Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Orbanization of the Republican Party

I was glad to see that Zack Beauchamp made the same connection between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Hungarian President Viktor Orban that I made a few days ago. This is a story that should be front and center in our political discussion today. 

DeSantis, who has built a profile as a pugilistic culture warrior with eyes on the presidency, has steadily put together a policy agenda with strong echoes of Orbán’s governing ethos — one in which an allegedly existential cultural threat from the left justifies aggressive uses of state power against the right’s enemies.

Most recently, there was DeSantis’s crackdown on Disney’s special tax exemption; using regulatory powers to punish opposing political speech is one of Orbán’s signature moves. On issues ranging from higher education to social media to gerrymandering, DeSantis has followed a trail blazed by Orbán, turning policy into a tool for targeting outgroups while entrenching his party’s hold on power...
Orbán’s political model has frequently employed a demagogic two-step: Stand up a feared or marginalized group as an enemy then use the supposed need to combat this group’s influence to justify punitive policies that also happen to expand his regime’s power.

Beauchamp does a good job of making a direct connection between the moves by DeSantis on LGBTQ issues, higher education, social media, and gerrymandering to policies implemented by Orban in Hungary. But he left out Orban's "procreation, not immigration" policies." 

Hungary’s “procreation, not immigration” policies have their roots in “replacement theory.” This doctrine holds that white women are not producing enough babies and Christian, western civilizations will be “replaced” through the twin forces of falling birth rates and increasing immigration. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, for example, has argued that “there are political forces in Europe who want a replacement of population” and has vowed to fight those who want “an exchange of populations, to replace the population of Europeans with others.”

In case you're wondering where that one is headed in this country, take a look at this Ohio state legislator talk about the "opportunity" presented by forcing a woman to give birth when the pregnancy is a result of rape. 

While Beauchamp does suggest that this "Orbanization" of American politics isn't limited to DeSantis, he doesn't really address the depth of the way it has been embraced on the right. However, almost a year ago Ben Rhodes outlined the steps Orban took in Hungary to consolidate his power. A lot of this is going to sound very familiar.

In his first term, [Orban] systematically worked to remold Hungary’s democratic institutions. Parliamentary districts were redrawn to benefit Fidesz [Orban's party]. Ethnic Hungarians outside the country were given the right to vote. The courts were methodically packed with right-wing judges. Fidesz’s cronies were enriched and, in turn, members of the business elite funded Orbán’s politics. The government constructed a massive propaganda machine, as independent media were bullied and bought out and right-wing media were transformed into quasi state-media. Whereas Fidesz once had a foreign policy formed in opposition to Russian dominance, Orbán embraced Vladimir Putin and courted Russian investment and the corruption that went along with it...

[T]o justify his efforts, Orbán has skillfully and relentlessly deployed a right-wing populism focused on the failings of liberal democracy and the allure of an older national story: Christian identity, national sovereignty, distrust of international institutions, opposition to immigration, and contempt for politically correct liberal elites. Smash the status quo. Make the masses feel powerful by responding to their grievances...

After his first reelection, Orbán’s focus on the persecution of his enemies intensified. Political opponents, civil society, and independent media have learned to live with various forms of harassment, including ceaseless disinformation and legal threats. Hungary completed a fence to keep migrants out. Conspiracy theories about Soros evolved into a campaign used to justify everything, including onerous restrictions on civil society and sham investigations. Corruption mushroomed and became a backdrop of Hungary’s government spending. Hungary’s historical sins—including complicity in the Holocaust—were whitewashed, as prominent statues and revised curricula rooted Hungary’s future in right-wing aspects of its past.
The structural changes to Hungary’s democracy enabled this: Orbán was elected to a third term in 2018 with less than half the popular vote, yet he presides over all of Hungary’s levers of power like a colossus.

While DeSantis might want to quietly implement Orbanism in Florida as a stepping stone to the White House, National Conservatives are openly touting it as a way to ramp up the so-called "culture wars." Nine months ago Tucker Carlson traveled to Hungary and paid homage to Orban. In less than a month CPAC - America’s most prominent conservative gathering - will hold a conference in Budapest with Orban as the keynote speaker. In other words, the Orbanization of the right is not a secret. It is precisely where the Republican Party in this country is headed. The threat could not be more clear.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

For Those Who Are Tired, Frustrated, and Discouraged

Molly Jong-Fast has done us all a favor by identifying what made the speech by Michigan State Senator Mallory McMarrow so powerful. Unfortunately the title - "Democrats Need to Stand Up for Themselves" - didn't do her piece justice because her analysis went much deeper than it implies.

McMorrow proved that rebuttal can be done effectively—and she succeeded because her rebuke rested on a personal narrative.
Here's the advice Jong-Fast got from McMarrow:
Whatever your personal story is, tell it. Don’t lead with a long policy paper. People vote for people that they trust, and you have to build that trust first, and you don’t do that with a policy paper. You do that with a story about who you are and who they are and what you have in common.

I'm going to drop the speech in here so that you can listen to it again to see how McMorrow did that. 

In writing this piece, Jong-Fast took her own advice and told the story about why McMorrow's words resonated with her personally.
I learned it myself in 1997, in the Lily unit of Hazelden Rehab, in Center City, Minnesota. I was a 19-year-old drug addict trying to kick cocaine and alcohol and everything else. I showed up at Hazelden wearing heavy, dark eye makeup, my bag filled with controlled substances, convinced that no one had ever felt the way I felt. The next four weeks in Minnesota taught me the power of narrative, because the stories I heard from the other people there saved my life. Again and again, people told me their stories, and again and again, I related to their loss, their hardship, their loneliness...It was these stories that convinced me that I could get sober too. And I did. I’m not sure I could have without the power of the first-person narrative.

The first time I remember thinking about the power of stories was back in the 1970's when I read a couple of novels by the Catholic priest, Andrew Greeley. I was just beginning to think through some of the questions I had about religion and the stories he told resonated with me at an incredibly deep, powerful level. When criticized for his writing, Greeley responded by saying that there is a reason why, in the New Testament Gospels, Jesus rarely engaged in discussions about theology with the Pharisees. Instead, he told them parables. 

In 2008, when I became fascinated by Barack Obama's presidential campaign, I began reading about Marshall Ganz, who had been hired to develop "Camp Obama." Ganz, who teaches community organizing at Harvard, learned his craft by being involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi and then with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers in California. He writes and lectures on the topic of why stories matter.


To summarize, I'm going to start where Ganz ends.
Paul Tillich taught us that the work of justice requires power, and for power to become justice requires love. All three are intimately related. We cannot turn our love into justice without engaging power. Justice is not achieved without struggle. It’s not achieved without mobilizing power. Organizing is about mobilizing power.
In a world of inertia and cynicism, how do we mobilize power in the fight for justice? 
The difference in how individuals respond to urgency or anxiety (detected by the brain’s surveillance system) depends on the brain’s dispositional system, the second system in the brain, which runs from enthusiasm to depression, from hope to despair. When anxiety hits and you’re down in despair, then fear hits. You withdraw or strike out, neither of which helps to deal with the problem. But if you’re up in hope or enthusiasm, you’re more likely to ask questions and learn what you need to learn to deal with the unexpected.

But you can't just go around telling people to be hopeful. We do that by telling stories. 

A story communicates fear, hope, and anxiety, and because we can feel it, we get the moral not just as a concept, but as a teaching of our hearts.
Interestingly enough, Ganz says that storytelling is natural for all of us, but we go to school to learn how to NOT tell stories. So sometimes we have to get back to the basics of how we've been motivating each other for centuries. He also says that when we start conversations by talking about issues, that is what divides us. Our stories are what unite us and lay the groundwork for discussions about issues. 

It was Ganz who first explained to me why the speech Barack Obama gave at the 2004 Democratic Convention resonated so profoundly with the people of this country. As another example, I'd point to an exchange between Joe Biden and Rev. Anthony Thompson that took place at a town hall in Charleston, South Carolina right before the 2020 primary in that state. Conventional wisdom is that Biden's overwhelming victory two days later can be attributed to an endorsement from Rep. Jim Clyburn. I would suggest that this response played a major role.


Senator McMorrow is part of a long tradition of people who have used their own personal story as a way to mobilize power in the fight for justice. She's still at it.

Personally, I'd like to thank her for reminding me of the power of story and for sending out a dose of hope to those of us who've been feeling tired, frustrated, and discouraged. If you need a little more, here's a story that might be just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

National Conservatives Are Openly Embracing Fascism to Fight the Culture Wars

I didn't initially write about Governor DeSantis signing the bill to punish Disney World because I wasn't sure exactly what was going on. What confused me went beyond the headlines to items like this tucked away at the end of articles about the legislation.

“Nothing is going to happen,” said Jason Pizzo, a Democrat who represents the state’s 38th Senate district, during the special session Wednesday. “Everyone in this room knows this is not going to happen."

The revocation of Disney's special district doesn't go into effect until next summer and obviously there are those who know the details and are suggesting that this is nothing more than another performative stunt being pulled by a Republican governor. In other words, DeSantis gets to brag about being a true fighter in the culture wars, but the receipts never come due.

But then I started reading about those on the right who are referring to themselves as "national conservatives" (NatCons). In writing a taxonomy of that group, Matthew Continetti describes them as "post-liberals."

The post-liberals say that freedom has become a destructive end-in-itself. Economic freedom has brought about a global system of trade and finance that has outsourced jobs, shifted resources to the metropolitan coasts, and obscured its self-seeking under the veneer of social justice. Personal freedom has ended up in the mainstreaming of pornography, alcohol, drug, and gambling addiction, abortion, single-parent families, and the repression of orthodox religious practice and conscience...

The post-liberals say that the distinction between state and society is illusory. They argue that, even as conservatives defended the independence of civil society from state power, the left took over Hollywood, the academy, the media, and the courts. What the post-liberals seem to call for is the use of government to recapture society from the left.

For all the talk of "freedom" on the right, these folks don't think that's a good thing. Continetti wrote that the elected official who best captures this thinking is Sen. Josh Hawley, pointing to a commencement speech he gave at Kings College in 2019.

For decades now our politics and culture have been dominated by a particular philosophy of freedom. It is a philosophy of liberation from family and tradition; of escape from God and community; a philosophy of self-creation and unrestricted, unfettered free choice.
Hawley actually made the twisted argument that being free to define one's self leads to hierarchy and elitism...I kid you not!

According to these folks, it is imperative that the government be used to "recapture society from the left" in order to address all of the ills brought about by both economic and personal freedom. 

About the time Hawley gave that speech there was a dust-up between Never Trumper David French and NatCon Sohrab Ahmari that was all about shaping the post-Trump conservative movement and the GOP. The position of Ahmari and his cohorts is that conservatives like French have been too "civil" in the culture war

Yes, the old conservative consensus paid lip service to traditional values. But it failed to retard, much less reverse, the eclipse of permanent truths, family stability, communal solidarity, and much else. It surrendered to the pornographization of daily life, to the culture of death, to the cult of competitiveness. It too often bowed to a poisonous and censorious multiculturalism.

Ahmari's alternative is "to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good."

James Pogue recently published a piece about attending the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando last fall (which is where Hawley gave his speech on the threat to masculinity). In it, he describes some of the leaders of this movement. The billionaire funder is Peter Thiel, who once wrote that he no longer believes that "freedom and democracy are compatible." The so-called "intellectuals" are people like Curtis Yarvin, and, or course, Ahmari. Here's part of how Pogue described the "thinking" of Yarvin:

[T]he way conservatives can actually win in America, he has argued, is for a Caesar-like figure to take power back from this devolved oligarchy and replace it with a monarchical regime run like a start-up. As early as 2012, he proposed the acronym RAGE—Retire All Government Employees—as a shorthand for a first step in the overthrow of the American “regime.” What we needed, Yarvin thought, was a “national CEO, [or] what’s called a dictator.” Yarvin now shies away from the word dictator and seems to be trying to promote a friendlier face of authoritarianism as the solution to our political warfare: “If you’re going to have a monarchy, it has to be a monarchy of everyone,” he said.

Thiel is currently bankrolling the senate candidacies of his former COO Blake Masters in Arizona and J.D. Vance in Ohio. Because Vance wanted to talk off the record, Pogue retrieved this from a podcast interview Vance had done with Jack Murphy, the head of the Liminal Order men’s group.

“I tend to think that we should seize the institutions of the left,” he said. “And turn them against the left. We need like a de-Baathification program, a de-woke-ification program.”...

“And when the courts stop you,” he went on, “stand before the country, and say—” he quoted Andrew Jackson, giving a challenge to the entire constitutional order—“the chief justice has made his ruling. Now let him enforce it.”

As an example of what Vance is referring to, he once talked with Tucker Carlson about seizing the assets of charitable groups like the Ford Foundation. Of course, doing that to institutions simply because they are on the other side of the culture wars would be, at minimum, unconstitutional, and perhaps even a crime. So ominously, Vance suggested that he would simply ignore the courts.

All of this shines a whole new light on what DeSantis is doing to Disney World. He seems to have lined up with the National Conservatives. It's also in line with what 18 Republican House members did to threaten Twitter's board when they initially balked at accepting Elon Musk's offer to buy the company. 

Charles Sykes is absolutely right that none of this has anything to do with populism. But it also isn't simply about grievance. It is about turning what we've come to casually refer to as "culture wars" into an actually war for power. Jonathan Chait got this one right.

This is one way rulers like Orban and Putin hold power. It is a method that, until quite recently, would have been considered unthinkable in the United States. That bright line has been obliterated.

While the National Conservatives have quieted down their admiration for Putin since he began his genocidal campaign in Ukraine, they're openly touting their admiration for Viktor Orban. Here's Rod Dreher, one of the leading voices of NatCons.

The call now among some Republican commentators for the state to take action against Disney, to revoke its special privileges on copyright to retaliate for its indoctrination of American children, is a pure Orban move. We need to see more of it. Republicans have been so prostrate before Big Business that they have sat there like idiots while Woke Capitalism organizes to turn conservative values of faith and the traditional family into pariahs among the young. Either we on the Right will learn from Viktor Orban how to use politics to fight this, or we will be defeated.

As I've mentioned before, I don't tend to be an alarmist. But in my 60+ years on this planet I never would have envisioned that we'd be hearing fascist talk like this coming from politicians and political commentators in the United States of America. It is terrifying. If you're not seeing the makings of Gilead from The Handmaid's Tale, then you're not paying attention. 

It is beyond time for all of us to take stock of what is happening in our country. We must stand up, speak out, and vote like our lives depended on it...because they do! 

Friday, April 22, 2022

The Radical Right Understands That Children Must Be Carefully Taught

It's a bit ironic that, during his speech at the 2021 CPAC Conference, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis touted the "business friendly" environment in his state and railed against "cancel culture." Since then, he's passed the "don't say gay" bill, punished DisneyWorld - the biggest employer in the state - for having LGBTQ-friendly policies, and banned math textbooks from Florida schools. The word hypocrisy is totally inadequate at a moment like this. 

But I'd like to further explore that last one about math textbooks. After mentioning something called Social Emotional Learning, here's what DeSantis said in defense of his actions.

You know, math is about getting the right answer and we want kids to learn to think so they get the right answer. It’s not about how you feel about the problem or to introduce some of these other things.

Reporters at Popular Information and the New York Times were able to identify and review some of the banned textbooks and both came to the same conclusion. None of them contain critical race theory (they hardly even mention race), but most of them incorporated Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into their math lessons. 

The attacks on public schools we've been hearing about have to do with CRT and gender/sexual orientation issues, but for the radical right, SEL has become a major target. It is described as "a trojan horse for indoctrination" and a "vehicle for anti-white racism." Of course, Christopher Rufo has been all over this one.

In a March interview conducted over email, Mr. Rufo stated that while social-emotional learning sounds “positive and uncontroversial” in theory, “in practice, SEL serves as a delivery mechanism for radical pedagogies such as critical race theory and gender deconstructionism.”

“The intention of SEL,” he continued, “is to soften children at an emotional level, reinterpret their normative behavior as an expression of ‘repression,’ ‘whiteness,’ or ‘internalized racism,’ and then rewire their behavior according to the dictates of left-wing ideology.”

So what is SEL? Here is how CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) defines it:

SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

They define five core skills students should develop: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness and relationship building. CASEL also points out that "more than 20 states have adopted K-12 SEL competencies and all 50 have adopted pre-K SEL competencies," which makes sense because research shows that it increases students’ academic performance by 11 percentile points.

With all of that in mind, go back and look at what DeSantis said about math simply being about "getting the right answer." Then take a look at an article by President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Education, Bill Bennett, titled "In Education, Character as Important as Skills." As Bennett points out, character education was fully embraced by this country's founders. Interest in the topic eventually diminished. But it was the Reagan administration that revived the focus and it eventually became a bipartisan movement.

President Reagan began the fiscal race to support character education when he noted the immediate need for character education in schools. President Clinton then acted with urgency when he tripled funding for character education. More recently, President George W. Bush also asked Congress to triple dollars allocated toward character education.

As the idea of character education evolved, one of its offshoots became social emotional learning. An organization that straddled that evolution is actually named the "Center for the 4th and 5th Rs," which promotes the addition of responsibility and respect to "reading, writing, and arithmetic." One has to wonder what they think about the pronouncement by DeSantis that math is simply about getting the right answer.

So why would the radical right abandon Republican hero Ronald Reagan and make enemies of the people who want to teach children about things like self-awareness, social awareness and relationship building? The answer is clear. Any movement based on hate and fear understands that children have to be carefully taught.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Are the Majority of Americans Decent Human Beings? I Sure Hope So!

Among the most hateful crap coming from right wingers these days is the accusation that anyone standing up for LGBTQ rights is a "groomer" who supports pedophelia. That is what happened to Michigan State Senator Mallory McMorrow on Easter - of all days. So on Monday, she took to the senate floor and gave a speech that rocked the political world.

McMorrow said that when she first saw the attack, she sat on it and wondered "why me?" 

Then I realized...

I’m the biggest threat to your hollow, hateful scheme. Because you can’t claim that you’re targeting marginalized kids in the name of “parental rights” if another parent is standing up and saying no.

She ended by saying that "Hate wins when people like me stand by and let it happen...We will not let hate win."

It is clear that I'm not the only one who shed a few tears when I listened to her speech and felt a release from the burden of hate that has rested on all of our shoulders recently. That video has now been viewed millions of times and, apparently, small donations are pouring into McMorrow's campaign coffers. In other words, she touched a nerve. 

It reminded me of the exchange that put Beto O'Rourke on the map during his 2018 senate campaign against Ted Cruz.  


McMorrow and O'Rourke demonstrated what it means to be an ally when people are being targeted for persecution. I am reminded of what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said about the alternative...silence.

These days everyone has an opinion about what Democrats need to do to avoid a "shellacking" in the midterm elections. The advice spans the gamut of sticking to so-called "kitchen table issues," promoting a pet policy issue (monopolies, student loan forgiveness, etc.), moving towards the center, or firing up the progressive base. In other words, the advice is all over the map. But one thing it all has in common is that it is silent about the hate that is being inflamed by right wingers. 

When Senator McMorrow appeared on MSNBC with Jonathan Capehart, she said that she was feeling "exhausted and tired" from this kind of hate - something that many of us can relate to. But instead of retreating or ignoring it - she took in on directly. In doing so, she energized millions of us!

Today John Pavlovitz pointed us back to a piece he wrote in 2019 titled, "I’m Not The Radical Left, I’m The Humane Middle." In it he noted that he is now considered part of the "radical left" by right wingers for believing in things like women should have full autonomy over their bodies, that people shouldn’t be forced to abide by anyone else’s religion, and that people and places are made better by diversity.

Pavlovitz goes on to question how those ideas became radical when he was taught that "they were just part of being a decent human being." But here's where he agrees with McMorrow:

I don’t think I’m alone.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that most people reside here in this place alongside me: the desire for compassion and diversity and equality and justice; that these things aren’t fringe ideologies or extremist positions—but simply the best way to be human.

Oh, how I hope to god that he and McMorrow are right. If the majority of people don't agree with them, we are doomed as a democracy and as a decent country...and nothing else matters! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The Right Wing's "Crisis of Masculinity" Is Part of the War on Women

I recently wrote about how the dystopian future in Margaret Attwood's book, "The Handmaid's Tale" is becoming more real every day. To explain, I noted not only the legislation in many red states to essentially ban abortions, but the way Republicans have signaled that birth control is next on the list. Even more ominous are the whispers we're beginning to hear on the right about the need for women to have more babies and the attacks on those who remain childless.

But to get a full picture of what's going on, we have to include what right wingers are saying about men these days. In case you haven't heard, they want us to believe that we are experiencing a "crisis of masculinity." 

In a speech at the National Conservatism Conference last November, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) accused the political left of seeking to redefine traditional masculinity as toxic, and called for a "revival of strong and healthy manhood in America." Rep. Madison Cawthorn took it a step further.

The guru behind this movement is, of course, Jordan Peterson.

Jordan Peterson fills huge lecture halls and tells his audiences there’s no shame in looking backward to a model of how the world should be arranged. Look back to the 1950s, he says — and back even further. He tells his audiences that they are smart. He is bringing them knowledge, yes, but it is knowledge that they already know and feel in their bones. He casts this as ancient wisdom, delivered through religious allegories and fairy tales which contain truth, he says, that modern society has forgotten.

Most of his ideas stem from a gnawing anxiety around gender. “The masculine spirit is under assault,” he told me. “It’s obvious.”

In Mr. Peterson’s world, order is masculine. Chaos is feminine. And if an overdose of femininity is our new poison, Mr. Peterson knows the cure. Hence his new book’s subtitle: “An Antidote to Chaos.”

But given the fact that many of these right wing movements begin with Tucker Carlson, it is important to note that his more recent foray into producing "documentaries" is titled, "The End of Men." It was easy to laugh at the homoerotic nature of the visuals in the trailer Carlson put out. But the message wasn't even subtle. A narrator says, “once a society collapses, then, you’re in hard times. Well, hard iron sharpens iron, as they say. And those times inevitably produce men who are tough, men who are resourceful, men who are strong enough to survive. And they they go on to reestablish order, and so the cycle begins again.”

Carlson claims that his focus is on declining levels of testosterone in men. But as Nikki McCann Ramírez told Aaron Ruper, that last line from the narrator is the real message.

Tucker is focusing on this because, for a long time, he and right-wing media as a whole have been priming the men of their audience to view themselves as enforcers of the culture wars. These viewers aren't going to rush out to the nearest testicle tanning salon and have their balls baked. They're going to have an impression that there's a crisis in the world around them and that they are the ones who need to restore order.

This isn't a new subject for Carlson. Back in 2018 he did a whole series titled "Men in America," which covered a lot of the ground now being pushed by right wingers like Hawley. 

What lurks in the shadows of much of this rhetoric is the fear that men are being "feminized" - because masculinity is strong and femininity is weak. Hence, it is men who are strong and will go on to reestablish "order" from the "chaos" created by women.

Carlson let that cat out of the bag last December while talking to Nigel Farage about Boris Johnson's flip-flopping and blamed it on the British Prime Minister's bout with COVID. Carlson said "But the virus itself, this is true, does tend to take away the life force in some people I notice. I mean it does feminize people." 

For now, let's ignore the ridiculous statement from Carlson about the effects of COVID to zero in on his claim that Johnson's flip-flops represent a "feminized" chaos. But the real gut puncher is that he equated the loss of "the life force" with being feminized. In other words, "the life force" is inherently masculine.

In case you doubt that this message is getting through to the MAGA base, the topic came up in during a discussion the New York Times had with eight conservative men.

This country has become more feminized. It’s not the way it was when I was growing up. We started off talking about how the country has a weak image. They don’t call women the weaker sex for no reason. Men are necessary to maintain a vibrant society. And we’ve been feminized.

I'll be the first one to agree that the statistics demonstrating that some men in this country are in crisis confirm that it is a serious problem. But all the data points to a completely different cause and set of solutions. 

In other words, patriarchy isn't just bad for women, it hurts men too. Just as women begin to free themselves from the kind of bondage patriarch imposes, men will have to do the same. Far be it from me to womansplain what it means to be a man, but I can't help thinking of Dustin Hoffman's line in the final scene of Tootsie: "I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man." That wasn't just a line in a movie, it is clear that playing a woman had a dramatic effect on Hoffman in real life. That is what empathy and having an open mind will do for all of us.

Men like Hawley, Cawthorn, Peterson, and Carlson want to reawaken patriarchy as a means of validating themselves and putting women back in their place. When Carlson calls on men to "man up" and restore order, he's  asking them to engage in an actual war on women - through force if necessary. You can refer to "The Handmaid's Tale" to see how that one turns out.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

The Dystopian Future of "The Handmaid's Tale" Is Becoming More Real Every Day

I read Margaret Atwood's book, "The Handmaid's Tale" years ago but, given our current politics, haven't been able to bring myself to watch the Hulu series. Things are depressing enough without adding that to the mix. Lately I've been re-thinking that decision because there are a lot of things pointing to the possibility that the dystopian future Atwood pointed to is becoming more real every day. 

It's not just that we could be about two months away from the Supreme Court gutting or overruling Roe v Wade. We're seeing one red state after another signal that outcome by passing increasingly harsh restrictions on women's reproductive freedom, with Oklahoma outright banning abortion - even in cases of rape and incest.

In addition, right wingers are beginning to openly state that their intent is to go further. Of course, that started a few years ago with the Hobby Lobby case and the application of "religious freedom" to pharmacists who refused to fill prescriptions for birth control. 

But during the confirmation hearings for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Senator Marsha Blackburn signaled the next step when she referred to the decision in Griswold v. Connecticut - which legalized the right to birth control for married couples - as "constitutionally unsound." In other words, once they've taken away access to abortion, the goal is to go after birth control.

What is even more disturbing is that all of that is happening against the backdrop of a push to get women to have more babies and vilify those who chose to remain childless. Former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan was one of the first Republicans to make the case back in 2017. 

In 2020, conservative columnist Ross Douthat wrote an extensive piece titled, "The Case for One More Child: Why Large Families Will Save Humanity." After the release of 2020 census data, the editorial board of the Washington Post joined the chorus.

The [census] bureau found in late December that the nation’s population grew only 0.1 percent over the year ending on July 1, 2021, the slowest rate since its founding...

National policy should promote vigorous population expansion. A more welcoming immigration an obvious start. The federal government should also encourage more childbirth by making it easier to raise children in the United States.

While I strongly support family friendly policies, the idea that the federal government would take it upon itself to encourage more childbirth (ie, that women should have more babies) is a frightening step in the direction of the dystopian future Atwood warned us about.

The Trump-endorsed candidate in the Ohio senate race, J.D. Vance, has also taken it upon himself to castigate those who chose not to have children. 

Vance chastised four prominent Democrat leaders – Vice-President Kamala Harris, transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, Senator Cory Booker and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – for not reproducing, suggesting that not having biological kids made them bad leaders.

Being childfree, per Vance, means you don’t have a “physical commitment to the future of [the US]” thus shouldn’t have as much say in the direction of the country as parents.

Of course, Tucker Carlson immediately had Vance on his show to expound on these lies. Here's what he had to say:

We're effectively run in this country, via the Democrats and our corporate oligarchs, by a bunch of childless cat ladies, who are miserable at their own lives and the choices they've made, and so they want to make the rest of the country miserable too...How does it make any sense that we've turned our country over to people who don't really have a stake in it? 

All of his feeds into the right wing's embrace of replacement theory, which is "predicated on the notion that white women are not having enough children and that falling birthrates will lead to white people around the world being replaced by nonwhite people."

As far-right groups have grown across the world, many of their members have insisted that the most pressing concern is falling birthrates. That concern, which they see as an existential threat, has led to arguments about how women are working instead of raising families. The groups blame feminism, giving rise to questions that were unheard-of a decade ago — like, whether women should have the right to work and vote at all.

I am typically the last one to engage in alarmism. But I've had to recalibrate over the last few years as we've seen a steady stream of crazy ideas go from the extremist fringe on the right to becoming mainstays in the Republican Party - all in the blink of an eye (stolen elections, pedophiles, etc.). Given that reality, it would behoove us all to recognize that what Atwood envisioned in the "The Handmaid's Tale" isn't as far-fetched as we once might have assumed.

Friday, April 15, 2022

How the Culture Wars Convinced Putin That the West Was Weak

Kristina Stoeckl and Dmitry Uzlaner, authors of “The Moralist International: Russia in the Global Culture Wars,” have written a fascinating column that provides an alternative explanation for why Putin decided to invade Ukraine. 
Today’s Russian discourse on traditional values is a hybrid of Christian right ideas from the global culture wars and nostalgia about Russia’s great Soviet and even greater imperial and Orthodox Christian past.

This type of Russian cultural conservatism was marginal until around 2010, when it started to migrate to the center of Russian political life — decisively so during Putin’s third term as president. For Putin, the traditional values discourse was a good pretext for political repression — exemplified in the treatment of Pussy Riot — and a shield against rising opposition, which demanded more freedoms...

In the process of “learning” the global culture wars, Russian conservatives not only defined their national identity in relation to a global Christian conservatism, but also acquired a precise vision of the West as spiritually hollow and failing. Christian conservatives flocking to Russia conveyed an image of the West that was torn, weak and doomed, because it no longer had children, no longer had values, and did not even distinguish between men and women...

This account of the West helped give birth to a new Russian triumphalism. Russian media filled with TV shows and “documentaries” on “Gayropa” and “Sodom.” These shows conjured up a caricature of weak “gayish” Western males and women who lost their femininity by competing with men in spheres where they could achieve nothing serious.

Russian media frequently stressed the oddity that many Western democracies nominated women as defense ministers, as if that was the ultimate proof that the West has lost its ability to defend itself. In this collective image of a weak West, Russia depicted itself (to the inside and outside) as the country of strength, the bulwark of traditional families: with strong men, fertile women and children properly guarded against subversive homosexual propaganda.

Franklin Foer captured the way that Putin's rhetoric about the West changed as he began to cast Russia as a leader of the culture wars.

Putin had never spoken glowingly of the West, but grim pronouncements about its fate grew central to his rhetoric. He hurled splenetic attacks against the culturally decadent, spiritually desiccated “Euro-Atlantic.” He warned against the fetishization of tolerance and diversity. He described the West as “infertile and genderless,” while Russian propaganda derided Europe as “Gayropa.” At the heart of Putin’s case was an accusation of moral relativism. “We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization,” he said at a conference in 2013. “They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious, and even sexual … By succumbing to secularism, he noted on another occasion, the West was trending toward “chaotic darkness” and a “return to a primitive state.”

I, for one, don't buy that Putin's world view is grounded in his religious faith. But like the power-brokers on the right in this country, he is more than willing to adopt the rhetoric "as a good pretext for political repression." 

But I also think that - at his core - Putin is a misogynistic, homophobic white nationalist. As such, he agrees with Tucker Carlson that diversity is not a strength, but a weakness. Along with those views comes a belief in the hierarchical top-down dominance of superior white heterosexual men. 

Not only did that lead to the mistaken assumption that, because the West was weak, Russia could defeat Ukraine in a matter of days, it has also led to poor performance of his own troops on the battlefield. Elliot Ackerman tells the fascinating story.

Russian doctrine relies on centralized command and control, while mission-style command and control—as the name suggests—relies on the individual initiative of every soldier, from the private to the general, not only to understand the mission but then to use their initiative to adapt to the exigencies of a chaotic and ever-changing battlefield in order to accomplish that mission. Although the Russian military has modernized under Vladimir Putin, it has never embraced the decentralized mission-style command-and-control structure that is the hallmark of NATO militaries, and that the Ukrainians have since adopted.

“The Russians don’t empower their soldiers,” Zagorodnyuk explained. “They tell their soldiers to go from Point A to Point B, and only when they get to Point B will they be told where to go next, and junior soldiers are rarely told the reason they are performing any task. This centralized command and control can work, but only when events go according to plan. When the plan doesn’t hold together, their centralized method collapses. No one can adapt, and you get things like 40-mile-long traffic jams outside Kyiv.”

In many ways this story brings me hope. Putin badly miscalculated that liberal democracy is inherently weak when the opposite is true. The question that raises is whether the anti-democratic "culture warriors" in this country will be equally wrong.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Deadly Game Republicans are Playing in Red States

Americans recently got some pretty grim news.

Life expectancy in the United States fell by nearly two years in 2020 to about 77 years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the sharpest drop compared to 21 other high-income countries, according to a global study.

That is what's happening on a national level. But researchers at Harvard University released a study this month that broke those numbers down by congressional district. Life expectancy across the U.S. varies by about 10 years.

A ten year discrepancy is a pretty big deal, so it is worth exploring the contributing factors. The Reuters article cited above discusses the impact of the pandemic. Charles Gaba has done yeoman's work in compiling data about the death rates from COVID in the bluest to reddest counties. Here's one of his latest charts:

The horizontal axis is the percentage of the vote Trump won in 2020 per county and the vertical axis is the number of COVID deaths per 100,000 residents. The redder the county, the more likely you are to have died from COVID. 

But obviously the discrepancies found in the Harvard study go beyond COVID. We need to look at other factors.

The Third Way recently reported on death rates due to murder and found that, on average, they were 40% higher in the 25 states Donald Trump won in the last presidential election compared to those that voted for Joe Biden. 

A lot of other factors affect life expectancy and show a similar pattern. For example, states with the lowest number of people under 65 who have health insurance include: Texas, Oklahoma, Alaska, Georgia, and Florida. 

When comparing cost, accessibility, and outcomes on health care, the worst states include: Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

States with the highest poverty rates include: Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Kentucky, and Arkansas. 

When measuring both educational attainment and the quality of education, states that rank the lowest include: Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama. 

One measure that breaks what appears to be a consistent pattern is the percentage of deaths due to drug/alcohol poisoning or suicide. On that measure, the top five states include: West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Kentucky. It's also worth taking a look at the bottom fives states, which include: California, Nebraska, Texas, Iowa, and Mississippi. The differences are pretty dramatic, with at least twice as many deaths per 100,000 in the top five as compared to the bottom five. 

Obviously being a border state is not a major contributor (as many right wingers would suggest) nor is there a clear red/blue state divide. The biggest contributor is likely deaths related to opioid abuse, which are driven by overprescription. 

The overall picture that emerges from all of this (other than that last data point) is that both life expectancy and the various factors that contribute to higher mortality rates are worse in many red states - especially those that once made up the southern confederacy. But Republicans in those states are spending their time persecuting gay kids, banning books, and outlawing abortion. As a result, people are literally dying sooner than they need to.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Republicans Want to "Defund the Schools"

Even though all but a few activists have rejected the notion of "defunding the police," Republicans continue to pretend that it is a core tenet of the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, there is a coordinated strategy on the right to "defund the schools" (they've even got t-shirts).

One example would be the 11-point plan put out by Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), who currently chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee. His blueprint includes this: "We will close the federal Department of Education. Education is a state function." That would eliminate the $79 billion the federal government spends on schools - with funding primarily focused on schools with high concentrations of low income families and special education.

Of course, the more insidious approach to defunding the schools has been the attacks on everything from measures to slow the spread of coronavirus to fear-mongering about the teaching of critical race theory and sexual orientation. The fever pitch of these scare tactics has now led to claims that anyone who doesn't join their "don't say gay" campaign is actually "pro-pedophile."

As someone who has worked to protect vulnerable children for most of my adult life, you can call me skeptical about the idea that a party that has only shown "concern" about children prior to birth is all of the sudden on a bandwagon to protect them once they come out of the womb. And of course, that skepticism is well-grounded. 

One report after another has identified the dark money behind the so-called "parental rights groups" that have been highlighted in the media. There is a clear agenda behind all of that money.

Staffers from such organizations as “Moms for Liberty,” “Parents Defending Education” and the “Independent Women’s Forum” have been featured in right-wing media as “concerned parents” attacking public schools without disclosing their positions in dark money-funded organizations.

These “parent” groups appear to have joined the decades-long coordinated dark money effort to dismantle public education. Rather than focusing explicitly on promoting privatization, they have attacked public schools — going after masking policies, remote learning and evidence-based curricula they dislike.

Chief among these dark money groups is the Koch Network - which is made up of 700 people who each contribute a minimum of $100,000 per year. Here's what one of those donors said about their focus on schools:

“The lowest hanging fruit for policy change in the United States today is K-12,” said Stacy Hock, a major Koch donor who has co-founded a group called Texans for Educational Opportunity. “I think this is the area that is most glaringly obvious.”

Here's what the director of Texans for Educational Opportunity said about the organization:

[T]he group’s main goal is to get Texas lawmakers to create “education savings accounts” — a program under which the state would dole out taxpayer money directly to parents via debit card to cover approved education-related expenses, like private school tuition, tutors or homeschooling materials.

In other words, the "low hanging fruit for policy change" is all about diverting taxpayer dollars away from public schools so that parents can send their kids to private and religious schools. 

Here is what Christopher Leonard, the author of “Kochland, the Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America,” identified as the network's political philosophy:

Government is bad. Public education must be destroyed for the good of all American citizens in this view.

So the ultimate goal is to dismantle the public education system entirely and replace it with a privately run education system, which the operatives in this group believe in a sincere way is better for everybody. Now, whether you agree with that or not as the big question, but we cannot have any doubt, there's going to be a lot of glossy marketing materials about opportunity, innovation, efficiency. At its core though the network seeks to dismantle the public education system because they see it as destructive. So that is what's the actual aim of this group. And don't let them tell you anything different.

A dismantling of our public education system is what these dark money groups are all about. That fits in nicely with the goal of Christian nationalists, who make up the majority of the MAGA base. As Katherine Stewart documented, one of the founders of that movement is Rousas Rushdooney, who taught that the federal government is an agent of evil and public education, according to the Bible, is a threat to civilization.

We can expect that the attacks on public schools will continue. The most recent iteration of that started with fear-mongering about critical race theory. It then moved to claims that teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity amount to "grooming." Christopher Rufo, who has been at the heart of these scare tactics, has now moved on to claims that public schools are breeding grounds for child sexual abuse. 

[T]he facts reveal that too many American public schools have been hunting grounds for sexual predators. Parents fearful about abuse in schools are not falling victim to a “moral panic” or “QAnon messaging”; they are using their intuition to assess a real danger to their children.

Rufo goes on to cite data about the number of children who are sexually abused by school personnel. What he doesn't tell you is that the number (6.7%) is actually a less than the percentage of children who are sexually abused in society (10%). He also doesn't tell you that approximately 30% of children who are sexually abused are abused by family members. That number goes up to 50% for children under 6. 

The sexual abuse of children in our culture is horrifying no matter where it happens. But here's what we know about how to prevent it:

Research shows that the two most effective ways to prevent abuse are education and training of adults and skills training in children. When school-based programs are used in conjunction with parental involvement, they produce more benefits than either approach does individually...

When focusing on children, the goals are to increase their knowledge and use of strategies that prevent victimization and to create an empowering atmosphere that leads to increased disclosure rates. Studies indicate that the likelihood of a child reporting abuse is a significant deterrent to perpetrators, and perpetrators may be less likely to victimize a child with high self-esteem who appears less vulnerable.

Issuing gag orders about what can/can't be talked about in school and/or completely dismantling public education are good ways to ensure that more children are sexually abused. 

Most Republicans aren't being open about this agenda to defund the schools. Instead, they continue to fan the flames of fear-mongering that undermines public trust in our institutions as a way to eventually eliminate them. I would suggest that it's high time we put a spotlight on what they're up to. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

One Chart Tells You All You Need to Know About What's Wrong With Our Politics

I am usually the one warning people that things are more complex and nuanced than we are led to believe. And yet, I'm here to tell you that this one chart from a recent Navigator poll tells you almost everything you need to know about what's wrong with our politics.

The question was: "Below is a list of issues that have been in the news recently. Please indicate how much you have seen, read or heard about each one."

I'm not even going to comment. It is all right there in depressing detail. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

The "Three Amigos" are Finally Getting Some Much-Deserved Recognition

In the run-up to the 2022 midterms, there's been a lot of talk about the "shellacking" Democrats took in the 2010 election. But we're also approaching the 10th anniversary of the 2012 elections. While that one included the re-election of Barack Obama, Democrats also gained back two of the six senate seats they'd lost in the 2010 midterms. Even more than that, 2012 gave us some of the new leaders of the party.

  • Chris Murphy (D-CT) won the seat vacated by retiring Joe Leiberman
  • Angus King (I-ME), who caucuses with Democrats,  won the seat vacated by the retirement of Olympia Snowe
  • Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) beat Republican Scott Brown
  • Tim Kaine (D-VA) won the seat vacated by the retirement of Jim Webb
  • Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) won the seat vacated by the retirement of Herb Kohl
In addition, Brian Schatz (D-HI) was appointed to fill the seat vacated by the death of Dan Inouye, and in a 2013 special election following the death of Frank Lautenberg, Cory Booker (D-NJ) was elected. 

Demonstrating the renewal of Democratic leadership, that list includes the 2016 Democratic vice-presidential nominee as well as two 2020 presidential candidates. But I'd like to focus for a minute on the senators I've come to call the "three amigos" - Murphy, Schatz and Booker.

I first learned about Cory Booker by watching the documentary series, Street Fight, that captured his run for Mayor of Newark in 2002.

Booker lost that race, but went on to win in 2006. He served as mayor of Newark for 7 years - with his second term cut short by the death of Lautenberg and his run for the senate.

Of course, Booker went on to run for president in 2020, but never gained much traction - even though he consistently out-performed the other candidates during the debates. 

Nothing, however, catapulted Booker into the national spotlight more than the way he handled the confirmation hearings for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. I'm not the only one who noticed the way he demonstrated what it means to be an ally. Charles Blow recently wrote a column titled: "Cory Booker, 'You Had Our Back.'"
That “our” contains multitudes. It invokes all those who have left this world, or remain in it, who live or lived with the gnawing truth that “I’ve always had the talent, but I never had a chance.” That “our” is Black people. “Our” is Black women.

Judge Jackson’s achievement is her own, earned and deserved, but she rose on and was covered in the prayer power of millions of Black women...

During the hearing, Booker delivered an impassioned speech in which he avowed: “You have earned this spot. You are worthy. You are a great American.” Jackson pushed up her glasses and wiped away tears. Booker’s affirmation had touched the tender spot.

One month after Chris Murphy was elected in 2012, the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School took place in the congressional district he had previously represented. In many ways, anguish over that event shaped his early tenure in the senate. 

I remember first noticing Murphy when his response to the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida was to take his frustration about the lack of progress towards commonsense gun safety measures to the floor of the senate for a rather spontaneous 15-hour filibuster. Eventually, 40 Democratic senators joined him. 

Last week Murphy got frustrated once again and took to the floor of the senate. This time it was about those who are using their power to bully transgender and non binary youth. His message to them was simple: "Stop it! Grow up!"

Almost no one was paying attention to Brian Schatz back in 2018 when Gabrielle Debenetti wrote about how the senator from Hawaii was working behind the scenes to develop a consensus among Democrats on issues like health care reform, student debt relief, and climate change. 

“I want Democrats in the Senate, Democrats running for Congress, to rally around an aggressive, progressive agenda. And it’s not a gotcha, litmus test–style agenda, but one that, if we enact it, would be on a scale that is equal to the problems, and has the ability to actually motivate voters. They know that we are in unusual times, and that being aggressive, and clear, and not doing half-measures is what these times call for,” explained Schatz, folded into a leather armchair in his office, in the back corner of the seventh floor of Capitol Hill’s Hart Senate Office Building, with bright blue fish-patterned socks poking out of his navy suit. “I also think it’s the best way to win.”

I first noticed Schatz when, in the run-up to the 2020 election, he teamed up with Murphy and Booker to raise millions of dollars for Democratic candidates on Twitter - and had a lot of fun doing it. Here's just one example:

Murphy: I just texted with Jaime [Harrison]. He says GOP $$ are flooding in and he needs help. Race is legit tied and Pence is holding a superspreader rally there today for Graham. We raised $125K last night. @brianschatz can we get that to $250K by end of day? He needs it.

Schatz: This is great news Murph. I will text Booker to see if he can boost too because he’s not as extremely online as we are.

Booker: Wow, NO YOU DIDN'T! @brianschatz didn't your Mother ever tell you... "Don't mess with Jersey." That said, your text did help. And YES! Please pitch in and help!

Schatz: Oh I don’t consider “extremely online” to be a compliment. Also just wanted to say that a few years ago Cory visited the suburbs in Honolulu and it was terrifying. We had vegan food and went snorkeling. It was a nightmare actually. He was saying hello to strangers and hiking too. At one point he spoke at a political event and was given a lei and took pictures with people. Mayhem.

That's when I started referring to these guys as the "three amigos." It's clear that they are not only friends...they know exactly what they're doing! 

The senator from Hawaii finally got some well-deserved national attention last week when he took on Josh Hawley.

One of the things that seems ubiquitous with Democrats is that they spend a lot of time complaining about their party. Two of the standard complaints these days are that party leadership is old and doesn't do messaging effectively. I often wonder if any of these naysayers have actually paid attention to people like Booker, Murphy, and Schatz.  

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Chris Wallace Demonstrates Why It's So Important to Teach Real American History

This exchange between Chris Wallace and Nikole Hannah-Jones captures the challenge we face in this country right now.

There are several reasons why that exchange is so important. One of them is that Hannah-Jones didn't call Wallace a racist. As a matter of fact, she handled the exchange by providing him with some history and avoided getting personal or hurling insults. Given that so much of the discourse emanating from right wingers these days is nothing more than performance trolling, it is helpful to note that an alternative is still possible.

Secondly, Hannah-Jones provided Wallace with the kind of history lesson that many on the right want to ban from our public schools. It seemed to make him uncomfortable because that is what happens when when the myths we've been taught are exposed. 

One of the issues many people have been struggling with lately is how to honor the achievements of our founders while recognizing the racism that was embedded in both their personal lives and the form of government they bequeathed to us. One doesn't negate the other. The same is true for those Tom Brokaw labelled "The Greatest Generation." Yes, they defeated the most evil alliance in our lifetime. But that doesn't absolve them of racism. One doesn't negate the other.

To further the history lesson Hannah-Jones began, perhaps someone should send Wallace the report produced by the Equal Justice Initiative titled, "Lynching in America: Targeting Black Veterans." 

No one was more at risk of experiencing violence and targeted racial terror than black veterans who had proven their valor and courage as soldiers during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Because of their military service, black veterans were seen as a particular threat to Jim Crow and racial subordination. Thousands of black veterans were assaulted, threatened, abused, or lynched following military service.

The disproportionate abuse and assaults against black veterans have never been fully acknowledged. This report highlights the particular challenges endured by black veterans in the hope that our nation can better confront the legacy of this violence and terror. No community is more deserving of recognition and acknowledgment than those black men and women veterans who bravely risked their lives to defend this country’s freedom only to have their own freedom denied and threatened because of racial bigotry.

That is what Black veterans in this country have faced. When it comes to the racism of the Greatest Generation, Hannah-Jones knows her history well enough to be aware of the fact that J. W. Milam - one of the men who brutally murdered Emmett Till - not only served during World War II, but received combat medals. She's also probably aware of the fact that Medgar Evers, who stormed the beaches at Normandy, was gunned down by Byron De La Beckwith, who’d served at Guadalcanal with the Marine corps.

Wallace also seemed perplexed by the idea that, following World War II, young 20-somethings could be racist. On that one, I tend to agree with Michael Harriot.

Far be it from me to write about the mistreatment of white men, but the notion that old white people are the most virulent kind of white supremacists is problematic in many ways. It’s why every generation seems to believe that their generation of white kids will magically disinherit themselves from the white supremacy perpetrated by their forefathers. 

Just take a look at the young faces of those who, a mere 15 years after the end of WWII, brutalized protesters for simply sitting at lunch counter.

The same is true for the attack on freedom riders.

Does Chris Wallace really think that the troopers involved in beating protesters on Bloody Sunday were all old white racists?

I don't know Chris Wallace's heart so it's not for me to decide whether he's "a racist." But the best we can say is that he is demonstrably ignorant. After all the privileges afforded to him in his life, that is a choice. One can only hope that this exchange with Hannah-Jones sparked a glimmer of curiosity.

But this is a perfect example of why it's so important to teach America's real history in schools. It seems that, 75 years after the end of World War II, we're still raising up young people to be racists in this country. 

When it comes to the presidential race, are polls all that matter?

A little more than five months from the 2024 presidential election,  conventional wisdom  suggests that  Biden is losing . But according to ...