Sunday, September 13, 2009
The Cultural Elite Plays The Racism Card on Health Care--Obamacare Will Be The Big Loser
Maureen Dowd, writing in The New York Times today, plays the race card:
I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race.
Got that? Opposition, building all year, "had much to do with race."
But in case you didn't catch her drift, she said it again:
Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.
So there you have it. But of course, Dowd is not alone, and not even first to throw down the race card. Paul Krugman made much the same point in his Times column, last month, and myriad other voices have echoed the same argument: The American people are rejecting Obamacare because they are racist.
Such venomous commentary, of course, is not lost on the objects of the venom. As the American people figure out that the folks on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and in Northwest DC, are viewing the health care debate through the prism of "race," well, the folks across America won't like it. Nobody likes to be unfairly maligned. And so the folks won't so much react against the Times itself--because few of them read the Times--but against the political manifestation of the Times worldview, a.k.a. the Obama administration and Nancy Pelosi's liberal Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.
The cultural elites can't have it both ways: They can't simultaneously trash the middle class--labeling reasonable skepticism of Obamacare as "racism"--and then expect that same middle class to simply take the elites' word for it that Obamacare is a good idea.
But as we are seeing--and as I said on "Fox News Watch" last night--the bicoastal chattering classes don't want to have it both ways. They are happy just having it one way: They would rather maintain their latitude to dump on Middle America, even if such dumping undercuts Obamacare.
So once again, "free speech" prevails. The chatterers can't keep quiet long enough to see Middle America get a health care plan that Middle America would like. That is, a health care plan that respects middle- and working-class values on abortion, end-of-life-counseling, illegals, and so on. Middle America is not right-wing, not by a long shot. The average American is not where, say, Sarah Palin is on the ideological spectrum. But the average American is probably closer to Palin, culturally and instinctively, than to the people who dominate the op-ed roster of The New York Times. That's not a slap at either side, that's just an observation. When it comes to cultural issues, Middle America is well to the right of the elites, and that's a problem for the Obama White House, which seems to take its cues from the liberal-liberationist chattering classes.
Indeed, the back-and-forth communication between media chatterers and Obama staffers seems pretty robust; consider, for example, this revealing passage in Dowd's column:
I tended to agree with some Obama advisers that Democratic presidents typically have provoked a frothing response from paranoids — from Father Coughlin against F.D.R. to Joe McCarthy against Truman to the John Birchers against J.F.K. and the vast right-wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton.
If the above words are at all reflective of what the Obamans really think--that their opposition is just a bunch of "frothing" "paranoids"--well, they are going to have a hard time over the next three-and-a-quarter years, of what will prove, at this rate, to be their only term in the White House.
But getting back to health care, if Obama wants to pass a health care plan, and not have it blow up in the face of himself and the Democrats, it will have to be respectful of Middle American values. Not just the values of "access" and "universality," but also a proper respect for human life and dignity, anchored in faith and the American political tradition. Does that seem too much to ask?
The answer appears to be "yes," that is too much to ask. The Obamans, and their cultural allies at the Times and similar places, seem determined to bulldoze a non-plan plan through Congress.
On Friday, Bloomberg News' Juliana Goldman and Michael Dorning wrote a piece headlined, "White House Resists Offering Details on Financing Health Plan." And in the murky shadows of non-disclosure, who knows what provisions are lurking, only to be revealed if and when the bill is signed into law? That's the suspicion, and it is not at all paranoid.
As Peter Ferrara of The Institute for Policy Innovation, asks this morning:
After the President's speech on Wednesday night, did the WH release any "plan"? Obama said in the speech, "The plan I am announcing tonight..." Where is that plan? Did he release any paper on it at all, ideally a bill or but at least some summary? I can't find anybody who has seen anything released from the WH on an "Obama plan." Obama holds a nationally televised speech before a joint session of Congress on "my plan," and "the plan I am announcing tonight," and then there is no plan? Many things he said in the speech about "the plan" are not true of the legislation in Congress.
But in place of a transparent plan that can be fully and freely evaluated, the cultural critics offer, instead, sneering commentary. Which is bad politics. It's not going to work.
A further illustration of the gulf can be found on the editorial page of today's Times. The lead editorial concerns the rights of terror suspects in U.S. courts, giving full play to the Times' ACLU-ish sensibilities. The second editorial is a ringing call for expanded gay rights. And the third editorial concerns freedom of the press in Turkey.
Okay, the Times is entitled to its opinions, and its editorial priorities. But one might ask: Where's the editorial concerning the shooting death of Jim Pouillon, the anti-abortion protester murdered last week in Michigan? When George Tiller was murdered in Kansas earlier this year, the Times was filled with editorial outrage.
The Times, like the Obama administration, does not need to be pro-life to gain the confidence of Middle America. It merely needs to be obviously respectful of Middle American values--all of them. The President did a great job on Friday, laying a wreath at the Pentagon in honor of 9-11 victims, not minding that he was being soaked in the rain. And Vice President Joe Biden not only spoke at Ground Zero in NYC, but was nice enough to fly all the way to Los Angeles to pay tribute to the two firefighters who lost their lives in the recent conflagration.
So it's not as if the Obama-Biden administration doesn't know how to pay tribute to American values and verities, it's just that they can't bring themselves to do so consistently, perhaps because they spend too much time reading The New York Times--and venting their inner feelings about their opponents to sympathetic Times columnists.
And let's even add that it would be naive to think that there are zero racist feelings out there in this country of 307 million people. But Lloyd Green, a longtime politics-and-policy watcher, makes a good point: "Nobody would have heckled Colin Powell, if he were President." That is Obama, the community organizer, is something different. It's not Obama's skin color that defines him, it's his associations, his appointees, and his policies. Think Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Tony Rezko, Van Jones, and whoever it is, inside Team Obama, who thinks that their political opponents are frothing paranoids.
And yet others who take their cues from the Times and other Times-like portals, such as CNN anchor Don Lemon, are obviously over-eagerly grateful when someone such as Bill Maher drops the "r" bomb. Exulted Lemon: "Finally someone is talking about this!" (Thanks to Brent Baker of Newsbusters for catching that.)
As Green says, "Obama is the embodiment of the cultural left that has been trying to elect one of their own to the White House for 40 years. They failed with John Lindsay, they failed with George McGovern, they failed with Michael Dukakis, and they failed with John Kerry. But they succeeded with Barack Obama, and we're seeing how well such a victory plays, as it plays out, in flyover country."
One final point. The sneering quality of elite media coverage will eventually turn against Obama. That's what sneerersd do--they sneer. Frank Rich is a state-of-the-art liberal Timesman, and his column today is no exception. After praising Obama for standing up to the "pogrom" waged against Rev. Wright last year (that's kind of a loaded word, "pogrom," wouldn't you agree?), Rich then proceeded to diss and dismiss Obama, declaring that it was "farcical" for the President to spend so much time negotiating with Congress this year on a health-care bill, and concluding about Obama's big speech last week, "The practical effect may prove nil."
So the cultural attitude displayed the Times--I guess either "condescension" or "snobbery" would be a better word than "attitude"--have helped poison the prospects for Obamacare.
The Obamans were fully complicit, because they are, after all, a part of the Times worldview. But since the Times treasures its cultural superiority far more than it values the affection or well-being of non-Times readers, Dowd, Krugman, Rich, et al. won't really care if the healthcare plan doesn't get through. And that's one big difference between being a writer and being President.
But of course, Obama, with two best-sellers under his belt already, can always go back to writing.
UPDATE: Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary, said yesterday that neither he nor the President think that the protesters are racists. That leaves the New York Times op-ed page to carry the cudgels of liberal snobbery all by itself.
Posted by James P. Pinkerton at 11:31 AM