Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Outback at the Forefront of a GOP Meme?

Yesterday, the Senate overcame the Republican filibuster of the legislation to extend emergency unemployment benefits and Mitch McConnell tried to divert attention of the Republican's unprecedented  opposition of the extension by linking the long term unemployed to Obama's policy, in the process calling these individuals "chronically unemployed."  Kevin Drum wondered today if there might be something more to  McConnell's choice of words.
...talking about "chronic" joblessness is also a way of suggesting that some of the unemployed are shiftless and lazy. Someone who's "chronically unemployed" isn't your unlucky next door neighbor, it's those guys in the ghetto or down in the hollow who just hang around all day and have never held an honest job in their lives for more than a few weeks at a time. Are these the kind of people you want to run up the national debt for?

I didn't think so. But guess what? Democrats do!
Well, it's hard to say with certainty if this is the game McConnell is playing, but , it just so happens, I was engaged in a back and forth over the past couple of days at the CDT (Hence my absence here.) with one of their regular's, outback, who helps to make the comment threads there  a  fever swamp, which makes Kevin's speculation very plausible to me.

outback explicitly linked long term unemployment to minority receipt of welfare,
We need to make sure our Unemployment system doesn't turn into another welfare program. Remember how the advent of welfare destroyed the drive and initiative of many minorities....they have yet to recover from that setback
It is clear that if McConnell is engaging in a bit of dog whistle politics there are dogs like outback who are prepared to hear the signal loud and clear.

I called outback out on the racist undertones of his comment

Yep, it's the welfare that's to blame...but, but, but...I recall that  there might seems to be something else that cause blacks some problems.  Now what was it? Oh yea, now I remember, slavery. But what's slavery  when compared to the devastation of welfare?

It's funny how the non-racist outback first thinks of minorities when he thinks of people  suffering from welfare's debilitating effect on initiative. If I did  know better-after all he's told me repeatedly not to stereotype  teabaggers as racist, so it really can't be that he is one-I'd swear  that he has a stereotype of blacks, Mexicans and other minorities as lazy. But it's good to know that he doesn't think it's their  fault...they're victims of welfare in his mind...but don't call him a racist.

But proving racist motivations, when they aren't overt, is a difficult thing. outback, who must be called racist quite a bit, was prepared to defend himself by pointing to  Bill Clinton.
I sat in an audience in 1995 and heard a speaker make the direct connection between welfare dependency and destruction of the social fabric in the African-American community.

You might have heard of him...he is that prominent Teabagger and notorious racist....Bill Clinton.
Did Clinton say anything remotely like what outback claimed and if so, in what context?

The rest of our exchange was my attempt to pin down outback on where he heard Clinton speak in 1995. He steadfastly refused to provide any information on where he heard Clinton directly connected "welfare dependency and destruction of the social fabric in the African-American community."

I've examined Clinton's major speeches from 1995 and while he spoke of welfare reform in his SOTU speech, as he often did over the years, there is only one speech in which he talked about race and welfare together.  That was his October 16th Address on Race Relations delivered at the University of Texas at Austin where he spoke this single sentence on race an welfare
It's not racist for whites to assert that the culture of welfare dependency, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and absent fatherhood cannot be broken by social programs unless there is first more personal responsibility.
If this is the speech that outback sat in the audience for, and I think that that is a good assumption, outback must have heard this as absolving him from any responsibility for musings on race.

But beyond that Clinton didn't blame welfare for the "destruction of the social fabric in the African-American community." He pointed to "culture welfare dependency"  amongst other problems which must be broken by personal responsibility. In fact,  Clinton's speech supports not outback claim that it was welfare that don' it, but my point that the root of problem is slavery. (This might be why outback was so reluctant to provide the information on where he heard Clinton speak.)
White America must understand and acknowledge the roots of black pain. It began with unequal treatment, first in law and later in fact. African-Americans indeed have lived too long with a justice system that in too many cases has been and continues to be less than just. The record of abuses extends from lynchings and trumped up charges to false arrests and police brutality. The tragedies of Emmett Till and Rodney King are bloody markers on the very same road. Still today, too many of our police officers play by the rules of the bad old days. It is beyond wrong when law-abiding black parents have to tell their law-abiding children to fear the police whose salaries are paid by their own taxes.

And blacks are right to think something is terribly wrong when African-American men are many times more likely to be victims of homicide than any other group in this country, when there are more African-American men in our corrections system than in our colleges, when almost one in three African-American men in their 20's are either in jail, on parole, or otherwise under the supervision of the criminal justice system, nearly one in three. And that is a disproportionate percentage in comparison to the percentage of blacks who use drugs in our society. Now, I would like every white person here and in America to take a moment to think how he or she would feel if one in three white men were in similar circumstances.

And there is still unacceptable economic disparity between blacks and whites. It is so fashionable to talk today about African-Americans as if they have been some sort of protected class. Many whites think blacks are getting more than their fair share in terms of jobs and promotions. That is not true. That is not true.

The truth is that African-Americans still make on average about 60 percent of what white people do, that more than half of African-American children live in poverty. And at the very time our young Americans need access to college more than ever before, black college enrollment is dropping in America.

Viewed in this larger context, one can infer that Clinton saw welfare dependency, such as it was at the time, as the  consequence of the destruction of the African-American social fabric, not its cause. The cause was rooted in slavery and it is perpetuated through continued unequal treatment.

Whether or not McConnell intended the phrase "chronically unemployed"  it to be a dog whistle signal that the long term unemployed are indolent like the folks in the ghettos and hollows, as Kevin speculated, it is clear that there are those like outback who will hear it as such. Just as he thought he heard Clinton affirming his own skewed view of race and welfare.

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