Excerpting Richard Cohen: Richard Cohen incited more rage from us liberals this week.
He managed to do so in a column which pretty much savaged the tea party. The column appeared in Tuesday’s Washington Post.
Did Cohen really attack the tea party in the column which made us so mad? Yes, he did, without using the name, except in the headline. He focused on those culturally conservative Iowa Republicans who, he said, will never go for Chris Christie.
Below, you see the first two-thirds of the column, the part which hasn’t been cut-and-pasted by us irate liberals. Presumably, we can all see who Cohen is attacking here.
He’s attacking the “many Iowa conservatives” who favor hopefuls like Cruz and Perry. Presumably, we can all see that:
COHEN (11/12/13): The day after Chris Christie, the cuddly moderate conservative, won a landslide reelection as the Republican governor of Democratic New Jersey, I took the Internet Express out to Iowa, surveying its various newspapers, blogs and such to see how he might do in the GOP caucuses, won last time by Rick Santorum, neither cuddly nor moderate. Superstorm Sandy put Christie on the map. The winter snows of Iowa could bury him.Presumably, we can all see that Cohen is attacking the conservative Iowa Republicans who favor candidates like Cruz.
From a Web site called the Iowa Republican, I learned that part of the problem with John McCain and Mitt Romney, seriatim losers to Barack Obama, "is they were deemed too moderate by many Iowa conservatives." The sort of candidates Iowa Republicans prefer have already been in the state. The blog cited Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah (considered to the right of Cruz, if such a thing is possible), Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the party's recent vice presidential candidate and its resident abacus, and the inevitable Sarah Palin, the Alaska quitter who, I think, actually now lives in Arizona. If this is the future of the GOP, then it's in the past.
None of these candidates bears the slightest resemblance to Christie. And the more literate of them—that's not you, Palin—must have chortled over post-election newspaper columns extolling Christie as precisely the sort of candidate the GOP ought to run in 2016. This is the dream of moderate Republicans, but not many of them vote in the Iowa caucuses or the South Carolina primary, two of the early nominating contests.
At the moment, it is Cruz, not Christie, who has seized the imagination of Iowa Republicans. Cruz has not only been to the state, but he also was accompanied by his evangelist father, Rafael, a colorful preacher who opposes almost anything, including, of course, same-sex marriage. ("It was Adam and Eve, it was not Adam and Steve," he recently said.)
Cruz the younger is not merely tea party to the nth degree, he is a Christian conservative as well—and for 22 percent of Iowa's "likely 2016 caucusgoers," polled by the Des Moines Register, that's who they think stands the best chance of winning the presidency. The No. 1 choice (44 percent) was "a candidate focused on civil liberties and a small government rooted in the U.S. Constitution." Christie can passably argue that he is that, but no one is going to call him a Christian conservative. After all, he opposed same-sex marriage in New Jersey, but he acquiesced. Cruz would not to do that. He'd still be talking—and Steve would still be single.
Iowa not only is a serious obstacle for Christie and other Republican moderates, it also suggests something more ominous: the Dixiecrats of old. Officially the States' Rights Democratic Party, they were breakaway Democrats whose primary issue was racial segregation. In its cause, they ran their own presidential candidate, Strom Thurmond, and almost cost Harry Truman the 1948 election. They didn't care. Their objective was not to win—although that would have been nice—but to retain institutional, legal racism. They saw a way of life under attack and they feared its loss.
Presumably, we can see that it isn’t a compliment when he compares them to “something more ominous, the Dixiecrats of old,” who wanted “to retain institutional, legal racism.”
Sarah Palin is snarked at not once, but twice. We’re told that these Iowa conservatives are living "in the past.”
Presumably, we can all see that Cohen isn’t complimenting these voters for opposing same sex-marriage, like the kooky father of Cruz. Or can we liberals see such things? At this site, we’re no longer sure.
Cohen batted those Iowa conservatives all around the block, often rather unfairly. Then he authored a miscast turn of phrase, and we liberals went nuts.
Our cutting-and-pasting started here, and we even dropped the last part of this paragraph! We highlight the miscast turn of phrase which gave us our chance to emote:
COHEN (continuing directly): Today's GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled—about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York—a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts—but not all—of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn't look like their country at all.By the end of that paragraph, it should be obvious, even to us, that Cohen is still savaging “cultural conservatives.” And so, to help us in our fury, we dropped the end of that paragraph when we cut-and-pasted.
We not only ignored the first two-thirds of the column we hate. We couldn’t even bring ourselves to blockquote one full graf!
Everyone knew where the outrage was in that paragraph. Midway through, Cohen had written this: “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York—a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children.”
Because we’re very, very dumb—because we love our phony racial fury—we agreed to think that Cohen actually meant what that sentence literally said.
Granted: that sentence, standing alone, is almost surely wrong on the facts. Beyond that, it gives almost everyone a chance to feel offended.
If we’re talking about the sweep of the country, “people with conventional views” almost surely aren’t forced “to repress a gag reflex” when considering the marriage between de Blasio and McCray. Just in case any liberals are reading, that is a good thing, of course.
That said, in the context of the full column, do we really think that’s what Cohen meant? Do we think he meant to refer to the conventional views of all Americans? Or did he mean to refer to the conventional views of the Iowa conservatives he was trashing all through his piece?
By the end of that very paragraph, it seems fairly clear, once again, who was actually being trashed, despite the poor sentence construction. By the end of that very paragraph, Cohen is explicitly saying that the marriage in question, which seems like a good one, “doesn't look like their country at all” to cultural conservatives in Iowa—to the same cultural conservatives the entire column has been devoted to trashing.
For ourselves, it seems pretty clear that Cohen must have meant that cultural conservatives have to suppress a gag reflex to that marriage. Like Dave Weigel, we think that claim on Cohen’s part is stupid, unfair, unfounded.
And that does seem to be what he meant.
But we liberals! We’re so in love with our feigned racial outrage, the only political play we know, that we were willing to ignore the context of the entire column. We even eliminated the end of that very paragraph. Good grief! Even Kevin Drum, our sanest player, excerpted Cohen like this:
Iowa not only is a serious obstacle for Christie and other Republican moderates, it also suggests something more ominous: the Dixiecrats of old....Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled—about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York—a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children.
Full stop. Drum, who is our sanest player, didn’t even go to the end of the paragraph, where Cohen seems to pin that gag reflex on the same “cultural conservatives” he’s been trashing all along.
Now they’ve even got Drum! Or so the analysts cried.
Cohen inserted a highly infelicitous phrase into that column. But are we so in love with our pseudo outrage that we’re forced to play these games?
In truth, we liberals display very little concern about issues involving race. But good God! How we love to act out!
That said, does anyone around here know how to read? Based on the way that column was read, we begin to wonder. For years, we’ve marveled at the way the liberal world didn’t seem to know how to react to the mountains of bullshit dumped on Candidate Gore.
More and more, we’ve reached a strange thought. Our tribe may not be smart enough to sort out bogus paraphrase. It may be that those bogus claims simply went over our heads!
That very strange idea is seeming more and more likely. Can a nation like that survive? A nation whose adults can’t read?
Does Elias Isquith know how to read: To all appearances, Ezra Klein knows how to read.
He did a short post about Cohen’s column, in which he said this:
KLEIN (11/12/13): Given the context of the column, I think that Cohen is using "conventional views" to mean "culturally conservative views." But insofar as "conventional" means "based on or in accordance with what is generally done or believed," acceptance of interracial marriage is overwhelmingly conventional. A July poll from Gallup finds that 87 percent of Americans approve—up from 4 percent in 1959.Regarding that highlighted statement, let us say this: Duh!
At that point, Klein presented data from Gallup showing the overwhelming “acceptance of interracial marriage.” But people! When Klein explained what he thought Cohen meant “given the context of the column,” he gave a very strong indication that he knows how to read!
Does Elias Isquith know how to read? At Salon, the youngster specifically linked to Klein’s post, but skipped right past the judgment Klein stated! Isquith a) doesn’t know how to read or b) felt the need to emote.
People, we’re all Sean Hannity now! We modern liberals are quite unimpressive. We’re very, very unimpressive and just extremely dumb.