Saturday, September 12, 2009

Professor Radical Goes To Washington To Preview The Apocalypse

Today the Radical got up at dawn, took a cab to Teenie Airport and came to our nation's capital on behalf of an American Historical Association book prize committee. But I was also in for a nice surprise. Because I do not travel in the Right circles, until I checked my Twitter account I had not had it on my radar that the Teabag people were marching on Washington today.

Hence, I got to see history in the making. The hotel where the committee was meeting is right near the Mall, so that when I checked in with half an hour to spare, I rushed back onto the street to begin documenting the event. That's when I ran into the gentlemen in the photo on the left. I saw their flag swirling about and asked them if they would pose. They were happy to do so, but asked me to wait until they could stretch it out completely. "We don't want you to just take a picture that makes everyone think it's a Confederate flag," one said.

But it is a Confederate flag, I thought. Well no, not exactly. " 'At's the state of South Carolina battle flag," the other guy explained proudly. I took the picture and thanked them, immediately sending the photo via iPhone to the Mother of the Radical (MOTheR) who is, in fact, a Little Old Lady in Tennis Shoes, but of the left-wing variety. Reach out and touch someone, you know what I mean? I was then summoned by the book prize committee, who had perhaps looked out the window and thought they had seen their missing colleague consorting with Civil war re-enactors. At their polite request, I ran inside to eat a turkey club sandwich and to sacrifice for the History Profession, which was Arnita Jones' point in flying me down here in the first place.

As soon as we were done deciding the prize, I skibbled back outside and over to the Mall to gain insight into fellow countrymen and women, the like of whom do not congregate by the thousands in Shoreline. I was also, frankly, intrigued by my first interlocutors' distinction between "the Confederate Flag" and the "South Carolina battle flag" -- in which, as you can see, the Stars and Bars are prominently embedded. The distinction they were trying to make, I think, was that the former was racist but the latter was purely military -- and thus, not racist. In other words, they wanted to be taken seriously as political activists and patriots, not be dismissed as garden-variety white supremacists.

Patriotism was a big theme of a march where participants invoked race and racism only to deny that their actions were racist in origin. However, the occasional appearance of a "redskin," or a minstrel Uncle Sam with blacked face and long, nappy, fake dreds pouring out of his stovepipe hat complicated that claim, as did portraits of Obama in whiteface with large, red lips. Had I expressed my belief that such depictions and performances are racist, however, I think marchers would have told me that was projection on my part. "Liberals carry the race card in their wallets," read many signs.

Perhaps the aggressive denials of racism are inspired by the marchers' fear that their profound hatred, fear and contempt for President Barack Obama will be perceived as racist, when in their view it is merely hatred, fear and contempt of a President who happens to be black. And they do hate him: Joe Wilson's attack several days ago -- "You lie!" -- was echoed on tee shirts, signs and banners; I am told it was an ongoing chant at the rally. The view that Obama lies about everything is reiterated in words and images: the president was caricatured as the Joker and as the Devil, among other things. I am actually quite persuaded that they don't hate him only because he is black. They hate all politicians except Joe Wilson, and they only like Wilson because of his current position as the John Birch of Congress and because he said what they already believe: all politicians, all powerful people, lie. When they say there are no death panels, the reasoning goes, when it's not even in the bill -- you can be pretty sure there will be death panels. Lock and load, boys.

But I am also persuaded that in a paranoid world where our beloved Constitution is being held hostage by mysterious forces (Richard Hofstadter, phone home!) and "they" will be breaking down our doors any day now to pry our guns from our cold, dead hands, there are no black people who are politically legitimate figures. People who valorize the North American eighteenth century as the epitome of freedom and don't seem to remember that this form of freedom accommodated chattel slavery are telling you something about whether black people sharing political authority with white people, much less having authority over them, is natural and normal. I asked one white, professional resident of the District if it bothered her that she couldn't vote for national offices. She replied that it did, but that on balance she was quite glad that the vast majority of the people who lived in the District were also disenfranchised.

Those voters would be black.

My belief that a very complex story about race was played out today on the Mall was intensified by the fact that, in an hour and a half of mingling with the crowd I saw exactly two African-American and one Asian descended participant: everyone else was white. Everyone. The not-Confederate flag was the exception rather than the rule; most people wearing patriotic colors were wearing garish American flag shirts, jackets and hats; tee-shirts commanded the Congress to "get your hands off my Constitution" or insisted that the wearer "loves this country but fears the government." Yellow "Don't tread on me" flags were selling briskly. But there were also real Aryan Nation types there. I saw one group of young men whose tees explicitly identified them either as Klansmen or Klan wanna-bes; and a second group wore Minuteman tees. At another point I was walking and chatting with a group, one of whom asked me if I had noticed how clean the Mall was after the rally (in fact I had; I had also seen marshals walking around reminding people to pick up their trash, and heard, in passing, other marchers proudly pointing out to each other how clean the protesters were leaving the Mall.)

I said yes, the Mall was clean, and it was pointed out to me in a meaningful way that "other groups" left the Mall filthy. "Why do you think that is?" I asked. Six or seven people turned around and said, more or less in unison, "Their culture!" Now, I mention this not to mock anybody, but rather to say that I think that this is an excellent example of how ordinary right wing people, not just politicians, have learned to talk about race in a certain way while still claiming that they don't see race -just "behaviors" or "culture." I asked what they meant by culture, and one person explained that after Symphony concerts the Mall was always clean, but after pop and rock concerts, Boy Scouts had to be brought in from the suburbs to clean it up. When I asked to what they attributed this phenomenon, one of my companions explained that those who don't clean up after themselves in public spaces are "freeloaders" (one of the day's buzzwords) and "people who think they are going to be handed everything they need." I asked whether people who marched on behalf of abortion cleaned up after themselves, and I was told that no one knew, but that "Pro-Life marchers always clean up."

I then asked if homosexual marchers cleaned up, and that brought the conversation to a thoughtful stop for a moment. One person said she didn't know, as she had never been to a homosexual march, and another said, "Oh, I think they would clean up!"

We are a very neat people. And if you are really lucky we divide all the perennials before we go home to sodomize each other.

Please consider that moment of cynicism as the kind of humor that often follows a complex and deeply disturbing experience. That said, it's really good discipline to get out among people you disagree with violently, to just listen to them and to try to understand that these are real people and not some figment of Rachel Maddow's imagination. Although it would have been tempting to push some of the conversations further, I don't think it would have been very smart to get into an argument with anyone, and I'm glad I didn't. It would have been confusing too: while the media and the Republican party may want to bill this as an anti-health care march, as someone who was on the ground, I have to tell you that this was but one of many issues. Furthermore, few people had any sense of what they wanted from a health care system except that it not encroach on their freedom; that they not lose the right to refuse medical care that the government might force on them (like vaccinations, abortion and suicide); and that people who can't pay for health care, for whatever reason, don't deserve it and shouldn't have it. I almost became convinced that health care reform is not, in a funny way, even their issue. On the right you can see a disabled woman in a wheelchair, who may have been there because she truly believes the government will put her to death. She was one of several disabled people I saw who apparently oppose any health care bill the President or the Democratic Party might come up with that is intended to prevent the insurance companies from fiscally raping them or shutting them out altogether. There were other marchers whose health is clearly precarious: elderly folks, smokers, the overweight, people soldiering on with canes, oxygen tanks, scoliated spines and missing limbs. Mysteriously, to me at least, they too oppose better, cheaper and more accessible health care; meanwhile, many of their fellow marchers will tell you that people who smoke, who are fat, who "make bad choices," don't deserve any breaks.

I would say that the spine of this protest is not any well considered opposition to health care, but to taxes, and to the idea of government itself. This is not news, but I did want to emphasize that I am aware of this. How we pave roads and fight Holy Wars against the Taliban without government is not clear to me, but my guess is that those are details that would naturally resolve themselves if we could just get the yoke of bureaucracy off our necks. One of the pamphlets I picked up was from FairTax.org, which proposes to run what is left of the country, and the gargantuan military that right-wingers believe is indispensable to preserving "our freedoms," through sales taxes. The IRS would be abolished! "No Income, Payroll, AMT, Corporate, Estate, Capital Gains, Interest of Dividend Taxes; Keep your whole paycheck -- No withholding." Astonishingly, they also have a plan to tax "illegal and underground economies." But everyone else was there too: the anti-abortion folks; the gun folks; the anti-sodomy folks, the birthers, the anti-immigration folks, the home schoolers, the prayer-in-schoolers, and the folks who are always telling you the end is near. There was one person carrying a sign with his three issues, none of which had to do with health care: "The CIA protects our freedoms; End forced abortions; Child molesters deserve life in prison." Another sign read: "Thank you FOX News, for telling the Truth!"

I am sure the Republicans will try to bill this as "the people" rejecting "the President's proposals," but take it from me -- there was something far more opaque and interesting going on than that. I think the Republicans are holding on to these shock troops by a thread, and perhaps not at all. Astonishingly, one theme that seems to be emerging (and it is particularly prominent in a DVD I was given that contains two short films, The Obama Deception and America: From Freedom to Fascism) is that there is no difference between Obama and George W. Bush, a fantasy that I thought was the exclusive purview of Ralph Nader and Alexander Cockburn. One sign that pictured Obama as the Anti-Christ, when flipped, displayed Bush as the Anti-Christ. In fact, the Obama victory is proof-positive of the conspiracy that this right wing fringe has warned us about since the 1930s. In this apocalyptic scenario, Obama's election is part of the Wall Street plot to bring America to its knees, and now it appears that George W. Bush was a critical agent in that plot. This was a very interesting discovery. Indeed, if you go to Freedom's Phoenix, who produced the films above, our hero, Congressman Joe Wilson, is revealed as a "hypocrite" who voted for health care for illegal immigrants in 2003. (I wouldn't take this to the bank: Freedom's Phoenix also hints that Barack Obama may be involved in the Kennedy assassination cover up, and that MRI brain scans can detect a tendency to "freeload" that could then be corrected through medical intervention.)

There's more, but I think you get the picture. Here's the good news: a group that is so internally fractured, unfocused and opposed to the political system is not a powerful interest group but a Frankenstein monster. These folks hate the Republicans too, and I think a lot of them are disappointed Goldwaterites for whom the conservative revolution that we historians are so fascinated by never happened. Their history is a story of decline, and of brave individuals fighting back against freeloaders, financiers and foreigners. "Everything Barack Obama says means something different," The Obama Deception warns, For the Teabag people, this is a lesson to be learned more broadly about a political class that, from their perspective, only pretends to be a two party system. When they protest big government," they are not Republicans, or even conservatives in the conventional sense of the word. They are defenders of personal liberty against a one party state linked to a secret global system, a state that floods a nation of good white working people with illegal immigrants and freeloading welfare cheats, chuckling relentlessly about how they are fooling all of us.

I want to thank the people who shared their stories with me today, and those who agreed to have their photographs taken to document this march on Tenured Radical.

69 comments:

undine said...

Enlightening and very scary. Thanks for posting this.

Sisyphus said...

Yes, thank you. There's something about simplicity vs. complexity of modernity going on here that I can't really articulate. But it reminds me of a documentary I rented called _The Fire Next Time_, (which wasn't about what I thought it was going to be about.) that showed interesting rural and urban clashes over wilderness use.

Jonathan Dresner said...

Thanks for the thoughtful report.

I've said for years that the homeschool movement and right-wing publishing and media networks were creating a segment of the population whose history (as they see it) and culture were fundamentally different from the rest of us.

This is them.

Roxie Smith Lindemann said...

Yes, thanks a lot for the eyewitness account, TR. We locals stayed home and watched TV, waiting for tennis to come on. Interestingly, a local news report we caught on the march prominently showed an African-American woman who seemed to be speaking. I thought, yeah, that looks like a representative image of the crowd.

Oh, and we can attest that homosexuals always clean up the mall. The pretty boys insist. ;-)

CarrieLynn said...

Thank you for this amazing first person account -- had it been me, I am certain fisticuffs would have been in order! I also enjoyed it from the perspective of a Jon Stewart fan who wishes he would return from vacation already.

GayProf said...

I don't know about you, but dividing perennials is foreplay for the later sodomy. Mmm -- sweet, sweet sodomy.

This is one of my favorite posts ever at TR. One of the most brilliant pieces of the modern right-wing movement is that it has convinced people to actively vote against their own best interests.

JackDanielsBlack said...

How many folks showed up for the pro-healthcare rally in DC today, TR? 200? 500?

I think what you saw yesterday is what makes America great -- democracy in action! God bless Rep. Joe Wilson and his big mouth! That's what America is all about -- speaking truth to power!

At the moment, it looks like the right has all the passion that the left had during the Vietnam war demonstrations. Where are the big noisy demonstrations on the left? Calling people ignorant rednecks is no substitute for having committed folks of your own.

joshuax said...

"I would say that the spine of this protest is not any well considered opposition to health care, but to taxes, and to the idea of government itself."

I'm not so sure they're protesting the idea of government itself as much as they are government for only their means and ends. You noted it yourself, these are the same folks who generally have few problems with wars waged in the name of "protecting freedom" even when those wars may actually be dangers to freedom themselves. These are the same people who have no problem with government regulating "free" markets, especially when the only market interference is outsourced to foreign shores where we can't see it except for its devastating consequences abroad. Then we promptly deny that we helped cause the problem. These are the same people who are ok with restricting reproductive freedom and who glorify the murder of an OB/GYN, but who also can't seem to find fault with the death penalty.

These people aren't anarchists, and we should be thankful for that. Then they'd be really dangerous. But they couldn't be anarchists, because at the heart of their worldview is a desire to dominate in the name of Lord and country.

Tenured Radical said...

Jack:

Always glad to see you, but there is one serious correction -- I called no one an ignorant redneck, and I wish you hadn't invoked that. They are people -- and they had the grace to spend time with me -- and I have taken great care to be descriptive and true to what I saw and heard.

Cuppa?

dance said...

Really, a tremendously wonderful post. (on reading JackDanielsBlack's comment, I thought "did he read the post?")

I'm curious---how did you present yourself to the people you asked for permission? I mean, clearly you said "I'm blogging this" but did you identify it as a liberal blog, did they read you as a liberal?

JackDanielsBlack said...

TR, I did not state that you called anyone a redneck -- I was making the observation that because they cannot raise crowds for a cause themselves, the leftist commentators (see Daily Kos and Digg for example) are reduced to calling these folks you were mingling with yesterday names.

I don't know whether you realize it or not, but when you call these folks "teabaggers" for example, (as you did in your post) you are denigrating them. If you don't know what teabagger means, just watch Rachel Maddow, or google the term. I believe these folks have been talking about attending Tea Parties, not about "teabagging". What got them going in the first place was the bailout debacle, not healthcare reform. The very fact that they dislike George Bush as well as Barack Obama should tell you that their dislike is not racial but ideological in nature. I saw Pelosi caricatures as well as Obama caricatures yesterday, and last I checked, she ain't black.

Tenured Radical said...

dance:

I identified myself as an academic historian and a journalist, and told people I was writing a story about them for my blog, Tenured Radical. I tolf them that if they googled the blog it would come right up, and they could read the story.

Some of my recent experiences in the practice of oral history make me both reluctant to overly define myself, but caused me to be quite explicit about what I was doing so that they could choose not to talk to me. No one asked me about my politics, so I didn't volunteer it, but they all also seemed quite pleased to be asked for their thoughts and opinions.

Tenured Radical said...

Dear Jack:

YUCK! Thanks for the correction.

Ahistoricality said...

TR, You're an historian: don't take Jack's word for it. There was a "teabag movement" at the beginning of the "TEA party" (TEA = "taxed enough already") movement, and they used the term "teabagger" for themselves fairly freely until the sexual connotations of the term became more widely known. There are still teabagger references (right in the picture: he's holding up a pin that says "Proud to be a teabagger") within the movement.

JackDanielsBlack said...

Ahistoricality, don't take my word for it? I believe TR was taking Google's word. True, some of these folks may still innocently use this term (you can see how Tea Party could progress to teabag innocently enough), but in view of its connotation, I don't think enlightened, liberal people who know this connotation should refer to them this way. To do so seems to me just another way of putting them down. You disagree?

Ahistoricality said...

True, some of these folks may still innocently use this term

I don't accept the premise: at this point the sexual connotations are pretty well known; continued use of the term is much more likely to be defiant -- as in the use of "queer" -- than inadvertent.

To do so seems to me just another way of putting them down. You disagree?

I don't accept the premise: I've long since given up the conceit that sexual connotations are somehow upsetting or disgusting. All it does, as our slang evolves, is take more and more perfectly good words -- like "gay" -- out of general circulation.

I don't see why the TEA Party activists can't be called 'teabaggers' -- they started out sending teabags by the thousands to Congress -- when they themselves continue to use the term. That it also refers to a sexual act disturbs me not in the least, as long as it is legitimately a term that continues in use.

Language is funny that way, and historians even funnier: to be responsible to our sources and get the most out of them, we have to actually respect their use of language.

JackDanielsBlack said...

Thus spake Ahistoricality:

"I don't accept the premise: at this point the sexual connotations are pretty well known; continued use of the term is much more likely to be defiant -- as in the use of "queer" -- than inadvertent...I don't see why the TEA Party activists can't be called 'teabaggers' -- they started out sending teabags by the thousands to Congress -- when they themselves continue to use the term."

So, Ahistoricality, let me see if I've got this straight--by your reasoning above, if gay people call themselves queer, then it is OK for straight people to call them queer? Does this reasoning apply to the n word as well? Enlighten me, O philosopher of words.

Pardon me for my obtuseness, but I continue to believe that most of the folks that TR was writing about would not appreciate being called teabaggers if they knew the sexual connotation. The question is not whether you feel comfortable calling them that, the question is whether they would be OK with you calling them that given the connotation. And I think that they would not, and that therefore it is wrong to do so.

joshuax said...

I think being called "teabagger" is way better than being called "traitor" by the folks who were trying to intimidate us (me and CodePink and others) into submission in DC in 2007 for the anti-surge protests.

Queer being reclaimed actually has some validity, as it connotative of many things, including the way some people feel about their own sexuality. Sometimes gay, bi, lesbian, etc don't work for people and queer works better. And for better or worse, queer has a different history than does the "n word" which has its own complexities in usage.

Teabaggers fits a similar bill in that it can be used both descriptively (through their own words) and derogatively.

My point, basically, is that it's absurd to talk about the just uses of language in such a black and white manner. The justness of language use will always vacillate with changes in power dynamics, especially in the realm of politics.

Ahistoricality said...

Pardon me for my obtuseness, but I continue to believe...

That is, as they say, not my problem.

Brian W. Ogilvie said...

Re: the "teabagger" tempest in a teapot: having been out of the country for a couple months, I'm coming to this late. I thought, in my naïveté, that it was a mildly contemptuous reference, for the following reason: the Boston Tea Party was a protest of taxation without representation. Since the "TEA" movement's members are represented in the legislature, they really can't claim to be having a tea party, even if they're dunking their teabags. (Real tea, as we aficionados know, is made with loose tea leaves in a scalded kettle.)

I was surprised to learn that some members of the movement have proudly claimed the label "teabagger," but for the reasons I sketched above, not because of the sexual connotations. I can't imagine Samuel Adams--or those he inspired--daintily dunking a little teabag in the water.

Otherwise, TR, thanks for this post. I don't agree with the people you met but I'm glad to learn more about what they believe and why.

Donna said...

As one of Prof. Radical's interlocutors on 9/12, I have to comment. I am the white, professional, DC resident who doesn't much regret that other DC residents don't have the vote (i.e. we don't have voting representation in Congress). It's not a question of race. The vast majority of whites in DC are registered and vote Democratic. And yes, so do the vast majority of blacks. That's what counts and what I object to. It's their politics, stupid. Please take the racist projections somewhere else.

I walked around the crowd and took snapshots and videos for about five hours. I didn't see any Klansmen wannabes, neo-Nazis, or even Confederate re-enactors. I'm not saying they weren't there, just that they were very far from typical.

I saw lots of volunteer marshals, but not telling people to clean up. There were so many people it would have been laughably futile to get them to do it so thoroughly if they weren't doing it spontaneously. I took a photo of the Capitol lawn 20 minutes after the end of the program: there was not a speck on it.

I am the one who reported pop and rock concerts (NOT hiphop; I don't know anything about hiphop concerts) where the Washington Monument grounds are left a sea of trash, whereas the symphony concerts at the Capitol are always clean. Note that the crowds at the Monument grounds are almost entirely white. Get it? It is not a race thing. It's the way people choose to behave.

I very much understand that casting people as racist makes it easy to feel that you understand them. If they aren't racist, then you have to engage in a discussion to understand the facts and reasoning behind their positions. And that takes time, effort, and those great liberal virtues, openness and tolerance.

In answer to dance, yes I read TR as a liberal. In answer to our questions, she said she was a journalist, then a blogger, then that her blog was tenured-radical, and that she teaches history at Wesleyan University. With all that, the odds are about 9 to 1 that she is a liberal. Anyway, she knew our bent and the questions she asked seemed designed to elicit what she would consider outrageous right-wing answers. I was happy to say what I think.

We had a great time and we aren't through yet.

Bavardess said...

Thanks for an excellent, if quite disturbing, post. As someone living in a country with nationalised healthcare (certainly not a perfect system, but by no means the work of the devil either), I find it hard to get my head around what people in the US are finding so frightening about the idea at the moment. Your post has helped me see how it fits into a much wider political and cultural context.

I'm also intrigued that the very same people who rail against 'big government' are the ones that want to shrink it just small enough to fit in our bedrooms.

JackDanielsBlack said...

I think that what you witnessed, TR, was in fact a great historical moment. The people you saw were, I think, in the tradition the original Tea Party patriots, the demonstrators in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and all those other popular uprisings that have helped put our Country on the right course in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Our current fiscal course is unsustainable, and these folks have the sense to see this and the concern to try to correct it.

shaz said...

Really evocative, fascinating post. The conservative love affair with the eighteenth century fascinates me. I can't help but think of Ed Morgan's *American Slavery American Freedom*; white solidarity across class lines built on keeping African and Native American-descended slaves on the bottom of the hierarchy.

Given that I'm stuck in the colonial era, I wonder about the modern gender dynamics -- fascinated with all your pics of women. If this is about some kind of individual mastery/independence from illegitimate patriarchal (paternal? governmental?) authority, how do women situate themselves? I think we've seen that conservative women change the scene in ways we (espec those of us not experts on c20) haven't entirely figured out. Thoughts?

PS. Cracked up at neat homosexuals. I guess that kicks me with my perennial messiness (not actual perennials) out of any chance at the secret handshake...

tanya said...

Great post! Thank you for this.

Tenured Radical said...

Thanks to all the commenters -- Donna, I was hoping you would show up, and thank you for the correction (which I have inserted in the text for readers who follow.) I suffer from mild hearing loss, and instead of "pop and rock" I thought I heard "hip hop" (although the latter music form is popular with such a diverse audience nowadays that I'm not sure that the racial coding is much different.)

I did see volunteer marshals reminding people to take their trash with them, but I don't think that reflects poorly on the group as a whole: quite the opposite. I understand, however, that the relationship between individual responsibility and spontaneous individual responsibility for public space was an important (and in many cases accurate) memory for those who marched.

I guess I would like to reassure you on two points,however. One is that I was very careful not to call the marchers racist in my piece, which I think is an important point since I acknowledge in several places that people went out of their way to make this point about themselves. I do believe that race was part of the dynamic and rhetoric of the march, and of the fierce opposition to extending healthcare to the poor and working poor, who are overwhelmingly people of color. I also believe that race can't be removed as an issue when the President whose authority is being challenged is black, and our nation has such a strong history of refusing political legitimacy to black people.

Second, my point in engaging people like yourself in conversation was sincere, despite my deep disagreements with much of what I heard. I was attempting to understand the motivations behind the march, the politics of the marchers, and what relationship these politics had to the more formal politics where health care will be decided. This was something that I doubted would be done very well in any mainstream news outlet, left or right.

And I am also glad that your consent to the conversation was based on an accurate knowledge of who I was: I didn't try to hide it, although I do resist identifying myself as a "liberal" because I think that oversimplifies much of what I think about politically. In fact, I told you the name of my blog so that you could check on how our conversation was ultimately represented and talk back if you thought it wasn't fair. But I wasn't attempting to "elicit what (I) would consider outrageous right-wing answers" from you. I wanted to know what you thought.

Eloquently, honestly and with great grace, you and your friend told me what you thought. So thank you again. And if --as it is clear -- we disagree on some fundamental points of analysis and fact -- it does not make my gratitude for your time and patience any less sincere.

hylonome said...

I too ended up accidentally in the midst of the protest, meeting family at the Museum of American History. Were I to write about my experience with the group, it would be neither as generous nor as even-handed as TR's post--thank you for it!

One quick note: I did see a few demonstrators carrying signs that identified them as teabaggers; this might not be the proper term for the group, but it is also not a term that the people I saw reject either. (NB: I doubt there was any irony in these signs.)

Many post-demonstrators were in the Museum--it was a poor choice for the day but the young nephew LOVES it--yet the exhibits concerning migrant workers and civil rights were almost entirely empty. This could just be a fluke, but my intuition is that something else was going on.

Nightbird said...

What a thoughtful and beautifully written piece! Thank you. You are a woman of great tolerance and patience. I could not have done it, but you have set a standard that i will attempt to achieve.

Gretchen said...

I am pleased that you mentioned the way in which racism is expressed. Those of us who live or work or regularly visit areas where these views are openly expressed daily are familiar with the "code." It is so ingrained that I'm convinced that the speakers have convinced themselves that it isn't about *race* per se (Obama's), its *really* about something else intangible. Any thinking listener (my own uncle and most of my neighbors, I'm looking at you!) instantly understands that its all about race. But by 2009 the code is internalized. This allows the media to ignore which they aggressively do.

Donna said...

Thank you for your response, TR. No, you did not call me a racist, you only noted my lack of regret that DC residents have a restricted franchise by saying, "Those voters would be black." Just what else did you mean to imply?

I see that you are somewhat younger than I am, so you could not have had the experience in the 50s and 60s of growing up in a segregated city (Washington), befriending the only black student in our high school, or keeping the police from hassling a little black boy lost and frightened in a white neighborhood, or dealing with a grandmother who was deeply upset because my sister brought a black friend home. The other lady with me on Saturday was that sister and we had those experiences and more.

I really don't expect everyone to agree with my politics, but I would appreciate a full discussion, without having my motives impugned or being put in a box from which there can be no escape. That tactic isn't racist, as we are both white, but it is bigotry.

JackDanielsBlack said...

During my lifetime, most Presidents have been severely criticized and even hated for one reason or another, by one group or another. Think Roosevelt, Truman, Nixon, LBJ, Carter, Clinton, both Bushes. It comes with the territory. I am sure that some folks oppose Obama because of his race, but I do not think that that is the primary cause of the current unrest. Many people fear and dislike his stated policies, just as many opposed those of his predecessors. If you automatically assume otherwise, then you are guilty of bigotry.

Chuck said...

"If you automatically assume otherwise, then you are guilty of bigotry."

See, I would argue that if you automatically seek to downplay the significance of race in this very specific type of opposition, then you are guilty of the same.

Tenured Radical said...

Donna and Jack:

Just to put this in some perspective -- implying that I might be an anti-white bigot is just as extreme as claiming that either one of you are anti-black bigots, which I don't believe -- both because I have no evidence, and because you say sincerely that you are not.

What my post aimed for, however, is the conversation in the middle that we seem almost unable to have in this country, due to several decades of extremism in the political sphere, as well as the prohibition towards talking about race at all in our post-civil rights, anti-identitarian moment. Extremist rhetoric is a real problem in our political system, and that is something I saw on Saturday -- I think you could accurately say that similar extremist rhetoric could easily have been observed at a pro-choice or a gay marriage march. The politics of fear -- something that I am far from the first to have noticed -- on the left and the right has been calculated to terrify everyone into handing their lives over to party strategists and lobbyists, most of whom have been ineffective at addressing people's real grievances or the actual defects that need to be addressed.

But part of that complexity is, for example, to say that if, in a country where black disenfranchisement in the political system has been a calculated strategy since 1866; and if you are comfortable with that because you don't trust those voters to make good decisions, that is something we need to mark out as a characteristic of the "personal responsibility" stance. Similarly, this country has a long history of distrusting the participation of immigrants (many of which, like Jews, Irish and Eastern Europeans have only recently been universally understood as "white") in politics, and seeking to bar their participation in public life.

So I will just say it Donna: I don't think you are a racist -- I think our real point of disagreement (one I think we each share with many people who are like-minded) is whether race is shaping the discussion even when people don't say the words or say openly hateful things. I think it is and does, you don't. That, I think, is a fair disagreement, and it can exist without attaching labels to each other that explain little about who either one of us is or what the complexity of our lifetime commitments are.

One again, thanks for your participation in this discussion.

JackDanielsBlack said...

And if you automatically support Obama because of his race, you are guilty of the same. I suspect that in the case of Obama, there are a number of "philic" bigots, as well as "phobic" bigots.

JackDanielsBlack said...

TR, if you really wanted to have a rational discussion of what is going on with these demonstrations, you would have not used such a negative tone in describing the demonstrators. True, you did not outright call them racists or morons, but you implied that they were out of touch, working against their own best interests, paranoid, etc. This sort of tone is not conducive to a civil discussion.

There are very rational reasons for folks to be concerned, and I think you should give them the benefit of the doubt. As one small example, I am on Medicare and one of the proposals for paying for Obamacare is to cut 500 billion dollars from Medicare. Of course, the proposers say that they will do this by "eliminating waste", but if you believe that, you are more naive than I am. So I am concerned. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think my concern is irrational, much lest racist or paranoid. And I think that many of those out there at the demonstration had similar concerns -- about healthcare, about our budget, about where we are going. If you deconstruct what is going on, I think you will find issues at the bottom of it, and not irrational fears as you imply in your piece. Your very title betrays you -- Apocalypse indeed!

Anonymous said...

Don't argue with the dining room and kitchen tables, TR....

JackDanielsBlack said...

Very clever, Anonymous 9:23, and a nice illustration of what I am talking about -- if you depersonalize the opposition you don't have to deal with their arguments.

Nice quote from Barney Frank, too, who helped cause this mess by pushing financial deregulation and urged Fannie Mae to give mortages to folks who couldn't afford them. I can understand why he would rather call people names than deal with the actual historical record.

Mark Tebeau said...

Check out the ninetwelve flickr photostream on the teabagging, http://www.flickr.com/photos/42406957@N04/. I am generally persuaded that some folks, perhaps many folks, have legitimate beefs with the expansion of health care, even if I don't agree. But, as I posted on my blog, http://urbanhumanist.org/2009/09/13/teapartyracism/, the racial undertones here delegitimize any meaningful critique these folks might have to make.

Anonymous said...

I think maybe they are really protesting the corporatization of this country but are too dumb to understand that...

Anonymous said...

Donna does herself no favors in her followup here. It's nice she doesn't want to disenfranchise DC voters because they're black, but it's substantively better that she wants to disenfranchise them because they're Democrats.

Cyrus said...

Donna does herself no favors in her followup here. It's nice she doesn't want to disenfranchise DC voters because they're black, but it's substantively better that she wants to disenfranchise them because they're Democrats.

Agreed. (I assume you meant "not substantively better" or "substantively worse".) So she's not racist, she just thinks people shouldn't be allowed to vote based on their beliefs? Why does she hate democracy, I wonder? I mean, OK, "hate democracy" is a bit of hyperbole, but only a small bit. Just so you know, Donna, democracy works pretty well, and while it has its flaws it still is far more just than most systems. What's your preferred alternative?

Comrade Physioprof said...

hey are defenders of personal liberty against a one party state linked to a secret global system, a state that floods a nation of good white working people with illegal immigrants and freeloading welfare cheats, chuckling relentlessly about how they are fooling all of us.

The interesting thing is that these people do have the correct intuition that there is a trans-partisan global system that chuckles relentlessly at the white working people that they are fooling them. However, that trans-partisan global system has nothing to do with socialism or free-loading brown people or whatthefuckever. Rather, that global system is corporate oligarchy, and its genius is to have co-opted right-wing populism to gain the explicit vehement support of the very people whose labor and wealth are being funneled into the pockets of the uber-wealthy.

JackDanielsBlack said...

You know, Comrade Physioprof and Anonymous 11:29, you may have a point. A good part of what ails the country is tied up with what Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex. Unfortunately, Obama and his Democratic congress are just as much tied in with this as the Republicans. Witness the corporate bailout giveaways, the secret agreements with the major healthcare players, etc. Maybe these demonstrators are smarter than you think. Maybe the Left should be out demonstrating about this stuff as well, but haven't come to the realization yet that these folks have. Where are the leftist demonstrations against giveaways to big business, big health, big military, etc? Who are really the smart folks and who are the "dumb" ones here?

Anonymous said...

I went to an anti-war protest and I only saw a handful of blacks, does that mean peace is a racist movement??

The Chemist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Chemist said...

@JackDanielsBlack

Maybe these demonstrators are smarter than you think. Maybe the Left should be out demonstrating about this stuff as well, but haven't come to the realization yet that these folks have.

Heeeeell no!

There is no way- no way, a group of people holding up signs decrying czars (of all things!), have hidden depths. Come on, even if I agreed with them 100% that all the healthcare proposals are crap and I wanted the status quo, then I would still not associate with them. If this excellent post showed nothing else, their criticisms are scattershot and ill-informed. When discussing politics and the pragmatics of government, it's not enough that my allies agree with my end goal, they must also have a firm grasp of reality.

Only people who understand what is happening are capable of evoking the change they seek. I don't care if you want to reduce murders in the city, I won't side with you if your idea of what instigates crime involves unicorns and fairies.

Voicing an opinion doesn't make you insightful or politically savvy. For that you need to have a firm grasp on events as they are happening, not as they are being "reported" by pundits and other self-interested demagogues.

---------

I agree with most of this post, and thought it was excellently written. However, I will point out that the images of "Obama in whiteface" are actually Obama in "joker-face" as the villain from Batman. It may point to a certain ignorance of minstrelry in popular-culture but the image itself was simply created by a bored Arab college student with no political agenda in mind. Though he was inspired by the rhetoric decrying Obama as a socialist. Since he released it his image-sharing account on Flickr, however, it's become a prominent visual meme even among [younger] Obama supporters. (You gotta be more hip with us young people and our Internets, man.)

This is not to say that ideas about race, and other racial memes weren't propagated there, your example of the "battle-flag" was a good one. You should have asked people what they think the civil war was fought over (it is Virginia, after-all).

Certainly the two men holding up the flag weren't Klansmen by any stretch of the imagination- but they are victims of a racist pseudo-historical mythology.

Anonymous said...

TR,

Re "several decades of extremism in the political sphere": what does "extremism" mean in this context? I think defining that term, which I think always already represents a political position, is important here.

Edmund Dantes said...

1. TR, or Donna, any sense of how many people were there? From the photos and reports I've read, I would guess several hundred thousand. More?

2. Whatever your justifications, for a substantial portion of the tea-partiers the term "tea baggers" is the new n-word. Perhaps some people have tried to embrace the term to neutralize it, but many others take it as the liberal short-hand for derision and disrespect. Certainly the term was so used on April 15 on CNN and MSNBC to marginalize the protestors. I suggest you avoid using it when that is not your intent.

3. Your most important point is that these people are as upset with the republicans as with the democrats, which most on the left wing and in the MSM have not yet understood. These are the people who played by the rules, and they see the rewards now going to those who did not play by the rules--be they bankers, brokers, or politicians. What's more, the rules are about to change, and not in their favor.

4. The race card has been dramatically overplayed. I don't see how that helps the left, so I wonder why it's being done.

5. This movement is not going away. Curiously, the more the MSM ignores it or marginalizes it, the stronger it gets. Once a leader emerges, in six to eight months, we will be living in truly interesting times.

6. Very thought provoking. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the attention to our rally. I was one with whom you spoke. I am not surprised to see that you created a GIANT strawman out of your experience. I am a physician who, like MOST, gives free health care to lots of people but of course you smeared us with the attitude that "poor people do not deserve health care" just because we object to a great big coercive government system. Coercion is the key to what is wrong with a single (read monopoly) payer system. Can you do it without coercion? No, I did not think so. Oh, well. Anyway, one thing we shared on Saturday... a true JOY in our right to free speech! PEACE!

Rebecca said...

In an otherwise fabulous post I was surprised to see this:

There were other marchers whose health is clearly precarious: elderly folks, smokers, the overweight, people soldiering on with canes, oxygen tanks, scoliated spines and missing limbs. Mysteriously, to me at least, they too oppose better, cheaper and more accessible health care; meanwhile, many of their fellow marchers will tell you that people who smoke, who are fat, who "make bad choices," don't deserve any breaks.

When you look at most people, you cannot read when their health is “precarious.” You cannot know this from scanning a crowd. Disability and illness are not always legible. You cannot detect cancer, health disease, or most other major illnesses by casually looking at people. On top of that, half the list above seems to me not to describe precarious health at all. You can have very stable health and be missing a limb, for example. They may have been missing limbs for years, or even their whole lives. – there is nothing precarious about that. “Precarious” invokes the sense that these people are on the precipice, about to side down to a place where they will need good health care. I believe we may all be on that precipice, but you cannot know that uniquely describes most of the people you observed. Fat people shouldn’t be on the list at all and are only relevant because other people (or the perhaps some of the fat people themselves – we can be a very self-hating bunch) think they don’t deserve health care.

Otherwise, the post was great. I really appreciated it.

Drew said...

Just found your blog through CCSU prof Heather P's Facebook. Enjoyed it and will come again.

Doctor Science said...

Excellent field work, TR -- it could be used as a textbook example of How To Do It.

The word for Donna's attitude toward the citizens of DC is not "racism", but eliminationism. Hint: this is not an improvement.

infanttyrone said...

Came here via Bitch PhD., so bear with me. Will post in parts...

The plan is to make comments in order of appearance, first in your text and then in others' comments.

But first...

A) Yes, most of these folks are being used cynically by Beck + Fox.

B) Yes, if you test them with LSD, scopolamine, polygraph, whatever...
you will encounter racist beliefs among many of them.

C) Yes, they seem to be incapable of logical thought in some areas, at least as evidenced by their consistent voting against their own (and society's) best interest.

But,

a) But, to the extent they can iconize both Bush and Obama as the Anti-Christ, they map onto the more erudite sentiments of Gore Vidal + Bucky Fuller.

For the young'uns, Vidal wrote at least as early as 1977:

There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party...and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt—until recently... and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.

For a 2009 set of comments at TPM:

http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/oleeb/2009/04/gore-vidal-and-the-two-right-w.php

Bucky Fuller in 1983 published "Grunch of Giants", a history of how we have come to be dominated by a supranational corporate oligarchy. It is short and purchasable or readable online at

http://www.bfi.org/?q=node/406

These are two American non-fools.

b) But, many of these folks live in towns, cities, and states where people of color have been elected as mayors, police chiefs, state and federal representatives, etc.
If you are surprised at the level to which they have come to terms with the normalcy of some black people holding higher offices and more power than some white people, then you should travel a bit more, especially in the deep South.

c) But, if you seriously want to understand why these people act and vote against their own self interest...read Joe Bageant.

Either get the book "Deer Hunting with Jesus" or go to

http://www.joebageant.com/

For starters try:

http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2005/02/poor_white_and_.html

http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2004/06/sons_of_a_labor.html

http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2005/04/lets_drink_to_t.html

He doesn't use a spellchecker or proofread text, but he can tell you more about these people than you'll get in a dozen MSW theses.

infanttyrone said...

OK, now...


RE: So. Carolina (SC) Battle Flag

Flag in your pic can be seen at

http://1confederate.stores.yahoo.net/c16.html

The vendor refers to it as the SC battle flag, but go to

http://www.netstate.com/states/symb/flags/sc_flag.htm

and in Section 1-10-10, you can see that SC battle flag is square.
At the top of the page is the SC state flag, blue with a crescent moon and palmetto tree. Clearly your folks from SC had a hybrid of the battle flag and state flag.

The version of the Stars and Bars in the hybrid (w/o moon + tree) is the actual battle flag (assuming it's 52 inches square and conforms to the rest of the SC law's specs.

No charge for research...Please don't imagine I knew this stuff.


RE: Donna + DC Disenfranchisement

Sorry, I agree with Donna.
If your standalone "Those voters would be black." was not meant to "code" Donna as a racist, then how else should an experienced reader decode it ?

Anonymous @12:01 and Cyrus do neither themselves nor any of us (who are smarter than the rabble) any favors...both say Donna "wants to disenfranchise" DC voters for one reason (racism, as perhaps implied by your standalone line) or another (severe political disagreement, admitted openly by Donna), when neither you nor she characterized her as "wanting to disenfranchise" anyone. DC voters were a disenfranchised anomaly since long before Donna was born.

Semantic quibble?

If there were a "red" state about 2/3 white and 1/3 black that for whatever reason lost its ability to send voting representatives to Congress or to participate in the Electoral College process, then...

1) Would progressives of color be racists if "on balance they were quite glad?"

2) How about white progressives ?

infanttyrone said...

RE: Ironic anti-Healthcare stances

Excepting overweight and smokers, the precarious folks you spotted:
elderly, people with canes, oxygen tanks, scoliated spines and missing limbs...have conditions which generally allow them to apply for a Social Security Disability retirement, which, if approved, carries the benefit of
being eligible for Medicare regardless of age. I do know about this stuff. I am awaiting a hearing in which to appeal the first denial of my own application.

The folks you saw may have already been covered by Medicare by virtue of the Social Security Disability system, and after reading a few of Joe Bageant's essays about "his people", you may better understand how they were likely to be snowed by claims that Obama planned to rob the Medicare system to pay for this new program. Remember, given the chance, if George Bush had said that, oh, the sun was going to rise tomorrow, you (and I) would probably have liked to have had the chance to double check with Professor Chomsky. That we would suspect Bush of lying on a given topic deserves, I suppose, a pat on our backs. That the people you saw would suspect Obama of the same is, I suppose, a tragedy in that it seems to have been a factor in helping to kill serious reform, but considering the sorry state of politicians' veracity in this country over many decades, it really should not be a surprise.


Wrap Up...

I don't know anything about how radical you are (or how you are radical), but I believe that if you were less so, then you would not have been nearly as open to the sense of what you called "a complex story about race" and "something far more opaque and interesting...".

In your last paragraph, you say:
1) internally fractured,
2) unfocused,
3) not a powerful interest group.

In contrast, it may be helpful to look at this group of marchers as an assembly of differently focused social modules. They do not have a coherent group identity that plays on the national stage of Identity Politics, and although some may present symptoms of racist times and places they were born in, they are not auditioning for the part of Grouchy White People in the next 24-hour cable spin cycle.

The modules have a variety of foci and as yet nascent connections, but as you have sussed, each has an antipathy to current government that falls between distrust and hatred. Another way to consider them is as a supersaturated solution. Before or just after a catalytic event or the arrival of some charismatic figure, the internet may allow these modules to become highly organized. If so, your Frankenstein monster will be adopted by the village rabble who will join him/her/it going down the yellow brick road to lay waste to the Doctor's lab or whatever they think to be an appropriate first target. (I'm on for K St.)

Comrade Physioprof has got their rhythm. Anonymous @11:29 sees one of their areas of common ground, anti-corporatization, but I think he is wrong about them being too dumb to understand it. Decades ago it was just The System. Ken Kesey, in a rare incrementalist move, upped it to The Combine. *Maybe* a few of these folks have read Kesey or remember my 60's fondly. I bet less than 10% of them could name a Vidal or Fuller book title. But even if Ralph Nader and Alex Jones are more likely to be known among them, we should not kid ourselves into believing that they do not see the same rough beast we were warned of by Ken, Gore, and Bucky, slouching toward their hometowns, presenting hunger and greed.

infanttyrone said...

So...on to some commenters...


Gay Prof...recommend you read Joe Bageant's essays about his down home beer bar and who tends it...
bring perennials if you visit.

joshuax...yes, these people have been hypnotized to embrace all the post-Whitmanesque contradictions you listed. They have been so for generations, most families from before they came to the U.S.
Read Mr. Bageant...if you're on a budget...$0.75 + ship @ half.com

JackDanielsBlack, Ahistoricality, and joshuax...unless you reject Vidal's and Fuller's analyses and decide that these folks are not salvageable as potential allies, it does no good to use "teabagger" unless you're just interested in possibly pissing them off.

If you're not smarter than Gore and Bucky, don't assess them as lost causes, and they specify that term after you politely ask them how they'd like to be referred to, well then dunk away.


RE: The Working Poor

You wrote: I do believe that race was part of the dynamic and rhetoric of the march, and of the fierce opposition to extending healthcare to the poor and working poor, who are overwhelmingly people of color.

I may not have the most up to date stats, but from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2007 report:

Although 71 percent of the working poor were White workers, Black and Hispanic workers continued to be more than twice as likely as their White counterparts to be among the working poor.

I had a summer job in Appalachia back in 1968. I met a surprisingly large number of people who were on Social Sec. Disability, welfare, and other assistance programs. When I got to my first year of college back East, thanks to some campus activists analyzing and refuting GOP propaganda, I learned the number of whites on welfare was larger than the number of blacks (not remotely suggested by GOP propaganda) although the odds of being on welfare if you were black were far higher than if you were white (and we knew whatever the GOP touted as an "explanation" for that was either a deception, an evasion, or just a lie).


RE: Tolerance, Evenhandedness, Patience, etc.

Yes, I agree with the words of hylonome, Nightbird, Gretchen...
you did exhibit all of these qualities in your piece. My appreciation of your effort comes from knowing how foreign these folks must have seemed to someone from contemporary academia.

But, to flail away at a supine equine, unless we are prepared to risk our future survival on the wager that both Vidal and Fuller are over-the-top dead-wrong about the nature of the system that has us all (nearly so) as chattel to a greater or lesser degree, we need to realize what we have in common with these folks and where we are far apart, and we need to reach out to them one at a time or in very small groups.

This is getting longer than expected and focus is drifting, so penultimately...

Marc Tebeau and The Chemist...

Marc...

racial undertones delegitimize any meaningful critique these folks might have to make...

If that delegitimization holds true for contributions to science +/or society, then please recycle your computer and every other modern device whose existence stems from Shockley's little transistor.

Otherwise, be a competent modern analyst and figure out a way to separate out the basic issues from the decades of programmed racism that these non-morons are capable of being deprogrammed of.

Chemist...

Vidal/Fuller. American demagogues?

Your comment's operative words,
"when discussing politics..."

remind me of Thunder Road's:

Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets

Unicorns/fairies...dude, please.


Edmund Dantes...

#1...I don't much care, but,
#2, 3, 4, 5, 6...yes...5 times.

Thanks for a thought-provoking day.

infanttyrone said...

If your children ever find out how lame you really are, they'll gonna murder you in your sleep.

-- Frank Zappa, quoted from Whole Grains, an early 1970's book of quotations

Try substituting citizens for children.

Don't infantilize adults, Ducky...
They may just imprint you deeply.

Sleep tight now, oligarchs.

JackDanielsBlack said...

Infanttyrone, is it possible that ole' Gore got his idea from that great philosopher George Wallace who said while running for President in 1972 (maybe paraphrasing a little here) "Ain't a dime's worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans!"? (Wallace won the Democratic primary in Michigan that year, by the way, but was paralyzed in an assassination attempt). Wallace is a good example of what can happen when populism gets out of hand in the U.S. Huey Long is another. Isn't it odd that they both got shot down?

infanttyrone said...

JackDanielsBlack,

If one "sampled" the other, then I suspect it was Wallace on the re-mix.

Before I found Vidal's quote online I would have sworn that I recalled him saying much the same thing (though my memory was of "a nickel's worth of difference) during his sprightly series of encounters with William Buckley during the 1968 conventions.

I Googled using a fairly wide bandwidth of search terms, but could only find what I posted attributed to a collection of Vidal's essays (Matters of Fact and Fiction: Essays 1973-1977) published by Random House in 1977.

In my mind I can see the early 70's copy of Esquire in which Vidal used this terminology again, calling the politicians who do the bidding of corporate America "Banksmen". He even referred to Ted Kennedy as a Banksman and categorized him as a conservative.

Wallace was very interesting. Another "victim of a lone gunman" as I recall. I don't recall if Huey Long was similar. Any lone gunman reference always reminds me of the late Bill Hick's bit...

Jesus, murdered
Ghandi, murdered
John Kennedy, murdered
Bobby Kennedy, murdered
Martin Luther King, murdered
Reagan......wounded
Bad choices, people!

Nice to meet you, gotta run,
'Til next time...

infanttyrone said...

Forgot to mention last night, but for those of you not sure whether you have the time to start reading a new author...Joe Bageant spent time in Boulder in the 70's and writes about (among a very wide bandwidth of topics) experiences he had with Tim Leary, William Burroughs, and Hunter Thompson.

Hopefully this will push some over the edge leap-o-faith-wise, but if it pulls some back who would have been put off, that's OK too...

Anonymous said...


If there were a "red" state about 2/3 white and 1/3 black that for whatever reason lost its ability to send voting representatives to Congress or to participate in the Electoral College process, then...

1) Would progressives of color be racists if "on balance they were quite glad?"

2) How about white progressives ?


They wouldn't be progressives of any color of they supported that state of affairs. Disenfranchisement is wrong, regardless of whose voice is lost, and it scarcely matters if the sin is of commission or omission.

Incredulous said...

That is the best account of the teaparty that I've read anywhere. Thanks for spending some time amongst the crazies, and letting them have their say.

infanttyrone said...

Anonymous @2:53,

I was trying to construct a system as closely reversed as possible to liberal/progressive/Democratic voters in DC who lack national-level representation (beyond observers).

The DC residents' situation may change (they didn't always have observers), but only in the most infinitesimal sense do I believe it will change based on whether you or I personally do or don't "support that state of affairs".

So, vis a vis DC, we can either be glad like Donna (I'm not) or else rue/lament/etc. that situation.

Since none of us is perfect, isn't it likely that some progressives in my hypothetical (call it Kansas if specificity helps ground you) will feel a "guilty pleasure" knowing that a bare majority of currently-configured conservative white (overwhelmingly) voters in such a state cannot send another Joe Wilson or Mitch McConnel to DC?

Amid these imperfect progressives,
who, if you insist, are in the vanguard of trying to reverse this situation, would we seriously call either the black ones or the white ones among them racist ?

I'm truly curious to how you or other self-identified progressives respond to this.

Since you broadened the ambit of our field with "disenfranchisement is wrong, regardless of whose voice is lost...", I have a modest follow-up question.

Do you want that word "regardless" to extend amnesty and redress to currently disenfranchised felons ?
(Here I am absolutely, concretely thinking of Tom Delay.)

Lest you think I only want to ask questions, here are my answers:

1) No, I wouldn't assume that either black or white progressives were racist or bigoted.

2) No, "regardless" is too strong for me if it lets The Hammer back into the voting booth. If you want to devise a way to keep him out but re-enfranchise people who committed crimes that were both non-violent and victimless, I'm there, and I might be more liberal in what I consider victimless.

So, whaddya say?

Donna said...

Dear TR,

You had a lot to say, but you didn't answer the simple question in the first paragraph of my last post. It was not rhetorical.

I noticed a couple of other comments about my little regret, on balance, that we DC residents do not enjoy a voting representative in Congress (we vote for president and we have full local government). At least one said I was "glad," but that is very different from what I said, which was simply an expression of a pragmatic assessment of the political reality, that the Congressional representative(s) would be Democrat. If I or any other DC resident wants to be represented in Congress, it's a simple matter of moving about five miles in any direction. So if others are not willing to do that to get a full franchise, why should I be feeling sorry for them, when I am under the same disability and have the same options?

As to another question raised, how many came to the 9/12 march, I don't know. But it was the biggest thing I have ever seen. One photo shows Pennsylvania Ave. packed solid from 14th to the Capitol: that's six lanes for more than a mile. CBS News also reported this. Other reports said thousands left their cars and buses throughout the day and walked to the Capitol. I took the subway directly there because my friends on Penn. Ave. advised it. One friend who left to go home in the early afternoon said people were still pouring off the subway going to the Capitol. Where I was at the Capitol, up on the West Front lawn just before the end of the program at 4 pm, I could not see the end of the crowd around the Capitol and going back up Penn. Ave. C-SPAN broadcast 3 hours live and their aerial view showed people lining the Mall back to the Lincoln Memorial. That's more than two miles.

Some European newspapers, like the Daily Mail http://tinyurl.com/pzbnzo, reported a million. I have heard that others said two million. I can believe it.

Anonymous said...

If I or any other DC resident wants to be represented in Congress, it's a simple matter of moving about five miles in any direction.

The levels of privilege assumed in this statement are simply breathtaking. You should just quit while you're behind.

And no, infanttyrone, for the record, I don't think felons should lose the right to vote, though I could live with disenfranchising those currently in prison, at least if we did away with the practice of counting them as residents of the county in which they are imprisoned. Tom Delay is a loathsome human being in my mind, but his loathsome voice should be heard.

infanttyrone said...

Anonymous @8:44,

Thanks for the response about felons voting.

I am not familiar with what is behind the issue of counting the incarcerated ones as residents of their original home county vs. the county where they are locked up.

I was a teacher who worked with students who were out of school for a month or more due to medical or other issues. I once worked with someone who was in a downtown jail awaiting trial for a crime he committed 20 miles away. His home district was my employer, and there was a series of discussions with the city district about who was financially responsible for supplying instruction. In that case the difference was clearly about money. Please give me a brief explanation (or a link to one) about what is at stake in the case of our felons. Thanks.

Delay is loathsome to me as well, and to such a degree that I am comfortable lumping him in with other felons who can't vote today.
He is just so wrong on so many levels that, were I the Vote Czar, his malevolent voice would be silenced forever. There are some political behaviors that rise to the level of treason, and I'm fine with enforcing penalties against traitors that effectively render them non-citizens. But I spent my senior year in H.S. in 1968 in Austin where the penalty for any pot possession was "up to life".
So maybe Texas hardened me so that I don't feel guilty about being glad that people I consider as not just adversaries (who play fair), but political enemies (who don't), have been removed from the board.

Thanks again...

Chaz said...

Donna obviously doesn't know what they're talking about. DC fire put the march at 60-75,000 anything else is right wing noise. Maybe she'll show us the doctored photo from pre-2004.

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