BLOWING THE VOTERS AWAY! Charles Blow, playing the race card again, shows how progressives flounder: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2010
Its history: We want to express our thanks to those who supported our first-ever fund-raising drive. That said, we hope youll go over to our new site and dive into Chapter 1. (Chapter 2 coming soon.)
Its important history.
All of you who were so nice will be hearing from one of the analysts. Warning! Some may ask if they can live at your home. Find ways to tell them no.
KO does it again: Will Candidate Coakley win tonight? We have no idea. We will say this: We thought the analyses by Olbermann and Schultz were weak beyond inept last night (more tomorrow). Olbermann just bellowed insults at Candidate Brown; Schultz managed little better. Finally, he did ask an obvious question, speaking to one of the Bay States own:
Duh. If progressives ever want to build a winning politics, they shouldnt be waiting until the last night to be asking such obvious questions. They should be interviewing middle-class voters, asking them to explain how they see the world. Instead, we tend to bellow insults at the electorate, telling them theyre a big gang of racists. Then we wonder, at the last minute, why we may be losing a race.
By the way, how did Barnicle answer that question? This isnt about Obama or his agenda, Barnicle said. Then, he self-contradicted:
Is Barnicle right? We have no ideain part, because many high-profile liberal vehicles make no earthly attempt to learn how average voters feel. At these entitles, liberals ignore or insult the public. Then, on Election Eve, they bellow at Candidate Coakley for having done the same thing.
How inept are our liberal vehicles? Here was Olbermann again, speaking to Gene Robinsonand pimping reconciliation. Does this guy have even one clue?
Can this possibly be true? According to Olbermann, he has heard only one argument against reconciliation. (Moments earlier, he said that a bill passed under reconciliation would be a better bill.) Well assume most readers have heard other arguments against the use of reconciliationthat you have to drop certain parts of the bill under the rules of the process; that you will therefore end up with a bill thats full of holes; that a bill passed under reconciliation expires after five years (click here, see Ornstein). For ourselves, were still not sure how this process would work, because neither Olbermann nor the mainstream press have ever bothered explaining it. But weve certainly heard other arguments. It keeps sounding like KO has not.
Will Candidate Coakley win tonight? We have no idea. But on the larger scale, why dont we have a winning progressive politics? More on that question to come.
BLOWING THE VOTERS AWAY [permalink]: The recent flap about Harry Reid just keeps provoking odd reactions. In this mornings New York Times, Shankar Vedantam pens an intriguing, research-based piece about advantages which accrue to lighter-skinned blacks. According to Vedantam, positing that black candidates who look less black have a leg up, as Harry Reid did, is hardly more controversial than saying wealthy people have an advantage in elections.
Well assume thats sad but true; Vedantam offers intriguing, sometimes maddening, data in support of his thesis. But alas! Before Vedantam could say that Reids political analysis was in fact accurate, something possessed him to say the following, right in his opening paragraph. He even dragged in Dr. King:
Really? What would make Vedantam say that Reid was expressing a gleeful opportunism about this unfortunate matter? We dont have the slightest ideaand Vedantam didnt seem to feel the need to explain.
Vedantam is a smart and interesting analyst, unlike many major journalists. But the Reid flap has produced a long string of puzzling, weakly-argued, un-explained judgments. The curse of our gruesome racial history thus reveals itself in this flap. Lets face it: Cable pundits would have postured and preened about this topic all week. Their serial foolishness was only cut off when Haiti was struck by disaster.
How pundits do love to posture on race! For another example, consider Charles Blows underwhelming column in Saturdays New York Times.
Blow seems like a decent guy whenever we see him on cable. But hes strongly inclined to play the cards which make it harder, in the long run, for progressives to produce a winning politics. On Saturday, he started with standard pointless insults aimed at the consummate dumbness of Palin, the newest Fox News contributor. Blow gave no examples of the all manner of nonsense Palin had apparently spouted in her debut sessions on Fox. Then, he moved ahead to a racial analysis which, in our view, was every bit as unimpressive as anything Palin came close to saying in those recent Fox sessions.
Its hard to know just what Blow was alleging, since he never quite managed to say. But he seemed to be doing what some liberals lovehe seemed to be suggesting that white opposition to Obama is, at heart, a racial matter. Blows analysis was accompanied by this unhelpful graphic. As often happens, Blows assertions dont seem to match the data shown in the graphic:
That analysis is driven by insinuation, rather than by clear assertion. But Blows insinuations seem fairly clear. In Blows world, whites are now fuming at Obamaand Palin is an ideal vessel for this mounting white discontent. Were asked to recall her rallies from 2008; every liberal will surely know what sorts of recollections were thus invited to ponder. At the end, were invited to note that the Fox/Palin audience is of course heavily white.
This passage offers a jumble of associations, which seem to convey a familiar idea: White discontent with Obama is apparently built around race. (To see this reflexive race-baiting expressed in letter-to-the-editor form, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/8/10.)
Almost surely, Blows insinuations will seem pleasing to many liberals. But Blows analysis is remarkably weak, despite the gentlemans chipper visage and largely baseless certitude. Beyond that, Blows analysis helps us see the ways a certain type of pseudo-liberal has always conspired to defeat progressive ends.
Simply put, well never have a winning progressive politics as long as liberals keep yelling race in every possible circumstance.
How dumb is Blows analysis? Well tell you one thing for certain: Its dumber than anything Palin said in her recent Fox sessions. Its true: Obama does have the lowest approval rating among whites at the end of his first year in office, when compared to the other five presidents encompassed by Blows survey. (Two are Democrats, three are Republicans.) Indeed, one gap in approval ratings seems even larger than Blows text states; Blows graphic seems to show that Obamas approval rating is more than forty points lower than George W. Bushs approval rating in January 2002. Of course, Bush was engaged in a glorious warit had knocked his ratings through the roofand Obama is mired in the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. How do Obamas ratings look when compared to those of other presidents who may have served in somewhat comparable circumstances? Lets compare his approval rating among whites to that of President Reagan, in January 1982.
In Blows graphic, Obamas approval rating among white seems to be 40 percent. (Blow doesnt link to any source for his data.) Reagans approval rating among whites seems to have been 55 percent in January 1982. Clearly, thats a major difference. But does it represent a racial distaste for Obama, based on the fact that hes black?
Sorry. Wed have to say no.
At that point, Reagans approval ratings had dropped a good deal from their state at his inauguration. His approval ratings would drop even further in 1982, as his bad economy continued. But any serious comparison here has to encompass a basic fact: White voters have always voted for the Republican during this era, and against the Democrat. White voters have always disfavored the Democratic candidate, whether the Dem was white or black. Just consider the way these two presidents made their way into office.
In 1980, Reagan was elected with 55 percent of the white vote. Carter got 36 percent. (Perhaps because voters thought he was a light-skinned black.) John Anderson, a moderate Republican, drained off eight percent more. Just a guess, but its an obvious guess: Reagan would have won at least 60 percent of the white vote in a two-person race.
In 2008, Obama was elected with 43 percent of the white vote; McCain got 55. That was a slightly higher percentage than Obamas two Democratic predecessors got. (In 2004, Kerry got 41 percent of the white vote; Bush got 58. In 2000, Gore lost the white vote to Bush, 54-42.)
Question: Is Obamas current approval rating among whites a reflection of a racial dynamica reaction to the fact that hes black? Were not sure why youd want to say (or imply) that. Using Blows data, Obama got 43 percent of the white voteand after one year, his approval rating among whites is 40 percent. Reagan got 55 percent of the white vote (with eight more points drained off by Anderson)and after one year, his approval rating among whites was 55 percent. Theres little difference in these patternsexcept for the starting-point in white support.
Whites are now fuming at Obama? In fact, whites voted for McCain, just as they voted for Bush. A plurality of whites think Bush did better than Obama? What a shock! Whites voted for Bush (against Kerry and Gore). They voted against Obama.
Obama is serving at an extremely difficult time. For our money, his approval ratings are remarkably high, given the miserable circumstances. (In the new Washington Post poll, his overall approval rating is 53 percent. Reagans overall number went well below that as his recession deepened.) We think its fairly clear that Obama lost some white votes in 2008 due to racial animus. (If exit polls can be believed, he won remarkably low percentages of white voters in several deep south states.) But why is his current approval rating lower than that of Reagan, who served in a somewhat similar circumstance? In part, because white voters always prefer Republicans. All things being equal, Republican presidents will always score higher among whites. Thats the basic shape of our current politics, although youd never know it from reading Blow.
Is there really something odd about Obamas rating among whites? Something requiring a big explanation? Sorry: Wed have to say no.
Dirty little secret: Blow is a very weak analyst. He also loves to imply the race card, like some others on his page. Indeed, many liberals have yelled race race race all through Obamas campaign and tenure. Sad but true: This seems to be the only political concept some liberals have.
We liberals love to yell about race, even when it makes little sense. (We love to lodge insinuations, rather than make clear claims.) In this way, we make one outcome fairly certain: There will never be a winning progressive politics, anywhere in this land.
Two weeks ago, we noted a letter to the New York Times which played the racist card quite freely. Two days later, the same card was being played against Reid. Reid would have been battered by posturing pundits all weekexcept for suffering Haiti.
Divide and conquer, The Interests say. As long as two tribes yell race at each other, The Interests will always win.
Racial justice is deeply important, of course. But justice moves various ways.
Tomorrow: Our leaders love demons