Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Absurdity of Rovian Politics

Governor Palin has declared the "small towns" of America that she and her running mate "get to visit" to be "the real America" where the real "patriotic" and "pro-America" citizens of this country live. Almost robotically, their campaign surrogates started falling in line.

One campaign adviser unashamedly declared that Northern Virginia was not “the real Virginia" – suggesting that immigrants and liberals somehow taint the ‘realness’ of this region of the Commonwealth. Another, a Congresswoman nonetheless, asked the news media to do "a penetrating expose" on Congressional Democrats in order to "find out" if "they are pro-America or anti-America?" Another Congressman, speaking at a recent McCain-Palin event, roared that "liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God."

This detestable campaign rhetoric is an affirmation of the intellectual deficit that has plagued the GOP and the McCain Campaign for months. They have no new ideas on addressing the country's problems and no awareness of the damage they are inflicting upon their party brand with their 'Rovian' politics. Their stubborn attachment to a "divide-and-conquer" strategy at a time of national crisis is patently absurd.

People in this country need answers to their mortgage problems; they want solutions to health care, retirement pensions, education reform, college affordability, and job creation in an increasingly globalized economy. A case in point: While Barack was moderating a high-octane economic panel in Florida earlier this week, the McCain-Palin campaign was out on the trail playing wedge politics with no substantive contributions to the nation’s current state of affairs.

They say facts are stubborn things. Yet, the GOP operatives are hell-bent on ignoring them.

It is hard to understand the strategic motivation of this masachist posture not just because it harms them down-ticket during this electoral cycle, but also because they are significantly eroding any chance of having a sustainable governing coalition in the future. They are alienating minorities including the country’s fastest-growing demographic group; they have no appeal to a majority of young people and, as it has become clear in recent days, they are pushing away their own moderates. Is anyone—anyone sane that is—in charge at the Elephant Zoo?

They say: If you’re in a hole, stop digging. Yet, the GOP just keeps digging and digging

Monday, October 20, 2008

Separating Leadership from Demagoguery

When Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama this morning, he did so in primetime with a full explanation. He pointed to the intellectual deficit of the GOP and the disappointing tactics of the McCain Campaign. He contrasted the erratic decision-making style of Senator McCain to the impressive temperament and intellect of Senator Obama. It was a clear-cut decision: For a nation battered by short-sighted and ill-devised policies, Colin Powell opts for the transformational leadership of Barack Obama.

In discussing his discontent with his Party and with the McCain campaign, Gen. Powell got specific. To my delight, he picked on an issue I raised in a recent blog: Gratuitous right-wing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice. He explained:

...It is permitted to be said such things as, ‘Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is: What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? (NBC, Meet the Press, 10/19/2008)
The General, then, illustrated his point with the moving story of a young Muslim-American soldier who gave his life in defense of this country, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star along the way. In a matter of seconds, Colin Powell showed more wisdom and leadership than Senator McCain was able to show during weeks of campaigning as he gave audience to blatent anti-Muslim rhetoric at his rallies.

The heart-felt wisdom of General Powell this morning may be heresy to right-wing demagogues, but it is a fresh breeze of hope for the rest of us - those who believe that this nation is far better than the remnants of its darker history.

We are ready for change. And we can not wait for the transcendent leadership of Barack Obama.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Offense No One Is Talking About

When a woman stood up at a recent McCain campaign event and said that she does not trust Barack Obama because she thinks that "he's an Arab", I certainty was not surprised. I believe this nation has made great progress since the civil rights struggle, but I am not so naive as to think that America has done away with the unconscionable disease of racial discrimination.

What surprised and shocked me, however, was McCain's response to the offense. In addressing that same supporter, he said: "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, a citizen who I just happen to have serious differences with on fundamental questions." Now, that sounds like a sensible statement and the media has certainly hailed it as such with some even calling it "courageous" and "commendable".

The problem with the statement—and the lack of substantive coverage it received—is that it legitimized a contemptible choice between being an "Arab" and being "a decent citizen". To Arab Americans, this exchange further confirmed the mainstream acceptance of anti-Muslim and Anti-Arab bias in America. Here, John McCain had a double-dip opportunity to (a) pull back on the dangerous vitriol directed against his opponent and (b) address in swift terms the larger issue of racism, which in this case was directed against Arab Americans. He addressed the former and completely ignored the latter. And everyone else did too.

To my knowledge, no one in either campaign has come out to explain that such statements are not just about some false rumor designed to attack the character of Senator Obama. These statements are injuring fellow Arab and Muslim Americans whose loyalties, decency, and contributions to our nation are unquestionable.

Would McCain’s response be called “courageous” had he reacted in the same manner to a supporter who might have said that they don’t trust Obama because ‘he’s a Jew’ or because ‘he’s black’. Would the “decent-citizen” response be deemed sufficient? The answer is No and righfully so.

It is offensive that John McCain has not even thought about reacting to his supporter by adding that beyond her false characterization of Senator Obama, Arab and Muslim Americans are decent, hard-working and patriotic citizens, no different from anyone else.

It is unconscionable that the leaders of this country continue to allow anti-Muslim and Anti-Arab sentiments to simmer above the surface and in plain sight.