Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Party Of Bigotry

First of all, let's acknowledge that Kim Davis is a bigot.  She doesn't like gay people and doesn't want them marrying.  If the sanctity of marriage was so important to her, she wouldn't be on her fourth.  She finds gay people icky and doesn't want them being all gay married and stuff.

Up until yesterday, Kim Davis was a Democrat.  She was one of those vestigial Yellow Dog Democrats that still hang on in some parts of the South.  Her experience - not surprisingly - has led her to become a Republican, because it's Republicans who are supporting her and cheering her on.

This is because the Republican party caters to bigots.

I read a Ben Carson quote on my Facebook page:
"What I have noticed as a Black Republican is that Republicans tend to look more at the character of people.  Democrats tend to look more at the color of their skin."

This is a really revealing statement, about Carson, about Republicans and about Carson's poll standings.  Republicans like Carson because he's a religious extremist, sure, but they also like that he agrees with them that THEY are the true inheritors of MLK's dream.  The sheer, monumental historical illiteracy of this position is as irrelevant as the fact that Carson believes that evolution was prompted by Satan.  And Carson's remarkable life story means that his "character" has triumphed whereas other blacks - presumably addicted to free stuff, says Jeb! - are mired in poverty.

In Carson's mind, he isn't lucky, he's blessed.  And that blessing is his character, which is superior to others who didn't escape poverty.  And conservatives agree with him.  For them, success is entirely dependent on individual will.

Democrats don't "tend to look more at the color of their skin", they tend to look at their economic and social circumstances.  Democrats don't look at poverty as a flaw of character, necessarily, but as a circumstance that you are largely born into.  And race and poverty are really tightly linked.  Not because blacks suffer a character flaw, but because there are systems in place to keep them poor.  Red-lining, poor schools, police practices, mass incarceration, lack of historical equity, last hired/first fired, and just plain old racist attitudes.

Democrats wish to change the structures of poverty, a poverty that disproportionately affects blacks and Hispanics.

Republicans like to laud individuals like Carson - or Clarence Thomas - who have transcended that poverty.  They can point to outliers and say that the entire Democratic argument about structural poverty is bullshit, because Ben Carson.

But if you think that Ben Carson shows that you are the real heir of Martin Luther King, because you're looking at the content of his character, you're ignoring the unstated corollary that every black person who doesn't transcend institutional poverty is lacking that same character.  This justifies slashing their benefits, because they lack "character."  Some GOP mayor in Maine wants to publish the names of food stamps recipients as a form of public shaming.  The idea being that this shame will reform their wayward morals and they will reform their character.

I guess that's the thinking.

But if you assume that people use food stamps out of a failure of character, and if you assume (wrongly) that most recipients of food stamps are African American, then you are saying that African Americans have a shared lack of character that makes them disproportionately poor.

Which is, you know, racist.

And this is exactly at the root of Carson's appeal.  His policy ideas are nuts.  His religious ideas are...strange.  But he is living proof that Republicans aren't racist, but Democrats are.

Kim Davis will tell you that she's a Republican because of religious liberty.  But she's a Republican because Republicans share her religious bigotry.  Ben Carson will tell you he's a Republicans, because Democrats are the real racists, but he's a Republican because their mythology of success and failure agrees with his own sense of his specialness.  He's a Republican because they both share this bigotry against the poor.

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