WASHINGTON — When I was a kid, rich people were just, well, rich people. They weren’t endowed with superhuman traits or placed on pedestals to be worshipped by the lumpenproletariat. They weren’t believed to hold special keys that turned the universe.
They were properly viewed as individuals who had acquired their wealth in different ways and deployed it to different ends. We understood that some among the wealthy were like Bill Gates and others were like Donald Trump.
Always suckers for Horatio Alger stories, we reserved unabashed admiration for those who rose to riches through sheer resolve and hard work. We respected those who used their money to help the needy, to endow local charities, to build schools, libraries and playgrounds.
And we whispered about those scions of privilege who found no wholesome outlet for that priceless inheritance, but who burned through it with their relentless consumption of everything bigger, faster, more intoxicating. Theirs were cautionary tales, examples of the old cliché that “money can’t buy happiness.”
That was a while back, before Republicans — always protectors of the wealthy and powerful — hit upon a strategy for re-branding the rich as the people who make the world go ‘round. Now, we are told, the wealthy are to be revered as “job creators” — no matter whether they use their money to create jobs or havoc. And if President Obama raises their taxes, the world will spin wildly off its axis and the apocalypse will follow.
That means the Hollywood Kardashians, the family who give new meaning to the word “infamous,” are to be treated as economic saints who cannot be asked to contribute a penny more to the nation that has made them so fabulously rich. The same goes for all the celebutants, trust fund babies and other members of the Lucky Sperm Club who have given little but received a lot.
You gotta give credit to the modern-day GOP. Since Newt Gingrich and consultant Frank Luntz rose to power, the Republicans have excelled at propaganda, twisting words beyond recognition in pursuit of political ends. They’ve been remarkably successful at selling bad ideas in bright packaging, peddling snake oil in shiny foil paper.
Among my favorites is the phrase “death tax,” which Republicans deployed against the estate tax in the 1990s. They succeeded in persuading average working folk that the “death tax” was a greedy grab for the savings they had scraped together to leave for their heirs. (Some seemed to believe it was actually a tax on the dying.) In fact, the estate tax — then and now — is paid by a tiny group of the richest Americans. That includes very few family farms or businesses.
Last week, GOP pols dutifully pulled out the tried-and-true “class warfare” to criticize President Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on the rich. That canard has been around since at least the 1930s, when the wealthy and powerful used it to pummel Franklin Roosevelt over his New Deal.
(It’s funny how the phrase is never used to describe any number of proposals that would shortchange working stiffs. Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, for example, have both suggested that working-class households ought to pay more in federal income taxes. Why isn’t that “class warfare”?)
According to House Speaker John Boehner, Obama has aimed his plan squarely at the nation’s vaunted “job creators,” who can’t be expected to restore the economy if their taxes are raised even a little. So Kim Kardashian would lay off her team of hairstylists and personal shoppers?
Of course, that’s just nonsense. If there were any connection between higher taxes for the wealthy and job creation, the Clinton years would have seen high unemployment while the Bush years would have produced widespread prosperity. In fact, as we all remember, the opposite was true.
And, so far, most Americans remember that. Polls show that voters overwhelmingly favor Obama’s plans to call for a bit more sacrifice by the richest among us, who have profited most from what this country has to offer.
But don’t think the GOP will give up on a bad product. They will keep peddling their voodoo economics, hoping to find more takers. And why wouldn’t they? They’ve grown powerful defending the interests of the powerful, so they’re not likely to stop.
The most perplexing question surrounding this year’s Republican race for the presidential nomination has been why can’t Mitt Romney seem to close the deal, despite running against what many consider an inferior set of opponents.
He has rarely exceeded 20 or 25 percent in national polls. And many pundits believe that the 25 percent support he has garnered thus far is about as far as Romney’s support will go — which leaves him extremely vulnerable to candidates like Newt Gingrich, who is working to distinguish himself as the latest ‘non-Romney’ candidate and consolidate much of the remaining 75 percent of the Republican vote.
There was Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and now Gingrich. While the non-Romney’s rose and fell, Romney’s numbers have never seemed to move, with voters seemingly transferring their support from one surging candidate to the next.
“So far, with only three states having weighed in on who the nominee should be, I don't think it's fair to say that Romney isn't able to close the deal,” said Client Strategist for the Republican National Committee Eric Wilson. “At the end of the day, Republicans are going to unite around our nominee, because any of the candidates still in the race will make a better president than Barack Obama.”
If you look beyond the top-line data in the polls, it becomes clear that nowhere near 75 percent of Republican voters have been vehemently opposed to nominating Romney. A Gallup poll conducted before New Hampshire’s primary, for instance, found that only about 30 percent of Republican voters considered Romney an unacceptable nominee. These numbers have bounced around a bit from time to time and from survey to survey, but these results are fairly typical when questions like these are put to the voters.
About 25 percent of Republican voters are in Romney’s base (incidentally, about 22 percent of Republicans nationwide voted for Romney in their party’s primaries in 2008). And about 30 percent of the Republican primary electorate is truly opposed to him.
That leaves a swing group of about 45 percent of the vote. These voters can certainly imagine candidates that they’d prefer to Romney — but they also consider him an acceptable choice, more or less.
What seems to have become clear is that the hypothetical candidate these voters might have preferred to Romney has not materialized.
There are enough substantive and stylistic differences between the various non-Romney candidates that they should not be viewed as interchangeable, this evidence suggests. A considerable number of Santorum’s voters prefer Romney to Gingrich; a considerable number of Gingrich’s voters prefer Romney to Santorum.
And voters in the swing group are now settling for Romney. They are not necessarily doing so enthusiastically: A recent Pew poll found that there has been little improvement in Republican voters’ overall views of their candidates, which is unusual but not unprecedented.
The 2004 Democratic presidential race parallels this one in many ways.
For example, Democratic turnout was reasonably strong in November 2004, despite voters’ initial lack of enthusiasm for John Kerry. The opportunity to beat a polarizing incumbent is a powerful motivating force.
Jon Huntsman was candid when he offered insight into just how little faith Republicans have that Romney can beat Obama. Keep in mind, Huntsman has thrown his support behind Romney now that he is no longer in the race.
A recent Gallup poll found that GOP enthusiasm is on the decline. Republicans and Democrats are almost even, enthusiasm-wise, as they move further into the election year.
And the 2012 election is looking more like a carbon copy of 2008, which also looked an awful lot like 1996. Republicans are lining up behind Romney. The GOP seems to be coming to the realization that they have to nominate somebody, so it might as well be Mitt Romney.
But Romney's sudden downgrade from Republican frontrunner to potential also-ran coincided with a massive shift of conservative Christian voters in South Carolina to Gingrich's camp.
Why? Many observers trace it to lingering suspicion among evangelicals — a key Republican constituency — about Romney's Mormon faith.
And that has led some to suggest that Romney needs to make a speech about his Mormonism along the lines of John F. Kennedy's defense of his Catholicism to Protestant leaders during the 1960 campaign.
So could Romney pull a Kennedy? Should he?
Mike Huckabee, an evangelical favorite who sought the GOP nod in 2008, told Fox News after Romney's South Carolina implosion that the time had come for Romney to give it a shot.
"I do think he ought to address it," Huckabee said, arguing that such a speech would "sort of dismiss it, make it less important."Top of Form
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But few political observers, and apparently even fewer Romney's allies, appear to be urging that step.
For one thing, the tracking polls in the GOP contest over the past months have registered more spikes and dips than an erratic electrocardiogram. Romney's cardiac moment in South Carolina — and his continuing struggle heading into Tuesday’s Florida primary — needs to be seen in that context.
"I think it was more a result of Newt Gingrich catching fire combined with a pretty tough week for Mitt on issues like taxes and income," said David French, a social conservative and Romney ally who with his wife, Nancy, just published a book, "Why Evangelicals Should Support Mitt Romney (and Feel Good About It!)."
"It's a pretty conventional narrative — at least by the conventions of this very volatile race," French added. "If there was any blanket anti-Mormon sentiment, then Mitt would not have been up to begin with."
When Kennedy addressed the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September 1960, it was only two months before the November election, and he did not have to worry about his Democratic base the way Romney has to worry about securing the GOP base to win the primaries.
Kennedy's chief task in 1960 actually was not to convert his audience; they were already a lost cause, and he knew it. What the Kennedy campaign hoped to do was to influence the 23 percent of the wider electorate who were still undecided.
"The campaign's polling showed that yes, if Kennedy could paint himself as a victim of anti-Catholic bigotry, that will move people your way," said Shaun Casey, a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary and author of "The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960." And it worked.
Romney's "religion" problem is about numbers as much as theology. As Casey notes, Kennedy's other task in Houston was to rally his Catholic base, which he did. But rallying an already strong GOP Mormon base wouldn't do much for Romney.
While Kennedy had a Catholic population of 40 million behind him — about one-quarter of the electorate, concentrated in key battleground states — Mormons today number just about 2 million, and are geographically concentrated in the Mountain West in mostly reliable red states (with the exception of toss-ups Nevada and Colorado).
Romney already gave a "Houston" speech — and it didn't work. Back in 2007, Romney was struggling to overcome evangelicals' doubts about his Mormon faith. While the speech was well received, it didn't move Iowa caucus-goers back then, and a second speech now would likely not convince suspicious evangelicals in Florida (and beyond).
Romney's biggest task is convincing conservative Christians that he is a conservative, not that he is a Christian.
Evangelicals have shown they are happy to back all sorts of unorthodox candidates – Herman Cain being a perfect example. Evangelicals may not love Mormons, but they are really down on moderates. Indeed, Romney is arguably "not Mormon enough," Richard Land, a top Southern Baptist official, said on the eve of the South Carolina vote.
"If his stance on life and his stance on marriage had been consistently what the stance of the Mormon church has been, he would have far less doubts among social conservatives," Land said.
Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a top evangelical political activist, said he doesn't think Romney's Mormonism will necessarily preclude him from winning evangelical votes or the GOP nomination, so he doesn't need to make the Kennedy speech at this point.
"Bottom line is," said Reed, "he may need to address it as the campaign proceeds, and he may choose to address it as part of a speech down the road."
In Florida, which is more diverse and less ideological than South Carolina, cooler heads could prevail if Romney can exploit his advantage in minions and millions. He has had the airwaves largely to himself for weeks, accompanied by a superior organization. Romney's campaign is in attack mode now – a sign that the campaign shares the Washington insiders' anxiety.
“The process is working and there's still time for voters to decide,” said Wilson. “Romney's greatest appeal continues to be the 'electability argument' and as long as he continues to raise the money needed to fuel his organization, he'll be in the contest. The other candidates remaining in the race don't have organizations on par with Romney so in many ways they're playing catch up.”
The New York Times Contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is the enterprise writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and Editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com.
There, now I’ve said it too. I’m using it only once, though, and here at the beginning of the column, to avoid confusion with any other vile ethnic slurs you may have heard lately, and to give us a handy reference point for later, when we just refer to it as “that word.”
Even if you weren’t familiar with this particular epithet before last week, you’ve surely had your fill of it by now. So many white people have uttered that word over the past few days you wonder how they ever got by without it. It’s like a mischievous child who learns a new “bad” word. Suddenly, they’re repeating it every five seconds and won’t shut up about it.
It all started, as you know, with a Washington Post piece about GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry and his family’s hunting ranch, which once bore that word as its name painted on a large rock by the entrance. The hullabaloo stemmed around the fact that the Perry family leased the ranch without complaint about the name for several years, then had the name painted over sometime in the early 1980s.
Leaving aside the moralistic questions of why the Perrys didn’t care about the name until it became a political liability, which it would have been with Rick Perry running for public office — let’s just concentrate on that word itself.
Google it, and more than 100,000 references pop up, most in the past week, but some interesting facts about that word pop up as well.
For instance, in the U.S., there were more than a hundred places named that word, changed in 1962 by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, but many local names remain unchanged even to this day. By the early part of the 20th century, there were perhaps a dozen different products manufactured in this country, from bath soap to chewing tobacco, with that word as its official name, often complete with a very unflattering logo, drawing, or photo.
So while that word was buried deep for a little while — long enough for most of us to forget its existence — it has re-emerged with a vengeance, and if the conservative bloggers and commentators have any say in the matter, it could once again become a permanent part of the lexicon.
I’m not just talking about those teabagger wing-nuts who demand permanent access to the n-word as part of their First Amendment right to freedom of speech. I mean regular everyday white folks who claim that because they hear it in hip hop or because some Black people use it regularly, they should no longer feel guilty about using the word — especially in some legitimate context like explaining the Perry ranch controversy.
Which is why, for the past few days on every television news channel, you’ve heard that word more often than the phrase, “We’ll be right back after these messages.” They can’t seem to get enough of it. Even if they’re condemning the word, and angrily rebuking those who don’t, they still feel the need to repeat it a couple of times — you know, just to be sure you heard it correctly.
Even Sherri Shepherd, who could quite possibly be the least intelligent person in America, slammed her “The View” co-host Barbara Walters for using it, but gave Whoopi Goldberg a pass for doing the same thing moments earlier. Unfortunately, Shepherd, who has publicly acknowledged that she doesn’t know whether the Earth is round or flat (I’m not kidding. Really.) was so poor at explaining her reasons for differentiating between Barbara saying it and Whoopi saying it that I fear she only made it worse, at least for viewers of her show.
The fact is, that word is going to be offensive to Black people — whether it’s written on a rock in Texas or spoken by a respected news anchor. The mere fact that they’re just repeating it — or even that they’re repeating it in legitimate context — isn’t going to make it less offensive.
And while there is disagreement — even among Black people — about whether the word itself can be reclaimed and re-purposed or whether it should be banned altogether, there’s little doubt that white people who use it, especially around Blacks, run the very real risk of being misunderstood — and the very real risk of a trip to the emergency room.
I have to admit I still wonder, though, with a name like that, what that chewing tobacco must have tasted like.
Like crabgrass and broke relatives, racism keeps popping up in America.
You would think that with a Black president and all, this country would be much further along when it comes to racial relations, and from time to time we lie to ourselves and say it is.
At this very moment, while GOP presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry is taking well-deserved heat for using an inherited North Texas hunting lease named “Niggerhead,” racism deniers are clamoring.
The tea party, a group to which Perry has claimed allegiance, is leading the chorus.
This is why: Nearly four centuries after the first African slaves were landed on this soil, Americans are still dealing with this hideous and corrosive problem.
Here this man who is putting himself before the nation in a bid to become president has been taking friends, colleagues, campaign donors, politicians and captains of industry on hunting trips from 1985–2008 to this place where a painted rock was prominently displaying “Niggerhead” at the entrance.
Somehow conservatives, with radio personality Rush Limbaugh at the head of the pack, don’t see this as racist, or at the very least, say it doesn’t mean that Perry himself is racist.
Perry’s staff released an answer to the Washington Post story that revealed this obscenity, stating that when the governor took over this hunting retreat — a Perry family possession — from his father in 1983, he painted over the sign and turned he rock over so the name would be out of view.
However, with several reports by people who live near the Throckmorton County plot as sources, it was revealed that the sign has been on the display as late as 2008 and that even now the offending name can still be seen faintly beneath a coat of paint.
Yet there are few calls for him to get out of the Republican primary. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, was dogged into resigning because he exposed himself to a few women on the Internet. And this kind of nudity is worse than a legacy that saw tens of millions savaged, raped and worked to death?
These are supposed to be Christians. Where are your consecrated souls now, Tea Partiers?
They are proclaiming that the sign at the property is no proof that Perry is a racist or tolerates racism.
This is a man who has talked of Texas seceding from the U.S. on the basis of state’s rights, a core tenet of the Confederacy and resistance against all federal civil rights laws.
As lieutenant governor in 1999 Perry helped kill a Texas hate crimes bill. As governor, he tried to repeal the hate crimes law that bears the name of lynching victim James Byrd.
In 2000, Perry wrote in a letter to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, “I want you to know that I oppose efforts to remove Confederate monuments, plaques and memorials from public property (in Texas).”
Responding to Hispanics filing lawsuits, Perry famously said, “Every Jose in town wants to come along and sue you for something.”
When called on it, he said anyone who thought that was a racist statement was wrong.
All of this shows that racism is not just a Perry problem, it is and for an indefinite period of time, shall be an American problem.
The battle waging right now in a Harrisburg courtroom over Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law is more than just a fight about voter fraud and clean elections.
It is a war of ideals, with no less at stake than the very foundation of our democracy — whether all legal citizens of the commonwealth are allowed to choose their leaders in a free and fair election, or whether we should allow one political party to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters out of fear they’d vote for the other party. (No Democratic legislator voted “yes” on voter ID. Not one.)
Forget the GOP smokescreen about clamping down on supposed fraud at the polls — they’ve already admitted freely that’s just something they made up.
The state’s defense is mounted by the attorney general’s office, acting in this case as the legal division of the Republican Party, who actually stipulated that it is “not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania, and has no direct knowledge of in-person voter fraud elsewhere.” The state’s lawyers also conceded they could offer no evidence that “in-person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absence of the photo ID law.”
I’m sorry… what?
The whole basis of the voter ID law, or so they claimed, was to curb the runaway fraud which threatened to turn Pennsylvania’s electoral process into a useless sham. Didn’t they just trot out a report authored by Republican City Commissioner Al Schmidt that purported to outline shocking “irregularities” in Philadelphia voting? You mean to tell me with all the money and manpower these guys have invested to ramrod this law through, they couldn’t come up with even one concrete example of fraud?
No, they couldn’t. So what then are we left with as a reason for state Republicans pushing this law with such zeal and determination? Well, they admitted that too, just a few weeks ago when House Majority Leader Mike Turzai let it slip out when pandering to a gathering of GOP faithful.
“Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done,” Turzai boasted to the crowd, which promptly broke into thunderous applause.
On a side note, I haven’t seen hide or hair of Turzai since he let the cat out of the bag last month. He committed the only unforgivable sin in politics — telling the truth in an open venue — and right now he’s probably paying for it. My guess is that the GOP has him in a safe house somewhere for intensive reprogramming and indoctrination — sort of a Witless Protection Program.
I’m glad Turzai told tales out of school, even by accident, and I commend his lack of political judgment. In fact, I wish his Republican colleagues, starting with Gov. Corbett, would do the same.
Just say it out loud. Come out and admit that the Black people, brown people and old people likely to vote for President Obama’s re-election must be kept from the polls, and a draconian voter ID law is the closest you can legally come to enacting a good old Jim Crow “poll tax.” Explain to us how since “those people” don’t pay taxes, don’t own property, don’t run businesses and drain the state treasury through welfare and Medicare entitlements, they don’t deserve the same right to vote as hard-working American “job creators.”
Tell us how much better Blacks and other minorities will fare under the administration of President Willard Romney, who loves dark-skinned folks so much he pays them to do his cooking, cleaning and yard work.
And while you’re at it, why not come clean about your hatred for gays, women, immigrants, Muslims and anyone else that wouldn’t fit in at a skinhead rally?
Now, I’m not saying all Republicans are racist, homophobic misogynists. I happen to know quite a few whose values, compassion and common sense I greatly admire, even if I disagree with their politics. But what I am saying is that those decent, honorable conservatives have allowed their party to be hijacked by hate-filled dimwits.
Nothing else could explain Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s demand for an apology from Attorney General Eric Holder for calling the Texas voter ID law a “poll tax.” Perry, who you may recall came under some fire during the GOP primaries for his proud ownership of an offensively-named hunting ranch, said Holder’s remark was reprehensible for inciting racial tensions.
When Rick Perry is demanding apologies for inciting racial tension, you know the inmates have taken over the asylum. And you also know voter ID laws really are a poll tax after all.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
WASHINGTON — With many preoccupied by the holiday season, making ends meet and the clowning of the endless Republican primary debates, few are paying close attention to what’s been happening in the Supreme Court lately. As if the Court is brewing up a 21st-century remake of the Civil War, the august body of for-life judges have decided to review three of the most volatile cases you could pick to review during a presidential election year.
It started with the announcement that the High Court (also known affectionately as SCOTUS) would review the Affordable Care Act, a lightning rod law of political animus and controversy since the heated Health Care Reform Wars that, literally, cost Democrats their House majority in 2010. Derisively picked on by Republicans as “Obamacare” — one of the GOP’s most widely used talking points — the law has been repeatedly poked at by everyone from conservative think tanks and legal experts to state’s Attorneys General and political candidates looking for an election year base booster.
Many states scoffed at the Constitutionality of the individual mandate inserted in the law, accusing the Obama Administration and the federal government of overstepping bounds. The Administration barked back and now, after much political wrangling and changing of the guard on Capitol Hill, it’s up to the SCOTUS to cast final judgment.
But, they didn’t stop there.
Along comes the infamous Arizona state immigration law, technically known as “S.B. 1070” for its state legislature designation. Republican Governor Jan Brewer’s masterpiece of questionable and virtually unenforceable immigration detainment became the cause of a Latino community already under siege from increased deportations. The law caused a national firestorm over how far authorities could go in seizing illegal immigrants and whether police identification by race was even legal.
After many boycotts, national outrage and Brewer’s face on dart boards, Arizona suffered a huge economic setback from S.B. 1070 and became the poster kid for racism in the United States.
Now, it’s under SCOTUS’ review.
But — wait — there’s more.
Going further down south in the big state of Texas is where current Republican Governor Rick Perry, R-Texas, also a fledgling GOP primary candidate, pushed an appeal against a lower court which refused to let the state use state and congressional legislative maps drawn by an even lower court. While that court found the new Census-driven maps suspiciously drawn to diminish the influence of Black and Latino voters in the Lone Star state, Perry argued that the judges should have kicked it to the state legislature which is, incidentally, dominated by Republicans.
Observers worry that the High Court is taking on politically and emotionally charged cases during an election year that promises to be as hot as the previous Presidential cycle in 2008. Healthcare, immigration and redistricting also touch on sensitive issues of access, race … and more race.
The healthcare debate is immersed in a murky mix of Constitutional arguments and spicy political hand-to-hand, a key issue Republicans plan to use against Democrats, specifically President Obama, in 2012. How the Court decides on the Affordable Care Act could tip the electoral scales in dramatic fashion.
As could the immigration issue and redistricting. The Arizona immigration law on one hand placed an uncomfortable law enforcement spotlight on the problem of illegal immigration in the southwest United States. But, it also galvanized the awakening of a sleeping Latino political giant that could prove lethal for Republicans — especially depending on which way the legal winds blow on the SCOTUS case.
The Texas redistricting case, one of the few to come before the Court in quite some time, could have the effect of deciding the fate of Black and Latino political power, particularly as populations of color move southward. SCOTUS’ review of the case is already causing anxiety amongst civil rights advocates, lawyers and many African-American politicos worried that this is just one new chance, next to the increasing presence of voter ID laws, for Republicans to undermine minority votes typically leaning Democratic.
All three cases are volatile. All three have the potential of stirring up conservative and mostly South-based Republican constituencies in 2012, in red state ways detrimental to President Obama’s re-election. And all three appear to exacerbate boiling North versus South electoral tensions that could radically alter the political landscape beyond the elections.
“The North/South divide is always just beneath the surface in American politics. People thought it odd that Bill Clinton, in 1992, selected another southerner, Tennessee’s Al Gore, to be his VP. Rick Perry’s nomination is troubles, aside from his many ‘oops’ moments, but because of reluctance to elect another Texan,” observes Marvin King, a political science professor at the University of Mississippi.
“The problem, from the North’s perspective, is the ascension of the South. It’s growing at a much faster clip and growing in political clout too. The congressional seats lost by Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York invariably end up in Georgia, Texas or North Carolina. Texas is gaining four new seats, and while that will make it harder for Democrats to retake the House, it shouldn’t affect the presidential contest.
King argues that while the tensions are there they may not be decisive. Obama could lose the 55 Electoral College votes he won in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia and still win the election. What will be decisive are national issues like the economy, health care reform, and immigration. For instance, while Americans want a strong border they don’t prefer the antics of Sheriff Joe Arpaio or the explicit discrimination of Alabama’s anti-immigration efforts.
And whatever the Supreme Court ruling, it’s a national issue, not a sectional one, argues King.
“If the perilous economy and the ponderously improving unemployment and numerous foreign policy concerns weren’t enough two potential decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court could heavily impact next year’s presidential election,” says Peter Groff, the first Black president of the Colorado State Senate and currently a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University. “The Court decrees on the Affordable Care Act and Arizona’s immigration law makes the Court a player in 2012 in a way that should make the Court, which claims to be uncolored by society and politics, very uncomfortable. Some think the discomfort of the Court will result in Republican pleasure in 2012.”
“However, the GOP better be careful what it hopes for because I think the president wins either way politically. The White House has embraced the inevitable court challenge and has said from the very beginning the new law will pass constitutional muster. An affirmation by the Court punctures the constitutional argument against health care and clears the way for full implementation and also wipes it off the politically table,” adds Groff.
Democrats and Republicans chant in unison “jobs, jobs, jobs.” President Obama offers an American Jobs plan, but Republicans use the filibuster in the Senate to kill it and a Republican majority will not consider it in the House. House Democrats offered a heftier jobs bill, but it is ignored by the majority in control. Republicans offer more of the same — tax cuts for the rich whom they call “job creators” — but they have put no actual jobs plan on the table.
As a result, 15 million Americans still languish, officially unemployed, with another 10 million underemployed or so discouraged they have stopped looking for work.
One of the leading Republican candidates for president, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is an advocate of Tenth Amendment (states’ rights) solutions and we are suspicious of anyone advocating Tenth Amendment solutions because that amendment protected the peculiar institution. Further, the Tenth Amendment solutions guy was also found to have taken friends, colleagues and contributors hunting on a ranch widely known by the name on a rock at its entrance called Niggerhead.
While in the past, unacceptable language used by Minister Louis Farrakhan was overwhelmingly condemned by a House resolution, Republicans voted down a similar resolution that would have condemned Governor Perry for taking his friends to hunt at a place with a racially offensive name.
Republicans protect their own from charges of racism and the press doesn’t vigorously pursue the issue because Herman Cain says, “it’s time to move on,” and if he, as an African American, isn’t upset, why should others be perturbed? And Democrats don’t want to discuss it because it’s a distraction from their jobs message.
But what if not condemning racism when it raises its ugly head is actually diverting and delaying the jobs discussion? What if Herman Cain’s presence in the race is actually camouflaging the fact that President Obama’s jobs plan (and virtually anything else he proposes) is actually being blocked, not just by conservatives, but by white conservative Republicans determined to use any means necessary, including race — as both Republicans and Democrats have done in the past — to defeat America’s first African-American president? If Herman Cain were not in the race, could the press really ignore Gov. Perry’s hunting site with no apology for its name or use?
Why is the word so offensive? Historically, the use of the “N-word” by whites often preceded an act of violence by the perpetrator(s) (e.g., hanging) or by the victim responding. Viola Liuzzo and Rev. James Reeb were called N-word lovers before they were murdered. Most recently, James Anderson was murdered in Mississippi ,and the young white perpetrator reportedly said, “I ran that n****r over.”
If the American people were to conclude that white Republicans — not just conservative Republicans — were actively working to defeat Barack Obama because of his race, they would overwhelmingly reject the Republican Party, its candidates and proposals, and understand more clearly a Republican strategy of blockage and obstinacy.
The heart and soul of “conservatism” is the South. When racism was rampant, it was the solid Democratic South. In today’s “post-racial” society it’s the solid Republican South — minus the African- and Hispanic-American congressional districts. But why would the poorest, least educated, most ill-housed and most unhealthy region of the country be solidly conservative? Conserving such poverty seems unnatural. So what are the people of the South conserving?
Clearly, historically, the rich — be they slave-owners or possessors’ of other wealth or power — were conserving their privilege. They used the fear of Blacks to manipulate whites and Blacks politically to keep them separated, and from rebelling and joining forces to fight their mutual state of unemployment, poverty, lack of health care, housing and education.
Poor whites were not told the truth about the Civil War — that they were fighting to protect the slave-owners’ economic self-interest. Instead they were told they were fighting for states’ rights. Rather than join the Civil Rights Movement for social, economic and political equality for all in the ’60s, poor whites were told to stay away because African Americans were being manipulated by “communists” and “socialists” like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and now Obama.
So when the first 15 presidents avoided resolving the race issue the result was an explosion, the American Civil War. And when white politicians know the American weakness on race, and exploit it politically, we can never really get to the jobs discussion.
Dealing with and getting beyond “Niggerhead” may actually be the key to addressing the needs of the American people and unlocking a real discussion on jobs.
Jesse L. Jackson Jr., (D), is the representative for Illinois’ 2nd congressional district.
The GOP field needs to stop with the birther talk — specifically, Governor Rick Perry of Texas. Any rational, reasoned, informed person rightfully put all of this talk about whether or not President Obama is a resident of our country to bed when the president released his birth certificate last summer.
Up until the president released his birth certificate, I was comfortable with the birther talk — meaning that it was a legitimate conversation to have because the White House — at that time — did little to persuade that talk during the campaign and even when the president won the election the little push back from the White House allowed the conversation to fester.
To be clear, I have never been one of those Americans who thought that the president was not a naturalized citizen. Read that sentence again, I have never thought the president was not a naturalized citizen.
The conversation was silly during the campaign and I thought the White House was foolish for not ending the conversation sooner.
Once the birth certificate was released and the president announced to the public that the silly talk should end, I, like many Americans, quickly moved on since the issue was put to bed. At least I thought. Now we have a presidential candidate reviving this talk — not once — but twice in media interviews by stating that he is “unsure” as to whether or not the president is a legal citizen or not.
Are we really having this conversation again? And are we really having this conversation with someone that wants to be our next president of the United States?
Surely with record debt, soaring unemployment and a souring electorate there is much more policy conversations to had.
Here’s what I think — I think that if Governor Perry were the frontrunner in the GOP field he would not be playing this game.
But since he is slipping badly in the polls, he is employing a stealth-like strategy of winking to the most conservative factions of the American electorate who still think that President Obama occupies the Oval office illegally.
I find Perry’s lack of discipline on the campaign trail jaw dropping. When the general public wants specifics on the candidates remedies to fix the economy and on the very day when you announce your plan to do just that but in turn step on your message to talk about the president’s place of birth is beyond my political thinking.
When pressed a few hours later on the topic by Parade magazine Perry goes even further by stating that he did “not have a definitive answer” as to whether the president was born in this country.
He goes even further by stating to another journalist “it’s a good issue to keep alive” and went on to say, “it’s also a great distraction.”
Interesting responses from Governor Perry on so many levels. Interesting that he deliberately wants to stoke a very small group of people who will never believe that President Obama is a naturalized citizen.
Interesting that Governor Perry who claims to be big hearted and compassionate to people who look different than him — meaning the people who immigrate to this country for a better life — which is what President Obama’s father did in the 1960s deliberately, maliciously and ruthlessly plays on the ignorance of a stubborn few for political gain. It’s sad, unfortunate and below the belt.
Perry knows better, and its time for him to show the American people that he’s serious about wanting to run this country, as opposed to playing silly games.
President Barack Obama’s new assertive tone in challenging Republicans is encouraging.
Last week the president used a White House news conference to pressure Republicans in Congress to get behind his jobs plan or explain why not, declaring that if Congress fails to act “the American people will run them out of town.”
The president used the new conference to heighten the pressure on the GOP that he plans to put on them by traveling around the country, into swing states and onto the home turf of key Republican foes including House Speaker John Boehner and Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
In the news conference and on the campaign trail the president has been defiant.
“I’m not going to cave to the competition,” Obama declared midway through last week’s news conference.
The president, who is known for his more professorial and measured tone, was assertive.
“Why would you be opposed?” he demanded to those who oppose his job proposal.
“Any senator out there who’s thinking about voting against this jobs bill when it comes up for a vote needs to explain exactly why.”
The president took on Republican presidential candidates who are seeking to replace him.
“You’ve got Republican presidential candidates whose main economic policy proposals is, we’ll get rid of the financial reforms that are designed to prevent the abuses that got us into this mess in the first place,” Obama said. “That doe not make sense to the American people.”
The newly aggressive tone the president has adopted as the 2012 campaign approaches is encouraging and long overdue.
The president has to show that he is as frustrated as the American people are with the inability of Congress to get anything done, especially agree on policies that will lead to urgently needed job creation.
For too long the president has played defense to Republican opposition. He has caved in to the competition far too often.
Some pundits may not like the president’s aggressive tone. His Republican opposition will accuse him of playing politic. But the president would be wrong to keep playing nice with foes who seek to oppose him by any means.
The president should stay assertive and mount a spirited offense for his policies.
WASHINGTON — For a voter looking to preview next year's presidential election, nothing placed the competing arguments in sharper focus than a single day.
Tuesday unfolded in nearly split screen fashion, framed by President Barack Obama making his economic case at a Pittsburgh union training center, Republicans offering a rebuttal in a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and Senate Democrats failing to overcome a Republican filibuster of Obama's $447 billion jobs bill on Capitol Hill.
"What's happened in this country, under the Obama administration, is that you have a president who I think is well-meaning but just over his head when it comes to the economy," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said, summing up the Republican view during the GOP debate.
Indeed, Republicans have built a thick brief against Obama that casts him as an ineffective naïf, too willing to prime the economy with temporary measures, too eager to raise taxes and too willing to give government stifling regulatory powers.
Obama, in turn, is defining his economic stewardship by giving credit to his policies, attributing the anemic recovery and persistent unemployment to factors beyond his control — a tsunami in Japan, unrest in the Arab world and a potentially devastating European debt crisis — and blaming congressional Republicans for blocking his latest jobs initiative.
"A lot of folks are living week-to-week, paycheck-to-paycheck, even day to day," Obama said in Pittsburgh. "They need action, and they need action now.... In other words, they want Congress to do your job."
That the GOP presidential debate, exclusively devoted to the economy, occurred on the same evening that the Senate cast its vote on Obama's jobs bill was coincidence. But both served to define Obama's Republican opposition and set the tone for the developing presidential contest.
Obama had been campaigning for the bill, making strategic stops in key presidential battleground states and in the backyards of congressional Republican leaders. The strategy is designed to build public support for the bill, but also to serve Obama's long-term political goals.
No matter who emerges from the Republican field, Obama's camp already is signaling that they will tie the GOP contender to Republicans in Congress. Their goal is to weigh down the Republican nominee with the burden of an institution held in little esteem, and to convince the country that Obama's opponent is simply a continuance of outside-the-mainstream GOP leadership.
"The Republican presidential candidates have now had many opportunities to articulate a plan for economic recovery," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Tuesday. "Instead, they have simply continued their courtship of the tea party and its ideology, marching in lockstep with the Republicans in Congress."
Obama also has been building a defense against the expected Republican attacks. The year began with an expectation in the White House, matched by many economists, that the recovery would take hold. But over ten months, the country took hits from a disaster in Japan, Arab turmoil that contributed to high gasoline prices, and the threat of a Greek financial default with global repercussions.
"And then unfortunately, Washington got involved in a self-inflicted wound with the debt ceiling fiasco," Obama said during a meeting with his jobs council in Pittsburgh. "And all those things, I think, led to both consumers and businesses taking a big step backwards and saying, we are just not sure where this thing is going."
But Obama has hitched his political fate and the economy's on his jobs plan. It would have extended and expanded payroll tax cuts, provided continued jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed, helped keep teachers and police officers on the job and paid for tens of billions of dollars in public works projects. The legislation would have paid for it all with a surtax on millionaires. Obama has said he will now seek to divvy up the bill and seek passage of its component parts.
The competing, partisan views of such an economic stimulus go to the heart of presidential politics.
Obama says the initial $825 billion stimulus that Obama succeeded in passing through Congress in 2009 halted the recession and put the economy on the path to recovery. He credits the government's intervention in the auto industry for saving General Motors and Chrysler. The president has said his new plan would create as many as 1.9 million jobs and help boost economic growth by as much as 2 percent.
Republicans counter that the 2009 stimulus failed and left the country in its current straits, with snail paced growth and unemployment stuck at 9.1 percent.
The Republican presidential field is offering a list of counterproposals. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling for greater domestic oil and gas exploration. Herman Cain wants a massive overhaul of the tax system, with a 9 percent corporate tax rate, a 9 percent individual tax rate and a 9 percent sales tax. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is proposing a repeal of every regulation put in place during Obama's presidency that would cost the economy more than $100 million a year.
"Repeal them all," he said.
Obama is already steeling himself.
Members of Obama's own jobs council pressed him on Tuesday to consider the impact of health, environmental and financial rules on jobs. Obama said he was sympathetic to their plea and that his administration is undertaking a review of federal regulations.
But in an argument he will likely make on the campaign trail, he said: "Once we make all the regulations smarter, eliminate the dumb ones and so forth, there's still going to be some tensions that exist around, you know, how much do we value this extra 10,000 jobs versus these extra hundred thousand asthma cases." -- (AP)