Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dude Time

            Ah, yes, it’s Dueling Dude Time out on the old campaign trail. My grandfather was poorer than your grandfather.  Yeah? Well mine dug coal.  Yeah, well mine were poor Mexican Mormon campesinos planting and harvesting tortillas under the tropical sun.  So Romney dons a manly red Datona 500 jacket and tours the Datona International Speedway in Florida, Ah, I love the smell of gasoline in the morning, it smells like . . . my wife’s two Cadillacs.  And Santorum started cranking on about his un-elite-ness and ragging on the evils of big government, declaring (without irony or a glimmer of self-awareness) that he grew up in public housing on VA grounds, raised by parents who worked for the Veterans Administration, all of which are evil government entities funded and paid for by the taxpayer.
            Then, pushing ahead into the phony class wars, Santorum accused President Obama of being a “snob” for wanting everyone to get a college education.  He further elucidated his faux outrage that Obama would diss kids who didn’t want to go to a four year college or wanted to go to trade school or study as an apprentice.  Huff-huff-huff.
            Fortunately, I watch the Daily Show and the busy little video-snippers there gleefully juxtaposed Santorum’s fake outrage with the clip of what Obama actually said, which was to encourage all kids to get at least one year of college or more or go to community college or to trade school or study as an apprentice. None of which could possibly be considered to be “snobbish,” unless you were standing four-square behind a program of keeping your kids stupid.
            Which, I’m afraid, seems to have become a right wing, conservative Republican virtue and is fast becoming a treasured American narrative: America the Dumb.  We resent Presidents who are smarter than we are or act like it.  Instead, we want Presidents we can have a beer with, Presidents who are like us – poorly educated, full of provincial resentments, xenophobic know-nothings.  That’s the ticket!
            A friend of mine who occasionally writes conservative riffs for the on-line American Spectator,( ) recently sent along a piece discussing Obama’s “otherness” problem.  And cites some of the things that apparently define that otherness to his fellow conservatives: being born in Hawaii, saying that the “Muslim summons to evening prayer [is] ‘one of the prettiest sounds on Earth,’ and being the first President “to host a ‘White House Poetry Slam,’ among other things.
            As anyone who’s followed politics, any one of those descriptives is often given a dog-whistle negative spin by the folks who can’t stand the guy.  Born in Hawaii?  That place is too exotic, too foreign.  It’s not like, well, someplace normal, like Indiana.  And the muezzin’s prayer, awwww God, what kind of weird guy would think that was anything but some foreign, anti-Christ, terrorist jihadi  thing.  Poetry Slams?  Too black.  Waaayyyy too black.  Which is “different,” which is “other,” which is BAD. In short, my friend found that Obama was “vulnerable” to attack because he was “insufficiently grounded in traditional American values.”  When I questioned what that might mean, the reply was what I call the old “America the Dumb” response: If you’re not fully grounded/schooled/raised/immersed and buy into baseball, hot dogs, Nascar, “Christianity,” and the full complement of fake American Myths, well then, you’re simply not one of us and will be vulnerable to attack as not quite American.  Which, while indeed true, is also, indeed, a sad commentary. But a perfect illustration of what Richard Hofstadter in the 1950’s described as passions held by what he identified as right-wing “pseudo-conservatives” that demonstrate an “undercurrent of provincial resentments, ‘popular’ and ‘democratic’ rebelliousness and nativism.”  To which list, I would add xenophobia, racism and know-nothingness. Such a sad, limiting brew for such a hearty, roiling, rich, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious country. Plus Hawaii. 
            But here it is again, as it always is in presidential politics, playing out before our eyes.  Dueling Dudes at Datona, varoom! Varoom! Coal miner-wannabes up to their eyeballs in fake coal dust, gobbling hot dogs, soothing nativist fears, evoking the class war cards (no one here but us dirt poor millionaire working men), decrying a Harvard education as snobbism, and biting the government-run Veterans Administration hand that fed and clothed one candidate so he could hit the campaign trail and bash the evils of government.

Meanwhile, Here Come da Judge      

            The Supreme Court, the Roberts activist court, is about to take up a case that should be interesting:  from the L.A. Times:  “Two years ago, the Supreme Court said corporations are like people [my friend] and have the same free speech rights to spend unlimited sums on campaign ads.  Now, in a major test of human rights law, the justices will decide whether corporations are like people when they’re sued for aiding foreign regimes that kill or torture their own people.
            “It would ‘create a weird paradox,’ if the corporations are people when funding campaigns but not when they violate human rights, said Peter Weiss, vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.”
            Weird paradox?  The Robert’s activist court? 
            The case to be heard involves the Royal Dutch Petroleum and its Shell subsidiary in the U.S.  It’s accused of aiding a former Nigerian regime to carry out torture, rape and murder. And the lawsuit is simply asking that company, which was fully complicit in those murderous outrages, be held accountable.  Just like a person fully complicit in murder and rape and torture, are supposed to be held accountable.
            Yes.  I can hear you laughing from here.  My bet is this:  The Robert’s court will continue a long, sacred U.S. tradition: Privitize Profits and stick the public with the liabilities and accountability.  In short, I’m betting Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alieto will rule that corporations are “people” only when it comes to accruing benefits. Liabilities are disallowed or shoved off onto governments, which will make the public pay or ignore all justice with absolute impunity. 
            After all, that’s the American Way.  Everyone knows that equal justice under the law for all only applies to some people.


Patrick O'Hannigan said...

Nice rant! Tough to call the Roberts Court "activist," though. Perhaps you've confused John Roberts with Warren Burger.

Love that screwball image of "planting and harvesting tortillas." It actually sounds like something Romney would say.

On further reflection, there's a considerable addendum to that "America the Dumb" response: Presidents don't HAVE to like NASCAR or hot dogs; it just helps if they do. But you can make a great case that President Obama seems under-familiar with the First, Second, and Tenth Amendments. The Cliffs Notes for that assertion: HHS (Sebelius), Fast and Furious (Holder), and Obamacare (Pelosi, Obama, et. al.). Torpedoing parts of the Bill of Rights makes you vulnerable to charges of "otherness."

Churadogs said...

Think Romney would find the tortillas "the right size?"