Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Smart People Saying Smart Things: Thomas Edsall Explains Romney's Racist "One-Two" Welfare Medicare Punch Strategy in The New York Times

The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor. 
Ads that accuse President Obama of gutting the work requirements enacted in the 1996 welfare reform legislation present the first theme. Ads alleging that Obama has taken $716 billion from Medicare — a program serving an overwhelmingly white constituency — in order to provide health coverage to the heavily black and Hispanic poor deliver the second. The ads are meant to work together, to mutually reinforce each other’s claims.
Chris Matthews and I had beers the other night. I drank Sapporo. He had Bell's. We talked about politics, and at his urging I shared some of my thoughts on Mitt Romney's race-baiting racist air raid siren politics. It was good. I did not tell him anything that he did not already know; Matthews was gracious, smiling the whole time.

I wish. One day, if Fate so deems it, I will be given an invite to sit at the big kids table and talk politics with the pros. Either way, I am glad that Chris Matthews has been calling out Romney and the Tea Party GOP for their willful lying, mobilizing of white racial anxiety and insecurity, and racism as they use any means necessary to defeat President Barack Obama. 

In total, the last few days have given us a bounty of pundit class wisdom. I had originally intended to comment on Ta-Nehisi Coates' great essay on President Obama, Tim Wise's bringing the pain like Jesse Ventura's mini-gun in Predator, and George Lakoff's precision job on Romney and Ryan's budget plan. All of those articles are worth reading, and please feel free to comment on them as well. 

However, Thomas Edsall, writing in The NY Times, "Knicked it out of the box" so to speak.

Edsall's essay is beautiful. He is able to crystallize expert knowledge down into relatively few words, demonstrate empirical rigor in his claims, and just drive his point home with direct, simple, and dense prose. When I grow up, I would love to be able to write like him. Jargon is a crutch; Edsall transcends it and speaks to the public with clarity and ease. Such a feat is not an easy thing to accomplish for an expert academic and intellectual of his stature and gifts. 

Ultimately, "Making the Election About Race" is an insightful working through of the genius strategy of colorblind racism, the Southern Strategy, and the politics of white racial resentment that are embodied by Romney and Ryan's two pronged assault on President Obama through the tag team meme of "Barack Obama is a Welfare King," and the seemingly "race neutral" claim that Medicare must be reformed through vouchers and other neoliberal policy initiatives.
Sharp criticism has done nothing to hold back the Romney campaign from continuing its offensive — in speeches and on the air — because the accuracy of the ads is irrelevant as far as the Republican presidential ticket is concerned. The goal is not to make a legitimate critique, but to portray Obama as willing to give the “undeserving” poor government handouts at the expense of hardworking taxpayers. 
Insofar as Romney can revive anti-welfare sentiments – which have been relatively quiescent since the enactment of the 1996 reforms – he may be able to increase voter motivation among whites whose enthusiasm for Romney has been dimmed by the barrage of Obama ads criticizing Bain Capital for firing workers and outsourcing jobs during Romney’s tenure as C.E.O. of the company. 
The racial overtones of Romney’s welfare ads are relatively explicit. Romney’s Medicare ads are a bit more subtle.
Both play on race and white racism. Yet, they do so in very different ways. The latter is the jab; conservatism and racism are one and the same in post-civil rights era politics. Here, Obama, and black people by extension, are marked as "thieves" who are stealing from good white folks by supporting a "bankrupt" entitlement program. 

Romney's lies about Barack Obama and welfare reform are complements to Ryan's Medicare gambit: Obama is taking good white people's money and giving it to the lazy blacks and other undeserving, lazy, poor people. Romney's play here is torn right out of the Tea Party's GOP racist Southern Strategy. 

The punches complement each other in a type of ugly beauty--Right-wing worries about health care expenditures do not mention race, but nonetheless play off of a sense that the white folks are getting screwed by some Other, i.e. non-whites and other "unproductive" citizens, as such, white people best work hard to protect what is theirs.

By contrast, the welfare queen lie is the overt and naked racial appeal to white racial resentment. If criticized for this ploy, Romney and the Tea Party GOP will turn it around and play the white victimhood "race card."

Either way right-leaning white independents will hear the White Tea Party GOP political cue that black and brown folks are fleecing them. Consequently, Romney and Ryan cleanup at the polls by picking those sad white folks' pockets, as the Tea Party GOP directs their racial and class-insecurity motivated anger at the wrong group of people. The plutocrats win out again as white conservative populists choose skin privilege and the psychic wages of whiteness--as they have many times before in this country--over addressing their long-term, substantive material needs. 
In essence, the ad is telling senior voters that the money they paid to insure their own access to Medicare after they turn 65 is going, instead, to pay for free health care for poor people who are younger than 65...
Romney’s Medicare ad is designed to undermine that relatively modest but potentially crucial advantage. It is artfully constructed to turn the issue of health care into a battle over limited tax dollars between a largely white population of seniors on Medicare and a disproportionately minority population of the currently uninsured who would get health coverage under Obamacare... 
The importance to the Romney-Ryan ticket of two overlapping constituencies — whites without college degrees and white Medicare recipients — cannot be overestimated. Romney, continuing the Republican approach of 2010, is banking on a huge turnout among key white segments of the electorate in order to counter Obama’s strengths with minority voters as well as with young and unmarried female voters of all races. 
There is extensive poll data showing the depth of Republican dependence on white voters.
Thomas Edsall's essay also contains a prescient warning for those who understand Romney's racist campaign strategy. Students of American politics talk about Atwater and company's notorious Southern Strategy quite often. Larry McCarthy, the evil mastermind who produced the notorious Willie Horton ad, is rolling out a series of commercials in support of Mitt Romney in the next few weeks leading up to the election. 

Romney is coming for Barack Obama. He will not be stopped. And given the sophisticated deployment of white racism by Romney and the Tea Party GOP that we have seen so far, Larry McCarthy is going to put on a clinic.


CNu said...

Max Disher > Matthew Fisher and the Knights of Nordica ride again.

In 80 years NOTHING has changed.

The absolutely saddest thing of all, however, is that the Hon.Bro.Preznit has so little with which to affirmatively counter this musty stategery.

No hope, no change, no truth, no genuine and compelling democratic impulse, just the tattered motley of "I couldn't be as bad as this other guy".

This Black No More RFK-channeling Brookings sock puppet - the rorschachian - lacks the basic and obvious testicular fortitude to counter Romney's hokum by simply being the first black president indeed.


Invisible Man said...

Is that what the Republicans are doing? White politicians have been doing the ever since The Democrats called Lincoln a Negro Ape. That's what they do. But riddle me this bat man??? Why is it that our "change agent" President doesn't call The Republicans out on this age old strategy????? Is it because he engages in the same old cynical games? He want talk about poverty or what the bankers are doing, Yet he will tell the Black Caucus( on National TV) "to quit complaining, quit crying, and quit winning". And guess who he's doing that for????

Obama has thrown Black people and progressives under the bus to score points with working class white people, that is not a successful strategy to Change this county, it's just a strategy for more cynicism. Quit being a shrill for the Democratic Party, yo!

Anonymous said...

CNU said:
"In 80 years NOTHING has changed."

I agree.

"No hope, no change, no truth, no genuine and compelling democratic impulse, just the tattered motley of "I couldn't be as bad as this other guy".

I agree.

@Invisible Man:
"Yet he will tell the Black Caucus( on National TV) "to quit complaining, quit crying, and quit winning". And guess who he's doing that for????"

Yep. Black people also have short memories and that comment sealed it. Well maybe not. My Spidey sense went off when Prez O took Lincoln's train ride. Lincolon hated Black people. That was my first WTF moment. There have been many more. But yeah. That comment sealed it.


Anonymous said...

Do you folks really believe what you write? Romney is engage in division and class warfare? Look in the mirror gentlemen.

Black Sage said...

Slave Master Romney’s presidential campaign ads are very effective harbingers specifically targeting Obama’s policies, Black Americans in particular and minorities in general. Romney’s ads attack Obama’s plinths that were strong during the 2008 presidential campaign. However, Obama, in quite a few instances has conducted an about-face on some of his core campaign promises. For one, Obama has snuggled-up too close to the corporate world when he provided them with bailouts. And, he’s left Main Street America holding empty money bags filled with IOUs instead of bailing them out as well. Secondly, Obama also signed off on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which essentially gives the US military the authority to detain American citizens absent legal recourse. That’s quite an easy task to undertake because the United States have over 1,000 military bases across the globe.
The US is truly an Eagle Empire with a splash of Communism that’s too close for comfort.

This is why Obama’s original base of voters is not as enthused about him this upcoming election.

In sum, Obama’s overall spotty record during his four years in the White House has brought the chickens home to roost by his failures to implement real change. Furthermore, this is why Slave Master Romney does have an opportunity to win the presidency after all. Additionally, I’ll be far from gloating if such a triumph does take place, just like how I currently feel about Obama.

Anne O'Nimmus said...

Just how many white turkeys will they get to vote for Christmas?? Surely, numerically there will be many more poor white victims of a Romney/Ryan ticket than all the others combined!
Wasn't Dr King onto this divide and rule claptrap by the end? Hoping to move forward with politics and activism for all the poor of the US?
There's an article about Ryanomics here, comparing it to the Brit politics in Ireland during the famine (quoting some of the days commentators on "white chimpanzees" even):
There's little difference between the elites of 165 years ago and their desire to vacuum up all the money around and leave the poor to die after and during exploiting them, and todays so called 1%. If it suits them, then simply existing while poor will be excuse enough to think of any and all of us as races apart from themselves.

makheru bradley said...

Mitt Romney is in a bind.

[The white majority among voters has been shrinking during the past 40 years, just as the white majority has shrunk in the general population. The three-point drop since 2004, though, is so dramatic that a likely explanation isn't demographics at all but rather a greater disinclination than usual among white folks this year to vote. Turnout in 2008 was about what it was in 2004, and, according to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, the reason it wasn't higher—as widely expected, given the keen interest in this election—was that fewer Republicans went to the polls. The percentage of Democrats who went to the polls increased 2.6 percentage points while the percentage of Republicans went down 1.3 percentage points. The greatest favor the white race did Obama this year may have been to stay home.] -- Timothy Noah 11/10/08

So objective number one for Romney is to get white Republican voters back to the polls and the "race card" is the most reliable way to do that.

Will that be enough? I contend that Obama won in 2008 because TPTB shocked the “undecided voters” on 9/15—collapse of Lehman Brothers, etc. Bush and Paulson blocked McCain’s access to the game plan and he made a complete fool of himself: “the fundamentals of our economy are still strong,” while Timothy Geithner guided Obama through the process.

So what do they have in store for the gullible electorate this fall? A “Gulf of Tonkin Incident” in the Persian Gulf? Who will use the “Shock Doctrine,” and how will they use it?

ellemarie said...

Have you read Blair L.M. Kelley's response to Tanehisi Coates's piece? http://profblmkelley.tumblr.com/. I usually enjoy Coates's work, but I had to agree with Kelley's critique that the Booker T Washington comparison doesn't really hold water once you start diving into the historical weeds. Full disclosure though, I came across the Kelley piece on my twitter feed before getting a chance to read the initial article.

CNu said...

rotflmbao@ the levels of effeminate hair-splitting and pearl-clutching about the Hon.Bro.Preznit's radically autonomous (NOT) blackness bona fides.

Endlessly suggestible, aspirational assimilationist kneegroes making some priceless.comedy.gold...,

nomad said...

Nah. This is some kayfabe stuff here. There being no hope offered by the Obamadmin this go round -an't fool US twice- all that's left for the puppet masters is to scare US into voting for Obama with the hideous prospect of a Romney presidency. Romney is playing his bad guy roll well. When he wasn't sufficiently frightening he teamed up with a partner even more frightening. He's trying as hard to lose as Gore did in 2000 against the previous chosen one.