We Hope For Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes
If you’re a self-hating masochist like me, you’ve probably noticed this headline on the Drudge Report:
If you click the headline, it leads to a story about a new Quinnipiac University poll that shows a majority of Democrats support a federal bailout of Detroit while Republicans and independents really, really don’t.
It’s a silly point because, while Democratic voters may support helping Detroit, elected Democrats can’t even bother making that argument on a federal level, where House Republicans can’t even pass their own bills and are trying to cut food stamps to levels that would make Scrooge wobbly.
Of course, we should be talking about how to rescue Detroit, how to honor the promises to workers who devoted their lives to the city, how not to make life worse for the rest of the state by going to war with bondholders, how to tie the fate of the city to the affluence that surrounds it — especially because some recovery has already begun within sprawl of Detroit’s city limits, bigger than Miami, Minneapolis and San Francisco combined.
But Republicans have effectively made that conversation nearly impossible. Not only in their lust to use the city as symbol of liberal failures but a strategy that has typified Republican politics for generations.
Let Lee Atwater, the late Republican operative and the man behind the “Willie Horton” ads, explain:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*gger, n*gger, n*gger.” By 1968 you can’t say “n*gger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N*gger, n*gger.”
This is what we kindly call “the Southern Strategy.” A strategy summed up by Lyndon Johnson like this, “If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.”
And in the post-birther era, much of the subtlety of racial politics has faded away.
The right wants to talk about Detroit and pretend that a federal bailout is possible because it helps obscure the fact that their policies have engineered a massive transfer of wealth to the richest Americans. It hides the fact that they’ve systematically targeted America’s greatest source for wage growth — organized labor. It distracts from the real reason certain Americans are downright gleeful at the prospect of repealing or defunding or sabotaging health care reform that’s greatest accomplishment is asking the richest to pay a little to help working families afford health insurance, because we already pay for our fellow citizens’ medical care in the dumbest way possible.
When conservatives talk about federal bailouts, they’d basically saying, “This is what happens when you let Democrats (read: black people) run things.” (As if we didn’t just have to rescue the world from the bankers, the brokers and the insurance companies.)
The truth is so much more complex, uncomfortable and symptomatic — in some ways — of what’s going on across America, says The National Journal‘s Ron Fournier.
But the right will just blame Democrats and unions (read:blacks) and rebutting such asinine arguments only offers them validity.
And that’s why conservatives love to talk about Detroit.