Sunday, October 03, 2010

This Sunday in Kelly

You know, let's be clear, the Republicans are the party of Lincoln. And rather surprisingly to me, that still meant something even forty years ago, for whatever reason. Republicans were instrumental in getting the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed. But then the Republican party initiated their southern strategy, luring/welcoming white "Dixiecrat" politicians to the Republican party, and ever since Republicans have represented/balanced corporate and white interests. I will say that in an ideal world unfettered capitalism shouldn't necessarily disadvantage African Americans. But we don't live in an ideal world, we live in a reality that reflects the state of realities just prior to one we are in, where the parents of today's African American adults were systematically discriminated against, where today's African American adults don't have jobs in much higher percentages than the norm in America, and where underfunded urban schools meet African American children who, looking at their parents, see no future in America for themselves. And the only policies that Republicans would agree to (maybe) address these problems are ones where other traditional Democratic will suffer (charter schools with their generally anti union stance) or where traditional Republican constituencies will benefit more (tax cuts skewed towards the wealthy). Whether this is because of racism partly motivated by the large number of former dixiecrats or just pragmatism on the part of obstructionist Republicans, the end result is the same.

Jack Kelly tells us that liberals think Republicans are racist (the idea I just address above). He tells us this notion is disproved by the fact fourteen blacks are running for Congress as Republicans in this election, and 32 ran in the primaries. Actually, Kelly admits that 11 of the 14 are running in heavily Democratic districts, and have no chance. Plus what are we to make of the fact only 43% of the blacks running as Republican won their respective primaries?

Anyway, Kelly hold up three black Republican candidates as proof the Democrats don't understand reality, although one might say 3 of 538 is only a small number, perhaps (dare I say) only a token (apparently I do dare).

I'll say this once. I haven't investigated these three candidates, but I have to wonder. If they toe the Republican line and vote with their party, don't they realize they will voting on measures that will direct government resources away from the vast majority of African Americans who need help, and direct those resources towards almost entirely white Americans, the segment that is already wealthy? Now just because I'm white doesn't mean I need to choose to support legislation that benefits other whites (often, maybe mostly, whites don't need government help compared to minorities). So the three black candidates with a chance, or the 14 black candidates running or the entire 32 who ran in the primaries, they are not obligated to care about other members of their race. But I always thought being a public servant should mean starting with those who need help most, particularly (short of some natural disaster) those who have been disadvantaged historically by the majority.

There are two other comments Kelly made in passing I want to zero in on. First, Kelly says "Accusations of racism against Republicans are a staple of Democratic politics because Democrats need to keep blacks on the plantation to remain viable nationally" Ummm, accusations of racism by the Democrats may be made because they think there is evidence to support such accusations. Also there is nothing wrong with Democrats choosing to support policies popular with African Americans in order to get their votes (particularly since these policies often attempt to address historical injustices). And by the way, I find the phrase “keep blacks on the plantation” to be deeply offensive.

The other comment I want to look at is his last sentence (in his last paragraph): “It could be the increased number of black Republicans running for office and their increased acceptance by other blacks is due in large part to Mr. Obama. His election represented the pinnacle of black hopes within the Democratic Party. His disappointing performance in office is causing more than a few to consider alternatives.” Of course blacks can (and I feel should be able to) consider alternatives. But the characterization of Obama’s tenure in office to date as disappointing needs to be questioned. I try to say as often as possible I believe that when the stimulus was proposed and going through Congress, Obama tried to use his influence to put things in the bill that Republicans would agree to, such as a large fraction in tax cuts (admittedly not one that heavily benefited the rich). From the get go Obama tried to reach across the aisle (a point he had campaigned on), and in the House was flatly rebuffed, and in the Senate was almost totally rebuffed (although the three Republicans who did cross the aisle were given a lot of power). Basically the Republicans in Congress gave Obama no credit for trying to reach across the aisle, in fact they have characterized him as being a socialist (even though the stimulus had 40% tax cuts in it). There was some disappointment that Obama and the Congressional Democrats did not simply bulldoze over the Republicans, instead of trying to move forward together. If they had done so, maybe more of the stimulus would have gone directly to the unemployed, instead of indirectly through the rest of us employed people.

But even more than that, there is health care reform. Republicans characterize it as evil or at least as very bad. Yet every other “first world” industrial nation has a health care system either controlled by or heavily regulated by the government. No other industrialized nation leaves health care to the free market (of course, we had some regulation, but not nearly to the degree of other industrialized nations). Apparently nine other Presidents (dating back to Teddy Roosevelt) tried to pass comprehensive health care reform. Obama spent a year working on it, a year he could have been working on unemployment. There was all the negative stuff, scary town halls and “death panels”. Yet the end result was the first African American President managed to drag us from spending far and away the most on healthcare over to policies similar to Switzerland, which happens to spend the second highest on healthcare. But he did it. And he gets no credit for doing it.

The fact that conservatives/Republicans/Tea Party dogmatists like Jack Kelly can distort truth, without even pretending to acknowledge other points of view, should be the real disappointment.

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