Politics postsSaturday February 16, 2013
When Romney was the Most Honest Man in the Race
I'm in the middle of Rick Perlstein's epic tome, “Nixonland,” about how the U.S. went from a Democratic landslide in 1964 to a Republican landslide in 1972. Think race riots, open housing, left-wing idiots and right-wing wish-fulfillment fantasies.
I don't agree with everything here. I think Perlstein's a bit harsh on RFK. He includes some odd asides, such as declaring the song “She's Leaving Home,” from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the album's “most beautiful moment.” Overall, the book merely strengthens, rather than challenges, my opinion of what went wrong with politics in this country in my lifetime. But it's giving me ammunition.
Some of the most eye-opening moments, particularly when compared with the recent 2012 election, contrast George Romney, the Republican governor of Michigan and a media darling, with Richard Nixon, a media joke and a stealth campaigner, who would, of course, trounce Romney before the '68 race even began. Romney's fault, according to Perlstein?
He was too damned forthright, too earnest—especially about Vietnam. He grappled with it honestly. Which would make what he said sound absurd, since everyone else was in denial or lying.
[Romney's] forthright honesty was his calling card, his contrast with the wheeler-dealer LBJ and the used-car salesman Nixon, what made him, along with that strong, square chin and silvering hair and popularity with Democrats, look like a contender. But honesty was a dull blade to take into a knife fight with Richard Nixon—who was simply willing to lie.
It doesn't take a genius to realize the lesson young Mitt took from this.
Quote of the Day
“Last year's [58% voter] turnout was right in the middle of the 17 elections presented in this chart—better than eight, but worse than eight. ... The friendly and civic-minded people of Minnesota always have the nation's highest turnout, and this year an admirable 75.7 percent of them came to the polls. At the other end, four states came in below 50 percent: Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Hawaii, bringing up the rear at 44 percent.”
-- Paul Waldman, “Voter Turnout in 2012: Meh,” on The American Prospect site.
Yay Minnesota! Of the four states who don't show up, meanwhile, three are deep red and one is deep blue (Hawaii). Waldman explores, or at least links to, an explanation for HI. Apparently we know the explanation in TX, OK and WV.
Obama on the 'Us vs. Them' of Immgration Reform: 'A lot of folks forget that most of us used to be them'
Pres. Obama on immigration reform:
What My $3,000 Helped Buy
“We have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today's world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we'll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.”
“For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.”
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”
Not to mention the freedom to roll your eyes.
The Way the Right-Wing Has Always Supported Martin Luther King, Jr.
Here are a few lines from Rick Perlstein's book, “Nixonland,” which I read yesterday, and which are particularly appropriate today—both MLK Day and the second inauguration of Barack Obama. They're reminders of how much, and how little, things have changed:
“It is my firm belief, and of all my neighbors, that King should be taken into custody ... Today, the insufferable arrogance of this character places him on a pedestal as a dark-skinned Hiter.”
“When greedy Mr. Hitler started taking over other countries, people at first thought 'give him a little more, then he will be satisfied' ... Give greedy Mr. King a little more freedom then he will stop. Isn't that what we are told today?”
--Constituent letters to U.S. Senator Paul Douglas (D-IL), during the battle for opening house in the summer of 1966; from “Nixonland,” pp. 122 and 123
These days, of course, everyone evokes Dr. King for their own cause, even, absurdly, the NRA. That's how things have changed. At the same time, every prominent black leader, particularly those known for non-violence and compromise, are still being compared to Hitler. That's the way we're hearing the same damned shit.
Back in the day, Steve Kaplan, editor-in-chief at “Minnesota Law & Politics,” used to include a section in the year-end “Turkeys” issue called “Who's Being Compared to Hitler This Year?” It's the comparison that's always absurd and never goes out of style.
Martin Luther King, Jr. after his march for open housing in Chicago was disrupted by violence. He said he'd never seen hatred—not in Alabama or Mississippi—like the hatred he saw in Chicago.