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Tilting at Windmills

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July 26, 2010

HOUSE, SENATE REPUBLICANS LATCH ONTO NBPP GARBAGE.... Several congressional Republicans have said they would use their power, in the event of a new GOP majority on the Hill, to go after the Obama administration relentlessly. Threats of endless subpoenas and hearings aren't just bluster; they're what we could expect from a right-wing congressional majority.

But what would Republicans actually look into? Take a wild guess.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have requested a hearing to investigate alleged racial bias within the Department of Justice, according to a letter sent Friday to committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The request came in relation to a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party that was first prosecuted as a civil action in January 2009, then dismissed for two of the three defendants the following May. An injunction was issued for the last defendant.

House Judiciary Republicans also moved for further investigation on Thursday, urging President Obama in a letter to direct Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor for the case.

This is hopelessly insane. There's just no way around this simple fact. The NBPP "controversy" is complete and utter garbage, a detail even many conservatives are willing to concede.

Judiciary Committee Republicans, I'm willing to bet, know this. They know the Bush Justice Department dismissed the issue as pointless; they know no one was prevented from voting or felt intimidated at that Philly precinct; they know that the New Black Panther Party didn't even support Obama.

But these congressional Republicans pursue transparent garbage like this for one reason: to stoke the fires of racial resentment. That's why Fox News has been obsessed with this story; it's why Senate Republicans want hearings; and it's why House Republicans want a special prosecutor. The desire to make white voters afraid is as obvious as it is shameless as it is ugly.

Republicans have worked to undermine the country in a wide variety of ways over the last 18 months, but deliberately trying to scare whites into fearing blacks with a trumped up story is arguably the most loathsome move yet.

Commenting on conservative media's interest in the NBPP story recently, Jon Chait noted, "What you're starting to see from Fox News now, though, is the most widespread and mainstream right-wing effort to exploit racial fears against Obama.... There has been a great deal of right-wing insanity unleashed over the last year and a half, but this is the first time that the fear has an explicitly racial cast. You now have the largest organ of movement conservatism promoting Limbaugh's idee fixe that the Obama administration represents black America's historical revenge against whites."

And now notice the next step. From Limbaugh ... to Fox News ... to the Republican base ... to House Republicans ... to Senate Republicans. This is the pattern that will dominate American politics in 2011 and 2012 if there's a GOP majority on the Hill.

(Note, these same Republican lawmakers saw no need for a single hearing when it came to the Plame scandal, Scooter Libby and his get-out-of-jail-free card, the warrantless-wiretap scandal, the torture memos, the purge of U.S. Attorneys for political reasons, the no-bid Halliburton contracts, the cost estimates of Medicare Part D deliberately hidden from Congress, Interior Department officials literally in bed with oil company officials, the pundits paid to toe the administration's line in the media without disclosure, the probably illegal fake-news segments the administration created to run on local news outlets without disclosure, the misuse of "faith-based" grants to help Republican congressional candidates, and Karl Rove's campaign "briefings" to federal offices in violation of the Hatch Act. But the NBPP story? That's worth investigating.)

I should be past the point of getting surprised, but this is disgusting -- and Republicans know it. I know RNC Chairman Michael Steele recently conceded his party relied on a racially-divisive "Southern Strategy" for at least four decades, but the sooner the public realizes that these same tactics haven't gone away, the better.

Steve Benen 2:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

Look-- the Republicans have clearly decided that the way to win in November is to get their 'base' excited-- and, given demographics and electoral trends, that there's no point in trying to appeal to anyone else. That's their strategy. The strategy is, right now, being implemented. And if it works, they won't be embarrassed, and won't apoligize for it, I guarantee.

Posted by: MattF on July 26, 2010 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

MattF is quite correct, and I would go farther.

The strategy shows every sign that it will work. (1) Midterms are lower-turnout elections; (2) Midterms historically are bad for the party in power anyway; (3) Dems have more 'weak-voting' and sporadic-voting supporters historically than Repubs, which impacts the mix in off-year elections; (4) poll after poll shows that the hardcore base on the right is numerically larger than the base on the left; and (5) most important much of the base opposing the Right has walked away from this election and encourages others to walk away from this election time and time again in places like these comment threads due to a bizarre belief that punishing Obama's centrism is worth putting the insanity that is today's Republican right back in charge of Congress.

Posted by: zeitgeist on July 26, 2010 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Earlier today, you asked about whether or not the Republicans had hit bottom. This episode should answer your question for you: As far as the GOP is concerned, there is no bottom.

Posted by: a different phil on July 26, 2010 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

No hearings on the Katrina/Flood/Hurricane Rita response either...

Posted by: Michael on July 26, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

zeitiqeist, I am not sure the hardcore base on the right is larger than the base on the left, but that is a question of how you define "hardcore base" and "base," other than that I think your analysis is on target. I would suggest that a lot of the complainers on the left are going to come back as the idea of a Republican congress begins to take hold. They might not like Rahm Emanuel or Tim Geither but they are scared pissless of the criminals and criminal wantabees running the right wing.

The real challenge for the right is how are they going to square their push for a return to Bush's tax policies without turning off a lot of tea partiers. I really think they would have been better off working with Democrats on tax policy, giving up the bulk of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy but saving some of the individual provisions. The certainly would have been better off cutting their deal earlier than during the middle of the fall campaign.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 26, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Well, zeitgeist, perhaps the Administration and Congress could cater to liberals rather than conservatives, eschew false hopes for bipartisan accord and instead pursue rational policy. Or they could fire Shirley Sherrod because right-wing hacks might make a stink. I think they've made their choice.

I mean, the only thing that might make Washington Democrats pay attention to liberals is Democrats losing power. Obviously, then, I should bargain that threat away long before Election Day, allowing the Administration to tack ever more to the right. That's negotiation Democratic style!

Posted by: Tom Allen on July 26, 2010 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

This was inevitable. Without white racism, the Republicans would get about as many votes as the Prohibitionists.

Posted by: JMG on July 26, 2010 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with MattF and zeitgeist on this one. The strategy is working. Democrats are on the retreat on a lot of issues and are terrified of appearing to favor blacks or hispanics (the Sherrod affair is a symptom of this). This is the Willie Horton campaign times 100.

And the truth is, disaffected, scared and angry whites turn out to vote, in large percentages. But, demographics or not, Democrats have failed to get reciprocating turnout from minorities.

Angry white men may only make up a small, and shrinking, percentage of the population but they make up a big percentage of those who actually vote. And in politics the only people who count are the ones who show up at the polls.

Posted by: thorin-1 on July 26, 2010 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Ron: I don't think the tea party will have a problem with extending the Bush tax cuts.

They were all for them from the beginning.

They will just show their hypocrisy once again.

These people didn't make a peep about the spending until their was a black man in the white house.

8 years of reckless spending and they cheered it every step of the way.

Joan Walsh said it best.

The GOP is running a 50 state southern strategy.


Posted by: sharkbreath on July 26, 2010 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Don't you know? This is all black peoples' fault. If they'd minded their places we wouldn't be in the mess we are now.

PS. Martin Luther King was a COMMUNIST...

Posted by: zappawannabe on July 26, 2010 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

What's saddest to me is that "centrism" is something we believe needs to be punished instead of applauded. It has been stated that the majority of the population is centrist, which makes logical sense. A truly centrist administration would then not only be an appropriate representation of the American people, but would probably allow more things to get done - instead of being buffeted back and forth between increasingly radical "wings". Isn't that why we voted for Obama in the first place? I'm tired of the lip service both Democrats and Republicans pay to "bipartisanship" and "reaching across the aisle", but only when the results are in line withs their party's platform. Our country will never move forward while we remain locked in this system.

Posted by: BA on July 26, 2010 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ron, I am relying on polling that shows more people self-identify as "conservative" or "very conservative" than "liberal" or "very liberal." I understand that is a suspect basis because those polls are only as good as the unknown, varied, internal definitions of those terms used by the respondents.

Tom Allen, this isn't about "bargaining away" anything. There is no bargaining at all, really. But these past few days have shown just how freakishly crazy the right really is. Todays post here alone should disabuse anyone still holding it that the Naderesque "not a dime's worth of difference" claim is false. Washington Dems don't pay attention to liberals; true. And so the choices liberals have suck: reward the centrist Dems anyway with your support, or screw everyone you claim to want to help by condemning them to more Bush Years, only on steroids. There is no way to punish the centrist Dems without killing -- literally, through less safety regulation, less social safety net, war with Iran -- those you claim to care about. No one with any better morality than the Repubs would chose the latter over the former.

The only solution to the problem is for the left to become more active, not less; more motivated, not apathetic. And to do so more wisely. If there are crushed false hopes, many of thse are self-induced. Obama never ran as a leftist. But the left has to quit worrying about what happens at the top for a while and learn to do the real work of politics: local and state party positions, issue-based NGOs, school boards and city councils, working in and investing in media, think tanks, etc.

The far-right labored in obscurity for decades after the Goldwater loss, but under the radar this is what they were doing long before they broke through with Reagan beating Bush Sr. And they used the infrastructure to turn that win into a cultural change. When Obama won, the left didn't have much infrastructure: much of Obama's support was new to politics. The left has to capture that and channel it into action that is less reactive to day to day victories and losses doled out by Obama. We need the long view - the first step of which is something that cannot be blamed on Obama at all: we need to have less drop off in off-year turnout - the Republicans have beat us at that for literally generations now.

The Republicans now have to rely on hype and lies and the basest of appeals to keep their activists stoked. We shouldn't have to do that to get out our vote. Our side should see the virtue and necessity of voting to keep incrementally moving the ball from 2006, to 2008 going forward. But if we need any help in the enthusiasm department, I don't see what more one would need these days than to glance across the aisle.

Posted by: zeitgeist on July 26, 2010 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Steve - Kudos for the impassioned words. The only chance we have this fall is to get progressives -- including those (like me) furious with Obama's "let's play nice w/ the GOP" strategy -- back in the game and to the voting booths. Keep at it!

Posted by: lrtc on July 26, 2010 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

I wrote to Sen. Graham regarding this matter. I reminded him that there is not a single allegation of intimidation from any voter. There is nothing on the video. There is only the word of a partisan hack.

I'm sure it will do a lot of good.

Posted by: Soblue on July 26, 2010 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

zeitgeist

I understand where you are coming from, but a lot of Democrats will label themselves conservative or moderate when asked. The word "liberal" has been turned into a pejorative over the last 30 years.

As I recall self identified Democrats are about 35% of the electorate. Right wing Republicans are around 26%. I could be wrong.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 26, 2010 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with MattF and zeitgeist on this one. The strategy is working. Democrats are on the retreat on a lot of issues and are terrified of appearing to favor blacks or hispanics (the Sherrod affair is a symptom of this). This is the Willie Horton campaign times 100.

And the truth is, disaffected, scared and angry whites turn out to vote, in large percentages. But, demographics or not, Democrats have failed to get reciprocating turnout from minorities.

Angry white men may only make up a small, and shrinking, percentage of the population but they make up a big percentage of those who actually vote. And in politics the only people who count are the ones who show up at the polls.

Posted by: thorin-1

Posted by: FriscoSF on July 26, 2010 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: thorin-1
I'm with MattF and zeitgeist on this one. The strategy is working. Democrats are on the retreat on a lot of issues and are terrified of appearing to favor blacks or hispanics (the Sherrod affair is a symptom of this).
----------------------------------------------
Sorry, is it the 'Democrats' that are 'terrified' ?

Or is it The White House that is 'terrified' ?
I'd say it's the White House that is Craven and Cowardly

----------------------------------------
This is the Willie Horton campaign times 100.
-------------------------------------------

The Willie Horton smear succeded because Dukakis DIDN'T FIGHT BACK !!

Sound familiar ??
President Obama has to stand up and be a man
There's No Substitute for that

Posted by: FriscoSF on July 26, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Sound familiar ?? President Obama has to stand up and be a man There's No Substitute for that Posted by: FriscoSF

I don't think anyone disagrees with that. But the choices we make as liberal voters are distinct and autonomous from whether Obama learns to fight the right wing or whether he gets rolled. If we don't fight the Right (or worse yet, if we fight centrist Dems) because Obama doesn't, we've compounded the problem, not solved it.

So yes, we keep agitating for Obama to get tougher. We support progressive candidates where it makes the most sense to do so. We support progressive causes and 527s. And we work our asses off to increase the number of Democrats incrememntally, each election (including local races: we are going into a critical redistricting period). And we do that regardless of whether we are disappointed with Obama and the current crop of Democrats because ever better numbers, ever better education of our friends and neighbors, ever better infrastructure, ever better conditions on the ground in locality after locality is in the end the only way to move the country to the left. And the alternative at the moment is, sadly, that it moves sharply to the right.

Posted by: zeitgeist on July 26, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

FriscoSF,

The problem with that is the President has a lot of other work to do. It should be other Democrat party leaders - but yes, generally the Democratic party need a backbone and the Republican party needs some sanity.

Posted by: Lynnehs on July 26, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Allen: I mean, the only thing that might make Washington Democrats pay attention to liberals is Democrats losing power.

Fail. Large Fail.

Posted by: cr on July 26, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

frisco: President Obama has to stand up and be a man

zeitgeist: I don't think anyone disagrees with that.

You would be wrong. There's a great number of us who believe that President Obama is doing an exceptional job under severely adverse circumstances. Furthermore, questioning a Black man's "manhood" is a typical racist tactic.

Posted by: cr on July 26, 2010 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Allen: I mean, the only thing that might make Washington Democrats pay attention to liberals is Democrats losing power.

Because that worked so well in 1980-1992, and again in the Bush2 era?????

The way this game works is you get anyone who is vaguely "your people" into power so that your party gets to make the appointments, set the agendas, and hold the right investigations, then you push them to do the right thing as often as possible, you try to replace vulnerable opponents with members of your own party, you try to get a record of success or at least wins that you can point to proudly (because in politics the appearance of success, invulnerability, and inevitability is often as good as the real thing as far as the average voter is concerned), and if it looks like you can replace a wobbly supporter with a stronger ally without losing the seat, you go for it.

Zeitgeist - great words, thank you.

Posted by: N.Wells on July 26, 2010 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Until Republicans learn that payback is a bitch, it will never stop! Democrats should aggressively go after the Republican scandals (Harkin Oil, Plame, Justice Dept. hiring, torture, etc.) overlooked during the last administration. Only once the downside to this type of attack is realized, will there be any semblance of a return to civility

Posted by: BobPM on July 26, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

@Zeitgeist

Thanks for the words. You are correct. Republicans (specifically the Religious Right and other far right groups) have since the early 70s played the ground game far better than Progressives and Liberals. They put in the time filling school boards, local city councils, state offices and eventually the national party.

There are lots of reasons for this. I'd say one of the biggest is the collapse of unions throughout the 70s and 80s. With their loss, Democrats, and Progressives in particular, lost of the best GOTV machines and on the ground organizing forces they ever had. And regretably no effective subsistute has ever been found.

Posted by: thorin-1 on July 26, 2010 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

@FriscoSF There's No Substitute for that

Perhaps if wasn't out there all by himself so often he would do a better job of standing and fighting. How many times over the last 18 months has the White House tried to put out a meme or push back on a Republican talking point only to have DEMOCRATS be the loudest voice in opposition.

Obama annouces the closure of Gitmo - Less than 48 hours later Harry Reid is on TV repeating Republican talking points in opposition.

That was less than a month into his Presidency. When Republicans go on the attack, they know somebody's got their back. The message Obama got right from the get-go from Congressional Democrats was; Go out on a limb and we will cut you off at the knees.

Posted by: thorin-1 on July 26, 2010 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that the practice of liberals reflexively voting Democratic without getting anything in return has brought us to the point where an Eisenhower Republican is being championed as a progressive hero, and we hippies are still being told to sit down and clap harder. There's a saying about doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.

And isn't government supposed to serve us, not vice versa? Why should I stand up and contribute money and time to a party that punches me time and time again? If you centrists fear a return to Republican rule as much as I do -- well, maybe you should make overtures to liberals rather than kissing conservative ass.

Posted by: Tom Allen on July 26, 2010 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

What makes anyone think the "American people" will come to understand this as the scam it is? They've been buying this bullshit for so long it's part of their DNA now!

"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people." This is the guiding principle of the Republicans, and has been since they were founded.

Posted by: TCinLA on July 26, 2010 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Allen: If you centrists fear a return to Republican rule as much as I do -- well, maybe you should make overtures to liberals rather than kissing conservative ass.

Your basic problem is there just aren't enough liberals in congress. As it is now, for every liberal dem vote that Obama tries to attract, he loses at least two conservative dem votes. Not a very good strategy for passing anything.

This is Politics 101: if you don't have the votes, you don't get nuthin'. And boycotting the election won't get you a thing except a harder row to hoe.

Posted by: cr on July 26, 2010 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

this morning I heard a piece of a Darrel Issa interview on MSNBC and he was bullish on the need for Republicans to hold hearings on everything Obama. HOWEVER, what really caught my attention as I was rushing off to work was Issa saying that the Republicans had held numerous hearings on the MMS and their cozy relationship with the oil industry but the Democrats dropped it when they took over in 2006. Was he lying? Did the Republicans really hold hearings on MMS and big oil? I find that very hard to believe unless it was as a favor to big oil calling MMS on the carpet for not moving permits fast enough....Anybody know of any Bush era hearings on MMS??

Posted by: Diane on July 26, 2010 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

But these congressional Republicans pursue transparent garbage like this for one reason: to stoke the fires of racial resentment.

Republicans to America: Bull Connor was the victim of a liberal smear campaign!

There is no tactic too shameless, too low or too vile for these people. If the "general public" falls for this garbage, then we are well and truly done, and the nation will get the government -- and likely the civil war -- that it deserves. Just unbelievable.

Posted by: electrolite on July 26, 2010 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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