What’s the matter with everyone who isn’t as perfect as we are?

TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 2014

How not to speak to The Others: In this post, Kevin Drum gets peevish (his term) with young liberal writer Sean McElwee.

First, a bit of background. If we have the right McElwee (and we think we do), he’s in his second year out of college. It looks like he started as a libertarian in his teen years, then became a liberal.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that. Not yet! Give us time!

Drum got peevish about this piece at the American Prospect. McElwee wants to build a political movement around the environment.

That would be a good thing to do. Toward that end, McElwee starts like this:
MCELWEE (3/10/14): For decades, thinkers on the left have wondered why the working class regularly votes against its own interests, upending what Marx believed would be an inevitable march from democracy to socialism. In his book, What’s the Matter with Kansas?, Thomas Frank argued that social issues obscure economic motives, and indeed the most salient non-economic one has always been race, at least in this country. In America, conservative politicians have exploited racism to their own benefit, first to disempower blacks with Jim Crow, then to undermine the union movement, and more recently to undercut support for welfare programs, as Ian Haney Lopez recently documented in Dog-Whistle Politics. Nixon’s “law and order campaign” played on racial fears, as did Reagan’s denunciation of “welfare queens.” Republicans played at race to win solid majorities for decades while actively working against the interests of the majority of Americans. The left has much to learn about this strategy. It needs to fundamentally re-align Americans around an issue with a deep and latent importance: the environment.
Presumably, he means the white working class.

Drum is peevish for two reasons, peckish even. First, he says the working class often votes against its own economic interests for a fairly sensible reason. It’s because the Democratic Party has done nothing much for them.

After that, he explains that it would be extremely hard to build a political movement around the environment.

We strongly agree with the second point, not so much with the first. But here’s another possible reason why white working class voters don’t vote for Democrats as much as liberals might prefer:

Right there in his opening paragraph, McElwee starts by R-bombing the voters in question. After that, he imagines building a movement in which those same people come around to his views about the environment.

Can you see why that might not work?

You really can’t build a political movement by holding potential voters in contempt—by thinking of them in the most negative way possible.

Yesterday, we mentioned how hard it can be for the liberal world to spread information across tribal lines. McElwee’s piece helps us see one possible source of this problem.

How does a person speak to The Others? Perhaps by training himself not to think that The Others are bad, extremely bad, nowhere near as lofty and fine as he is.

Can young liberals sidestep this inclination? We recommend Dr. King’s early portrait of the Montgomery city commissioners, in which he pities these men for the way they were raised.

77 comments:

  1. Liberals tend to believe that calling someone a racist is the worst thing you can say about him. On the right, there are increasingly people who feel that being called racist is a badge of honor earned by standing up to "PC" dictates and being honest about social issues that are obvious to everyone with their perspective but cannot be openly talked about.

    It isn't enough to stop calling Others racist. There needs to be some acknowledgement that there are problems with the urban underclass that correlate with race, but that there is also a large middle class concerned about those problems within its own racial group. There needs to be a stop to imposing academic definitions of race (as a non-existent social construct) and racism (as something that only applies to those with social privilege) and recognize the definitions that exist among everyday people. Until there is a real conversation about race that doesn't involve blaming, I don't see how there can be an inclusive conversation about other issues.

    Conservatives are approaching the point where they proudly own the term racist and no longer can be made to feel shame about even the most extreme behaviors. When that happens, I doubt anyone will benefit.

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    Replies
    1. It helps to think of R-bombing as a form of Tourette's.

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    2. I'm with Somerby on this one. There aren't enough racists in the world to overcome the tide of morons and liars who make up the modern conservative movement.
      Berto

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    3. How witty, Cecelia.

      So which group of people with disabilities will you make fun of tomorrow and think you are scoring points in an Internet argument?

      People with Down syndrome? Paraplegics?

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    4. As inapt and unwitty as CMc's comparison is, she's making fun of people who are quick to call others racists.

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  2. Paul Sunstone at Sunstone's Cafe has added Sean McElwee to his blogroll. When was the last time TDH could boast a growing reception in the reality based blogosphere?

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    1. You'll see it again if and when Hillary Clinton runs.

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    2. And if she does not run, will TDH avoid boasting?

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    3. Yes, and when he doesn't boast, he's always "imcomparable" about it.

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  3. If the children at the One True Channel would just cover the progress
    of black children more they wouldn't need to drop counter productive R-bombs.

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  4. The left is all kinds of peeved that their inferiors comprising the white working class don't vote for their own economic interests. They rednecks are so stupid, aren't they!

    Curiously they aren't heaping praise on the white upper class that DOES vote its own economic interests.

    By the way it's not only conservatives who have reached the point they don't feel shame at the left screeching RACIST.

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    1. I've always thought it was the height of condescension to argue that we poor hayseeds should be guided by no principle greater than self-interest.

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    2. And typically "liberal"

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    3. Gee, and I always thought it was the height of condescension to think the American public could be so easily duped by Chris Matthews, Maureen Dowd and Rachel Maddow.

      Of course, it is always those "other" people who are such fawning dupes of mainstream media. Never, ever people so intelligent and discerning as Bob fans.

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    4. So it's better to be guided by the principle that you should support the people picking your pockets?

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    5. The likes of Matthews, Dowd and Maddow are representative of a larger media that can and does influence people widely. This is evidenced by how difficult it is to combat certain memes once they take hold. Somerby has been saying there is an echo chamber on the left like the one on the right, that repeats misinformation. He focuses on certain individuals who start spreading this stuff but that doesn't mean they are the only ones saying it or the only ones anyone watches.

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    6. "So it's better to be guided by the principle that you should support the people picking your pockets?"

      The "poor hayseed" working class liberals complain about don't like their pockets picked by Wall Street OR MLK Blvd.

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    7. Or bloated government bureaucrats and their unions.

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    8. "The likes of Matthews, Dowd and Maddow are representative of a larger media that can and does influence people widely."

      Does this "larger media" influence you personally? Of course, not. You're a lot smarter than the "rubes." You read Somerby.

      Sorry to take your boogey-man away from you, but this "larger media" you speak of is getting more fragmented by the day by this wonderful thing called the Internet, where any ol' idiot can write his own blog and give it a catchy name. Like "The Daily Howler."

      And I await the day that Bob wakes up from his Rip Van Winkle nap and realizes that the "larger media" in 2014 is much larger and much more diverse than he realizes.

      But then again, that would take more work than writing about his 3 M's -- Maddow, Matthews and Maureen --- day after day after day, week after week after week, month after month after month, year after year after year.

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    9. "Or bloated government bureaucrats and their unions."

      And here's the funny thing about that. Between Clinton and Bush II, which one shrunk the size of the executive branch? Which one expanded it?

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    10. "I've always thought it was the height of condescension to argue that we poor hayseeds should be guided by no principle greater than self-interest."

      No, nobody is saying that. The conservative masters are consistent. They proudly unashamedly proclaim that they should act in their own self-interest and that the rubes who support them should also act in their master's self-interest. And the funny thing is about half of this country will fight you to the death defending the principal that they should act in their own master's self interest.

      You ever hear the expression,

      "If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democratic."?

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    11. In fact, they love the government services provided by "bloated government bureaucrats," but the people who don't want to pay for those services have convinced them to hate those bureaucrats. That's what's meant by voting against your interests.

      Have unions ever been weaker? Have the rubes ever had less job protection?

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    12. MLK Blvd? Didja miss that high-school English class where they discussed metaphors?

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    13. You had me at "conservatives who have reached the point they don't feel shame."

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    14. Are our masters' instructions piped in via the Country Music Channel, or are they delivered via Cheetos ingestion?

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    15. "So it's better to be guided by the principle that you should support the people picking your pockets?"

      Now, why would anyone ever think that you might care less about the principles and interests of we rubes than in having your own way?

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    16. First of CeceliaMcRube, you should have written "interests of us rubes." Your epithet here is the object of the preposition "of," so its pronomial adjective must be in the objective case.

      Why would anyone think that I don't care about rubes? Probably because I don't give a shit about them, which is a pile more than the people they elect to pick their pockets. I just wondered why getting scammed repeatedly is some kind of "principle."

      If you're in NC and you can't connect drinking coal ash to your electoral choices, that's fine with me. But don't pretend you're defending some high-falutin' principle of the greater bad.

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    17. That's the great thing about free will and ideals, Deadrat, I don't have to pretend that I'm defending a lofty principle.

      I just have to know that I have them, live by them, and understand enough about what the other tribe thinks as to know that they do too.

      It saves a lot of time and bitterness.


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    18. "You should have written 'us'"

      Holy Christ what a douchebag

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    19. Deadrat what she meant is they don't believe in abortion or have other moral issues with democrats unrelated to finances. Are you that thick?

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    20. Wrong. I'm a thorn in the side of the world based upon my economic views too.

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    21. Anonymous @9:54P,

      That whooshing sound you heard as you typed your comment?

      It was the point going over your head.

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    22. Hi, CeceliaMc, why can't you fathom that people aren't calling you a rube just because they point out that you've miscalculated on this or that? We all miscalculate, at one time or another. We are all in this together, in the big picture. Be a thorn in the side -- I like that -- but a thorn in the side of a friend, not an enemy. (I say this as someone who has always felt strangely akin to you, for all our disagreements.) mch

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    23. CeceliaMc,

      Free will? Where did that come from?

      Do you vote Republican? Then it's a good thing you don't pretend to defend lofty ideals. As you say, it saves a lot of time, time that would otherwise be wasted.

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    24. Anonymous @9:55P,

      They don't "believe" in abortion. Nice euphemism. What they believe is that they should be able to inflict their benighted religious views on society. In pursuit of that goal, they have aligned themselves with the conmen and hucksters who've told them about their shared moral concerns that start at conception and stop at birth. The inevitable result is that they get their pockets picked and they drink coal ash in NC. And that's what makes them rubes.

      And, by the by, not their misuse of pronominal adjectives. Holy Christ I've got stop joking around on these threads.

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    25. "Are our masters' instructions piped in via the Country Music Channel, or are they delivered via Cheetos ingestion?"

      No, I'm pretty sure they just lie to you straight out. No need for subterfuge cause they know you'll swallow their bullshit with a shovel and tell us all how good it tastes. It's like how US Senator Bob Corker and anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist inject themselves into a UAW vote in TN and get more than half the workers to vote against their own self-interest by lying.

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    26. They don't "believe" in abortion. Nice euphemism. What they believe is that they should be able to inflict their benighted religious views on society.

      You think we nonbelievers cannot determine that killing human beings is undesirable, perhaps enough so to regulate it, without religion as the foundation of that idea? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

      Time was that liberals thought killing human beings, especially the young, weak and disenfranchised, was problematic.

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    27. Still is that time.
      Making believe a group of cells is a human being is just an excuse to assure women they are second-class citizens.

      Berto

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    28. Anonymous @7:41P,

      You're telling me that you're a nonbeliever but you see no important distinction between say, a group of cells with no developed nervous system and a human being?

      Which of those two things isn't true?

      Berto: "to assure that women are second-class citizens"

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  5. Drum vs. McElwee. Mother Jones vs American Prospect. They're both wrong. More meaningful musings on the mainstream press corps.

    Well, when nobody powerful like Salon is dropping R-bombs, might as well kick a new kid around the block.

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    Replies
    1. Isn't it easier to change a person's behavior before it becomes set in stone?

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  6. I agree with Drum that the Democratic Party hasn't done much for the middle class- the modern Democratic Party, I mean.

    They can learn how to talk to them all they want, Mr. Somerby. If all they have to talk about is the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid and food stamps, middle class people aren't going to hear it, because those programs are directed at poor people.

    I don't know what it is. My thought is maybe labor unions filled the "middle class" role for Democrats for so long that when labor unions started to disappear, Democrats no longer had that connection.

    Oddly, Pelosi is fairly good at identifying issues middle class people might find helpful or relevant. I say "oddly" because she's so wealthy. Maybe they could ask her.

    No one knows what "closing the opportunity gap" means. I wish they'd all stop saying it. It just reeks of BS.

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    1. No one knows what "closing the opportunity gap" means.

      I'm guessing you're on the far side of it. It's harder to see from there.

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  7. "Closing the opportunity gap" is an ugly phrase that smacks of envy. The Dems of 50 or 75 years ago had a positive goal of creating opportunity. Today, Dems pitch a mean-spirited envy of other people.

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    1. Why doesn't your head just explode?

      You can't support a Republican Party whose sole goal is to block every effort of a Democratic President to create opportunity and then complain about Democrats and their goals.

      So people who are out of work, couldn't afford health insurance, and can't get their children through college without taking on crippling debt are envious of those who don't have those problems. Shame on them for being mean-spirited.

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    2. Today's Dems claim to be creating opportunity. However, they're doing more to destroy opportunity than to create it. , -- Their bloated government spending and expanded regs have resulted in huge drops in job opportunities
      -- Their effort to increase the minimum wage would have killed even more jobs.
      -- Obama's blocking the Keystone pipeline has destroyed jobs
      -- Their attacks on Charter Schools and tuition vouchers have consigned thousands of under class students to be stuck in poor schools.
      -- Amnesty for illegal aliens would destroy job opportunities for lower class American

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    3. Of course, in the actual universe, none of these things is true, with possibly the exception of Keystone. And you'll notice that DAinCA provides no evidence for any of them.

      In particular, illegal aliens are already here and working.

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  8. The problem as I see it is what I call MLK envy. Younger liberals are angry that they weren't there to march with King against the very real evil of racism. And of course the very worst thing you can be is a racist. So to make up for it and feel good about themselves they just love to paint as racist people who aren't liberals or liberals who are willing to recognize inconvenient facts like the reality that the average black is between five and six more times likely to be murdered in their own lifetime than the average white person and that 94% of the people doing the killing are also black with no George Zimmerman involved. There seems to be a certain degree of confusion among them between things to hear and say that pumps them up emotionally and things that other people are going to give a damn about in that they think they are one and the same when they are not.

    And also, let's face it, liberals can be ridiculously promiscuous about labeling someone a racist. Janeane Garofalo, for example, accused conservatives who were flocking to Herman Cain's candidacy as still being racists but were supporting him because their racism was "covert." Apparently in order to not be considered non-racist conservatives have to vote for a black liberal and what could be a more reasonable position than that?

    There was a time when being called a racist would have panicked me. No more. It's the old boy who cried wolf routine. Liberals have, perversely, vastly diminished racism's power as an issue by being such jerks about it.

    Liberalism should be an overwhelmingly popular political philosophy. If only we could get the people who call themselves liberals to stop supporting it. Then we might have a chance.

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    1. Perfectly stated.

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    2. The problem as I see it ….

      And the award for the most unselfaware use of reification goes to … Hieronymus Braintree!

      That's right, HB, "Younger liberals" are all angry 'cause they were born too late. And you know what makes them feel good. And there seems to be a certain degree of confusion. Not least about the stream of consciousness that makes up the last sentence of your first paragraph.

      There was a time when you would have panicked about being called a racist? Excuse me if I don't believe you, but whether that's true or not, it must be a tremendous relief to just be your fearless self now, eh? While we're sharing memories, there was a time when some people did call me a racist. Can you guess why I was never in a panic over it?

      And also, let's face it, if you don't understand Janeane Garofalo's provocateur act, then maybe you should just switch her off before you post your next comment.

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    3. No act. Janeane Garafolo took herself quite seriously.

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    4. As I say, if you don't understand that Garafolo is an entertainer, then you should probably just not watch her.

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    5. Some good points but I have to disagree with the "MLK envy" theory. Simply put, liberals often use the charge of "racism" in order to put Republicans/conservatives back on their heels and on the defensive. It's right out of the conservative playbook, only their rhetorical smear of choice is to label their opponents as "unAmerican", "disloyal", "traitorous". If you are explaining away either charge, you're off point and losing the argument.

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  9. But Bob. r-bombing The Other is how dems keep minorities on board. Telling them that Republicans are a whites-only racist party. If they stop doing that in order to attract whites, they risk losing the non-whites.

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    1. Keep telling minority voters how stupid and manipulated they are. I can assure you that they really appreciate the insight.

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    2. I think there is some truth to that as far as it being a bit of a political tactic. It's not uncommon on the high traffic liberal website comment sections to see out of the blue disparaging of "white males", and "straight whites". It's usually followed by one or more people piping up to state that due to changing demographics, " soon, we won't need any of their votes anymore". Identity politics to the core. I predict nothing good will out of it.

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    3. Yeah, damn those "high traffic liberal websites" disparaging white males.

      Good thing we own everything, eh?

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    4. Ownership as in wealth is being consolidated into fewer and fewer hands. Impotent and largely indifferent, liberals turn to racial identity politics. The good news is, when you take your next electoral drubbing, you can always blame it on racism.

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    5. Watch the documentary about modern South Africa "Tell me and I will forget" and you will discover what happens when "white man's values" are upended in a culture in favor of race grievances coming to define every facet of government and society. An ugly ugly outcome, as the BLACKS who are interviewed who are not part of the violent criminal ruling culture attest.

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  10. Whole lotta Gail Collins readers around these parts looks like to me.

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  11. ‘‘I want it to be known that we’re going to work with grim and bold determination to gain justice on the buses in this city. And we are not wrong.… If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong’’

    These are the words spoken by Martin Luther King at a mass meeting on Dec. 5. 1955 when the Montgomery Improvement Association -- the ad hoc movement that organized a one-day bus boycott -- decided to continue the boycott indefinitely until the buses were integrated.

    Bob curiously does not provide his readers with a link to King's words about the Montgomery city commissioners. Perhaps he didn't view them individually as irredeemably evil, but he certainly saw them as upholding a system that was evil to its core.

    Despite Bob's middle-class attempt to whitewash King's legacy, King had no problem calling evil by its name.

    And I strongly suspect that if Bob was blogging in 1955-56, his response to King's words and actions would have been, "There goes another liberal, throwing around the R-word."

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  12. 'Peckish' is British slang for hungry. Maybe Kevin Drum should have ordered a pizza instead of writing a blog.

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  13. This is the most horrific theme of the blogger - conflating white nationalism with racism/race-discrimination.

    Republicans are the white party in the sense that they put out dog-whistles (states rights, gun rights. welfare queens etc) that suggest that they look out for white interests.

    They are undoubtedly the party of rich people of all races- they get the votes of poor whites through dog-whistles that are not necessarily racist, but provoke feelings of race solidarity in poor whites,

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    1. What are white interests?

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  14. It's been awhile but as I recall Frank's excellent book had nothing to do with race, it spoke of so-called cultural/social issues- God, Hollywood, etc. Some liberals are so deluded as to believe that anyone who would disagree with them are doing so based solely on overt or unconscious racism. It's a lazy political deadend.

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  15. You have to wonder if Bob ever contemplates how the average black American feels when the name Clarence Thomas comes up (see Toobin's recent, long overdue, finally fully honest take on this crook), whose presence on the Court is a vulgar reminder of modern, high tech Tomism that unlike George W,, will not go away. Whatever! In Bob's fantasy "To Kill a Mockingbird" America it was never anything more than a few bad apples.
    Sickening as She is, there is something to what CeceliaMc, a contemporary white america racist, has to say. If you actually believe that abortion is murder, and that it therefore needs to somehow be criminalized , then your faith based beliefs are going to have you voting over superficial little things that being screwed by the system, which nobody is going to much remind you of anyway. So that's not a matter of some asshole like Britney Cooper at Salon jeering at you. It's an ignorance problem.

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    1. It's Al Sharpton, not Bob, who makes it clear that To Kill a Mockingbird (modern) America is not much more than a few bad apples. Time after time Sharpton and his ilk search for the Great White Defendant and time after time it turns out their victims are perpetrators and perpetrators victims. Obviously it's very difficult to find a genuine case of To Kill a Mockingbird racial injustice in modern America, unless you're counting injustices against persecuted whites in the name of trumping up a racial "problem" that does only amount to a few bad apples.

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    2. Toobin? "@JeffreyToobin: Trayvon got the death penalty for buying Skittles in a hoodie.”

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    3. Look into anti-drug enforcement and sentencing and you'll find plenty of racial injustice.

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    4. Greg,

      The message of TKAM is that there were only a few good apples. Where do you get the idea that TDH believes it was was any different?

      Can you name one sickening or racist thing that CeceliaMc has written? I think you have a weak stomach and a very low threshold for detecting racism.

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    5. Anonymous @1:03P,

      Right on, my white brother. Enough with all these injustices against persecuted whites!

      Good thing that we own everything, eh?

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    6. Deadrat.. seconding the racist post that starts this thread will do quite nicely, thank you, regarding the Undevine Miss C. Your threshold is blindly high. As for TKAM, in both movie and book, it's a benign view of southern racism that put's it literally off on one bad family in every town. Studies have tried to prove this as the actual nature of race hate in populations from time to time.

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  16. And then right on time comes Paul Ryan (the latest GOP VP nominee) to cite Charles Murray and let us know inner city men have a work ethic problem.

    Obviously, he's not appealing to racists since we have a black President and there's now no such thing as racism.

    Berto

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