Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Reading

The Cain Cynicism — William Jelani Cobb looks at the embrace of Herman Cain by the Republicans.

At its most cynical, Cain’s campaign doesn’t offer redemption for the party associated with the Willie Horton ads, the terms “welfare queen” and “high-tech lynching,” and now “Niggerhead” so much as it suggests that there was never anything to be redeemed. Cain himself joined this mad parade of racial non-bigotry months earlier, saying he would ban Muslims from his Cabinet, or at least force them to sign special loyalty oaths. How can that be bigotry? A black guy said it.

The racial insurance policy that Cain’s candidacy offers to tea party conservatives who have been criticized as bigoted by some quarters is certainly not the entirety of his appeal. Nor was absolution the majority of Obama’s appeal to whites in 2008. But it is certainly part of it, and it works in the way that race most commonly does in this era, in subtle, inscrutable ways, maddeningly opaque, the exact extent of its influence difficult to determine.

Thus Cain’s ascent in the polls presents us with the tantalizing prospect, no matter how unlikely, that our next election will feature two African American men, neither of them post-racial but both somehow committed to publicly behaving as if we are. Cynicism, not racism, is now our foremost national sin. I plan to print up T-shirts reading “Election 2012: Vote for the Black Guy.” I expect to make a mint.

More below the fold.

Aw, Poor Baby — Myriam Marquez dishes the snark and says that Gov. Rick Scott is just misunderstood.

You see, this all started when a thin guy with a shaved head popped in between our favorite TV shows, showed his pearly whites and introduced himself. “I’m Rick Scott. Let’s get to work!”

He promised to ignite the economy and attract 700,000 jobs to Florida in seven years. At the time economists pointed out the state would likely have one million more jobs in seven years’ time without doing much of anything.

But Scott campaigned on corporate tax cuts to spur job growth, and again he delivered for freedom’s sake. Now there seems to be a misunderstanding about his math skills or his memory. At least twice cameras captured him saying the 700,000 were on top of one million. Then he told the Herald/Times bureau in Tallahassee that the one million wasn’t part of the deal.

Not a flip-flop, of course. He couldn’t even remember who made the claim about 1.7 million jobs, he told the Associated Press. Then his memory seemed to kick in (even as his transition emails have disappeared ) and by Friday he was setting the record straight, for freedom’s sake:

“Instead of focusing on hypotheticals, I’m focused on what I know will be accomplished through my 7-7-7 plan — the creation of 700,000 jobs over seven years regardless of what the economy might otherwise gain or lose,” Scott said. “Floridians will judge me not on what an economist in Tallahassee predicts, but on actual job growth each month.”

Here’s what we know so far: The state’s unemployment rate has dipped, though that began happening without any new laws or tax cuts. Since Scott took office in January, Florida has 71,000 more jobs. So we’re on our way, if slowly, to somewhere, with corporate interests in the driver’s seat.

Let freedom ring!

Everybody’s Doing It — Frank Bruni looks at the state of same-sex marriage in other places in the world.

With minimal international attention, Portugal — tiny, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Portugal — legalized same-sex marriage last year. Although the country is hardly seen as a Scandinavian-style bastion of social progressivism, it’s one of just 10 countries where such marriages can be performed nationwide, and in this regard it finds itself ahead of a majority of wealthier, more populous European countries, like France, Germany, Italy and Britain. In the United States, only six states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. How did that happen? And what wisdom do the answers offer frustrated supporters of same-sex marriage here and elsewhere around the globe?

With a potent case of Portugal envy, I went there and talked with advocates and politicians at the center of its same-sex-marriage campaign and with gay and lesbian couples who married after the law took effect in June 2010. All were still pleasantly stunned by what Portugal had accomplished.

It was only a little more than a decade ago that a country first legalized same-sex marriage, and that happened in precisely the kind of forward-thinking, bohemian place you’d expect: the Netherlands. About two years later, Belgium followed suit.

Then things got really interesting. The eight countries that later joined the club were a mix of largely foreseeable and less predictable additions. In the first category I’d put Canada, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. In the second: South Africa, Spain, Portugal and Argentina.

Why those four countries? People who have studied the issue note that that they have something interesting and relevant in common: each spent a significant period of the late 20th century governed by a dictatorship or brutally discriminatory government, and each emerged from that determined to exhibit a modernity and concern for human rights that put the past to rest.

“They’re countries where the commitment to democracy and equal protection under the law was denied, flouted and oppressed, and the societies have struggled to restore that,” said Evan Wolfson, the president of Freedom to Marry, a New York-based advocacy group, in a recent interview.

Doonesbury — Nice place you have here.