More Elegant Racists, Please — Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic on the style and substance of racism.
The problem with Cliven Bundy isn’t that he is a racist but that he is an oafish racist. He invokes the crudest stereotypes, like cotton picking. This makes white people feel bad. The elegant racist knows how to injure non-white people while never summoning the specter of white guilt. Elegant racism requires plausible deniability, as when Reagan just happened to stumble into the Neshoba County fair and mention state’s rights. Oafish racism leaves no escape hatch, as when Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond’s singularly segregationist candidacy.
Elegant racism is invisible, supple, and enduring. It disguises itself in the national vocabulary, avoids epithets and didacticism. Grace is the singular marker of elegant racism. One should never underestimate the touch needed to, say, injure the voting rights of black people without ever saying their names. Elegant racism lives at the border of white shame. Elegant racism was the poll tax. Elegant racism is voter-ID laws.
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” John Roberts elegantly wrote. Liberals have yet to come up with a credible retort. That is because the theories of John Roberts are prettier than the theories of most liberals. But more, it is because liberals do not understand that America has never discriminated on the basis of race (which does not exist) but on the basis of racism (which most certainly does.)
Ideologies of hatred have never required coherent definitions of the hated. Islamophobes kill Sikhs as easily as they kill Muslims. Stalin needed no consistent definition of “Kulaks” to launch a war of Dekulakization. “I decide who is a Jew,” Karl Lueger said. Slaveholders decided who was a nigger and who wasn’t. The decision was arbitrary. The effects are not. Ahistorical liberals—like most Americans—still believe that race invented racism, when in fact the reverse is true. The hallmark of elegant racism is the acceptance of mainstream consensus, and exploitation of all its intellectual fault lines.
Upping the Ante — John Nichols in The Nation on how Seattle leads the way on minimum wage.
Seattle and the state of Washington have histories of recognizing the need to raise wages so that working people will not face the reality of putting in a forty-hour week while remaining stuck in poverty. The current minimum wage for Washington workers is $9.32 an hour, the highest state rate in the nation. But the basic premises of the debate were jolted last fall by the election to the city council of Sawant, an Occupy activist and Socialist Alternative candidate who made advocacy for a $15 wage central to her bid. At the same time, voters in the nearby city of Sea-Tac backed a $15-an-hour proposal.
The Seattle election results shook that city and the nation into a new way of thinking about the minimum-wage debate. The Fight for $15 movement of fast-food workers, which Sawant and others credit for laying the groundwork for wage-hike campaigns in Seattle and cities across the country, has been strengthened by the fact that its proposals were being embraced by voters and policymakers. Activists nationwide are ramping up demands for wage hikes that will address poverty and income inequality. And instead of proposing only incremental changes that might be grudgingly accepted by business interests and conservative politicians, progressive Democrats have begun to notice the polling data that shows broad support for major wage increases.
In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama embraced a proposal by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and California Congressman George Miller for a $10.10 hourly wage, and that popular position has become a baseline standard for progressives seeking state and federal posts in the 2014 election cycle.
But in expensive cities like Seattle, $10.10 an hour can still be a poverty wage. So, according to The Seattle Times, “Murray’s plan calls for the city’s minimum wage to climb to $15 an hour, phased in over three to seven years depending on the size of business and whether workers receive tips or benefits in addition to salary. After that, the wage would be tied to the Consumer Price Index, with estimates showing it rising above $18 an hour by 2025.”
And don’t think that this is just a Seattle thing. Fast-food workers and their allies across the country will be rallying in coming weeks for a $15 wage, and there are campaigns in communities and states across the country for wage-hike resolutions and referendums. What was once a debate about the minimum wage is becoming a debate about a living wage.
Back to Benghazi! — David Corn in Mother Jones on the GOP’s obsession.
The current outbreak of Benghazi Fever shows how strong the virus is—and that it is apparently immune to basic remedy.
On Friday, the Republicans went full Benghazi. House Speaker John Boehner announced he was setting up a special House committee to investigate the attack—that is, the Obama White House’s response to it. Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chair of the House government oversight committee, subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry to testify before his committee on May 21 about the State Department’s handling of GOP congressional inquiries about Benghazi. (Apparently, Issa is now probing a supposed cover-up of the original supposed cover-up.)
This week, Issa, Fox News, and other Benghazi-ists rushed to the ramparts once again, when a White House email was released showing that a top Obama aide had suggested that an administration spokeswoman defend the president’s policy regarding the Arab Spring and the Muslim world following a series of anti-American attacks that included the September 11, 2012, assault on the US diplomatic facility in Benghazi. As part of the interagency effort then underway to prep then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice for appearances on several Sunday morning talk shows—the exercise that produced the Benghazi talking points Republicans have been howling about ever since—Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, wrote that one goal for Rice was to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”
A-ha! cried the Benghazi truthers. Here’s proof that the White House schemed to convince the public that the tragic attack—which claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans—was merely the result of protests spurred by an anti-Islam video made by some American wacko, not the doing of Al Qaeda or its allies. President Obama and his comrades, the Benghazi truthers insist, wanted to cover up the politically inconvenient fact that Al Qaeda-ish terrorism was responsible for the killing of four Americans, since acknowledgment of this would have tainted the counter-terrorism credentials of Obama, the Bin Laden slayer, and decreased his chances of reelection.
But as we know now, the CIA and the State Department took the lead in fashioning the talking points. A year ago, the release of internal White House emails about the drafting of the talking points clearly showed there had been no White House effort to shape the narrative in a devious manner. (It appeared the CIA and the State Department were more concerned about their own bureaucratic imperatives.) And the new email from Rhodes is pretty standard stuff, indicating a White House desire to justify its policy on the Arab Spring in the face of troubling events. Rhodes was encouraging Rice to present the case that the anti-video protests that had occurred in various places in the Muslim world were sort of a one-off event, not an indication that the overall Obama approach toward the region was misguided. Note that Rhodes referred to “protests,” plural, when making this point. That week there had been violent anti-video uprisings in Egypt, Yemen, and Sudan, not just Libya. So all the fuss about the Rhodes email—which quickly passed through membrane between Fox News and the rest of the media, receiving airtime on CNN, ABC News, and elsewhere—is smoke, not fire.
For Obama’s political foes, the Benghazi narrative—that is, their reality-challenged version of it—offers too much benefit to be abandoned. It serves three fundamental desires of the right. The get-Obama crusaders have long wanted to show that the president is just another weak-on-defense Democrat, to demonstrate that he is not a real American worthy of being president, and to uncover an explosive scandal that eviscerates Obama’s presidency and provides cause for impeachment. Benghazi, in their feverish minds, has had the potential to do all of this. It is a candy store for many conservatives—no matter that the bins are empty. They will not—cannot—let it go. Nor can they simply focus on the real issues of what went wrong that dreadful night and what must be done to prevent another such disaster. They are love-sick for Benghazi. And for that, there is no cure.
Doonesbury — Clickbait.