Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Does It Feel Like to be a Problem? How Do (Conservative) White Men Really Feel About Their Role in Mitt Romney's Defeat Last Night?



The post-mortem for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has begun in earnest. Obama's deft campaign strategy aside, was Romney doomed by an inability to tell the truth, low likeability ratings, Ayn Randian plutocratic comments about the "47 percent," his position on letting the car industry fail, or consistent appeals to the far Right through a use of anti-black and anti-immigrant rhetoric?
 
There are many causes of political death for Romney. In time, some will be proven to be more important and significant than others.

The leading explanation suggests that Romney and the Tea Party GOP were defeated because of changing demographics, and an electoral base which was overly dependent on white voters. Because the Republican Party is the country's de facto White People's Political Party, Romney put himself in an untenable position: to motivate the base, he would have to embrace policies that would push away and alienate women, people of color, young people, and a part of the white electorate who was turned off by the Right's herrenvolk, "take our county back" appeals to a mythic White American past.

Romney and the Republican Party's America no longer exists. In truth, it was always a chimera and a lie. But, the lie could be sustained because enough white folks took it to be real.

Whiteness is characterized by a set of attributes which include invisibility and a sense of being "normal." White racial identity--and white masculinity in particular--does not like being interrogated.

Ironically, in a version of "racial heliocentrism," whiteness loves being the center of all things.

As such, intense discussions about "white working class male voters" have become a part of America's public discourse in almost every recent national election.

In the Age of Obama, conversations about the meaning of whiteness in this "new" America have become increasingly common as well. To wit: there are a number of articles on a variety of news sites, blogs, and in other media, that are trying to figure out "the white problem" and its relationship to Romney's defeat last night.

Does Whiteness--or at least some of its owners--like being discussed in such a public manner?

I have always felt that macro level discussions of aggregate social identities, like "blackness" and "whiteness" for example, obscure as much as they reveal. Consequently, I am very curious about how white men, as individuals, across divides of party and ideology, feel about last night's election.

Do conservative white men (or white men more generally) really feel imperiled and obsolete in the Age of Obama? Is the world really against them? Do white men who are liberal, Left leaning, progressive, independent, or otherwise aligned feel unfairly lumped in with how whites (men in particular) as a group that are being presented as obsolescent holdovers who doomed Mitt Romney and the Republican Party to defeat?

Alternatively, do white men who left their "natural" home in the Republican Party, and were not lured in by the Right's identity politics, feel good about themselves as outliers that saw a way forward and are embracing a more diverse and inclusive America?

White men are the object and not the subject in these conversations. Of course, white men are able to control the master narrative because they control the country's mass media and are the single more powerful group of people in the United States (if not the world). But, the elite white men who can act as proxies and stand-ins for "how white men feel" on the news, and among the pundit classes, are by definition not a representative group. 

White folks, and white men in particular, please teach me something about these matters.

Barack Obama is President of the United States Again...Thank God for the George Costanza Theory of Political Predictions


I predicted that Obama would lose tonight. I got exactly what I wanted. Obama won. Crom is good. The math heads and stats junkies like Nate Silver were right. Math is also good.

We can exhale together. My Seinfeld theory of predictions was proven correct: go for the opposite in order to get the result you want.

Drinking a Sapporo beer and smiling--I am so happy that President Obama has been elected President of the United States of America (again). "Reelection" sounds so passive to my ear. Obama was subject to a severe referendum where he was held to much higher standards than other presidents before him precisely because of his race. He won the presidency. His second term was not a vote to return to a standing decision rule. Obama's second term is the product of an active consideration by the American people about his fitness for office and legitimacy to rule.

Sometimes we, the American people, get it right despite ourselves. In this case, Obama was a superior candidate, whose policies had more appeal than Romney's, and the people stood up against the challenger's post-truth demagoguery, race baiting tactics. Race still matters. How can it not be given our country's history?

But, America is a young country of change where the children of slaves and immigrants can become full citizens and make history as representatives, senators, the professional and middle class, strivers, upwardly dreaming working class folks, and yes, as President of the United States.  

American Exceptionalism is and ought not to be the bullying politics of imperialism, jingoism, and a belief that this country never apologizes abroad because "god" mandated us above the rest of the world. No, American Exceptionalism, as demonstrated by today's events, is embodied by the People evaluating two candidates, voting in the best one, and soundly rejecting policies that played to the worst of us and not the best of us.

The myth of meritocracy is often just that--a nice, self-serving, lie. Tonight, the myth was proven true by a candidate, a man, and the machine he assembled to motivate his base, craft policy, and win a second groundbreaking election. Romney lost...and he deserved to lose. Romney's back to the future Southern Strategy 2.0 is now firmly in the dustbin of history. Sure, it will motivate a good part of the electorate to vote. Other candidates may try to copy Romney's playbook. They too will likely face a similar outcome. 

In all, the Republican Party is now facing demographic suicide. They must adapt, or become increasingly irrelevant, as their older members die off and the Right competes for an increasingly angry, hostile, and marginalized part of White America.

What follows is a random observation about how we have changed as a nation. At Obama's rally here in Chicago they are playing the Otis Redding song "Try a Little Tenderness," the sample flipped by Kanye West and Jay-Z for their song "Otis." Who would have ever thought such a thing was possible?

A second question. Will the Republican Party mature, reach out, and bring in the old guard centrists who were/are the adult voices in the room so that they can be competitive and work for the Common Good? Or will the Tea Party GOP dig in, become even more extreme, and further obstruct the Common Good in order to advance their increasingly narrow partisan agenda? Does Romney's defeat lead to a more reasonable Republican Party or one that is even more extreme and intransigent? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When Greed and Neoliberalism Came to Professional Wrestling: On Election Day, Do You Really Want Mitt "The Million Dollar Man" Romney to be President?



Consider this an open thread on tonight's election.

The polls will be closing in several hours. Who will be the next President of the United States?

Mitt Romney is the prince of the plutocrats. While some self-interested--and very wealth voters--would find logical reasons to support him, there are other members of the public who will vote Romney in order to "get their country back." Little do they realize that Romney is an agent of the very forces which "stole" America from them long ago.

In my professional wrestling as politics series, I have tried to highlight the carnival-like aspects of the 2012 election, the role of racial resentment and polite racism in supporting Romney (and his use of said appeals to win white voters), and offered some advice about how Obama could perhaps win over white "working class" voters.

Ultimately, the low information independent voters who will decide tonight's election do not know much about policy. They are motivated by emotion and a given candidate's skill at storytelling (or professional levels of sociopathic lying as in Romney's case). In an effort to work within their learning styles, as well as cognitive limits, I would like to offer this public an example of what a vote for Mitt Romney translates into in practical terms.

Mitt Romney is the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. The latter was a popular "heel" wrestler in the 1980s who flaunted his wealth, and was famous for his belief that everyone had a price. DiBiase was the embodiment of Romney's honest and plain talk in private to his donors about how half of Americans are lazy parasitic bums who live off of rich people like him. There is a significant difference between Romney and DiBiase. The latter was honest about his contempt for regular folks and the working classes.

The Million Dollar Man was a prototype for the politics of greed and Ayn Rand populism that has taken over the Republican Party and put them in a fever dream and mania state. DiBiase's character was also a great foreshadowing of the neoliberal turn: he believed in privatizing all things--including children's swimming pools--because the State and the public should be assets controlled by rich people like him. Because popular culture is a mirror for the sociopolitical, DiBiase was reflecting the trickle down lie that was Reagan-era tax policy by exaggerating its worst aspects.

Ironically, the grotesque caricature that was the Million Dollar Man was surpassed in the present by the recklessness of Wall Street, and robber baron gangster capitalists like Mitt Romney, who almost  destroyed the American economy.

With the power of the 1%, and because America is a corporateocracy run for the benefit of the few, Mitt Romney has taken a professional wrestling gimmick and elevated it to the grand stage provided by a national presidential race. The question then becomes, will independents, low information voters, people mired in white racial resentment, and those who support third party candidates help to elect Mitt Romney?

We will find out soon. Your thoughts? How do you think the night will play out?

For the Ghetto Nerds: Since Some of You Asked for It, a Podcast Discussing the Future, Past, and Present of Star Wars in the (New) Age of Disney

Today is election day. Many of us are stressed out about the outcome. I decided to offer an antidote and what I hope is a fun distraction. I have been asked by folks both via email and in person about doing a podcast. I demurred as it seemed like too much trouble. But after looking into the matter, and doing a bit of research, this seems like a nice feature for We Are Respectable Negroes.

It is only fitting then, that our inaugural podcast focuses on a ghetto nerd related topic. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, has sold his empire to Disney. This announcement was made last week and has provided much fodder for debate and conversation. According to some, I am an "expert" of sorts on Star Wars. I also have access to another person who knows a great deal about the films. When you begin a new venture you should do something familiar and fun. Star Wars seemed to be a perfect fit.

We will be doing a podcast every so many weeks as events demand. I also have some cool folks lined up for future interviews/conversations. I think you will be surprised by some of the people who have said they would like to chat it up here on We Are Respectable Negroes.

Hopefully, the to and fro between me and Bill the Lizard, and a peek inside a decades long conversation about Star Wars, the prequels, and the franchise's future between two old friends, will be both enlightening and entertaining.

Star Wars nerds will find this the conversation very  familiar--and I hope provocative and comforting. Those who are curious about Star Wars can listen to the various parts and get some insight into matters they may not have considered previously. All others can laugh and marvel at a 60 or so minute conversation that could have gone on for much, much longer.


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Monday, November 5, 2012

What Would the Big Bossman Do? Mitt Romney is Going to Drag "Hope and Change" Away Tomorrow Night Just Like a Car Dragging a Casket Behind It



Probabilities are not predictions. On the eve of the 2012 presidential election, the prediction markets and experts such as Nate Silver have Obama winning with a probability of 86 percent 91.4 percent. But, this has not trickled down to the true believers in Romneyworld who believe that many dozens of national and state level polls are rigged, and that riots are going to break out in the United States--led by the "urban" population--when their candidate wins tomorrow in a landslide.

Progressives and Democrats are also nervous as well. Could Obama, the country's first black president somehow get reelected after a horrible first debate performance, in a slow to recover economy, against the Right-wing propaganda machine, and a significant public who are obsessed with getting the black guy out of office?

I am very nervous about tomorrow's election. I still believe that Romney, despite the mathematical and statistical evidence to the contrary, is going to win. It is true that conservatives and the White Right are engaged in all manner of magical thinking in order to convince themselves that their candidate is actually ahead in the polls, and the evil "liberal" media have conspired against Romney to suppress the truth.

However, a healthy cynicism based on cultural, historical, and racial memory is also a valuable insight into these matters of the political and the social for black Americans, people of color, and white folks who are similarly gifted.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Racial Framing and Superstorm Sandy: A Black Mother Begs for Help While Her Children Drown



Superstorm Sandy has made the divisions of class in the New York City area very clear. The "haves" are able to muster the resources to somehow survive. The "have nots" are left to their own devices.

Superstorm Sandy has also reminded us of how race remains one of the main dividing lines in our society. While naked displays of racism are now outside of the norms of "polite society," racial micro-aggressions, the day-to-day moments of white racial hostility and animus towards people of color, continue onward.

Racial micro-aggressions can impact the lives of black and brown folks in ways that are "just" inconvenient--the store detective that follows you around while shopping; being asked for ID when using a credit card; when your friends or colleagues "complement" you by saying you are one of "the special" or "good" ones.

Alternatively, these racial micro-aggressions can also be deadly in their outcomes.

Superstorm Sandy has yet to provide an iconic example of white racist media framing such as when during Hurricane Katrina, black people were described as "looters," and whites, also trying to survive, were captioned in news photos as "looking for food."

A lack of an iconic moment does not mean that race no longer impacts life outcomes, the safety and health of people of color, or how white society chooses to view (or not) African-Americans as full members of the polity and broader community.

Tragically, the drowning deaths of two black children while their mother, a black woman, begged for help in a white ethnic suburban community in Staten Island--and then was left crying and broken on the porch of a house for 12 hours when its owner refused her aid (and did not call authorities for assistance)--is a reminder of how the color line can kill you.

Two Reader Comments vs. Bernie Sanders and Bill Willingham on the Folly of Voting for a Third Party Candidate and the Perils of Ideological Orthodoxy in 2012

One of the wiser men to enter my life was a humble but impressive itinerant history professor, who taught satellite college courses to soldiers stationed in small bases, scattered throughout Western Germany (back when Germany was still divided). He once gave me very good advice I've tried to live by ever since. "Choose your causes carefully," he said. "If not, if you try to champion every good cause that comes along, you'll wear yourself out, at best, and worse, become a dilettante -- an ineffective dabbler. 
Pick a few that are the most near and dear to you, and give them your all, trusting that others are out there handling the other causes with equal fervor." So let me pass along his wisdom by urging you to choose your causes carefully, and in this case, champion better causes than trying to prove that one unimportant (in the grand scheme of things) entertainment story might owe too much to another. There are worse crisis and better things for which to boldly take up arms.
These are wise words. Bill Willingham, graphic novelist and creator of one of my favorite comics Fables, is spot on in his warning about pie in the sky political orthodoxy, and how single issue concerns can be to the detriment of the Common Good.

[These Internets are amazing. A person can go looking for information on if the TV series Once Upon a Time is a rip off of Fables and come upon a smart and sharp observation about the sociopolitical. Good stuff.]

One of our recurring--and welcome--issues of contention here is centered upon the merits of voting for third party candidates in the upcoming election. I am on the public record as an Obama supporter. Is he perfect? No. Is he a black Superman? No. And I would not want him to be one. Are his center Right policies flawed in some instances? Yes. Is Mitt Romney an acceptable alternative? Absolutely not.

I do not believe in political parties. I respect the wisdom of the Framers on that matter. However, we live in the world as it is; we do not live the world as we wish it to be. Third parties are useful for keeping the two institutional parties on their toes. Third parties can also be a useful check on the ambitions of either the in-party or the challenger depending on one's level of sophistication and style of strategic voting.

In a close election, such as what will come to pass this Tuesday, the calls by the purists and progressive ideologues on the Left to subvert Obama as a "protest" vote, defy all good sense. If these voices are willing to destroy the village in order to liberate it, then their wasted votes on third party candidates such as Jill Stein and others make sense.  I respect Utopian dreaming. But, in this moment of peril and crisis, I must be a pragmatist and utilitarian who makes a choice based upon the greatest good for the greatest many.

Bernie Sanders, Independent Senator from Vermont, would seem to agree.



By contrast, one of our frequent commenters, Nomad, has noted for example how:
"The one dimension left out of the discussion is the only one with a hope of remedy for the present situation; which really is new: this Bush/Obama era. It's only been around since 2001. How quickly we get used to nooses around our necks. What you do in voting for either of these 2 party corporate puppets is validate the new status quo, the one created by George Bush. 
You just move a step closer to fascism. I notice that your advocacy of Obama never includes any thing positive about his policies. Primarily you focus on the fact that he is a victim of discriminatory attack and for the reason of race identity we should rally around him. Well, there's too much at stake for epidermal politics. What difference does it make what color the downpresser is. He is still the downpresser. And if you encourage people to vote for a downpresser then at least tell them that that's what they're voting for. So they want be surprised when he starts downpressing. Matters and stakes are much too high. Know what you're voting for."
Makheru Bradley, another friend of WARN, also observed the following:
"I would not call people who have not broken the monopoly which the corrupt two-party system has on their minds silly and childish. The seductive power of “spiritual wickedness in high places” is strong. On the other hand Dr. Asa Hilliard did say “mental slavery is invisible violence.” It’s crystal clear Nomad, these people have been psychologically traumatized. 
My position is that Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer did not get beaten in the jail in Winona, Mississippi and Mrs. Viola Liuzzo did not get killed by the KKK on Highway 80 in Alabama for me to choose between injustice (Barack Obama) and immorality (Mitt Romney) in a presidential election. However, if people want to vote for a war criminal or someone who is dying to become one, that’s their prerogative. 
Perhaps on November 7 we will know if the contradictions in American society will continue to be nebulous, or if they will become clearer."
Brother Cornel West came around to the logical and sensible choice in supporting Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. Thus I ask, what will it take to bring in those good folks who will cast "principled" votes for a third party candidate--and by doing so help to usher Mitt Romney into office--to a more practical and pragmatic point of view?

Will these third party boosters sleep well knowing that they have helped to defeat Barack Obama? And if he loses, have these Obama detractors surrendered any right to complain and protest given the mess they helped to create?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chauncey DeVega on Ring of Fire Radio: If Mitt Romney Can Smear Barack Obama This Way, What do Rank and File White Conservatives Think of "Regular" Black People?

Here is the recording of my interview today with Mike Papantonio and Ring of Fire Radio. I liked my tone during the interview and felt that we covered a good amount of territory. I was a bit more personal and direct than is my habit. As I said there, the personal is political for black folks and our relationship with Barack Obama.

Although many of us are unwilling to admit as much in public, the hate campaign by Mitt Romney and the Tea Party GOP against the country's first black President is predicated on the Right's deep disdain for African-Americans and our citizenship. More generally, for the White Right, people of color are not, have never been, and are incapable of being "real Americans."

I was obligated to speak on such matters in a plain and direct voice where I "turned the volume down a bit" in order to help folks hear me better.

Romney's lead among white voters, and white independents in particular, is a clear testimony to this backlash. Perceived as real, when it is a fiction in so many ways, Obama's victory was understood by many to be a "win" for black folks. Romney is gambling that there are enough racially resentful white people to return the country to its status quo ante, where a white man is "naturally" and unequestionably in charge.

In a few days, we will find out if Romney's concerted campaign to gin up white racial resentment and rage against Obama (and by implication, people of color in mass) will have born fruit.

Three Basic Concepts that Will Help You Understand Mitt Romney's Appeal Among White Voters

There is a real, airtight bubble in this election, but it's not Obama's. As a middle-aged white man, in fact, I'm breaching it. White people—white men in particular—are for Mitt Romney. White men are supporting Mitt Romney to the exclusion of logic or common sense, in defiance of normal Americans. Without this narrow, tribal appeal, Romney's candidacy would simply not be viable. Most kinds of Americans see no reason to vote for him... 
Tom Scocca's piece at Slate about Mitt Romney and the white vote is sharp and worth your time to read. However, folks like me, and a few others, have been discussing the relationship between Whiteness and Mitt Romney for some time. The Right, and some on the Left, are quick to deride and mock "identity" politics. That category of fighting over "who gets what, when, how, and why" is apparently abnormal political behavior best left to the gays, women, blacks, brown people, and those others whose citizenship is somehow made contingent when compared to the de facto "Americanness" of white men.

Good white men would never indulge in such things. The irony is clear: the United States is a country built upon maintaining, expanding, and protective the privileges of Whiteness. Mitt Romney has based a whole campaign on white identity politics and white victimology. Few in the mainstream media have had the courage to call attention to his strategy. 

Folks like me are also part of the problem as well. 

I often use "technical" and "academic" language when plain speaking would be more helpful for equipping readers with a vocabulary that can be used in their day-to-day conversations about race and politics. 

I am also open to self-correction when appropriate. As such, Scocca's points about white folks, and my claims about why white men in particular support Mitt Romney--and the Tea Party GOP's, deranged, anachronistic, and retrograde throwback politics--can be summed up in simple terms. 

America is a white supremacist country by design. Racism has (of course) changed and evolved over time. However, Whiteness as a racial identity predicated on privilege and superiority over non-whites remains in many ways very much unchanged. The need to maintain white control over America's political, social, economic, and cultural institutions is manifest in overt and subtle ways.

For example, despite their great advantages in wealth, income, power, social mobility, resources, and all other socioeconomic measures, many white people--especially white male conservatives--are terrified and upset by the symbolic power of a black man who happens to be President of the United States. 

Ultimately, White Masculinity is imperiled by the idea of Barack Obama. White men rule this country; ironically, no group of people, especially on the Right are as insecure. 

Chauncey DeVega Will Be on Ring of Fire Radio This Weekend Discussing Barack Obama and the Challenges of Being a Black President

The election is next week. I was asked to do the "go home" show this pre-election weekend on Ring of Fire Radio. Mike Papantonio and I discussed President Obama's tenure and chances of election, as well as the relationship between white privilege, independent voters, and their support of Mitt Romney.

I also kept it real and personal as I like to do. As such, I talked about how the open racial hostility demonstrated by Mitt Romney towards the country's first black president, and the former's naked efforts to mobilize white racial resentment and old school racism to win the election, is almost quite literally a slap in the collective face of black and brown folks in this country.

I believe the personal is political; I unintentionally dropped the mask for a second and went for a plain truth, and in a tone and style, that most have not heard me use in a long time. At this point, and so close to election day, I wanted to leave it "all out there" as musicians and other performers are fond of saying. No regrets.

Ring of Fire Radio can be heard live on these stations. The show airs on both Saturday and Sunday. Do check it out, tell your friends, tweet, email, and offer your thoughts as always.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

In the Aftermath of Super Storm Sandy the White Right Must be Disappointed That There Are No "Minority Urban Youths" to Hunt and Shoot

The lights remain off in New York City. The poor, as always, find a way to manage. The rich, the wealthy, those with credit cards and steady jobs, can stay in hotels or find a way to remain safely at home.

The suburbanites want to fight and complain about not having gas.

The poor, those who are predominantly black and brown in a city whose class divides were laid bare by Super Storm Sandy, cannot use electronic bank transfer cards (otherwise known as food stamps) to eat. There are no riots. People soldier on and try to help each other.

The dreams of the White Right in which black and brown people, the poor, and those others who have been left behind by a massive transfer of wealth and income upwards to the top 1 percent while the middle class dies on the vine, and the underclass remains forgotten and ignored, remain unfulfilled.

There are no opportunities (yet) for the White Right, Free Republic, Tea Party GOP base of former Reagan Democrats, angry white men, and gun nut extremists, to go on their shooting sprees where they hunt down "Minority Urban Youths" for sport. I guess many of them are either stuck out on Long Island, Jersey, or Queens where they are fighting each other over gasoline.

This has not stopped some of the fantasy hate mongers on the Right from focusing on a few cases of obligatory knucklehead behavior--which can in turn be exaggerated into tales of rampaging mobs of black looters. The political onanism of the White Right is always on display for those willing to stomach their exhibitionist behavior.

This story about 87 year old Margaret Maynard reminds me of the conversations I have accidentally overheard between my mother and her friends:



You have to smile...and be glad that some folks are reaching out to help the most vulnerable among us. But again, the poor are the proverbial miner's canary. In a cashless society, where most people are dependent on electronic debit cards, bank cards, or other devices for monetary exchange, they too are out of the loop when the power goes out. I would imagine only a few have cash monies on hand, hidden at home, in an envelope under the bed, or safely in a can located in the freezer for safe keeping.

Question: who will break first? Those who are already used to doing with less? Or those entitled, comfortable, and well-resourced, living in the exurbs (or in exclusive zip codes in the city) who have little tolerance--or coping skills--for dealing with life's difficulties, however minor?

Washed Away? Rescued? What Happened to New York City's "Mole People" During Super Storm Sandy?



Disasters expose the ugly realities of "normal" society. In those moments, when the great social leveler that is the government is rendered either impotent, moot, or a non-factor in its ability to stop a disaster from occurring, the ties that bind us together are strained. Moreover, here, government's ability to act as a salve and agent that masks social inequalities--or at least sweeps them under the rug in many cases--is removed.

During Katrina for example, the American people saw how the intersections of wealth, income, and racial inequality left whole communities destroyed, abandoned, and people unable to escape the wrath of mother nature because they did not have the resources necessary to buy a car in order to evacuate. Hurricane Katrina, was also an object lesson in how the State decides who was valuable, and which people were expendable.

Super Storm Sandy has revealed how New York is also a city of great divides in wealth and income. She is a multicultural mega city; New York is also a city where the very rich and the very poor exist in an exploitative relationship with one another.

The working class and poor, living on less than a living wage, make the lives of the rich and upper class comfortable and possible. As detailed here, the rich were able to take Super Storm Sandy in relative stride, riding it out in nice hotels, having an adventure of it all, and complaining about a lack of cell phone service and power.

By comparison, their maids, nannies, drives, assistants, and those many unnamed others who work in the service sector had to go to work during this time of peril for fear of losing their jobs, sleeping in cars or in shelters because they could not afford a hotel, or continuing to take care of the spoiled children of the rich while the care givers themselves were unable to offer comfort to their own kids.

It is estimated that there are tens of thousands, if not more, homeless people in New York City. They are families, children, men, women, the elderly, and the working poor. They are largely invisible not because we cannot see them. Rather, one of the survival skills that a person learns in order to successfully live in any city is to ignore the obvious, the pain, and the hurt of others. City life is an existence of social atomization. In order to function, most folks learn to look away both as a practical skill for maintaining sanity, and to avoid the frightening reality that many Americans are a paycheck away from being homeless themselves.

There are other homeless folks who are almost quite literally invisible. They are the "Mole People" who live in the subways of New York. It is estimated that there are thousands of people who live in this subterranean world, where they have established cities that live off of the electricity, scavenge the excess of a city that is decadent in its wastefulness, raise children and tend to pets, live and love, and make a civilization where they are the mayors, citizens, doctors, and police.

Win or Lose on Election Night, President Obama Needs to Study This Interview With Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka



Next week, the American people will select their next President. The odds makers, stats junkies, and folks like Nate Silver are suggesting that Barack Obama has a higher probability of winning the presidency than does Mitt Romney.

However, probabilities are not predictions. Romney still has a significant chance of becoming the President of the United States of America. And as you know, I am putting my money on a combination of historical precedent where the country returns to its norm of having a white president, the power of white racial resentment and animus, and a skillful candidate in Mitt Romney who has run one of the most racist campaigns in modern politics against the country's first black president, combine to unseat Barack Obama.

Whatever the outcome next week, President Obama is going to be limited going forward.

If he loses, the irony is that Obama may be freed as a living legend to pursue the causes he most cares about, and to help people of color, the poor, and the working classes in ways that as President, he could not. If Obama wins, he will be bloodied and wounded. The Tea Party GOP will continue to obstruct his agenda. If Obama wins the electoral college, and loses the popular vote, all bets are off, as this outcome will only embolden the white nationalist secessionist crowd who are the base of the Republican Party.

The Right has already waged a war against Barack Obama's legitimacy. To them, he is not fit to be president because he is black and a Democrat. If Obama wins according to the rules, but not overwhelmingly the people's vote, the White Right, a group who hate Obama more than they love the United States, will be further emboldened in their wickedness and efforts to subvert the Common Good for their own narrow, parochial, self-interested agenda.

Here, Jimmy Snuka had returned to wrestling following a vicious beating by the white racist conservative, and "representative" of Apartheid era South Africa, Colonel De Beers. However, Snuka, like Obama, was not broken. This angle was one of the most overtly racist and honest plays on current events and politics in Cold War, 1980's professional wrestling. Racial slurs were casually used; Colonel De Beers channeled his hatred of non-whites; Audiences comprised of people from all racial backgrounds jeered the villain from South Africa.

Snuka was and is an elite and special wrestler. Obama is a special and unique American. If the latter wins reelection it will be a Pyrrhic victory. Obama will have expended so much energy in his battle with Romney's legions, that he will be unable to advance his agenda even as an incumbent. Snuka wore a neck brace, was beaten, and yet still later defeated Colonel De Beers in a series of great matches. In the end, the "good guy" inevitably won. This was great storytelling.

By contrast, President Obama may defeat Mitt Romney next week. But, President Obama will still lose in the near term.

Consequently, Obama had better watch Jimmy Snuka's interview for some tips about the speech he will give on election night: as either victor or vanquished, the tone will not be that different. Obama will be broken, but perhaps he can still find a way to win in the long-term.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On the Cultural and Political Economy of "African-American" Names

Can Names Influence Our Future? from Portland Oregon on Vimeo.

An earlier commenter chimed in about the beauty of "black names." My concern there was that what many consider "black" names are really a function of poverty, social isolation, and marginalization. I understand the meta argument about black naming practices as a function of a particular history of cultural resistance where personhood rites as basic as naming practices were stolen by white supremacy and chattel slavery.

But, does the young sister on the West Side of Chicago or South Central Los Angeles really believe that naming her baby "Uneqqee" or "Deshawn" is an act of cultural resistance? Or is it just an example of trying to be "different" while paradoxically conforming to the norms of their social network?

Freakonomics has some interesting things to say about this matter. My claim is complementary to Dr. Roland Fryer's: cultural norms between communities are diverse and not fixed. In said communities, certain cultural signifiers will be received and understood according to the norms and rules in that locale or subculture. Call me a cultural (and structural) materialist, but social institutions do heavily determine outcomes and culture.

For example, the 1% certainly have their own set of cultural cues that I, as a member of the working class, know nothing about. The ghetto underclass is operating in a similar way. My concern as someone who cares deeply about black folks and our success, is that we have entire communities of people who are equipping their children with names--as well as teaching them certain values and norms--that have no currency outside of a 4 square block area. This type of social capital has a negative rate of return in communities and life worlds outside of the 'hood.

 Many of the urban and black poor are ghettoized both geographically and culturally. Their "creative" naming practices have nothing to do with African-American "culture" or "history." Rather, they are ways of finding meaning and value in lives and communities where both are often in short supply. As such, many "black" names are a result of ghettoized minds and a poverty of material circumstances (and failed schools) that have become internalized as part of one's whole self.

Sorry Chris Matthews, Mitt Romney has had Quite a Few "Sister Souljah" Moments Already


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I am a fan of Chris Matthews. He is one of the few people in the mainstream media who has had the courage to call out Mitt Romney's racist campaign against Barack Obama. While he was a few months late doing so, and yes, I wish Matthews had acknowledged folks like myself and others who have long been speaking truth to power about Romney's racism.

I remain a supporter of his "real talk" approach to political analysis and calling out Romney's post-truth campaign of lies.

However, on Tuesday's edition of Hardball, Matthews simply dropped the ball. It happens to all of us.

While making a direct intervention about Romney's troubled relationship with the truth, Matthews highlighted how the Republican candidate lacked any evidence of character, of a defining moment where the Republican candidate communicated to the public what he really stood for, and the type of man he really is.

Matthews cited examples of true grit by other presidents in order to make this point by comparison.

Problematically, one of those examples included (then candidate) Clinton's "Sister Souljah" moment, when before he became a living legend and supposed friend of black people, the former President called out a mid to low tier black rap artist of middling fame and importance, in order to sure up his bonafides with Reagan Democrats and white independents. Clinton was a "new Democrat." As such, Clinton had to demonstrate how he was not a "liberal." Condemning black people was a convenient means to that end.

Sister Souljah was a stand-in for the mythic welfare queen and "troublesome" complaining black people who had suckled too long on the government tit. Clinton won the presidency, and the support of white voters in 1992, in no small part by mining white racial resentment, and playing on the white racial frame.

In alluding to that example, Chris Matthews made a clear error: appeals to white racial resentment, and "putting the blacks in their place," are not a sign of weakness for white candidate. Rather, they are a way for white candidates to demonstrate character and strength to the white public.

As such, Mitt Romney has had many such "Sister Souljah moments." When the Republican candidate speaks to the NAACP and tells them to their face that they are parasites and he will do nothing for them, or when Romney and his surrogates say that the country's first black president as a lazy welfare king, white people's money stealing, lazy incompetent bum, he has far surpassed Bill Clinton's signifying on Sister Souljah.

The ultimate point of Clinton's mention of Sister Souljah--and what Matthews forgot--was to demonstrate how black people are anti-citizens who need to be disciplined. White people could trust Clinton to do so. Romney's whole campaign is similarly oriented: he will keep the "uppity blacks" like Obama, and those inspired by him in their place; Romney is no friend to the colored or darker races--this is why so many white voters are flocking (against their economic self-interest) to support the Republican candidate.

American society is sick with racism. We all inhale and breathe it in. Consequently, even when they are speaking the truth, and their hearts are in the right place, pundits like Chris Matthews can make an honest mistake and use ill-fitting, improper examples to make a compelling point about Mitt Romney's cowardice.

Matthews' error was not fatal. But, it was a healthy reminder of how the white racial frame operates across both sides of the political divide.

If Joe Biden Could Channel Dusty Rhodes, Then Obama Would be Winning in a Landslide



Greatest. Promo. Of. All. Time.

Mitt Romney has continued to expand his support among white working class (male) voters. In a base election, where mobilizing one's existing supporters and bringing in some new independents is the key to victory, Romney's chances have only improved because of this huge advantage with that cohort.

However, much of the emphasis on the white working class vote is a result of misunderstandings about the American electorate. Class is still largely correlated with vote choice where poor and working class people, across the color line, still overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates.

The white male working class vote that Romney is chasing--and expanding--over Obama is actually comprised of white men who are not college educated, but make a fair sum of money as construction workers, truck drivers, or in the skilled trades. These are the "angry white men" that are the base of the Tea Party GOP and central to Mitt Romney's ascent in the polls. For several decades Democrats have lost this cohort; the country's first black president has no chance of winning them back.

Dusty Rhodes was the working class's professional wrestler champion. He feuded with Ric Flair and the Four Horseman in a series of epic bouts which embodied the best of professional wrestling in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Dusty's character was complex: on one hand he played the "white negro" who was cheered by fans of all colors. Rhodes also flirted with racial stereotypes, where he was a stylistically "black" wrestler (his interview in the Legends round table series on this topic is very honest and sincere. All smart marks owe it to themselves to watch it).

Rhodes further added to the contradictions and complications of his relationship to blackness, when in his later years he worked with an African American valet named "Sapphire." Yes, her name was Sapphire. Then as in now, professional wrestling is, and was, not known for its subtlety.

Dutsty's promo on being a working class man who was hit with hard times by the monied classes is one of the greatest examples of mic work in the history of the business. Every trade or craft has a core set of competencies, examples of masterful craft, a literature of sorts, which forms the basis for what we in that world aspire to be if we reach its heights.

This promo is one such example. If Joe Biden--or maybe Bill Clinton--could reach out to white working class voters just like Dusty did those years ago with this promo, then Obama's electoral fortunes would be much improved. Obama is a ghetto nerd. I have not doubt that he was a mark for Dusty Rhodes back in the day. I just wish that those lessons had stayed with him.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

He Loses Debates But Keeps Gaining Voters: New NPR Poll Demonstrates How White Privilege Buoys Mitt Romney's Support Among White Independent Voters (Again)

I hope all of you who are being directly impacted by Superstorm Sandy are safe, warm, and well. My thoughts are with you. Life and death matters do put politics in perspective; but politics and the election continue onward even though we are humbled by mother nature.

Last week, I pointed out how Mitt Romney has lost two debates but gained support among undecideds and white independents. By contrast, if Obama has done so poorly he would have lost even more support among a fickle white public.

Low information and undecided voters use other cues to make up their minds about a candidate. One of them is racial affinity. This plays out through a default choice for the white candidate, where Romney's whiteness is a cue about the country's return to "normality" for those voters.

Romney's strategists know that white identity politics are the path to the White House. As such, their strategy of naked racial appeals and covert dog whistles has been the go-to-plan--one that is bearing great fruit among white voters.

As this new poll from NPR suggests, once more, white privilege is a hell of a drug. A white candidate can lose two debates against the black guy, but Whiteness is a cognitive map that turns defeat, failure, incompetence, practiced lying and political subterfuge into measures of competence, and makes a Romney victory increasingly likely.

The wages of whiteness remain great:


A new National Public Radio poll, which had President Obama leading Mitt Romney 51 percent to 44 percent four weeks ago, now has Mitt Romney on top, 48 percent to 47 percent, with the Republican benefiting from his debate performances.
The poll found that among likely voters, 34 percent said Romney's debate performances made them more likely to vote for the challenger while 28 percent said they now are more likely to vote for the president. Among critical independent voters, though, Romney won big, with 37 percent saying they are now more likely to chose him compared to 21 percent for Obama.
But Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg and Republican pollster Whit Ayres found that Obama leads by 4 points in the 12 battleground states that appear ready to pick the winner for the rest of the country next Tuesday. And they suggest that Romney's post-debate surge has "stalled."
The duo surveyed 1,000 likely voters nationwide with an over-sampling in 12 battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. The poll was conducted Tuesday through Thursday (October 23-25). The margin of error is 3 percentage points for the national sample, and 4.5 percentage points for the smaller subsample (462 respondents) in the battleground states. The sample was 35 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican.
Ayers said that Romney is doing particularly well among independent voters. According to NPR, "most of the gains for Romney have come from independents, who went from favoring Romney by a few points before the debates to favoring him 51% to 39% after the debates."
Ayres added, "So were it not for the debates, I think Obama would be cruising to a victory right now. Because of the debates, this is going to be an incredibly close election."
Romney also beat Obama as the candidate best prepared to handle the issues of jobs, the deficit and taxes, but Obama won on more issues: health care, Medicare, foreign policy and national security.
What's more, those polled said that Obama, by a 55 percent to 44 percent margin, has spelled out a clear agenda for the nation.

Monday, October 29, 2012

"You are a Big Monkey With No Brains": Mitt Romney is Ric Flair Without the Fashion Sense, but with More Money



Who has more wives and women? Ric Flair or Mitt Romney? I will leave that one up to you to answer.

Ric Flair is one of the greatest in-ring performers to ever live. Mitt Romney is a master of lies and subterfuge. As Werner Herzog's Bear, a friend of We Are Respectable Negroes smartly suggested, the Tea Party GOP challenger is running a truly postmodern campaign where truth and reality are made subjective. Here, Romney's lies are just reframings of empirical reality that spit in the face of modernist philosophical conventions. I do wonder how Foucault, Baudrillard, Derrida, or Harvey would respond to Mitt Romney's post-truth campaign?

As I have suggested many times, and the mainstream media are finally conceding, Romney is running one of the most racist political campaigns in recent memory. Mitt's use of subtle racial cues, focus group perfected allusions to Obama as a welfare king thief that steals from good white people, who Romney in turn calls "boy" to his face during the first debate, and whose surrogates deploy naked racist appeals to white racial anxiety and old school bigotry, embody a synergy of contemporary racism in the Age of Obama that is both a perfect and "ugly beautiful" thing.

In this clip of Ric Flair during this feud with Butch Reed, the latter being one of the first black professional wrestlers to gain mainstream acceptance in a major territory, says what Romney is 1) either thinking or 2) trying to prime in the minds of his Tea Party GOP base. To them, Obama has no place in the White House because he is African-American, and therefore, not White.

Flair's suggestion in this promo that a black man is "a monkey with no brains" is not at all too different from the subtext of Romney's political speeches and commercials as of late, the racist utterances of his closest advisers on national television, or the seething racial hostility that drives the country's de facto White People's Political Alliance and Political Action Group otherwise known as the Republican Party.

Ric Flair simply said about Butch Reed what Mitt Romney wishes he had the courage and nerve to say about Obama publicly. The meaning and intent remain the same either way. Romney yearns for Flair's sense of style, and the ability to cut such beautifully racist promos against Barack Obama, the President of the United States, and the first black man to hold such a title and position.

Hell in the Cell? Jesse Ventura Explains How Professional Wrestling Prepares You For Politics



This evening's World Wrestling Entertainment pay-per-view Hell in the Cell featured one of the worst matches in recent professional wrestling history. There were a few good matches on the card. One of the highlights of the evening, Big Show's match with Sheamus, was far better than it deserved to be. It was an old school match that offered some great storytelling and worked around the limitations of both competitors.

At this point, Show vs. Sheamus is a match of the year contender.

Question: for those of you who watch professional wrestling did you ever think that you would hear Big Show's name ever used proximate to the phrase "match of the year?"

By comparison, Ryback's match (Grantland has a great piece on the rise of that very improbable main eventer which is worth reading) with Chicago's own CM Punk was akin to the darkest days of WCW or TNA. Yes, the WWE was put in a horrible position when John Cena had to have surgery and bow out of the planned match. But the ending of the match was inexcusable. It was beyond lazy and disrespectful to the audience in attendance, as well as any other folks who paid money to see the event.

Management must have know how horrible Ryback is in the ring: he has a skill set that consists of five moves plus a Bushwackers inspired 1980s march around the ring spot; the powers that be did not want to waste one of Lesnar's limited appearances on a run-in to provide proper closure to the match; And Cena was not going to be soiled by having anything to do with such a horrible match. Even with his great skills, CM Punk could not carry Ryback to a respectable match.

We are ten days out from election day. This week will be filled with obligatory hand-ringing, obsessing about the poll numbers as though they contain a secret truth to be divined by the holy pundit classes who read tea leaves and chicken bones, and doomsday prophecies about what will occur if Mitt Romney wins--and he will--the White House.

In case you hadn't heard, a "Frankenstorm" is also menacing the East Coast.

The news cycle will be high stress and all drama. The horse race the pundits wanted between Romney and Obama has been ushered into being--by the talking head commentariat class. Now, the spin doctors can add a hurricane as a data point about how weather impacts voter turnout. Hint: bad weather hurts the side whose voters are less enthusiastic and motivated. In addition, bad weather helps the party whose voters tend to have more resources. On both counts, the weather would help Romney.

Do pardon the pun, but all of these events together really are a perfect storm for the 24 hour news cycle.

This week, I have a few serious pieces that I will be sharing here and elsewhere. I will also be on Ring of Fire radio this weekend talking about race, Obama, and the election. Doing a show right before election day is a high honor. I appreciate being asked to sit in with the band before the big dance.

As a fun diversion from all of the chaos and hype you will find elsewhere, I am returning to an earlier discussion about how professional wrestling is like politics.

Jesse Ventura's interview is a nice lead in and prompt for that conversation. Each day this week, I will be sharing a few short examples of how professional wrestling is a powerful lens into the realities of American politics. Professional wrestling is scripted. But, it is a far more honest representation of the realities of race and politics in the post-civil rights era, as well as the Age of Obama, than the mainstream news media (what is a cowardly Fourth Estate that long ago abdicated its responsibilities as the guardians of democracy) could ever dare to be.

In all, this week should be a fun and insightful exploration of how popular culture and politics are deeply intertwined in American politics and beyond. Plus, you get to see sweaty men and women in tights yelling at each other, emoting, cutting promos, and in some cases, beating each other up.

A person really can't ask for more.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Face of Black Nihilism Part 2: Chicago Based "Rapper" Lil Reese Caught on Video Viciously Beating a Young Girl


We discussed the problem of black nihilism and the ghetto street culture embodied by Chicago based "hip hop artist" Chief Keef and the murder of his rival "rapper" Lil JoJo a few weeks ago. Other matters intervened and we moved on to other things. It would seem that street urchin troglodyte highwaymen who want to be hip hop stars are a topic of conversation once more--this time by the Chicago Tribune.

Broken communities, broken homes, and broken families make broken people. America is a violent society. As such, I am not surprised by the vicious beating dealt out by Lil Reese upon an unidentified young girl in the above video.

However, I am fascinated by the various norms and values which are given life at the intersection of commercial hip hop and ghetto street subculture.

Friend or Foe? White Allies Who Tell the "Truth" About White Privilege



We are in the home stretch before the election. Consequently, many members of the chattering classes are holding their fire and best shots until the middle and end of next week. In a marathon they say you need to save up some energy and push through the last lap. I am following that rule, and taking the intermission--the lull before the storm--to write about some things which I have been thinking about, but have not the opportunity to share. Election fatigue has set in; let us clear our minds by discussing semi-related matters.

As I like to say, here is something fun for a Friday.

In this piece on Mitt Romney's success in the face of failure, I discussed white privilege.

Said concept is one that many race men and race women have been analyzing for more than one hundred years. The language of "white privilege" has seeped into the public discourse through the work of good folks like Time Wise. And even he would admit that it was people of color like Du Bois, Ellison, and others who had arrived there long before white public intellectuals and activists even uttered the phrase. The reality of white privilege being what it is, the fact remains that many white folks will listen and respond to certain truths from other white people, while simultaneously remaining deaf to the same observations, when they come from a black or a brown person.

I would extend the same model to "straight" people, men, the middle class, and other groups who are defined as "normal" or "ideal" in this society as well.

While watching this interview, one in which a seemingly honest and vulnerable white elder reflects upon white racism, I am made to feel uncomfortable. This interview could do good work with the right audience; on the other hand it feels like a cheap parlor trick where someone conjures up a white person to tell the darker races, the oppressed, and people of color who have had to navigate the color line, exactly what we want to hear.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What is White Privilege? Mitt Romney Losing Two Debates But Gaining Support Among White Voters

Eddie Murphy - White for a day from andreppstos on Vimeo.

White privilege is the bundle of unearned advantages that comes with being categorized as "white" in American society. Those of us who study race and politics often have a hard time convincing white people--and some others overly identified with Whiteness--of how this dynamic impacts our society.

On Tuesday, Mitt Romney was embarrassed by Barack Obama in a debate about foreign policy. There, Romney was a child trying to engage in a fist fight against a grown man, and subsequently had his behind, almost quite literally, handed to him. Obama thrashed Mitt Romney in the prior debate as well. Thus, a puzzle and conundrum: Mitt Romney has gained support among white voters after both horrible performances.

How do we explain this trend?

President Obama has the double burden of being African-American and an incumbent. His record in office is colored by his race--and what the white public's perception of Obama's blackness means for how they assess his performance and accomplishments.

Barack Obama is hamstrung by a double standard where he is held to a far higher bar for success than a white president. For that reason, and some very significant others too, his reelection campaign is now very much imperiled.

Let me be clear: Barack Obama did poorly in the first debate against Mitt Romney. However, Obama's sub par performance was better than either of Romney's performances in the last two contests. But, Romney is gaining in the polls with white voters who somehow see him as "qualified" enough to be President after losing two debates in a row against the president.

The empirical evidence has long suggested that presidential debates are unimportant for voters' decisions on election day. We have also never had a black president running for a second term. I would suggest that this upsets all of our existing models and explanations.

Obama is playing a game that folks who look like him are not supposed to be involved in. Black Americans have been defined for centuries as "anti-citizens," and had to be specifically written back into the Constitution in order to correct what was a gross birth defect at the heart of "the greatest democracy" in the world. Obama's rise to the presidency is an anomaly in the the American political tradition.

Consequently, all rules are now off and need to be rewritten as we try to conceptualize Barack Obama's run for reelection within the long arch of race and politics in American history.

The counter-factual is very telling. Consider the following scenario for a moment.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

With Some Help from Chauncey DeVega, the SPLC Calls Out WorldNetDaily's Support of White Nationalism

My interview on the Thom Hartmann show went well. While I was not able to use my G.I. Joe reference as a way of describing Mitt Romney's childish approach to foreign policy, I was however able to make a reference to kids in the 1950s who thought they were Superman, and in turn tried to jump off of roofs to fly. I will call that a win for the ghetto nerds.

In all, Mitt Romney's positions on foreign policy are worthy of a Darwin Award. Unfortunately, he is poised to be President of the United States.

In addition to the nice invite from Thom Hartmann and Mike Papantonio today, I was also emailed about a new essay by the good people at the Southern Poverty Law Center which explores the Right-wing media's obsession with "black on white" "flash mob" violence. There, they cite two of my essays on the subject, and how I work through the difficult task of properly historicizing moral panics that involve black criminality and youth violence.

You should always stand by what you write. One should always maintain intellectual integrity because words have a life of their own. As such, they can come back many years to either haunt or heap praise upon you. As such, my essays on black mob violence, and the transparent thinking through of the difficulties and challenges of writing about such a subject that occurred there, are two of my favorite moments as a mid-tier member of the online commentariat class.

The SPLC is spot on in describing the cottage industry that gave birth to the black flash mob meme. The polite racists and more overt white nationalists are obsessed with that narrative because it fulfills their dark fantasies of black criminality and hoodlum, street pirate culture. Their racial blinders are incapable of accepting that the vast majority of people of color, and especially those who live near the highwaymen street brigands that prey in mass, on the vulnerable and the innocent, are even more disgusted with the criminal element in the community. We have equal disdain for all criminals across the color line.

As the SPLC points out, for the WorldNetDaily and White Nationalist crowd (to the degree they can now be separated from one another) their obsession only goes one way--from black crime to white victims.

Leah Nelson's piece also calls attention to the role played by the human chaff known as black conservatives, and their enabling of the white nationalist themes present on WorldNetDaily where she observes how:
Of course, as WND publisher Joseph Farah bragged (unverifiably but implausibly) in August, WND “showcases twice as many black columnists than any other news or commentary forum in the world.”

Who are they? Well, there’s black neo-secessionist Walter E. Williams, who in a 2002 column for WND wrote that Abraham Lincoln “acted unconstitutionally and with ruthless contempt for the founding principles” when he refused to let the Confederacy secede peaceably. And Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, a black radio personality who once thanked God for slavery and who in a 2005 column for WND wrote, “It was blacks’ moral poverty – not their material poverty – that cost them dearly in New Orleans” during and after Hurricane Katrina.

There’s Thomas Sowell, an economist at Stanford’s Hoover Institute and sometime contributor to the white nationalist Social Contract magazine, whose praise for White Girl Bleed a Lot is featured prominently on that book’s web site. And Erik Rush, author of Negrophilia: From Slave Block to Pedestal – America’s Racial Obsession, which argues that “the undue and inordinate affinity for blacks (as opposed to antipathy toward them) that has been promoted by activists, politicians and the establishment press for the past 40 years … has fostered an erroneous perception of blacks, particularly in America,” leading to a state of affairs in which “racism on the part of blacks is [considered] acceptable, or even proper.”

Yes, WND has binders full of black writers. And now, in keeping perhaps with publisher Farah’s declaration that his website boasts “the broadest spectrum of political opinion to be found anywhere in the world,” it has a white nationalist propagandist too.
How can you not love such an "inclusive" organization? The joys of multicultural America are many.

Shameless Self-Promotion: Chauncey DeVega to Appear on the Thom Hartmann Radio Show Today at 3pm EST

Just a shameless self-directed plug as always. The good folks over at the Thom Hartmann radio program (which will be guest hosted by our friend Mike Papantonio) have invited me by for a sit down at 3pm Eastern Standard Time. We will be discussing last night's debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

It should be fun. If I can mention G.I. Joe on live radio, in the context of discussing Mitt Romney's amateurish view of foreign policy, I will consider it one more success for the ghetto nerd set.

Hartmann's radio show can be listened to on these stations or streamed directly here.

When it Comes to Foreign Affairs, is Mitt Romney Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

The final debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama was a technocratic affair in which the challenger borrowed the incumbent's positions in order to prevent a knockout defeat.

I cannot imagine an independent or low information voter being able to follow Monday night's debate for any sustained amount of time.

Obama clearly defeated Mitt Romney following a devastating flurry of blows to the head and body--this was the equivalent of an adult beating up an impudent child--alas, it will not matter in terms of the final vote.

Few issues of legitimate disagreement or substance were discussed in Monday's debate. As Chris Matthews smartly pointed out, there was no mention of how multipolar our world had become, or how Europe's economic crisis has impacted America's economy. Those are epic fails on the part of the moderator.

Interestingly, there was no question about either the decline of peak oil or the threat posed by global warming. Much time was instead spent on the chimera issue of the United States' relationship with Israel. The Israel Lobby is not going anywhere, for either candidate, now or in the near future. The public and candidates' energies would be better spent talking about other matters.

While no substantive disagreements about the reality of American Empire took place during the final debate, there were however a few moments which revealed a frightening divergence in expertise and temperament between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Open Thread: It Ain't the Thrilla in Manila; Romney-Obama 3 is Tonight. What are Your Thoughts and Predictions?



The debate is a few hours away. In the public interest, I am trying to preempt the obvious boxing analogies which will come from the media and pundit class in the post-debate analysis.

And as you know, I am a huge fan of Muhammad Ali. I also have come to understand and respect (the late) Joe Frazier.



The Romney-Obama debate on international affairs is not Ali-Frazier 3, the legendary Thrilla in Manila. When someone suggests that it is, when you see said claim online, or if Ali-Frazier is paired with Obama-Romney as the meme of the week, please do chime in with a basic question.

After tonight's debate did either Romney or Obama say that this was the closest to death he had ever been? The answer will reveal how the horse race has become a type of prize fight, one that is better described as either a carnival act or professional wrestling.

Also, can the following be said about Romney and Obama?
"Technically the loser of two of the three fights, [Frazier] seems not to understand that they ennobled him as much as they did Ali," wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam, "that the only way we know of Ali's greatness is because of Frazier's equivalent greatness, that in the end there was no real difference between the two of them as fighters, and when sports fans and historians think back, they will think of the fights as classics, with no identifiable winner or loser. These are men who, like it or not, have become prisoners of each other and those three nights."
I doubt it.

As others have alluded to, I think there will be lots of AIPAC and Americans United for Israel signals from Romney. Obama will mention Osama bin Laden several times (how things change when we live in a moment where the Democratic Party is now the Party of National Security). Romney will be a broken record on Libya and his myth about the President's apology tour; moreover, they will continue with the line designed to please the low information petit authoritarians on the Right that somehow Obama's "weakness" encourages America's enemies abroad.

Romney's amateurish approach to statecraft is equaled only by the 5th grade G.I. Joe level understanding of international relations offered up by the Tea Party GOP base.

In all, Obama has a record to defend. Romney, has no record (save for gaffes abroad)--this can be spun as a plus for there is no track record to evaluate him against. But, Obama can hammer him on his lack of experience. As I said earlier, the third debate is about style and posturing over substance. The issues are too complicated for the average voter to fully comprehend.

Regardless of what occurs, my prediction is that the pundits will call this third fight a draw. This narrative keeps the horse race meme going, and ramps up the drama for the next two weeks.

Your thoughts on tonight's debate? Any predictions?

Soccer Moms Gone Wild: The Masses Are Asses...But They Decide Elections

Neither does Obama's trumpeting of his work to ensure equal pay necessarily resonate. A couple of months ago, someone called Dee Ralls, a 49-year-old parole and probation worker for the state, at her house to ask about her vote. She said she wasn't planning to vote for Obama, and the next thing she knew, there was a canvasser at her door, giving a big speech about equal pay for women. 
"I said, 'I never had that problem,'" said Ralls, a heavily made-up blonde in a white peasant blouse and peace-sign earrings. "If anything, the reason I was discriminated against was because I was white." 
Before her second husband died of a heart attack, for which Ralls received a malpractice settlement, she got pregnant for the fourth time. With three young kids, the timing wasn't right. She got an abortion, but at the clinic, she was shocked and irritated by all the "slutty people" she saw, who didn't seem to be taking the procedure seriously. 
Ralls doesn't think about politics much -- she doesn't think it affects her. "Oh, but you know, here's something," she said. Her 23-year-old son was just about to age out of her health insurance when Obama's health-care reform extended the time she could keep him covered, she recalled. "That was a good thing," she said. Plus, her boyfriend says Romney's an idiot, "and he's pretty smart." Ralls is pretty sure she'll vote for Obama.
She is what decades of failing public education, and an irresponsible Fourth Estate, have visited upon American democracy.

The final debate is tonight. Like you, I will be watching and wondering how Barack Obama will sell his many successes abroad, while Mitt Romney stands like a professional contrarian and post-truth candidate who is fixated on a version of events--such as the Right's fantasy fictions about a cover-up in Libya and Obama's "apology" tour--that do not exist outside of the Fox News echo chamber.

Guess what? These debates will do little to impact vote choice. Moreover, the final debate on international affairs is on a subject which is too detail oriented, technical, difficult for the general public to understand, and requires contextual knowledge that Joe and Jane Q. Public, the American Idol Honey Boo Boo crowd that they are, do not readily possess. 

As such, this makes the final debate an exercise in style and presentation over substance.  Mitt Romney is going to push it to the limit and do everything he can to put that "black boy" Barack Obama in his "place." While some of the public were put off by Mitt Romney's disrespect towards Barack Obama in the second debate, there is a good part of the mass public who was excited and exhilarated by the former's rank disrespect towards the country's first black president. 

If you doubt this fact, do go and review the comments sections of Fox News, the Free RepublicTown Hall  or any of the other Right-wing propaganda mills.

The archconservative and Right-wing populist base voters, as well as Fox News types, were aroused into a political priapism by Mitt Romney's borderline thuggery against Obama; they remain aroused almost a week later and are swollen with excitement; Romney is going to give them the happy ending in the final debate.

There is a basic fact which followers of political blogs, news websites, those who read the NY Times or other newspapers of record (and folks who watch the evening news, do their own research, and are politically literate) are reluctant to understand and accept. They are not the audience for the debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. In keeping with my professional wrestling and politics analogy, we are the "smart marks" who know better. This political horse race and spectacle are for the benefit of low information voters and undecideds. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

At Least Black Conservatives are Unhappy: New Research Suggests That African-Americans Feel "Less Empowered" Under Barack Obama

Hailed by some as the “end of race as we know it” and the beginning of a “post-racial” America, the 2008 election of Barack Obama sparked a measurable bump in feelings of political empowerment among black Americans.

But those sentiments have faded considerably over the last year or so, according to a new analysis of political survey data, with the sharpest declines in perceived political power coming from blacks who identify themselves as conservatives or “born again” Christians.

“The election of a black American to the U.S. presidency did seem to empower African Americans, causing an increase in levels of perceived freedom,” writes James L. Gibson, PhD, the Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government and professor of African and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

“But that increase seems to have been epiphenomenal, with perceived levels of freedom after 2009 soon reverting to their prior level. The boost in empowerment that earlier research has documented may be of little long-term consequence. Instead, ideology and religiosity are now fairly strongly connected to perceptions of freedom among black Americans.”
Something fun and short for the weekend.

As Pastor Manning says, you blacks are an incorrigible group of people! What can possibly satisfy you? What would make you happy? How do you define political empowerment?

Professor James Gibson at Washington University would seem to agree:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Sokath, His Eyes Uncovered!" Cornel West Wants You All to Get in Line Behind President Obama and Defeat Mitt Romney

See, folks far smarter than me are telling you rapscallions to get in line behind Obama because a Romney presidency would simply be unacceptable. Sometimes the strategic and tactically sound choice involves sacrificing some pawns in order to play the deeper game.

Ultimately, a quest for perfect moral clarity, and a "perfect" candidate, will leave us all suffering and far worse off.

The Nader supporters ushered in Bush the Junior in 2000; those who are bailing on Obama are paving the way for Romney-Ryan. We cannot let such a scenario play out (again).

From Cornel West's interview with Vice:

The Real Burdens of a Black President? Double Standards and Polite White Racism

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a great essay on Barack Obama and the burdens of representation and blackness that folks should the time to read. I have argued that boxing analogies are a very poor fit for politics. But, part of Coates' genius is that he can take a bad example, and salvage it so nicely, in order to make a trenchant point. He knows his cultural politics quite well. When I grow up I would like to be able write like him:
In 1936 Joe Louis faced off against Max Schmeling. Louis was young and undefeated. More significantly for our purposes, he was the pride of his people. The shadow of Jack Johnson still loomed -- a man who had lived a sordid life, consorted with white women, and drove the country to riot.  Unlike Johnson, Louis was a "credit to his race." He was clean. He didn't trash talk. He handled his business in the ring and humbly returned to his corner.  He was distinctly aware of his status as a standard-bearer, an ambassador, for his people, and his people loved him for not embarrassing them... 
Like Joe Louis, like Warren Moon, like any black person significant for the fact of being black, I imagine that Barack Obama would love to have only the burden of being great at his craft. All presidential candidates represent something larger than themselves, and in that sense their loss is always broadly shared. But few classes in America have so little to lose as the one Obama represents. 
This is an enormous burden to carry. Obama is hated because he is black. Obama is loved by some because he is black, the President of the United States, and the embodiment of a particular type of black genius. His blackness is a source of strength. It is also a liability. He is in many ways obligated to a community. But, Obama cannot claim that community lest he remind his detractors that he is a member of it. 

Obama was able to win the presidency because he was an "exceptional negro" and a "good one" when viewed through the white gaze. However, such praise existed in a vacuum, was contingent, and could easily default back to a position where being black, American, breathing air, and nearby was good enough to jettison one's support for him. Obama's blackness is like a version of the Rock of Sisyphus: it grounds him and offers some protection. But, it is also a liability. 

Barack Obama is going to lose the election in November. This will create a cottage industry for analysts, political scientists, historians, and others who study American politics. I have always thought that the more interesting question regarding Obama was not if a black person could be elected president. Rather, what we should have been asking was, could a black president be reelected to a second term?