The Magic Words
November 16, 2005
by Patricia Goldsmith
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In a Washington Post article
discussing last Tuesday's election, I finally heard the magic words
I've been waiting years to hear: "It's not just that they lost
these elections," said Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin,
"but that none of their old tricks worked that they've relied
on to give them the edge in close contests." A Republican representative
from Virginia, Thomas M. Davis III, put it more emphatically, declaring
that the GOP's cultural wedge issues "are just blowing up"
in the suburbs. "You play to your rural base, you pay a price."
Sweet! And about time.
Actually, according to Democratic pollster Ruy Teixeira, it's
a little ahead of schedule. In his 2002 book The Emerging Democratic
Majority, co-authored with John B. Judis, Teixeira predicted
that demographic shifts would favor Democrats within a decade, as
populations move away from rural areas and into post-industrial
metropolises,or ideopolises. Judis and Teixeira advised that it
would be necessary for Democrats to achieve a new synthesis "that
retains support among the white working class, but also builds support
among college-educated professionals and others in America's burgeoning
ideopolises." [page 143]
Last week's elections seem to be a model of the synthesis strategy
in operation, as ideopolis-rich New Jersey chose Democrat Jon
Corzine as its new governor; bluer than blue California gave
Arnold the finger on all four of the propositions he sponsored;
Dover, Pennsylvania turned out Republican school board members backing
the teaching of Intelligent Design; and a decidedly purple Virginia
chose Democrat Tim Kaine as its governor. According to Tom Vilsack,
Kaine turned the whole "values" issue inside out by convincing
swing voters that his stance against the death penalty was an authentic
religious position - imagine that.
Not that wedge issues are gone. Texas
became the nineteenth state to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting
gay marriage. Kelly Shackelford, president of the Free Market Foundation,
which backed the amendment, told the Houston Chronicle, "We
didn't even call Republican homes. We called Hispanics, African-Americans
and rural Texas voters. That's where the numbers were." Among
blacks and Hispanics, the vote was seen as "religious based."
Eighteen percent of registered voters turned out, the highest number
for a constitutional amendment election since 1991, due to "heavy
black turnout by African American women who go to church."
In a poll conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,
64 percent of African-Americans in the Houston area believed that
gays and lesbians should be protected in the workplace, while 62
percent were against gay marriage. Former state Democratic representative
Glen Maxey of Austin, who led the opposition, said, "Among
that community, it's a total reversal. It is totally compartmentalized.
It is religious based."
No. To quote Tyrone
Simpson, it is effective. Simpson critiques Thomas Frank's
What's the Matter With Kansas, arguing that the racism Frank
declares missing from Kansas is not so much dead as effective. Simpson
has written an eye-opening, brilliant article, "What's the
Matter With What's the Matter With Kansas, or Why Liberal Whites
Worry Black Progressives":
One could even rent Dubya for a day to bellow an exuberant "Mission
Accomplished" before an assembly of proud Kansan suburbanites.
With the majority of good housing, and more reliable public services
shifted to spaces on the metropolitan periphery designed for white
residents, there is no infrastructure available to support a collective
of citizens willing to contest such racialized conditions. These
urbanites of color, instead, are preoccupied with trying to survive
their deindustrialized, underskilled fate in the new global economy.
White Kansans then, with no impending protests to make them anxious,
can appreciate the common humanity of their racial others and
extend their good will without hesitation. ...
At the behest of the Democratic Leadership Council and its most
successful benefactor, Bill Clinton, the party of FDR forsook
its traditional commitment to working class causes in favor of
"affluent, white collar professionals who are liberal on
social issues." As a result, not only did the Dems become
a party of big money, which the GOP has often been, it became
officious and preachy; tutoring the populace in racial, religious,
and sexual tolerance, touting the virtues of elite and degreed
intellectualism, and championing a broader public role for women.
Republicans conceal their avarice beneath the shiny white suit
of family values while their opponents don a cultural decadence
that only further tarnishes their cupidity.
If we're going to beat back the corporations and survive the peak
oil crisis we are facing, we have to present a massively united
front. We're going to have to concentrate on our shared economic
interests, and we're going to have to start seeing and dealing with
our cultural biases.
If Republicans have a hard time discerning Bush's villainy, it
is equally true that
liberals have trouble seeing the dark side of Bill Clinton.
George Bush has created a crisis of planet-threatening proportions,
but he comes from somewhere, from a culture that offers no political
or social resistance to the giant corporations that run it. The
difference between Bush and Clinton is a difference of degree, not
We need to make people aware that the whole radcon takeover attempt
is based on another magic word: lies. For example, over the
decades people have become so inured to Supreme Court nominations
pivoting on the question of Roe v. Wade, without Roe v.
Wade being struck down, that they simultaneously tune out any
other nomination issues and minimize the seriousness of the threat
we are facing. That is why someone like John Roberts could be confirmed
after lying about his membership in the Federalist Society. Such
a radical-right membership raises no red flags. The equally disturbing
Alito nomination, in fact, is often mentioned as a minor bright
spot in Bush's approval numbers.
This cavalier attitude toward Supreme Court justices is as dangerous
as driving a car blindfolded. What we have to make people understand
is that with the right judges in place at the top, they're going
to start using the Patriot Act.
If you judge Alito by that standard, his failure to recuse himself
from a case in which he had a personal financial interest is not
only evidence of a lie, but of a total unfitness to be an independent
judge. When his decision - needless to say, in favor of Vanguard,
the company in question - was vacated, he wrote the chief administrative
judge, "I do not believe I am required to disqualify myself
based on my ownership of the mutual fund shares." The Boston
that Alito owned "$390,000 to $975,000 in seventeen Vanguard
The spin? Soledad
O'Brien on CNN wondered, "Doesn't it bode poorly for Democrats
when you say this is the smoking gun you're coming up with, something
over a relatively small investment in Vanguard, which legally, technically,
he didn't have to recuse himself from anyway?"
We'll be hearing a lot more about what is "legally,
technically" required if we get a real Bush court. Let's
remember these are the people who have "legally, technically"
defined torture out of existence and thrown habeas corpus out the
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