
We strongly suggest that you read the whole column. But in the highlighted passage below, the rubber rips at the road:
1.95 percent is larger than 1.83 percent. But even allowing for the joy of compounding, it isnt larger by much.
For our money, Krugman is a bit restrained when he explains why so many Americans think Europes an economic disaster. Here is the relevant passage:
Krugman engages in something resembling tautology here. Heres our own translation of what he has said:
Why do we get such a gloomy picture of Europe from so many pundits? Because conservative spin-tanks invented this sound-bite (among many others)and many liberals and mainstream figures have politely slumbered along.
This is a very important column. Even more important is a very basic question:
When will liberals develop the frameworks and institutions through which such dominant sound-bites get debunked, then dragged to the ground? When will liberals decide to tell average people (Ewww! We know!) that theyre being systematically played by the very capable hustlers who hand them this poll-tested blarney?
Race to the crossing: Here at THE HOWLER, weve been stunned by the growing discussion of Harry Reids comment about Obama. For our money, Lani Guinier gets it right in this mornings New York Times. (Mark Leibovich did the reporting.)
For the moment, ignore what Guinier says about Trent Lotts famous, widely-discussed remark in 2002. Focus instead on what she says about Reids comment in 2007 or 2008:
Duh. Reids language (Negro dialect) was largely archaic, and some have apparently found it insulting. But does anyone doubt that Reids remark did address lingering, unfortunate truths (or possible truths) about race in America, of the type Guinier describes? (With some trepidation, we note that Guinier is largely being paraphrased.) Does anyone doubt that skin color counts (or may count) when it comes to electing a black president? That Obamas thoroughly standard speech patterns may make him more electable, as opposed to some other black candidate whose speech may seem more accented? (Or less standard in some other way?)
This discussion will continue all week, with every pundit rising to say how deeply and thoroughly he is appalled by the vile thing Harry Reid said. Well only note a few odd facts about this unfolding discussion:
Weve rarely seen a discussion in which the outraged parties seemed to feel so little obligation to explain just what it is theyre outraged about. But several pundits, in the past two days, have seemed to suggest that they think the word Negro was an earlier racial slurwas, in effect, the n-word. That isnt true, of coursealthough the black community, on the whole, eventually pushed to replace this traditional term with other descriptive terms. But was this traditional term a slur? In 1963, the moral genius of the last century closed the centurys best-known speech with this very famous passage:
Was Dr. King a closet racist? Beyond that, might he have been a sexist as well? (Because he spokes of black men and white men?)
Traditionally, Negro was the standard term, the conventional term of respect. We only note this point because weve seen some younger pundits, even this morning, who have seemed to suggest something different.
The term is rarely used now. But last Wednesday, Rachel Maddow discussed the fact that this largely-abandoned term will be employed on this years census form. When people are asked to identify their race, the term Negro will be part of the mix. For better or worse, heres why:
Will use of this term improve the census? We have no ideabut its sure to generate a discussion. Maddows guest this night was David Wilson, managing editor and founder of TheGrio.com. Wilson believes that younger blacks will largely be negative about use of the term. (This is not a word that were used to, my generation is used to seeing in an official document.) In the course of the full program, these comments occurred:
MADDOW: There is a word that hasnt really been used to describe African-Americans since about the Lyndon Johnson administration. So what is that word doing on U.S. government forms now? U.S. Government forms now, that every American is going to see this year? How the Census Bureau went all Mayberry RFD. Its coming up. Stay tuned.
Just a guess: Bull Connor didnt say Negro a lot. Meanwhile, did it say Negro only on those water fountains? Maybe, but not all the time.
Wilson may well be right about the way younger blacksmen and women of his generationwill tend to respond to official use of this term. (On its face, we find it odd too.) For ourselves, we were struck by Maddows Mayberry RFD reference. The association seems fairly clear: Negro somehow brings southern whites (southern white crackers?) to mind. No, that doesnt exactly make sense, except within the framework of a certain type of reflexive liberalism.
Was Harry Reid wrong in what he said? More dramatically, was his comment racist, as many are saying? Different people will think different things. Well only suggest a basic requirement: Public debates become more clear when complaining parties are asked to define the specific offense. Absent that simple requirement, a long string of fatuous pundits will posture about this comment all week, letting us gaze on their vast moral greatness. As weve watched some of these people in the past two days day, weve sometimes found ourselves wondering: Have they ever thought about race at any point in their lives? In fact, we thought this thought this very morning, watching Joe and Mika express their exceptionally high moral grandeur.
We think Guiniers statement is basically sound. We also think Reid is seventy years old, like the small percentage of blacks the Census Bureau cited. And as in the Leibovich passage quoted above, Reid has an actual political history concerning actual matters of race. But people! That concerns real issues, real issues which affected real lives! Our pundits tend to find such things dull. They prefer to preen, exclaim, posture.
One more outlook: On Friday night, Melissa Harris-Lacewell discussed the census issue with Maddow. Harris-Lacewell largely disagreed with Wilson about the Census Bureaus decision. When they post the Maddow transcripts, theyll be posting them here.
Whos at the party: We got an e-mail disagreeing with one part of last Fridays HOWLER (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/8/10). That New York Times letter-writer was right about tea party members, our e-mailer said:
We understand this writers frustration, but disagree with his approach. That said, he asks a very good question. (Please explain to me how a liberal is supposed to approach someone who thinks...) More on these topics to follow this week.
How is a liberal supposed to approach? Its a question we rarely discussa very important question.