Thursday, November 6, 2014

Race: The Real Elephant in the GOP Locker Room

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Some day my grandchildren or their grandchildren may browse through these ramblings of mine just to get a sense of who their grandfather actually was, and I hope that I have spread my commentary wide enough to show the essence of my soul - both on and between the printed lines.

Politically I am a Democrat, but not to the point that I won't occasionally vote for an Independent - or take a Republican primary ballot if I want to screw with them prior to the general election.  I have even, on extremely rare occurrences, voted for a Republican over a Democrat, but basically I am a Democrat.  I believe in the need for all human beings to have access to basic nutrition, housing, employment opportunities, education, healthcare, and an unfettered vote.  I believe that Abe Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Barack Hussein Obama exerted great effort to show us our better selves and to pull our country forward through programs and policies designed to serve all of the people  - and not just the privileged few.

(And yes, I know Lincoln was a Republican - but if he were alive today he wouldn't be.  Today's Republican Party wouldn't have him - or that tree-hugging Teddy Roosevelt, either!)

But the primary focus of those with privilege has been, and continues to be - with rare exception - the acquisition of more.  The rich are motivated by greed, and they use any means at their command to convince the struggling poor that they will benefit from helping those with plenty.  One line of thought is the old Reagan saw that government assistance to the rich will "trickle down" and eventually get the ground wet enough that it will lift everybody's boat.  The other line of thought that feeds into the poor throwing political support to policies that benefit the wealthy is that many people feel that they won't always be poor, or that they are temporarily inconvenienced millionaires.  They are just one lottery ticket away from the good life - and and being able to take advantage of all of the tax dodges for the rich that their votes helped to create.

And I keep using the term "poor," although nobody thinks they are poor in the United States.  Everyone is "middle class."  Democrats use the term "middle class" to describe anyone living in abject poverty up to those residing in McMansions in nice suburbs.  Democratic programs are not designed to benefit the "poor," but rather to assist and protect the "middle class."  Republicans feel that the "middle class" stretches from the those living in penthouses and on yachts down to those living in McMansions.  All of their pronouncements are about the need to make life better for the "middle class."

To put an arbitrary number on it:  When one party talks of the "middle class," it is referencing those making less than a hundred grand a year.  When the other party talks of "middle class," it is referencing those making more than a hundred grand a year.   It's the same words, but describing two wholly different sets of individuals.

Democrats won't label those in poverty as being "poor," and Republicans call anyone who has to rely on the government for any basic service as a "moocher."  Those moochers are sucking up revenue which could be going into the pockets of their betters.

Race has also been a key component of American politics.   The national bloodsport of lynching finally ended during the last century, and it seems to have been replaced by police and vigilante shootings of young black men.  Since the election of our first black President in 2008, the political class has developed a complex pattern of talking in code so that they can point the finger at Black America without being explicit about it.   Fox News just spent a month trying to whip people into a frenzy over Ebola and leading them to the realization that Ebola is from Africa, the President has African roots, the President has not been doing enough to fight Ebola, and therefore . . . well, the people dumb enough to believe anything on Fox News were left to stumble into their own obvious conclusions.  The election is over, and Ebola seems to have disappeared from the news coverage.  There's a surprise.

Race played a part in this week's electoral disaster, and I want my grandchildren to understand that.   Yes, that sounds like a cheap shot, a bit of sour grapes from someone who would have liked to have seen different election results - but it also happens to be true, and it needs to be acknowledged.  While racists inhabit niches across the political spectrum, most have, since the mid-twentieth century, drifted into the Republican Party.  Yes, that sounds like another political cheap shot, but let me use the words of a Republican to legitimize and highlight my assertion.  Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson who was chief-of-staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell during the George W. Bush administration, had this to say of his party, the Republicans, on national television back in 2012:

"Let me be candid:  my party is full of racists, and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as Commander-in-Chief and President, and everything to do with the color of his skin.  And that's despicable."

Race is the elephant in the room in contemporary American politics.  It is there, few acknowledge it and nobody wants to discuss it, but it is there.   Ebola gets talked about, with stress on its African origins - special collections are set up on the Internet to raise funds for police officers who murder black teens - voting restrictions are enacted that will discourage or prevent minorities from voting - birth certificates are challenged - schools continue to be segregated - communities remain largely segregated - prisons overflow with young black men thanks in large part to racially-stratified justice - and white people still lock their car doors when they find themselves driving through black neighborhoods.

It is changing - very slowly - and that creeping acceptance of blackness in America is driving the gun-toting, beer-swilling, Confederate flag waving, under-educated goobers crazy - and they are, by and large, an important component of the Republican base.

That's how I feel about it - and now those thoughts are part of my personal historical record.

Poor Grandpa was a left-wing nut.

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