Monday, June 09, 2008


Published: June 9, 2008

Fervent supporters of Barack Obama like to say that putting him in the White House would transform America. With all due respect to the candidate, that gets it backward. Mr. Obama is an impressive speaker who has run a brilliant campaign — but if he wins in November, it will be because our country has already been transformed.

Mr. Obama’s nomination wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago. It’s possible today only because racial division, which has driven U.S. politics rightward for more than four decades, has lost much of its sting.

And the de-racialization of U.S. politics has implications that go far beyond the possibility that we’re about to elect an African-American president. Without racial division, the conservative message — which has long dominated the political scene — loses most of its effectiveness.

Take, for example, that old standby of conservatives: denouncing Big Government. Last week John McCain’s economic spokesman claimed that Barack Obama is President Bush’s true fiscal heir, because he’s “dedicated to the recent Bush tradition of spending money on everything.”

Now, the truth is that the Bush administration’s big-spending impulses have been largely limited to defense contractors. But more to the point, the McCain campaign is deluding itself if it thinks this issue will resonate with the public.

For Americans have never disliked Big Government in general. In fact, they love Social Security and Medicare, and strongly approve of Medicaid — which means that the three big programs that dominate domestic spending have overwhelming public support.

If Ronald Reagan and other politicians succeeded, for a time, in convincing voters that government spending was bad, it was by suggesting that bureaucrats were taking away workers’ hard-earned money and giving it to you-know-who: the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks, the welfare queen driving her Cadillac. Take away the racial element, and Americans like government spending just fine.

But why has racial division become so much less important in American politics?

Part of the credit surely goes to Bill Clinton, who ended welfare as we knew it. I’m not saying that the end of Aid to Families With Dependent Children was an unalloyed good thing; it created a great deal of hardship. But the “bums on welfare” played a role in political discourse vastly disproportionate to the actual expense of A.F.D.C., and welfare reform took that issue off the table.

Another large factor has been the decline in urban violence.

As the historian Rick Perlstein documents in his terrific new book “Nixonland,” America’s hard right turn really began in 1966, when the Democrats suffered a severe setback in Congress — and Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California.

The cause of that right turn, as Mr. Perlstein shows, was white fear of urban disorder — and the associated fear that fair housing laws would let dangerous blacks move into white neighborhoods. “Law and order” became the rallying cry of right-wing politicians, above all Richard Nixon, who rode that fear right into the White House.

But during the Clinton years, for reasons nobody fully understands, the wave of urban violence receded, and with it the ability of politicians to exploit Americans’ fear.

It’s true that 9/11 gave the fear factor a second wind: Karl Rove accusing liberals of being soft on terrorism sounded just like Spiro Agnew accusing liberals of being soft on crime. But the G.O.P.’s credibility as America’s defender has leaked away into the sands of Iraq.

Let me add one more hypothesis: although everyone makes fun of political correctness, I’d argue that decades of pressure on public figures and the media have helped drive both overt and strongly implied racism out of our national discourse. For example, I don’t think a politician today could get away with running the infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad.

Unfortunately, the campaign against misogyny hasn’t been equally successful.

By the way, it was during the heyday of the baby boom generation that crude racism became unacceptable. Mr. Obama, who has been dismissive of the boomers’ “psychodrama,” might want to give the generation that brought about this change, fought for civil rights and protested the Vietnam War a bit more credit.

Anyway, none of this guarantees an Obama victory in November. Racial division has lost much of its sting, but not all: you can be sure that we’ll be hearing a lot more about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and all that. Moreover, despite Hillary Clinton’s gracious, eloquent concession speech, some of her supporters may yet refuse to support the Democratic nominee.

But if Mr. Obama does win, it will symbolize the great change that has taken place in America. Racial polarization used to be a dominating force in our politics — but we’re now a different, and better, country.




micki said...


...driving cross country on restaurant grease.

micki said...

Krugman will piss off a bunch of people...but not me on this one.

DEN said...

Her at DWF we are NOT fair and balanced, quite the opposite.

Biased and oblivious, HA!

But NOT racist!

DEN said...

(Here not her)


Alan said...

Jesus endorses Obama

DEN said...

Join Patrick Leahy in eliminating cluster bombs by sending a message to your senators here.

DEN said...


Jesus plans to stump for Obama throughout the Bible Belt and other religious hotspots across America. But Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was quick to tamp down the sudden flurry of rumors about an Obama/Christ ticket.

"Of course we're thrilled to have the support of Jesus," says Plouffe. "And he would certainly make anyone's vice-presidential shortlist. But we've promised not to say anymore on the subject until we announce Barack's running mate."

LOL! Hey whats a little sacrilege now and then.

micki said...

Well, Jesus couldn't be vice president anyway. He wasn't born an American citizen.

Not only that, how can you have two Mr. Walk on Water guys on the same ticket?

No way. Wouldn't work.

micki said...

Oh...Bill just told me that Jesus didn't really walk on water. The Sea of Galilee, in Jesus' time, was possibly frozen in spots -- close to Tabgha.

So, other than the citizenship prob, I suppose Jesus could be Obama's running mater, afterall.

micki said...


not mater

DEN said...

The Crime of the Century
by Alicia Morgan | June 9, 2008

I drank up Vincent Bugliosi's new book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder like a thirsty person in the desert. Or, perhaps, like a drunken frat boy at a kegger.

I have admired Mr. Bugliosi ever since Helter Skelter. He pulls no punches and has a passion for truth and justice. I believe him when he says that if it were a Democratic president who had perpetrated these crimes, he would be writing the exact same book.

But the most important thing that I took away from this book was the reminder that the invasion of Iraq facilitated by lies is the most egregious crime that this pack of criminals has perpetrated upon the world, and not merely one of the many failures of the Bush Administration. In its magnitude it must not be compared to anything else, but stand alone in its atrocity, horror and shame. We can't lump it in with the other misdeeds such as wiretapping, tax cuts for the rich while stealing from the poor, protecting corporations while it attacks individuals, decimating a formerly robust middle class, gutting or usurping government agencies and laws that are supposed to be safeguarding the American people and putting the foxes in charge of the henhouse; although all of these are related and all of these are heinous in themselves, they pale beside the indisputable fact that our beloved country was lied into a war of choice. Not our choice, mind you; the choice of Bush and his 'advisors' the PNAC neo-conservative crowd, and the defense corporations and 'support' corporations who profit massively from it.

Chimpy will be in Paraguay soon after the election when 'executive privilege' goes away.

DEN said...

Just like the Nazis.

Saladin said...

So nominating a black guy makes us a "better" country? What a farce. A black guy can slaughter innocent people by the millions just as well as a white guy can. Just look at Mugabe. And in fact, Obama is quite the advocate of slaughtering innocents and stuffing them into plastic bags. 8 year old children fit perfectly after being blown to bits by Israeli missiles. "Sorry, she looked JUST like a terrorist! They are often seen playing in the back yard garden after school from our Apache Helicopters." Maybe that will be seen as more politically correct?

God help us. If Jesus IS watching I'm sure he'd have nothing to do with this.

David B. Benson said...

Collapse Coming Soon to a Civilization Near You!

A review of three books. Links to other of Keith Akers's essays.

David B. Benson said...

Dead Zones Grow in the Gulf of Mexico

Saladin said...

A little balance people.

In praise of CO2-It's A Boon, Not A Bane!

You should know that when a super rich elite class get on a mission to demonize anything, and employ the lying, traitorous MSM (Osama did 9/11, Iraq has WMD's etc) to do their propagandizing, there is something seriously wrong with the whole deal!

http://www. financialpost. com/story. html?id=569586

With less heat and less carbon dioxide, the planet could become less hospitable and less green

Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post Published: Saturday, June 07, 2008

Planet Earth is on a roll! GPP is way up. NPP is way up. To the surprise of those who have been bearish on the planet, the data shows global production has been steadily climbing to record levels, ones not seen since these measurements began..

GPP is Gross Primary Production, a measure of the daily output of the global biosphere -- the amount of new plant matter on land. NPP is Net Primary Production, an annual tally of the globe's production. Biomass is booming. The planet is the greenest it's been in decades, perhaps in centuries..

Until the 1980s, ecologists had no way to systematically track growth in plant matter in every corner of the Earth -- the best they could do was analyze small plots of one-tenth of a hectare or less. The notion of continuously tracking global production to discover the true state of the globe's biota was not even considered..

Then, in the 1980s, ecologists realized that satellites could track production, and enlisted NASA to collect the data. For the first time, ecologists did not need to rely on rough estimates or anecdotal evidence of the health of the ecology: They could objectively measure the land's output and soon did -- on a daily basis and down to the last kilometre..

More from FP Oil Watch

The results surprised Steven Running of the University of Montana and Ramakrishna Nemani of NASA, scientists involved in analyzing the NASA data. They found that over a period of almost two decades, the Earth as a whole became more bountiful by a whopping 6.2%. About 25% of the Earth's vegetated landmass -- almost 110 million square kilometres -- enjoyed significant increases and only 7% showed significant declines. When the satellite data zooms in, it finds that each square metre of land, on average, now produces almost 500 grams of greenery per year..

Why the increase? Their 2004 study, and other more recent ones, point to the warming of the planet and the presence of CO2, a gas indispensable to plant life. CO2 is nature's fertilizer, bathing the biota with its life-giving nutrients. Plants take the carbon from CO2 to bulk themselves up -- carbon is the building block of life -- and release the oxygen, which along with the plants, then sustain animal life. As summarized in a report last month, released along with a petition signed by 32,000 U. S. scientists who vouched for the benefits of CO2: "Higher CO2 enables plants to grow faster and larger and to live in drier climates. Plants provide food for animals, which are thereby also enhanced. The extent and diversity of plant and animal life have both increased substantially during the past half-century.."

Lush as the planet may now be, it is as nothing compared to earlier times, when levels of CO2 and Earth temperatures were far higher. In the age of the dinosaur, for example, CO2 levels may have been five to 10 times higher than today, spurring a luxuriantly fertile planet whose plant life sated the immense animals of that era. Planet Earth is also much cooler today than during the hothouse era of the dinosaur, and cooler than it was 1,000 years ago during the Medieval Warming Period, when the Vikings colonized a verdant Greenland. Greenland lost its colonies and its farmland during the Little Ice Age that followed, and only recently started to become green again..

This blossoming Earth could now be in jeopardy, for reasons both natural and man-made. According to a growing number of scientists, the period of global warming that we have experienced over the past few centuries as Earth climbed out of the Little Ice Age is about to end. The oceans, which have been releasing their vast store of carbon dioxide as the planet has warmed -- CO2 is released from oceans as they warm and dissolves in them when they cool -- will start to take the carbon dioxide back. With less heat and less carbon dioxide, the planet could become less hospitable and less green, especially in areas such as Canada's Boreal forests, which have been major beneficiaries of the increase in GPP and NPP..

Doubling the jeopardy for Earth is man. Unlike the many scientists who welcome CO2 for its benefits, many other scientists and most governments believe carbon dioxide to be a dangerous pollutant that must be removed from the atmosphere at all costs. Governments around the world are now enacting massive programs in an effort to remove as much as 80% of the carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere..

If these governments are right, they will have done us all a service. If they are wrong, the service could be all ill, with food production dropping world wide, and the countless ecological niches on which living creatures depend stressed. The second order effects could be dire, too. To bolster food production, humans will likely turn to energy intensive manufactured fertilizers, depleting our store of non-renewable resources. Techniques to remove carbon from the atmosphere also sound alarms. Carbon sequestration, a darling of many who would mitigate climate change, could become a top inducer of earthquakes, according to Christian Klose, a geohazards researcher at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Because the carbon sequestration schemes tend to be located near cities, he notes, carbon-sequestration-caused earthquakes could exact an unusually high toll..

Amazingly, although the risks of action are arguably at least as real as the risks of inaction, Canada and other countries are rushing into Earth-altering carbon schemes with nary a doubt. Environmentalists, who ordinarily would demand a full-fledged environmental assessment before a highway or a power plant can be built, are silent on the need to question proponents or examine alternatives..

Earth is on a roll. Governments are too. We will know soon enough if we're rolled off a cliff.. - Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and author of The Deniers..
I Know, he must be one of the "evil doers!"

tytandanmar said...

CO2 is good for the planet. The more the merrier.

Just a thought. Why is a conservative who does not vote for a person of color a racist but a liberal who does not support a person of color not considered racist?