Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Survey with a Fringe on Top

Scherer: The Challenge of Measuring The Right-Wing Fringe

The Daily Beast reports today the results of a Harris Research poll that will be released tomorrow. Among the findings:

  • 67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist.
  • 57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim
  • 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president"
  • 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did"
  • Scariest of all, 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama "may be the Antichrist."

The poll, with a sample of 2,230 people, appears to have been conducted online, a methodology that is heavily debated in the polling industry because it may skew results. (For more on this controversy, read Mark Blumenthal, a.k.a. the Mystery Pollster, here and here.) We also don't know how the questions were asked. But at least one of these results has been roughly reproduced before. A Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll in February found that 63 percent of self-identified Republicans considered Obama a "socialist," a term that has different meetings for different people. (In some circles, any support of expanding government services, spending or responsibility is considered "socialism.")

But that same Kos poll found that 36 percent of Republicans believed Obama was not born in the United States, substantially less than the Harris figure of 45 percent. Why the disparity? Either one of the polls is wrong, or about one in ten Republicans found a reason in the last six weeks to doubt the legitimacy of Obama's birth certificate. The latter seems unlikely. Another option: People answer polls not to say what they actually believe but to register their anger. The Harris poll was done during the height of the health care debate frenzy.

The Harris responses about Obama's religion are also odd. Pew polls in 2008 and 2009 found that the portion of Republicans who thought Obama was a Muslim unchanged: 17 percent. What would explain that number more than tripling in the last year to 57 percent? I have no idea, though it makes me wary of taking the Harris poll too seriously.

Suffice it to say, I am not aware of previous polls asking whether or not Obama is either acting like Hitler or the Antichrist.

Steven D.: Race & Teabaggers: Mr. Gilroy's Right
There's a diary in Booman Tribune's recommended list I'd like you to read if you haven't already done so by Arthur Gilroy, The Teabaggers and the Truth of the Matter. I don't always agree with Arthur (does anyone AG?), and he can be quite blunt, but the truth is the truth, and he states it here better than anyone that the Tea Party is all about Racism:

I can travel 10 to 15 minutes in any direction (by any mode of transportation from walking to automobile) from my mixed-race, working class Bronx neighborhood and be right in the middle of Tea Party Central.

Hell...all I have to do is drop into one of the many remaining Irish bars...almost all cop bars and fireman bars now...along Broadway from about 180 St. right on up into Yonkers to be be surrounded by Tea Party sympathizers. Most of them armed and allowed by law to use those arms.

Or walk into any police station or firehouse.

Or hang out with any construction crew.

Or walk into almost any diner/truck stop.

Just for fucking starters!

In a 100 mile radius, there are innumerable all-white neighborhoods.

Italian neighborhoods.

Irish neighborhoods.

Polish neighborhoods.

Catholic neighborhoods.

Literally millions of people live in those neighborhoods, and the most active among them are Tea Partiers either by action or by sympathy and vote.

Let me elaborate on AG's point from my experience.

If the Tea Party movement was simply about opposition to "progressive issues" like re-regulating the Financial industry after it almost tanked the world's economy, and we wouldn't have fought over and passed a health care reform bill that, as David Frum, former Bush speechwriter noted, was essentially the Republican health care plan circa 1993.

The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Got that? Frum says Obamacare is founded upon what The Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation and the GOP proposed in opposition to what they derisively smeared as "Hilarycare" the last time a Democrat in the White House was elected to the Oval Office. He says "Obamacare" had Republican and Conservative movement fingerprints all over it, and he ought to know.

So what are we left with as an answer to the question what motivates the raw hatred and venom of the Tea Party? Sadly, I think we know the answer, and it isn't pretty. Here's only one very recent example (you know so many of them one will suffice) of what we've witnessed over the last fourteen months:

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) received racist faxes Monday in the wake of Sunday's House vote approving health care reform legislation.

Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement, told Keith Olbermann Monday that faxes sent to his office had racist images including a noose. "If you look at some of the faxes that I got today, racial slurs, nooses on gallows, and I'm telling you, some very vicious language. This stuff is not all that isolated. It's pretty widespread. I hope it's not too deep."

Representative Clyburn was being generous. The racist bigotry and bile he to which he was exposed runs very deep among many white Americans. As a child growing up in an all white suburb in the 60's and 70's, I heard lots of racial epithets from the kids with whom I played and hung out. The only Jewish family in our neighborhood were a "buncha dirty kikes." Mexican American kids I went to school with were always called spics and wetbacks behind their backs if not to their face. And African Americans? Well let's just say the N word wasn't just for rappers back then.

Of course, once I went away to college, become a white collar professional (lawyer in my cae) in the 80's and 90's and worked with African American and other minority professionals I heard fewer and fewer racial slurs. But they never completely went away. Racist jokes were still told behind closed doors among all white (usually male) lawyers and corporate clients.

Yet, most of the time it wasn't an active part of my experience. In my circle of college educated people, it was considered crude and lower class to express such sentiments. So it was easy to believe that society was changing; that race played a lesser role. easy to ignore the signs that racism was still out there as strong as ever. Until my children were born, my half Japanese/half Northern European heritage children.

It started when we traveled in the South Carolina to Myrtle Beach to play golf and were met with hostile stares and antagonism from local whites anytime we strayed off the beaten tourist path. (I'll forego the details in the interest of some brevity). The open disdain in the eyes of many lower and middle class white people we met was palpable. And my wife and kids were the members of "safe minority" -- Asian Americans. But I told myself, well, this is South Carolina after all, the first state to secede from the nation. Not a representative sample.

What was less easy to accept, however, were the racial slurs that one of my son's soccer coaches directed at him and another Chinese American boy back in Western New York when he was eight or nine. We confronted the coach and he apologized, but it was half-hearted and disingenuous walk back of his use of racial slurs to describe my son. One of those "I'm sorry if I offended you" mea culpas you hear all the time. In his view, what he'd called my son was actually a "compliment" because he had been praising the athletic ability of kids who were stereotyped as "smart" (i.e, nerds who were supposed to be better in the classroom than on the athletic field). It was a lame excuse, but I let it pass.

But then came my great eyeopener. In 2000 John McCain ran for President, and believe or not I was attracted to his candidacy, especially his pledge for campaign reform. I naively believed he was different. Until he used the racial slur "gooks" and refused to apologize for it. I couldn't believe this "man of conscience" would do such a thing. I tried to start a campaign on internet political forums to get people to email him asking politely that he retract his comments because regardless of his intentions, they were a racist slur which applied to my wife and children. I was surprised by the lack of empathy I met by most people in those online forums, but even more surprised by the bile and hate that was directed at me for daring to express my opinion, for daring to demand that McCain do the right thing and admit he had been wrong by using a racist epithet. I was called a cry baby and a whiny-assed pinko and far, far worse.

People told me I had no right to criticize a war hero who had been tortured by the North Vietnamese. And this at a time when I was still professing to be a McCain supporter. All I wanted was a polite acceptance that his use of a word that slurs all Asian Americans was wrong. What McCain essentially did instead was tell anyone who complained about his comment to go "F" themselves. he wasn't sorry in the least.

What was even more galling was the lack of coverage by the mainstream media covering McCain's campaign. They basically ignored the story, giving McCain a pass on his (let's be generous) egregious remarks. It got very little press coverage (compared to say the Trent Lott episode a few years later). Aside from a few op-eds in cities with large Asian populations, all those white reporters on his bus let it slide. They would have killed him for using the N word, so why not the same treatment for the G word?

So I wrote a 750 word essay for my local paper that inexplicably was accepted for publication. I was polite. I stated my admiration for Senator McCain and his status as a "war hero" and stated I understood his great anger at his captors. But then i tried to explain that regardless, his choice of language, his use of a racial slur like gooks, was wrong. That it hurt my family, my children and millions of other good Americans. I pointed out how the units pf Japanese-American soldiers in WWII suffered the greatest casualties and received the most citations for valor per capita of any other unit during that war, and the using racial slurs in 2000 dishonored them and their memory. And I asked him politely (as well as all the other candidates including Bush and Gore) to refrain from using racial remarks in their campaigns.

My response was a bunch of hate mail ( I was named in the op-ed piece I wrote) and numerous harassing, threatening, hate filled angry phone calls. One guy in particular kept calling implying he he was going to cause me physical harm. His calls stopped only after I told him I was going to report him to the police. I expected some of that, but I also expected letters and calls supporting my reasonable and politic response to McCain. I received none. Nadfa. Zip. Well that was my wake-up call. I learned over the next few years of the Bush era just how enabled many people felt by Bush's victory to spew hatred toward minorities (principally Muslims, African Americans and Latinos). And when Obama won, I even heard remarks from family members that shocked me about how Obama only intended to help blacks and that he was out to get revenge on white people. Where did this come from? It certainly had no basis in reality.

Where did it come from? From conservative emails filled with lies and libels, Republican astroturf organizations (such as Freedom Works, Fox news and radio talk show hosts such as Limbaugh and Beck and Hannity, et al, and from opportunistic GOP politicians like Sarah Palin and Michelle Buchanan who played the white race card like there was no tomorrow, both during the 2008 campaign and in the years since then. FOR God's sake, Joe the Plumber, a complete ass and an idiot became a national symbol of white working class pride for standing up to Obama who treated him with far more dignity and respect than he deserved.

So, yes, America, The Tea Party is filled with racists. Millions of them. And they aren't going away. How large a group they represent I don't know. But it's too large, much too large. I know that much.

Bob Herbert (NYT): An Absence of Class

Some of the images from the run-up to Sunday’s landmark health care vote in the House of Representatives should be seared into the nation’s consciousness. We are so far, in so many ways, from being a class act.

A group of lowlifes at a Tea Party rally in Columbus, Ohio, last week taunted and humiliated a man who was sitting on the ground with a sign that said he had Parkinson’s disease. The disgusting behavior was captured on a widely circulated videotape. One of the Tea Party protesters leaned over the man and sneered: “If you’re looking for a handout, you’re in the wrong end of town.”

Another threw money at the man, first one bill and then another, and said contemptuously, “I’ll pay for this guy. Here you go. Start a pot.”

In Washington on Saturday, opponents of the health care legislation spit on a black congressman and shouted racial slurs at two others, including John Lewis, one of the great heroes of the civil rights movement. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was taunted because he is gay.

At some point, we have to decide as a country that we just can’t have this: We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress — epithets that The Times will not allow me to repeat here.

It is 2010, which means it is way past time for decent Americans to rise up against this kind of garbage, to fight it aggressively wherever it appears. And it is time for every American of good will to hold the Republican Party accountable for its role in tolerating, shielding and encouraging foul, mean-spirited and bigoted behavior in its ranks and among its strongest supporters.

For decades the G.O.P. has been the party of fear, ignorance and divisiveness. All you have to do is look around to see what it has done to the country. The greatest economic inequality since the Gilded Age was followed by a near-total collapse of the overall economy. As a country, we have a monumental mess on our hands and still the Republicans have nothing to offer in the way of a remedy except more tax cuts for the rich.

This is the party of trickle down and weapons of mass destruction, the party of birthers and death-panel lunatics. This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry.

Glenn Beck of Fox News has called President Obama a “racist” and asserted that he “has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

Mike Huckabee, a former Republican presidential candidate, has said of Mr. Obama’s economic policies: “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff.”

The G.O.P. poisons the political atmosphere and then has the gall to complain about an absence of bipartisanship.

The toxic clouds that are the inevitable result of the fear and the bitter conflicts so relentlessly stoked by the Republican Party — think blacks against whites, gays versus straights, and a whole range of folks against immigrants — tend to obscure the tremendous damage that the party’s policies have inflicted on the country. If people are arguing over immigrants or abortion or whether gays should be allowed to marry, they’re not calling the G.O.P. to account for (to take just one example) the horribly destructive policy of cutting taxes while the nation was fighting two wars.

If you’re all fired up about Republican-inspired tales of Democrats planning to send grandma to some death chamber, you’ll never get to the G.O.P.’s war against the right of ordinary workers to organize and negotiate in their own best interests — a war that has diminished living standards for working people for decades.

With a freer hand, the Republicans would have done more damage. George W. Bush tried to undermine Social Security. John McCain was willing to put Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the Oval Office and thought Phil Gramm would have made a crackerjack Treasury secretary. (For those who may not remember, Mr. Gramm was a deregulation zealot who told us during the presidential campaign that we were suffering from a “mental recession.”)

A party that promotes ignorance (“Just say no to global warming”) and provides a safe house for bigotry cannot serve the best interests of our country. Back in the 1960s, John Lewis risked his life and endured savage beatings to secure fundamental rights for black Americans while right-wing Republicans like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan were lining up with segregationist Democrats to oppose landmark civil rights legislation.

Since then, the right-wingers have taken over the G.O.P. and Mr. Lewis, now a congressman, must still endure the garbage they have wrought.

Madrak (C&L): After HCR Passed, Militia Leader Said: 'Break Democratic Party Windows'. So They Did.

Brick, Liberty Tool, Model Mark One dash A. - from right-wing website.

As Dave Neiwert's been pointing out for a while, right-wing extremist fury is only growing now that we have a black Democrat in the White House. Now that the health-care bill has actually passed, and the right wing has bought the hysteria that this is an "assault on liberty," expect this - and worse:

Authorities in Wichita and some other cities across the country are investigating vandalism against Democratic offices, apparently in response to health care reform.

And on Monday, a former Alabama militia leader took credit for instigating the actions.

Mike Vanderboegh, of Pinson, Ala., former head of the Alabama Constitutional Militia, put out a call on Friday for modern "Sons of Liberty" to break the windows of Democratic Party offices nationwide in opposition to health care reform. Since then, vandals have struck several offices, including the Sedgwick County Democratic Party headquarters in Wichita.

"There's glass everywhere," said Lyndsay Stauble, executive director of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party. "A brick took out the whole floor-to-ceiling window and put a gouge in my desk."

Stauble said the brick, hurled through the window between Friday night and Saturday morning, had "some anti-Obama rhetoric" written on it.

Vandals also smashed the front door and a window at Rep. Gabrielle
Giffords' office in Tucson early Monday, hours after the Arizona Democrat voted for the health care reform package.

Over the weekend, a brick shattered glass doors at the Monroe County Democratic Committee headquarters in Rochester, N.Y. Attached to the brick was a note that said, "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice" — a quote from Barry Goldwater's 1964 acceptance speech as the Republican presidential candidate.

And on Friday, a brick broke a window at Rep. Louise Slaughter's district office in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Slaughter, a Democrat, was a vocal supporter of the health care reform bill passed by the House on Sunday.

Tyler Longpine, spokesman for the Kansas Democratic Party, called the incidents troubling.

"It's kind of an alarming context," he said. "We haven't had any trouble here, but we're fortunate enough to be on the seventh floor of an office building in Topeka." However, he added, "Most of our county offices are storefronts, which are a little bit more vulnerable to that kind of intimidation."

Vanderboegh posted the call for action Friday on his blog, "Sipsey Street Irregulars." Referring to the health care reform bill as "Nancy Pelosi's Intolerable Act," he told followers to send a message to Democrats.

"We can break their windows," he said. "Break them NOW. And if we do a proper job, if we break the windows of hundreds, thousands, of Democrat party headquarters across this country, we might just wake up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary."

1 comment:


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