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Misogyny and Racism in America: Is it Lethal for Politics?

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I am reading this week the critical chapters of American Creation by Joseph Ellis. In this very, very well written book, Ellis details the remarkable political turn-arounds of Madison and Jefferson as they inexorably created two-party politics in the new nation in response to the banker "take-over" of the Federalists led by their onetime Constitution favoring ally but now the archfiend Alexander Hamilton. Ellis reports this turn-about with delicious irony, particularly with the unmentionable (in Virginia) slavery situation hovering like Doom itself in the background, with genteel planters slowly slipping into penury, largely at their own hand and deliberate ignorance of "modern" finance. It struck me once again that the issue of racism being brought to a sharp point this month and this election year (and misogyny as well, but less well expressed ... then and now) is not some issue-come-lately problem, but woven thoroughly into the fabric of this nation. That was my personal context when I read Tuesday afternoon's Slate essay by Professor Richard Thompson Ford of Stanford University. Ford is an academic in one of the shiniest of ivory towers. If you have been to the remarkable town of Palo Alto south of San Francisco and its immediate suburb cities, you will recognize immediately that Professor Ford is by his own hand slightly detached from the hurly-burly of modern American life. I envy him the situation and believe it has contributed to the transparency of his argument. He poses stalking horse alternatives to American racial psychology as if this were pony-penning day on Chincoteague Island on Virginia's Atlantic coast ... that is to say ... freely! Here is the link. You have all the preparation you need to read this interesting and fundamentally naive essay. So, there you are. The question is "electability" posed as if partisan concerns were secondary. Partisan concerns are not secondary, and it could (perhaps should) be argued that, despite growing evidence that the coming Presidental election is the Democrat's To Lose by making awfully fundamental mistakes, the larger concern is to replace the Republicans in the federal government wherever possible, starting with the White House. The reasons for this are obvious, but a short litany begins with "appointments," "regulatory agencies," "medical care," "putting an end to Republican neocon imperialism," "ending the corporate cleptocracy," and so on. Ford says early on (and repetitively) that
... the concern that Obama can't win because he's black says a lot more about the people who voice it than it does about the electorate it purportedly describes.
This is the form of argument that describes the shooting of the messenger for bringing bad news. It attempts to brand people who believe their neighbors are toxic racists as racist themselves. It is a horrible and unworthy argument. The fact is that racism IS a major factor in American society, and it has been for three hundred to four hundred years. Ford's attempt to brand opponents of the Obama candidacy on party pragmatic grounds as "false-realists" rests on the almost equally shaky grounds that misogyny against Hillary Clinton is false. Well it isn't. There certainly are countervailing partisans, my daughter among them, but that does not mean that when America goes "behind the curtain" to vote that either racism or misogyny are not real and toxic. Ford follows with characterizations that recent polls showing Obama beating all or most Republican candidates are objectively factual. Horsefeathers! Polls are notorious and they are not factual, certainly not at this early stage of the campaigns. I have seen polls that represent John Edwards as the stronger of the three candidates. I have seen the same for Clinton. Sorry, Ford, your argument is pure baloney for which you ought to be ashamed. The second page of Ford's hopeful support of Obama wends off into hypotheses of assassination and blithering comments about institutional racism that belonged as counter arguments on page one. It does not matter. The case for Obama's candidacy should, in an ideal world rest on his achievements, his character, and his intended program. In the real world his fortunes will rest on how he deals with the ugly swiftboating that began before he announced and will continue to depths of political sleaze not yet imagined in this country. If he is nominated I surely will vote for Obama, or if she is nominated, Clinton, or if he is nominated, Edwards, whom I prefer. It is essential that we get control of the federal government into sane hands and minds. Professor Ford's diatribe against those who have good reasons to suspect an Obama candidacy has critical weaknesses does not help this goal or process one bit. JB

 

James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese History, (more...)
 

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