Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

I finally read the Jonathan Chait race piece you’ve all been complaining about. I agree, it was stupid. It’s a both-sides-do-it take on racial polarization in American politics that Elias Isquith nails:

This conceit is baked into the entire piece, but it’s most obvious when Chait writes about Lee Atwater’s infamous quote about how conservative politicians went from shouting disgusting racial slurs in the 1950s to abstract talk of tax cuts in the 1980s not because they realized white supremacy was wrong but because they knew that changing social norms would make running a winning campaign on explicit racism impossible. Liberals sometimes lean a bit too much on the Atwater quote; it’s becoming a bit of a cliché to see it in a lefty’s treatise on conservative racism; but it’s widely passed around not only because it’s damning to hear one of the chief GOP operatives of his time cop to relying on racism to win votes but also because it explains the way racial resentment has been subsumed into right-wing economics. Chait mostly affirms such an interpretation of Atwater’s remarks, and yet, because he’s writing a piece from high on the mountaintop, intended to explain to those blinded by ideology on both sides what’s really going on, he ends up writing one of the most regrettable couple of sentences I’ve ever read. “Impressive though the historical, sociological, and psychological evidence undergirding this analysis may be,” he says, “it also happens to be completely insane. Whatever Lee Atwater said, or meant to say, advocating tax cuts is not in any meaningful sense racist.”

Here’s the standard liberal blogger story (the one I believe, at least) of the last 40 years of American politics: Republicans used southern white opposition to civil rights to gain power and then used this power to make our Galtians richer and more powerful. So no, advocating tax cuts is not in any meaningful sense racist and that’s exactly why Republicans had to use dog whistles to get voters to support tax cuts for the rich. If tax cuts for the rich were explicitly racist, they would have already been popular and no dog whistles would have been necessary.

Isquith goes on to tie Chait’s article in with Jay Rosen’s idea of establishment journalism’s View from Nowhere, “a bid for trust that advertises the viewlessness of the news producer”. I think that’s right. And viewlessness is particularly useless when it comes to analyzing politics. It ain’t beanbag and tut-tutting at both sides neither informs the reader nor chastens either side. Moreover, political messages are heavily coded, and taking them at open-minded context-free face value is futile at best.

Most readers of New York magazine, where Chait’s article appeared, vote Democrat. And the same is true of most other media purveyors of view-from-nowhere “both sides do it” nonsense. Too many liberals like the idea of considering both sides, of thinking that you can win arguments and elections with fair-minded rhetoric and “objective facts”.

You can’t.

Update. A good description of Atwater’s quote from different-church-lady:

Which also speaks to the heart behind Atwater’s quote — there’s a clear sense of “Hey, I may not be racist, but if leveraging the racism that’s out there is going to get us elected then that’s just how it is.”

When you hear the actual audio of that interview, what’s chilling is how technical he’s being — he’s just discussing how the game is played with the same kind of intellectual isolation of a football coach discussing the choice between the 3-4 or the 4-3 defense. Racism is just another X on chalkboard that you can run patterns with.






109 replies
  1. 1
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    My nym.

    All you need to know about guys like Chait.

  2. 2
    Violet says:

    Too many liberals like the idea of considering both sides, of thinking that you can win arguments and elections with “objective facts”.

    You can’t.

    Damn straight. Liberals and Democrats need to come up with emotional arguments for why their demonstrably factually better ideas are better than the fear-based, flag-wrapped wingnut Republican ideas or they will lose elections. Emotional arguments will win every time.

  3. 3
    Violet says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: What, no tumbrels?

  4. 4
    Dave says:

    If tax cuts for the rich were explicitly racist, they would have already been popular and no dog whistles would have been necessary.

    This says it all. What part of divide and conquer do people like Chait don’t understand?

  5. 5
    Crusty Dem says:

    Tax cuts aren’t racist? Ok, how about “cadillac-driving welfare queens”? “The 47%”? “Makers and takers”? “Young bucks buying T-bone steaks with food stamps”?

    It’s all the same, “those brown people are taking my shit!” All the more ironic because a good percentage of the people who respond positively to this dont have any shit to take..

  6. 6
    danielx says:

    @Violet:

    Yup. For the same reasons, it’s pretty much a useless exercise to try to win over true wingnuts. They know what they know and ain’t nothin’ gonna convince them otherwise.

    OT warning – I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to figure this out, but if cats had opposable thumbs they would rule the world.

  7. 7
    c u n d gulag says:

    I like that term – “viewlessness.”

    Helen Keller couldn’t speak, see, or hear, like the rest of us do.

    And yet, she had a more intelligent, potent, and realistic view of the world, than almost ANY of our MSM punTWITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. 8
    c u n d gulag says:

    @Violet:
    Too quick!

    It’s better for their health to walk and get their heads lopped-off!

  9. 9
    Tommy says:

    @Violet: Facts are important. Clearly. But speaking about these facts in emotional terms is more important. Back in my ad agency days you might not believe how many clients couldn’t answer basic questions like “why do people buy your product?” We had some canned questions we would ask to get to the bottom of it.

    One was, “what keeps your target audience up at night in a cold sweat? How does your product help them sleep at night?” You talk to emotion. Pain. And yes fear. It is what generally motivates people.

    IMHO there is no way getting around this.

  10. 10
    Keith G says:

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    As the copy on the website states

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    Will you be tuning in to watch Mayor Castro defend the American Dream against Dan Patrick’s anti-immigrant beliefs?

    Patrick is an arch-type Texas conservative and Mayor Castro is expected to be one of the pillars of the new generation of Texas politics.

    The debate will be live streamed. Watching it requires that you be put on Battleground Texas’ mailing list, but you can always unsubscribe when the first email comes in.

  11. 11
    Mr. Longform says:

    It’s the old problem, the liberal-is-someone-unwilling-to-take-his-own-side-in-an-argument trope which is embedded in the core principle of liberal thinking:that is, liberals like thinking. They like to believe that logical arguments and practical solutions are what work, which is why they don’t buy into various boogeyman “explanations” or the failure of schools, families, societies, etc. Liberals don’t want to play the emotional argument game because we don’t believe in emotional arguments. On the other hand, people who react to emotional arguments aren’t persuaded by better ideas. Maybe that’s why most of us in such pissy moods these days.

  12. 12
    cokane says:

    i really dont think chait practices view from nowhere journalism at all, hes clearly and proudly liberal. also i dont agree with rosen’s take that view from nowhere leads to poor insight.

  13. 13
    PsiFighter37 says:

    Vote Democratic. God, that annoys me every time I see it.

  14. 14
    kindness says:

    People say Chait is a liberal but I see another George Stephanopolis really. The man is not what I consider a liberal to be.

  15. 15
    scav says:

    Viewlessness also smacks of pure theory based. In the abstract tax breaks, watermelon-shaming, welfare-slashing isn’t racially biased. Practically speaking, on the ground, when the implementation hits the body, it sure as hell is. I find that profoundly meaningful.

  16. 16
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Mr. Longform:

    They [liberals] like to believe that logical arguments and practical solutions are what work…

    A credible, if usually veiled, threat of violence is always helpful in these situations.

    Happy 80th anniversary of the Toledo Auto-Lite strike.

  17. 17
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Dave:

    What part of divide and conquer do people like Chait don’t understand?

    Chait is paid very well NOT to understand.

  18. 18
    Mandalay says:

    Too many liberals like the idea of considering both sides, of thinking that you can win arguments and elections with fair-minded rhetoric and “objective facts”.

    Meh. Obama won the presidency by having opposed the invasion of Iraq while McCain and Clinton supported it. Daddy Bush got skewered for his “Read my lips – no new taxes” quote. Romney refused to release his tax returns. These are objective facts that were significant in determining the outcomes of elections.

    And the idea that this is an either-or proposition (be fair and objective vs. be emotional) is just silly.

  19. 19
    Hunter Gathers says:

    Chait went out of his to not offend the conservatives that he runs unto in his public and private life. The conservatives that he hangs with don’t foam at the mouth over racial shit, so therefore the Conservative Movement itself cannot be racist. The professional conservatives that he runs into would be very upset if he called them out on the circumstances of the Movement’s birth and acendance (hatred of black people) and might not attend the next get-together he throws.

    The Conservative Movement’s very existence is due to the fact that a majority of the White Tribe hates/fears Black people, along with anybody else who isn’t a Caucasian Christian. Saying so is very gauche, and won’t get you invited to Sally Quinn’s dinner parties.

  20. 20
    Belafon says:

    @scav: Viewlessness also represents people who would rather feel good about their vote than solve problems.

  21. 21
    srv says:

    So if they’re not DFH’s or Progressives, who are all these pro-emotive liberal democrats who understand rational liberal democrats are objectively racist enablers?

  22. 22
    Violet says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: I think he’s paid very well to write columns where he claims he doesn’t understand. He most likely understands it quite well, but he knows who’s paying the bills.

    @danielx:

    Yup. For the same reasons, it’s pretty much a useless exercise to try to win over true wingnuts. They know what they know and ain’t nothin’ gonna convince them otherwise.

    It’s why I like toying with wingnuts. Keep asking them questions while pretending to be dumb. Get themselves to walk themselves into a corner and then watch them blow up. All while pretending to be stupid. It’s kind of like what “Stephen Colbert” does every night on his show. Works great and occasionally they go, “Huh? I guess you’re right.” or “That does seem wrong.” or something. Not very often, but just enough to keep it interesting.

  23. 23
    PurpleGirl says:

    @danielx: Did you ever see the Cravendale milk commercial?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6CcxJQq1x8

  24. 24
    Poopyman says:

    @Violet:

    @Villago Delenda Est: What, no tumbrels?

    It’s baked in at this point.

  25. 25
    japa21 says:

    Advocating tax cuts for the rich may not, in and of itself, be racist, but advocating tax cuts for all, when accompanied by some of the other rhetoric, can be seen as racist, or at least inviting the votes of racists. Racists in America are convinced most of those colored people just take money and don’t pay any taxes, because they are lazy, shiftless people.

    The GOP counts on that belief being the norm for most of white America. It is, fortuantely, a belief that is slowly losing strength. When white America was white and the rest of America was segregated (even in the non-South) it was a myth easy to prepetuate. As there is more social intermingling, it is a myth that gets discredited.

    And this is why the GOP has now gone after unions, particualraly public workers, because of their pensions. There, the myth is that those people don’t deserve the pensions, and after all, most people don;t have pensions, so why should they. Of course, the main reason most people don;t have pensions is that the GOP, with help from some Dems, pushed through things like IRAs which make money for their Wall Street buddies while shortchanging the common worker.

  26. 26
    eric k says:

    @Crusty Dem:

    That is the point, they use racist coding to get tax cuts. If they just said we want to cut taxes on rich people they wouldn’t get the working class white voters.

  27. 27
    Violet says:

    @japa21: I can’t imagine what the nation is going to look like in 20 years as baby boomers retire without pensions, pull money out of the stock market, which then tanks, and they can’t do all the things their parents did in their retirement.

  28. 28
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @PsiFighter37: This. Assholes who’ve internalized that Fox crap need to be fucking fined every time they do this.

  29. 29
    SatanicPanic says:

    @PsiFighter37: Don’t give em the satisfaction

  30. 30
    Anoniminous says:

    @Tommy:

    IMHO there is no way getting around this.

    There’s always surgical removal of the Limbic Lobe – the so-called “Lizard Brain” – but that would also remove unimportant things like Creativity, Long Term Memory, and Decision Making.

  31. 31
    Paul in KY says:

    The reason they take this ‘mountain top’ view (IMO), is because they are trying to get some Repubs to read their story. They know Democrats/liberals will read them anyway, so if they want to get some of the other side, they have to take this tack as a way to keep their supposed journalistic integrity. They can’t repeat GOP hogwash and crazy talk as being true or correct (which might get them more GOP readers, but would make them seem to be deluded idiots), so they just try to not say anything about it.

  32. 32
    rikyrah says:

    The problem with Chait is that his fucking article was ridiculous from beginning to end, and discounted race from a Black person’s perspective.

    Racism is not cocktail chatter for Black people. It’ s not something that we discuss over martinis. It’s something we live with every fucking day, one way or another. Its slights, both big and small.

    How the fuck do you write an article about race during the Obama age, and NOT bring up the Birth Certificate?

    how is that possible?

    the utter and complete and fundamental lack of respect shown this President and his entire family.

    pretending that Black people lived on Mars for the previous 43 White Presidents, instead of in America, and we don’t notice the difference in the baseline of respect for the Presidency of the United States since Barack Obama won in 2008.

    the Republican party is the party of White Supremacy and racial resentment. It’s who they are. It’s all they are. And, to try and cover that is why Chait’s ass has been lit up.

  33. 33
    Sly says:

    Here’s the standard liberal blogger story (the one I believe, at least) of the last 40 years of American politics: Republicans used southern white opposition to civil rights to gain power and then used this power to make our Galtians richer and more powerful. So no, advocating tax cuts is not in any meaningful sense racist and that’s exactly why Republicans had to use dog whistles to get voters to support tax cuts for the rich. If tax cuts for the rich were explicitly racist, they would have already been popular and no dog whistles would have been necessary.

    That may be standard liberal boilerplate, but its missing an important element:

    White supremacy itself was a means of making “Galtians” richer and more powerful. This was summarized by John C. Calhoun in 1837, describing slavery as a positive good:

    “There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization, a conflict between labor and capital. The condition of society in the South exempts us from the disorders and dangers resulting from this conflict; and which explains why it is that the political condition of the slaveholding States has been so much more stable and quiet than that of the North.”

    White supremacy is not some peculiar cultural idiom inseparable from real material conditions. It was an is a means by which labor – all labor – was kept in bondage to capital, which has been the central if not sole preoccupation of conservatism for two centuries. In some cases literal bondage and in others figurative, with the latter being co-opted into their chains by means of cultivating a particular kind of cultural identity tied to notions of religiosity and masculinity.

  34. 34
    Paul in KY says:

    @Violet: ‘Vote for the GOP on your way to the poorhouse’.

  35. 35
    kc says:

    Chait’s piece: tl; dr.

    Isquith’s piece on Chait’s piece: Salon; dr

    Dougj’s piece on Isquith’s piece on Chait’s piece: dc.

  36. 36
    negative 1 says:

    @Crusty Dem: Agreed. Which is why I even call bullsh!t on Isquith’s idea that liberals lean to heavily on Atwater’s quote. It’s the playbook that’s still in use, and whereas there are other explanations for why to cut taxes the act itself tends to hit minorities disproportionately, so yeah racist isn’t far from the truth. Besides, would our good Elias like it better if we called in classist?

  37. 37
    scav says:

    @Belafon: People often run to pure theory when they want to justify something, especially to themselves. Religious doctrine is pure theory that generally skips the evidence / ground-truthing stage and adds a lot of incense, ritual and tithing.

  38. 38
    James E. Powell says:

    My take on this: Jonathan Chait knows that if you want big money and lots of TV appearances, you cannot be a liberal. You have to be a liberal who slams other liberals. You have to put right-wing claims into mainstream language. You have to serve.

  39. 39
    Mike E says:

    Sgt Schultz sees nothing!

    eta @kc: see my summary ^^above^^

  40. 40
    muddy says:

    Chait was on Chris Hayes’ (I think) show the other day. He just kept repeating that he was talking about politics and not race, and why does everyone keep changing the subject? He did not seem to get that you can’t separate it out.

  41. 41
    Hawes says:

    I think Chait oversimplified and overreached in his argument, but I think he did have a few valid points. First was “Most all racists are Republicans but not all Republicans are racists.” And that there is a tendency to view GOP obstruction of Obama’s agenda as racist, when really they are just a bunch of nihilist assholes. And that constantly calling the GOP racist isn’t really advancing any political solutions.

    But while Chait acknowledges – and has written extensively on the fact – that the GOP is 95% responsible for the deadlock in Washington, he then veers away to suggest that if Democrats stopped calling the GOP racist all the time, more stuff would get done. I thought that part was naive in a guy I don’t usually find naive.

  42. 42
    Hawes says:

    I think Chait oversimplified and overreached in his argument, but I think he did have a few valid points. First was “Most all racists are Republicans but not all Republicans are racists.” And that there is a tendency to view GOP obstruction of Obama’s agenda as racist, when really they are just a bunch of nihilist assholes. And that constantly calling the GOP racist isn’t really advancing any political solutions.

    But while Chait acknowledges – and has written extensively on the fact – that the GOP is 95% responsible for the deadlock in Washington, he then veers away to suggest that if Democrats stopped calling the GOP racist all the time, more stuff would get done. I thought that part was naive in a guy I don’t usually find naive.

  43. 43
    Tommy says:

    @Anoniminous: LOL Like I said facts are important, but we have to sell our ideas based on emotions. It pisses me off we don’t do this. We did somewhat with the ACA, but it could have been much better IMHO. I mean where are more emotions involved then with health care. You know things like death, child birth, and bankruptcy.

    As much as I dislike Republicans, they understand how to sell their ideas. Heck I think they put way more time into selling their ideas then actually coming up with said ideas.

  44. 44
    cleek says:

    fer chrissakes people, RTFA.

    Isquith isn’t saying tax cuts are racist either. quite the opposite:

    he ends up writing one of the most regrettable couple of sentences I’ve ever read. “Impressive though the historical, sociological, and psychological evidence undergirding this analysis may be,” he says, “it also happens to be completely insane. Whatever Lee Atwater said, or meant to say, advocating tax cuts is not in any meaningful sense racist.”

    This is a straw man of the highest order. No serious commentator has or would say that tax cuts are, ipso facto, racist.

    Isquith is actually saying that Chait’s approach, including the strawman, leads to sloppy thinking.

    In the end, what Chait’s essay shows more than anything else is the way the view from nowhere not only leads to sloppy thinking but actually leaves the reader less informed than she would be had she simply read an unapologetically ideological source or even, in some cases, nothing at all.

  45. 45
    Sly says:

    @Paul in KY:

    The reason they take this ‘mountain top’ view (IMO), is because they are trying to get some Repubs to read their story.

    Disagree. While the article is indeed problematic, Chait isn’t being purposefully obtuse.

    The reason he takes a “mountain top” view is because, for white people, and particularly white men, racism cannot be anything more than an abstract idea best approached with a kind of bloodless analysis. This isn’t Chait’s fault – or anyone’s fault, really – but is intrinsic to the problem itself. Chait can no more experience racism than he can experience giving birth. What he can be blamed for is not recognizing this and acknowledging how it limits his analysis. He’s smart enough to be at least that self-aware.

    Put another way, there’s a difference between a tourist and a someone who lives someplace where tourists visit. One can be an informed tourist, but never so informed as someone who actually lives there. Chait thinks he lives there, but he doesn’t. He’s a tourist. He can leave when he wants, and what he thinks and does while he’s visiting will have little to no impact on his life as a whole.

  46. 46
    Cacti says:

    O/T but surprised no one has front paged this one.

    Apparently, the leader of the “Oath Keepers” bragged to Fox News that they were “strategizing to put all the women up front” in case any shooting started at the Bundy ranch.

    Even Glenn Beck and Tucker Carlson are distancing themselves from this bunch.

    TPM has the story.

  47. 47
    Paul in KY says:

    @Davis X. Machina: The ability to legally plan & implement a general strike was key in the workers winning this battle.

  48. 48
  49. 49

    The conservative tax cut mantra isn’t racist in the same way the Civil War wasn’t about slavery.

  50. 50
    Paul in KY says:

    @Sly: Excellent point, Sly.

  51. 51
    Rob in CT says:

    @Sly:

    Excellent post. +100 for the use of that Calhoun quote.

  52. 52
    Paul in KY says:

    @Hawes: There are no ‘political solutions’ beyond getting rid of the Repubs (in a political manner, not with tumbrels unfortunately).

  53. 53
  54. 54
    Paul in KY says:

    @Tommy: Many of their ‘money men’ are rich marketers who sell shit 24/7, so it stands to reason that they know how selling works. Dammit!

  55. 55
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Sly: White people can experience racism- it just takes the effort of travelling to other countries and not looking wealthy or staying at fancy resorts. Some of the more perceptive people I knew in Japan recognized, hey, maybe this is what people of color deal with.

  56. 56
    different-church-lady says:

    “Impressive though the historical, sociological, and psychological evidence undergirding this analysis may be,” he says, “it also happens to be completely insane. Whatever Lee Atwater said, or meant to say, advocating tax cuts is not in any meaningful sense racist.”

    Shorter: “Hi, I’m Jonathan Chait, and I’m completely fucking determined to miss the goddamned point.”

  57. 57
    aimai says:

    @Hawes: But who cares whether “not all Republicans are racists?” Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. If they aren’t personally racist in the commonly understood meaning of the term they are hanging out with people, and pursuing policies, which they have to know by now are producing greater inequality and discriminatory outcomes. That’s just the fact. I’m sorry if this makes them sad.

  58. 58
    Paul in KY says:

    @Sly: I don’t have to personally experience the plague to know living with plague rats is a bad idea.

    Mr. Chait has oodles of concrete examples of Republican racism, even if he himself has not experienced any.

  59. 59
    Tommy says:

    @raven: Look race and racism isn’t a good topic for Republicans. So they scream and yell anytime we bring it up so IMHO they hope they will scare us into well not bringing it up. And also, they call us racist when we note they have race-based policies to confuse people. A lot of voters are low information. They don’t post on a politic blog and might not read much or watch any news.

  60. 60
    Josie says:

    @rikyrah: This. Furthermore, to say that not all Republicans are racist is to gloss over the fact that not one of them has called out the overt racists for their disrespect of the president. If a person doesn’t speak out against racist talk and behavior, that person is condoning it, which is just as bad. None of them has clean hands, in my opinion.

  61. 61
    muddy says:

    I’ve heard a lot of negative and hateful comments about presidents, but I never heard “string him up” until there was a black one. That’s not an accident. And I hear that usage plenty in the right quarters. Wrong quarters really.

  62. 62
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Hawes:

    And that there is a tendency to view GOP obstruction of Obama’s agenda as racist, when really they are just a bunch of nihilist assholes.

    The latter is plainly true, but it doesn’t by any means preclude the former. In fact, it seems likely that both are true: the Republican party is nihilistic in its opposition to any Democratic governing idea, and it is racist towards Obama.

  63. 63
    scav says:

    From the viewless mountaintop, white sheets aren’t ipso facto racist, but get them into certain contexts, well. . . . It’s damn sloppy thinking to blindly apply idealized essences and definitions into concrete situations. Subtexts and multiple meanings and hidden gnostic signaling is how the game is played and lived. He’s off observing spherical cows on the isotropic plane. Well, goody, but it doesn’t really explain why Bessie kicked over the O’leary’s lamp and why François’s petite-aimèe slapped him silly when he called her une vâche.

  64. 64
    raven says:

    @muddy: You never heard me talk about Nixon.

  65. 65
    DougJ says:

    @cleek:

    Yes, I think most people here (myself included) are agreeing with Isquith.

  66. 66
    different-church-lady says:

    @Josie: Which also speaks to the heart behind Atwater’s quote — there’s a clear sense of “Hey, I may not be racist, but if leveraging the racism that’s out there is going to get us elected then that’s just how it is.”

    When you hear the actual audio of that interview, what’s chilling is how technical he’s being — he’s just discussing how the game is played with the same kind of intellectual isolation of a football coach discussing the choice between the 3-4 or the 4-3 defense. Racism is just another X on chalkboard that you can run patterns with.

    ETA: scav’s version is much better than mine.

  67. 67
    DougJ says:

    @Sly:

    That’s true, but I think that nowadays, white supremacism may be an economic loser. But it was a political winner for a long time.

  68. 68
    Mike E says:

    @raven: Heh. I hear ol’ Dick is tanned, rested and ready to break some kneecaps. From hell.

  69. 69
    Betty Cracker says:

    I don’t know if y’all saw Melissa Harris-Perry’s interview with Chait this week — man, did she dismantle his argument piece by piece. I’m sure it’s still in the MSNBC archives — go watch it if you haven’t seen it.

    Anyhoo, MHP made the same point rikyrah made above — that you can’t separate out the lived experience of people from the politics of the issue. MHP also zeroed in on something Chait said when defending the piece, and said that in effect his article was about how white people feel about racial politics, which I think is exactly right.

    That’s when Chait went back to “it wasn’t about race, it was about political tribe and you’re all misunderstaaaaannnding meeee!” Because he’s too embarrassed to admit that while he was attempting to explain the way Democrats feel about the issue, he assumed the default white Democratic perspective was all that need be considered.

    I’m not a Chait hater — I think he’s often a good writer with an interesting perspective (though he has boneheaded moments, for sure), and it’s easy enough to fall into that trap. I just wish he could admit it. It could have been instructive if he had.

  70. 70
    Tommy says:

    Reading the news from the last two days and if Republicans don’t want to be called racist they should stop doing things that might be called you know racist. Just two things:

    1. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) questioned if Civil Rights Act is constitutional.

    2. Laura Inghraham is going to ABC News and well Media Matters has a list of their 10 “greatest” moments. #1 being using the sound of a gun shot to cut off a speech by John Lewis. On the fact Sonia Sotomayor prefers the term “undocumented immigrants” to “illegal aliens” because:

    allegiance obviously goes to her, you know, immigrant family background, not to the U.S. Constitution.

    This is why many folks, myself included call them racist. If they want me to stop they at least have to stop doing stuff like this.

  71. 71
  72. 72

    If you don’t want to be called racist, then acting like one.

  73. 73
    burnspbesq says:

    For someone with nothing to say, Isquith certainly takes a lot of time to say it. Reading that mess killed more brain cells than all the alcohol I’ve ever consumed.

  74. 74
    muddy says:

    @Betty Cracker: That’s probably what I am mis-remembering as having been on CH show. Now I feel a right ass.

  75. 75
    Sly says:

    @DougJ:

    That’s true, but I think that nowadays, white supremacism may be an economic loser. But it was a political winner for a long time.

    The short term loser status of white supremacy is due to the most prevalent lesson that white people learned from the racial turmoil of the 20th century: that we shouldn’t think of ourselves as white anymore. While this has had tangible benefits – whiteness was constructed on the premise of justified racial dominance so white people are not consciously thinking about racial dominance anymore – making whiteness invisible doesn’t remove racial dominance, it merely makes that dominance invisible (to white people), too. Over the long-term, this actually extends the life expectancy of white supremacy precisely because we’ve told ourselves that we don’t have to think about it anymore, and the systemic problems it creates will continue so long as a the white population controls the outcome of elections.

    “Color blindness” isn’t going to change the fact that, for example, median household wealth for African-American families is $5,000 while median household wealth for white families is $110,000. Solving that problem is going to take a massive and affirmative commitment to see race and do something about it.

  76. 76
    Ann Marie says:

    To say that Lee Atwater and others of his ilk were not racists but just used racism to win is a mistake to my way of thinking. I use the duck definition of a racist — if a person talks like a racist or acts like a racist, he or she is a racist. Atwater cynically used racist ploys to get the results he wanted, therefore he was a racist. I don’t give a damn what he thought or how he felt deep in his rotten little core, I care what he said and did. Ditto for today’s Republicans.

  77. 77
    WaterGirl says:

    The problem with Chait is that his fucking article was ridiculous from beginning to end, and discounted race from a Black person’s perspective.

    Racism is not cocktail chatter for Black people. It’ s not something that we discuss over martinis. It’s something we live with every fucking day, one way or another. Its slights, both big and small.

    How the fuck do you write an article about race during the Obama age, and NOT bring up the Birth Certificate?

    how is that possible?

    the utter and complete and fundamental lack of respect shown this President and his entire family.

    pretending that Black people lived on Mars for the previous 43 White Presidents, instead of in America, and we don’t notice the difference in the baseline of respect for the Presidency of the United States since Barack Obama won in 2008.

    the Republican party is the party of White Supremacy and racial resentment. It’s who they are. It’s all they are. And, to try and cover that is why Chait’s ass has been lit up.

    Quoted for truth.

    This needs to be repeated over and over again.

  78. 78
    Gene108 says:

    All journalists need to do is report facts and state falsehoods as falsehoods.

    If Republicans contend tax cuts raise government revenue, there is ample evidence to show this is not true. It is not a matter of POV.

    Doing ‘x’ activity will lead the outcome ‘y’. These dozen people did ‘x’ and did not achieve ‘y’, therefore why will it be different with you.

    This is all journalists need to do.

  79. 79
    kwAwk says:

    @Gene108:

    Seems to be the opposite of what DougJ is arguing. What he seems to be arguing is that we can’t win with the truth, we have to win by coming up with better lies than the other side.

  80. 80
    kwAwk says:

    @Gene108:

    Seems to be the opposite of what DougJ is arguing. What he seems to be arguing is that we can’t win with the truth, we have to win by coming up with better lies than the other side.

  81. 81
    Turgidson says:

    I think casually lumping Chait in with the maligned “even the liberal” crowd is unfair – most of his writing on economics, health care, and political gamesmanship are sharp and merciless towards GOP stupidity and shenanigans. But he should probably stop talking about the politics of race at this point. I think he means well and he’s more thoughtful than many who dare to comment on this, but his prose keeps sliding towards “whitesplaining” (I’m getting tired of the -splaining fad, but can’t think of a better shorthand atm).

  82. 82
    Anoniminous says:

    @Tommy:

    There’s several tons of neuroscience (and neuro-noun ) papers all agreeing: we use emotions to actually make a Decision. Until our little brains are re-wired ignoring emotion in a Narrative is plain assed dumb.

  83. 83
    Gene108 says:

    @kwAwk:

    I am critiquing journalism. They are afraid to call a lie a lie.

    This is their problem.

  84. 84
    DougJ says:

    @kwAwk:

    I’m saying we can’t win with some generalized view of generally agreed on things. People disagree about what race means in America and in American politics. We’re not going to win by agreeing to say whatever Jon Chait things is the truth about it all.

  85. 85
    Violet says:

    @Anoniminous: This is absolutely true. People make decisions based on emotion and then find facts to fit them. Occasionally it works the other way, but not usually.

    That’s why it’s important to get the right emotional angle on whatever Democrats are selling. Republicans are masters at this. Democrats are way behind. An easy place to start is to come up with easy to remember ways to describe Republicans. Take back the language. Republicans describe Democrats as “tax and spend Democrats”. Start using “big debt Republicans”. The advantage of this is that when Republicans scream about it, the data is checked, and, why, yes! Under Republicans the debt has grown more than under Democrats. It’s truth with an emotionally-based catchphrase.

    Same with “forced birth”. Stop calling those people “pro-lifers”. They’re not “pro life”. They don’t give a damn about those babies once they’re born–unless they’re white kids who can be adopted by white, Christian parents. But mostly it’s all about controlling women’s bodies. So call them what they are–they’re forced birthers. I used that phrase with a family member and boy did it get some jaws to drop. Big fun!

  86. 86
    gorram says:

    I haven’t read the comments yet, so someone probably beat me to this but wealth is very concentrated in White hands in this country so I don’t know that tax cuts that favor the wealthy (or more generally the cuts to anti-poverty programs and other class war aspects to the GOP platform) can be precisely said to be devoid of racism.

    It might be fair to say there’s a point to discussing those policies’ ramifications outside of racism, but that’s not to say they’re not racist and influenced heavily by racist thinking.

  87. 87
    hoodie says:

    @Hawes:

    And that there is a tendency to view GOP obstruction of Obama’s agenda as racist, when really they are just a bunch of nihilist assholes.

    Their nihilism is inextricably bound with their racism. The GOP narrative is Real America Under Siege, Day [insert whatever number of day elapsed since Obama’s election], the underlying theme being that a social structure strongly associated with being a certain color is a noble, but losing, cause.

  88. 88
    kwAwk says:

    @Gene108:

    It’s kind of our problem too. I think a big part of it is that journalists don’t seem to have much training outside of journalism and communication skills.

    Very few have business, accounting or economic skills. So when they are presented with something like the Laffler curve, they don’t have the analysis skills to call out the bullshit.

    The Laffler Curve is not terribly controversial as it only represents the Law of Diminishing Returns. The real controversy is that the right wishes to portray us as always on the wrong side of the curve.

  89. 89
    kwAwk says:

    @DougJ:

    That makes a lot of sense.

  90. 90
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @kwAwk: No. His point seems to be that truth and reason aren’t enough. Emotional appeals are necessary as well. Any other interpretation smacks of strawman construction.

  91. 91
    Mike in NC says:

    changing social norms would make running a winning campaign on explicit racism impossible

    Not sure this is 100% accurate. One of the creeps hoping to run for Congress in my district was a protege of Jesse Helms and he brags about it. In his TV commercial he sneers about “taking our country back”.

  92. 92
    WaterGirl says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Wondering if you are feeling better. Seems like you have the bad cold that seems to last forever.

  93. 93
    J R in WV says:

    OK. I’ve read the original post, I’m familiar with Mr. Atwater’s body of work, and the history of politics since Senile Ronnie opened his campaign in a city remarkable for its racism.

    I’m not even going to pretend there’s nearly 100 posts already above this one. This guy who claims there can’t be any way cutting taxes is explicitly racist, he is either blind and stupid, or just loves being surrounded by racism 24/7.

    The whole point of cutting taxes is to starve those big black bucks until they’re too weak to fight back! If that isn’t racist, neither was Bull Conner, his cops with whips made of barbed wire, his dogs taught to attack people with dark skin.

    Nor was Lester Maddux and his ax handles for beating black people who might be customers of his cosy little KKK restaurant.

    People who have no clothes or heat might succumb to cold weather. Immiserization followed by Death is the point of cutting taxes for the right wing. Starvation makes reproduction impossible at some point… like in the camps in Europe in the early 1940s.

    Which is really where the right wing would prefer to go with this whole cutting taxes thing, but they are willing, even happy, to see those people, the dark ones, die right out in public of disease and malnutrition, right on the church steps…

    Now I’m gonna go see if I’m just beating the same drum a bunch of other pessimistic folk are beating up above.

  94. 94
    Culture of Truth says:

    And the same is true of most other media purveyors of view-from-nowhere “both sides do it” nonsense. Too many liberals like the idea of considering both sides, of thinking that you can win arguments and elections with fair-minded rhetoric and “objective facts”.

    I don’t think is the problem you’re addressing. In this case, I think it’s that too many liberals enjoy standing off on the sidelines and point fingers at ‘both sides’ and arguing that ‘both sides’ are equally corporatist, or corrupt, or in favor spying, or surveillance, or war, or whatever, As for example Taibbi did last night on Chris Hayes’ show.

  95. 95
    Sly says:

    @Paul in KY:

    I don’t have to personally experience the plague to know living with plague rats is a bad idea.

    Even so, I’m not going to ask you what a bite from a plague rat feels like. I’ll ask someone who’s actually been bitten. And I, and I’d like to think most people, would consider it in bad taste to tell them something along the lines of, “Oh, you’re just overreacting. Walk it off.” But that’s the most common reaction people of color get when they talk about the experience of racism.

  96. 96
    J R in WV says:

    OK, Glad to see I’m preaching to a choir here!

    I like what I read from the rest of you guys, keep up the good work!

  97. 97
    PhilbertDesanex says:

    Likewise George C Wallace (now there was a biography) no more racist than was typical for 1920’s Alabama (shiver! shiver!) In his first campaign he was accused of being ‘soft on the race issue’, he said, ‘that’s not gonna happen again’. “Not really racist, just a means to an end”. arrgh.

  98. 98
    Chris says:

    @kindness:

    People say Chait is a liberal but I see another George Stephanopolis really. The man is not what I consider a liberal to be.

    To be fair, I’ve noticed that “liberal” is often used for people who might more appropriately be called “wealthy milquetoast Third Way centrists.” “Liberal media” in particular is the epitome of this meme – “everyone knows” it’s true, but there is nothing liberal about 99% of these fucking people. I don’t follow Chait enough to know if this applies to him, but yeah – one of the side effects of Republicans demonizing the word “liberal” is that it now gets applied in places where it really doesn’t belong.

    (Another similarly ruined word – “moderate.” Now being applied to describe Chris Christie, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Jeb Bush. Eisenhower and Rockefeller are rolling over in their graves).

  99. 99
    Eric U. says:

    @J R in WV: I was going to post the same post as you did, only not as well written. I am not aware of any Republican position that is not racist. Down the street from me one year, there was a sign that said, “vote republican so your money doesn’t go to Philly.” Philly obviously being code for race. Of course, there is more welfare here than in Philly, it’s just hidden as jobs. Yeah, the rich guys want the tax cuts, but the cuts are also dog whistles. They have the rubes voting for their tax cuts so the blahs don’t get any money

  100. 100
    James E. Powell says:

    Some one should ask Chait if he can explain why Romney ran this “Obama Guts Welfare Reform” ad and why Romney continued to run the ad, even after it was conclusively demonstrated that the ad’s claims were false. Which voters was that ad aimed at? What was the basis of that appeal? Government spending?

    The point of the Atwater quote is that Republicans can make appeals to bigotry using language that is facially neutral. But everyone understands the code – or dog whistle as some call it – everyone except people who are willfully ignorant or deliberately obtuse. Like Chait.

  101. 101
    KS in MA says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    “in effect his article was about how white people feel about racial politics”

    This.

  102. 102
    gorram says:

    @hoodie: Exactly. The libertarian contempt for the public square, the conservative distaste for governance, and most of their broader do-nothing political philosophy didn’t develop in a vacuum. They’re reactions to the public square and government finally including people of color, and especially Black people in the governing process.

  103. 103
    JustRuss says:

    @rikyrah:

    How the fuck do you write an article about race during the Obama age, and NOT bring up the Birth Certificate?

    Nailed it. Sure, not all conservatives are racists, but the movement is all too willing to accommodate those who are. That’s a terrible problem, and ignoring it is either criminal or asinine.

  104. 104
    Fred says:

    The cold blooded, anything for power thinking is why GWB could talk blithely about wanting to be “a war president” because war presidents get everything they want. That reality is why I have no doubt that the Bushies knew full well that ignoring Bin Ladin, in spite of all the expert advice that such inaction would lead to catastrophy, would give them the “Pearl Harbor” event they had said they needed in the PNAC document years earlier. You can call this trutherism but the facts are so abundant that the only other conclusion is that the Bushies were monumentally stupid and they never seemed stupid when it came to grabbing power. They got their war and Little George did get almost everything he wanted.
    Well that was just a fine tangent. I should probably delete it but it does illustrate how far the GOPers will go when they get their hands on the wheel. Murder for Jebus is just fine. The ends don’t need to justify the means. The only question is, did they get what they wanted. Screwing the rubes is just gravy.

  105. 105
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Culture of Truth: I suppose there’s at least two kinds of “both sides do it.” The first is the totebagger/centrist version, in which the speaker is trying to express a nonpartisan, Olympian viewpoint, or no viewpoint at all. The other is the purer-than-thou version, in which the speaker is trying to identify as so splendidly extreme that both parties look the same to them, which is more Taibbi’s thing.

    (I guess a third is the libertarian version, which is a variant of purer-than-thou in which the speaker also emphasizes being somewhere off the traditional left-right spectrum where the rubes live.)

  106. 106
    Paul in KY says:

    @Fred: All true, Fred.

  107. 107
    Lit3Bolt says:

    Shorter Chait: Zyklon-B isn’t anti-semetic.

  108. 108
    xian says:

    @Violet: I think “forced birth” isn’t strong enough since birth sounds good. How about “female slavery” or “enslavement of women”?

  109. 109
    Violet says:

    @xian: The downside of that is it’s not specific enough. In the specific case of pregnancy that the woman does not want to continue for whatever reason, people who want to force her to stay pregnant and have that baby are forcing her to give birth. They’re forced birthers.

    Female slavery and like terms aren’t specific enough because they can include things like sex workers, domestic servitude, forced marriages, farm workers, etc. It’s all bad, but if you say “enslavement of women” the listener may not know you’re talking about forcing women to stay pregnant and give birth. The idea is to be clear and call it as it is.

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