Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Time Traveling Through the 2014 Midterm Elections. What Year is it Really? The End of Reconstruction? The Gilded Age? Neo Jim and Jane Crow?

In the 2014 midterm elections, the Democratic Party lost control of the Senate to the Republicans. This was expected: the incumbent political party of the president has lost seats in almost every off year election in modern American political history.

Barack Obama also represents an outlier example. He is the first President of the United States who is not a white man. This fact added an extra layer of drama and emotion to the 2014 midterm elections.

The strategy of deploying white racial resentment and overt white racism by the Republican Party in order to mobilize its aging and dying base of older voters against the Democratic Party was a factor in the midterm election outcomes. Political scientists and other analysts will soon be developing the specific metrics for the negative "racial coattails" of Barack Obama in relation to Democratic candidates. Thus, we will have to rely on intuition and imputing from how Obama's race cost him white votes in 2008--and the macro level examples of racism as political strategy by the Republican Party during his two terms in office--as sufficient proof for that claim.

The Republican Party's win in the 2014 midterms is not a rejection of the Democratic Party's policies (on specific policy issues the American people overwhelming support the Democratic Party) per se. It is a channeling of general angst and hostility toward a government which has been broken by the Republican Party, an angst that they in turn have masterfully deflected back on Obama and the Democrats.

For the White Right and the Republican Party, more generally, the midterms are an actual and symbolic repudiation of Barack Obama, the United States' first black president. From Birtherism, to their embrace of neo Confederate language and ideology, and overt acts of racial animus and paranoia, the Republican Party and its media machine have dedicated themselves to putting the "uppity", "arrogant", "usurper", black tyrant "back in his place".

For the White Gaze, Obama is also a stand-in for Black Americans, as well as the idea of a changing and demographically more diverse United States. For the White Right, beating Obama (the wish of doing so literally; the act of winning an election, figuratively) is a way of reasserting dominance--as though it was ever lost--over the life chances and political fortunes of Black and Brown America.

A perverse and deranged worldview in which a significant percentage of white Americans actually believe that they are "oppressed" and "face more discrimination" than non-whites is the social and political racial context for Obama and the Democratic Party's defeat in the midterms .

The ultimate goal for the Republican Party is the impeachment of Barack Obama during the remaining two years of his tenure. The uppity black dandy who dared to put on his fancy clothes, move into the White House with his beautiful black family, and had the unmitigated gall to win a presidential election, twice (what hubris!), must be humiliated for the world view and cognitive map of the herrenvolk White Right and Tea Party GOP to remain intact.

By implication and association, the public shaming, humiliation, and bullying of Obama is a more high profile and public example of the daily micro aggressions and other types of both personal and institutional white supremacy that black and brown Americans negotiate on a daily basis in the United States of America.

Politics is about competition over resources. Politics is also about the mobilization and manipulation of the public's emotions. The former is relatively easy to measure; the latter is a bit more difficult to quantify.

My intuitions and feelings tell me that something has gone horribly wrong in the United States. The body politic has been sick for decades: but my gut tells me that the problem is deeper, as the United States has been existentially amiss from the Reagan years to the present.

Somehow the master slogan and trick for a gullible public known as "hope and change" has been transformed into a naked plutocracy that is aided and abetted in its crimes by white supremacy and white racial resentment. How did this transformation occur? Has there been a disruption in the space time continuum? Did someone "cross the streams"?

Science fiction and speculative fiction are among the most powerful of genres because of their ability to allow the reader to consider the counter factual and "what if?" scenario.

Some members of the pundit and commentariat classes have suggested that the United States is now in a second "Redemption"/end of Reconstruction era. Such a claim is interesting. However, the parallels between the end of the radical experiment in democracy made possible by African-Americans at the end of the Civil War across the former Confederacy through to the stolen Hayes-Tilden election in 1876 that renewed the white terror of the South against black folks, are too few for such a claim to be sustained.

Nonetheless, the observation that America's politics are in a retrograde and backwards looking reactionary moment is compelling and lucid.

Consider the following:

1. The Republican Party has openly embraced the language, symbols, and rhetoric of the old Confederacy. The American Swastika in the banner of the Republican Party and its Tea Party radicals.
2. The gains of the Civil Rights Movement have been rolled back by a right wing judiciary.
3. The Republican Party is using Jim and Jane Crow voter suppression and intimidation tactics against black and brown Americans in order to subvert a people's democracy and to reinstate herrenvolk white rule.
4. Obama's tenure has been beset by overt white racism from the Republican Party, the right-wing media, and conservatives en masse.
5. A black person is a victim of  a lynching by the police or their affiliates at least every 28 hours in the United States. In keeping with this regime of racial terrorism, a black American is at least 21 times more likely to be killed by the police than a white person.

These racial reactionary politics exist and are aided by unfathomable levels of income and wealth inequality most closely resembling the American Gilded Age of the 19th century.

As counted in Western calendar years, the year is 2014 CE. To me, it does not feel like 1876. But, it also does not feel like we in the United States are in second decade of the 21st century--at a social and political level of progress that the most hopeful of dreamers would have imagined some decades ago.

What year does it feel like to you? Are we in a dystopian present/future? Has Jim and Jane Crow merged with Gilded Age as the timeline has somehow been distorted or changed? Or is 2014 America in the Age of Obama, the White Right, and the Gilded Age, the true and now semi-permanent face of the country?


joe manning said...

You may be right but I hope the the radical right is just having its 15 minutes of fame. People vote their pocket books, so assuming that the global economy is in a protracted recession, I think the current "throw the bums out" mentality will decide future elections. Ironically, folks may look back nostalgically on the Obama presidency as the the good ol days.

Justin M. White said...

One interesting trend over the next century is going to be the growth of the "Third World" and the slowdown of growth in this country (and in all leading countries). Conservatives, at least of the sort who are coherent enough to actually make an argument, say that social programs and progressive tax rates don't take economic growth into consideration. We don't have to redistribute the pie: the pie can grow. However, Thomas Piketty in his Capital in the Twenty-First Century has pointed out that most of this growth rate is from industrialization and post-industrialization following WWII. Capital gains outstrip economic growth, and they will only continue to do so as growth slows, which will centralize wealth at the very top.

Of course this makes for a very unstable society. I find it fascinating that the 1960s were a period of such change, securing Civil Rights despite the fact that American opinion didn't catch up until the 1990s/2000s in terms of things like the right to interracial marriage ( A lot of the factors for "revolution" that one would normally expect weren't present (of course there were horrible injustices of class and race, but the decade didn't share the tenor of 1905/1917 Russia). Now we're in a situation of increasing destabilization, with wages pushed down, unemployment hovering higher, and many costs of living rising (medicine, transportation, etc.). Social change combined with economic instability make white people jumpy, which in this country never ends well. We're seeing the worst of the culture of cruelty now, but I can only hope that younger people will, by their virtue of being young, grow up to reject it, and put that concern into something more positive.

OldPolarBear said...

[WARNING here: I am going to make some very disturbing and violent connections] I am probably in too bleak of a mood today to answer the questions you pose with any kind of perspective, but I fear that it is a dystopian reality and that it is a long-term, if not permanent, condition.

My home state has profoundly embarrassed itself and done incalculable harm to the nation by electing the insane right-wing Teabagger Jone Ernst to the United States Senate. Besides having embraced all of the worst policy ideas of the extreme loon right, she also engaged in the racist dog whistling they love. She referred to the President as "apathetic" on the issue of Ebola, I guess thinking herself slightly too classy to use the usual "lazy."

But it was her own, special campaign hook that was really creepy. You may be aware of the ad that made her famous, the one about castrating hogs? If not, you can familiarize yourself with it here. People thought it was cute, funny and oh so clever and gutsy. Rural Iowans loved it. Actually, it was disgusting and, I believe, deeply twisted. Who is she talking about when she says she wants to "make 'em squeal"? Who are "those people"? Whoever they are, Ernst thinks they are like farm animals in pens who are to be mutilated for the purposes of their owners. What does that sound like? I think that, far from being an innocent and "fun" metaphor, it was a dark and ugly appeal to some very sick and disturbing stuff. Were not actual black people subjected to such things, among others, during slavery and in post-Civil-War lynchings? It is disgusting and shameful that no one in the media called her out on this.

Am I reaching here? I am sorry to be so blunt and gloomy; please feel free to tell me if I am being ridiculous.

kokanee said...

I really blew it when I predicted that the Dems would keep the Senate. *against all odds*

I fully expected this though from President Obama in his news conference today:
And I'm eager to work with the new Congress to make the next two years as productive as possible.

Chauncey — You are going to have to explain that one to me!

Remember, remember the Fifth of November...Happy Guy Fawkes Day everyone!

chauncey devega said...

Palin and the right-wing have a deep love with the strong woman as base of the family that is subservient to her husband while producing the next generation of proper white citizens. Sound familiar?

It is a type of homicidal ideation and eliminationism. Very sick stuff.

chauncey devega said...

Obama has serious issues w. being too complacent and being obsessed over false compromise and consensus. There is a book written by a political psychologist about Obama's personality and childhood that is spot on in regards to how he is behaving towards the GOP.

Moreover, Obama is a Rockefeller Republican and his black behind is still too "radical" for the White Right.

kokanee said...

Re: "Am I reaching here?"

I think you are right on point. The racists, tribalist, authoritarians all flock to the Republican Party.

However, all Republicans are not racists (or are they?!?!)

One Republican Senator said that the vote was basically against the Democrats and wasn't really for the Republicans at all. *Hearsay*

chauncey devega said...

Do people vote their pocketbooks? That old sociotropic boogeyman pokes out his head again.

kokanee said...

In one corner we have:
14 Facts About The Obama Presidency That Most People Don’t Know.

And in the other corner, we have:

Big Brother’s Liberal Friends

Gable1111 said...

Let's see, Ernst drove 'em wild talking about castration, the President is black, castration was part of the ritual that ended with lynching that was used to put the uppity negroes in their place. That was more than a dog-whistle; it was a damned racial fog horn.

Gable1111 said...

Not this election. The "pocketbooks" as typically defined within this context are fine; unemployment has fallen to 5.9% and its still on a downward trajectory. The stock market is up, not that that means anything for everybody, but on the middle class end those who have 401ks have nothing to complain about. Home values have rebounded as well. Obama has done a lot better by white folk of that level than they got under Bush II. And all without raising taxes, contrary to the lies of the right.

They should be glad but they were angry, and over what? The sheer offense of the fact of a black man occupying the Presidency.

skilletblonde said...

Well... it's starting already. This was posted on the Democratic Underground:

First on CNN: Army says word 'Negro' OK to use


"Washington (CNN) -- A newly published U.S. Army regulation says a
service member can be referred to as a "Negro" when describing "black or
African American" personnel. The Army confirmed the language is
contained in the October 22 "Army Command Policy," known as regulation
AR 600-20. The regulation is periodically updated but the Army could not
say how recently the word was added to the document."

I will say this. It's going to get very, very ugly. It already has. But were too busy joining in on the fray with our white liberal, and militant black friends in the take down of the first black president. The very same friends who told you to not vote in 1968 after people had given their lives, so you could. The very same ones who told you to fo stay at home in 1980, and let a senile movie star become president. The very ones who allow Newt Gingrich, an adulterous psychopath to become speaker of the house in 1994. This is the same lot that is very much responsible because of their so called brilliance, but in reality it's their narcissism-- that has been complicit in the right-wing takeover of this country.

I still support President Obama because I was never deluded about the power he had. That would be not much. They handed him a worst mess than Roosevelt. Israel is another matter, but we won't go into that. But, surely you didn't think organizations like the CIA and the FBI , who never been a friend to black people, known for Cointelpro, and all kinds of criminal behavior, was going to be respectful to a black president. Sam Seder over at the Majority Report did a segment on the Secret Service. Apparently, it is comprised of white males from very small towns. Now isn't that lovely?

Frankly, I think it is egregious of us to sit idly by while this man is disrespected, in such as vulgar manner. He represents us. We should have stood up for what is right. However, we accept disrespect. It's part of our culture. That's why the imagery of us in Mass Media is so reprehensible.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

the right embraces their base with racism, sexism, and appeals to their masculinity. To be effective, the right has kept on Barack Obama as an effective leader as there mode of operating their populist base.

the left does not seek to mobilize their base in the same way. The left tends to focus on a single issue and their real grassroots organizations focus on that solitary issue instead of unifying under a united policy.

The White Grievance Industry is broad and robust. Democratic challengers must appeal to white grievance victimology to win broad support in small races like House and Senate seats as well as state and local politics.

The American people are being cowed by neo-Confederate white supremacy, neoliberal skullduggery, and Christian traditionalist fundamentalism.

The parallels to post-reconstruction America (1880-1930) are great. Would the Scopes Monkey Trial turn out any differently today?

wisconsinreader70 said...

73 year old white man - Vietnam era veteran - owned my own small business for 40 years. . . The "progress" we made in race relations after WW II has been effectively stopped - and a rollback begun. . . Obviously the trigger was GOP recruitment of white, old confederacy Democrats by Nixon and then Reagan. . . Along the way some - not all - of our wealthiest corporate types understood that the mass media could be bought and used - to disseminate divisiveness - by race, religion, region, culture to those largely rural whites who previously had been neutral on such matters. . . Our current massive income and wealth inequality - begun by Reagan's policies - has only further enabled our slide into Plutocracy. . . It is a minority of Americans who hold real animus against "the other" - but they are now calling the shots because of their incredible wealth and control of the mass media. . .

joe manning said...

My comment was wishful thinking after the demoralizing midterm. And like you say it looks like the end of Reconstruction all over again. But its reasonable to assume that "when work ends" folks get mean, turn right, and vote their pocket book.

joe manning said...

The electorate couldn't be convinced that the economy was working for them. O did a great job of salvaging the economy, but the affluent economy necessarily became one of subsistence and systemic high unemployment. The conventional American expectation is that things will get better for them and their kids. Its political suicide for any politician, the president especially, to tell the public that the ailing economy is permanent permanent fixture.

chauncey devega said...

There you go. Money and power only knows green--black, white, and brown are a means to an end. If you haven't watch this video by Claire Connor who is tied to one of the founders of the John Birch Society do so. Those folks are still with us today in the form of the Kochs (directly) and the GOP.

chauncey devega said...

That is an old story too where the Republicans have created a brand name for the easily duped public that they are "good for the economy". The data does not at all show this. Democrats turn the economy around and the Republicans ride the coattails.

Bartels' great book Unequal Democracy as some great data on that cycle.

vintagepeugeot said...

You're certainly not the only one whose "feelings tell me that something has gone horribly wrong in the United States."

My mom was "voter ID'd" for the first time in her life, in a very white county in Northern Virginia. (she's black & in her 60s). After rushing from work, and a long commute because her employer would not give any time to vote, she presented a voter registration card and an out-of-state drivers license and was told it was unacceptable. Luckily, they accepted her fed worker ID card, and she was able to vote 5 minutes before the polls closed. She said the white woman working the polling location gave her the "what are you doing in my county" look the entire time.

My state offers early and mail-in ballots, but I still woke up to the news of a new RWNJ, unabashed Koch sucker as my senator. He wants to sell our states' beautiful public lands to the highest oil & gas bidder. Fantastic. Who the hell are my neighbors?

SW said...

I'm not convinced that Ernst's ad is a case of racial dog whistling. I do think that if her campaign was aware that castration has an ugly place in American history, they wouldn't give a damn.

I'm actually more inclined to think that her campaign keyed in on a way to make her appear "tough". That perhaps they were attempting to counter the right-wing bases, or perhaps even their own perception that women are weak. What better way to assert Ernst as being "tough", in fact tougher than a man, than by highlighting her experience in cutting off male genitalia?

If anything the ad strikes me as immature and misguided regarding what constitutes strength, and the virtues that would make for an effective U.S. Senator.

SW said...

And who are these progressives that show out en masse to vote for the President, but fail to show up for the mid-term elections? There are apparently 70 million U.S. citizens of voting age who are not registered to vote. I'm going to have to put voter apathy up there with Citzens' United as a scourge on this country. Maybe there ought to be a movement to make election day a federal holiday.

joe manning said...

I stand corrected. To say that people vote their pocket books lets them off the hook for voting for fascism.

joe manning said...

I had it wrong that people vote their pocket books. That's just the media cover story for the shift from soft to hard fascism. But we differ about the health of the economy. I think its ailing despite O doing a great job with very little to work with.

joe manning said...

To qualify the my above comment that people "vote their pocket books" I have sense found that assessment in error. At best its an extenuating circumstance that the media pushed as a cover for the conversion from soft fascism to "in your face" fascism.

Nina Flowers said...

That meme is still very strong. The preoccupation with the Duggar freak show helps drive your point home.

Nina Flowers said...

You're so right. It's not going to change without progressive ownership of the airwaves. There are enough wealthy liberals out there, but they don't seem to have any vision to buy themselves some radio stations, etc.

Nina Flowers said...

I was working with a local liberal organization recently and left there rather disheartened. Talk about clueless! They were the epitome of the "Birkenstock Liberals" that Mike Papantonio so rightly describes. They just want to make nice, get along and find common ground. As one of a handful of black folks working with them, the organizers were wondering why they could not get more blacks involved. They just did not understand the different issues that would get "us people" out there - namely economic ones.

Nina Flowers said...

Come now, you know that he (and every other POTUS) has to say that. I think if he holds firm to his veto pen, he will be just fine.

Nina Flowers said...

It's a shame because the US economy (as well as other nations') will NEVER work without a manufacturing base! We don't produce anything of added value except weapons and that is a nation that has failed. We have to have perpetual war in order to survive now.

Nina Flowers said...

Sorry but I'm not buying that generalization about Kinsley (whom I'm sure you meant). He's certainly no right-winger in terms of his social positions and endorsements of universal healthcare.

Miles_Ellison said...

Everything they're angry about was created by people just like the ones they voted for.

chauncey devega said...

I agree. It was more of the fascist authoritarian cutting off balls to show how tough and gun love and "authentic" I am. Part of the same white homicidal ideation against non-whites imaginary though. Twisted stuff.

SW said...

Piketty's data is very compelling, and should be a huge wake up call to middle and working class Americans that we are most definitely living in a plutocracy. One concept that comes to mind after reading Capital in the 21st Century is the income velocity of money. In layman's terms, this is a measure of how quickly dollars exchange hands in an economy. A key problem with the rise of America's plutocracy is that the wealthy can't spend all the money they are hoarding fast enough, which depresses our economic activity.

If you look at the most recent data reported by the Federal Reserve, the velocity of money in our economy is at a historical low. It has never been lower.

Part of the issue is that the Fed has pumped trillions of dollars into the economy, so the supply of money is greater. But another huge part of the problem is that dollars aren't changing hands fast enough, because dollars aren't in the hands of the people that need money to spend, i.e. the middle and working classes. Of course one way to get money into the hands of the working and middle class Americans, to increase our economic activity, is more and better job opportunities. Also, higher real salaries and real wages. Dramatic increases in the minimum wage (sorry Arkansas $8.75 by the year 2017 ain't gonna cut it).

Instead of focusing on economic indicators such as the velocity of money, the Republicans are allowed to frame the economic discussion in terms of our nation's debt and budget deficits, that lead to austerity measures, that achieve the goal of destabilizing the middle and working classes. Why the Dems can't muster a counter-narrative is beyond me.

joe manning said...

He strikes me as a conservative in pretending to be a liberal.

joe manning said...

Marcuse and others say that the manufacturing economy and capitalism in general is superfluous because the economy has long sense been capable of producing and distributing necessities and luxuries for next to nothing.