Maybe We Should Have Elected a White President After All

I originally wrote this in August 2009. It still pertains, though I’d probably write it a bit differently today. Slightly edited:

There is no doubt that this country is not ready for a Black President.

Nor would this country ever be ready for any non-white or non-male president until we actually went ahead and elected one–ready or not–and then made the necessary adjustments. And that could have been what would have happened with the historic election of Barack Obama.

Except it didn’t.

Join me, if you will, in a moment of utter, deep cynicism. That would mean you thinking, for just a moment, exactly like I think every second of the day. This will be painful for you, unless you are already where I am. In my world, I see almost every nationally elected Republican, almost every one of the teabaggers at the town hall meetings, and almost every one of the strutting libertarians with their strap-ons (because they don’t have real ones) as a racist. I also see half the liberals that I know as racists. I see almost every white person who lives in the suburbs and who has a job and an income with benefits as a racist. I probably think you are a racist. You may think I’m over doing it, you may think I’m being unfair, you may think I’ve oversimplified, and you may think I’ve got it wrong.

I have oversimplified, but I’m not overdoing it, I’m not being unfair, and I don’t have it wrong. It is you that has it wrong and that is the problem. Standing by and letting what we are seeing happening on the national stage and doing nothing about it is plain and pure complicity.

I’m thinking about the response to health care reform. The most active of them all, the teabaggers and the Republicans in office, each and every one, are reacting not to anything about health care, but rather to the fact that our president is a black man, and they are reacting to little else. Proposals that the Republicans have made themselves over the last decade are being touted as attempts to kill grandma or take away our freedoms or introduce socialism. There is nothing rational in what the teabaggers and Republicans are saying. Not. One. Thing.

Does any of this mean that we have prematurely elected our first black president? No, of course not. That is all to be expected. That would all be part of the transformation our country will go through to make the election of non-white-male presidents (in some combination) plausible rather than jaw-dropping remarkable.

The problem is not that the crazy right wing is upset and screaming at us from the back of the room telling us to shut up. The problem is that the rest of the country, or at least a significant number of individuals, especially in elected office and in the media, are not calling this what it is. Yes, there have been hints, here and there, of racist undertones and overtones, but the spade is not being called a spade. As it were.

And the reason is disgusting. The reason that the mainstream press and numerous elected officials are not identifying the town hall teabaggers and the anti-health care Republicans as racists is because the ground has been prepared to make sure that when someone does call someone else out on racism in the mainstream public square, that act…the act of identifying racism…is considered just as bad as the racism itself. It is called “playing the race card.” The whole “Oh, now you’re going to play the race card, aren’t you!” gambit was developed, prepared, and inculcated into society over the last 15 years (really, 14 years…since the OJ Simpson trial), so now racism has a place at the table. Where it does not belong.

Over the last 24 hours (as I write this on Monday) the public option part of health care reform has been taken off the table. I can hope, tell myself, guess, fantasize, that this is just a strategy, and that the public option will be back. I can figure that this is just to give some time for the famous Obama grassroots organizing to get up to speed, and that the public option will be in the health care bill and will be voted into place. But I doubt it. I strongly suspect that the golden opportunity, which comes around very 12 to 20 years, has been lost once more.

I will die before there is a good health care system. My daughter will reach middle age or even old age before there is a good health care system.

The outcome, years later, as we enter the last two years of President Obama’s second term, is this: The Democrats can not nominate another black president, ever. The Republicans have succeeded in their strategy. Keeping the White in the White House.

And the Democrats let that happen.

How to get women. To vote for you. If you are a politician.

Joireman with students in his lab at WSU. (Photos by Rebecca Phillips, WSU)

Joireman with students in his lab at WSU. (Photos by Rebecca Phillips, WSU)

There are a lot of possible answers to that question, but whatever set of answers you like, you have to account for change. Certain social justice or reproductive rights issues are less important now than they they have been in the past, not because the issues are less important, but because they are more settled. A new change you have to account for now, for a certain voting bloc of women, is Climate Change. Science 2.0 has a summary of a recent study — Don’t Believe In Global Warming? Women Won’t Vote For You — suggesting that for some, climate change has become a woman’s issue.

The study is by Jeff Joireman and Richie Liu is “Future-oriented women will pay to Reduce Global Warming: Mediation via political orientation, Environmental Values, and Belief in Global Warming.” and here is the abstract:

The present work addresses calls to clarify the role of gender in climate change mitigation and adaptation by testing a theoretical model linking gender and concern with future and immediate consequences to mitigation actions through political orientation, environmental values, and belief in global warming (gender x time orientation ? liberal political orientation ? environmental values ? belief in global warming ? willingness to pay to reduce global warming). Drawing on a sample of 299 U.S. residents, structural equation modeling and bootstrapped indirect effects testing revealed support for the model. Interaction analyses further revealed that women scored higher than men on model variables among respondents who routinely consider the future consequences of their actions, but the gender difference was reversed among those low in concern with future consequences (on liberal political orientation and willingness to pay to reduce global warming). Practical and theoretical implications are considered.

The study has a press release by Rebecca Phillips:

Politicians who discredit global warming risk losing a big chunk of the female vote….women who consider the long-term consequences of their actions are more likely to adopt a liberal political orientation and take consumer and political steps to reduce global warming.

Jeff Joireman, associate professor of marketing at Washington State University, demonstrated that “future-oriented” women are the voting bloc most strongly motivated to invest money, time and taxes toward reducing global warming.

Joireman said belief in global warming is positively linked to outdoor temperatures, so in light of recent record-breaking heat, people – especially future-oriented women – may have climate change on their minds during next week’s midterm elections.

September was the hottest on record in 135 years, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects 2014 will likely break the record for hottest year.

This year’s political contests are also heated, with environmental ads surging to record levels. More than 125,000 political spots cite energy, climate change and the environment – more than all other issues except health care and jobs – according to an analysis by Kantar Media/CMAG.

Motivating the wider populace to engage and take action on global warming, however, is an ongoing challenge, said Joireman.
“Decisions that affect global warming pose a dilemma between what is good for individuals in the ‘here and now’ versus what is good for society and the environment ‘in the distant future,’” he said.
“Unfortunately, it can take several decades for the lay public and lawmakers to realize there is a problem that needs fixing,” he said. “This is clearly the case with global warming, as the consequences of our current lifestyle are not likely to be fully realized for another 25 to 50 years.”

…Joireman investigated how the time element contributes to people’s willingness to address climate change.

For the study, he focused on the personality trait called “consideration of future consequences.”

Those who score high on the trait scale tend to be very worried about the future impacts of their actions, while those with lower scores are more concerned with immediate consequences.

… his team polled 299 U.S. residents, with an age range of 18-75. Forty-eight percent of the respondents were female and 80 percent were Caucasian.

Women scored higher than men on liberal political orientation, environmental values, belief in global warming and willingness to pay to reduce global warming when their concern with future consequences was high.

But it wasn’t a simple gender difference. Women scored lower than men on liberal political orientation and willingness to pay when their concern with future consequences was low.

Joireman said a specific chain of influences makes future-oriented women more likely to take action. First, they are more politically liberal.

Liberals are more likely to value the environment, which makes them more likely to believe in global warming, he said. All together, these effects lead to a willingness to pay more in goods, services and extra taxes to help mitigate climate change.

“Future-oriented women, for example, might be more willing to pay higher prices for fuel-efficient cars, alternative forms of transportation and energy-efficient appliances. They might also eat less meat – all to help lower greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

The question for environmental advocates now, said Joireman, is to “figure out how to motivate all people to engage in behaviors that reduce global warming. To be effective, we will likely need to tailor persuasive messages to appeal to the consequences people value.
“If people are not worried about future consequences, we have to try to appeal to their more immediate concerns,” he said, “like encouraging them to buy a fuel-efficient vehicle so they can instantly start saving money on gas.”

Freedom of speech means sometimes you shut up

There have been a lot of discussions lately about freedom of speech. Some of this has centered around the question: Are we hurting the Nazis (Golden Dawn) in Greece by signing and circulating a petition to ask WordPress to take down their web site? (More on this below, there have been interesting developments.) What about (intentionally) offensive comedians, hired to perform at conventions and conferences? Are we right to get mad at the organizers for organizing that, or do we just assume that somebody out there finds it funny, so we should just back off and maybe go sit by the pool for a while or something? (You need to know what satire is to really understand.)

Often, people jump into any discussion where it looks like speech is being questioned, silenced, affected in any way, dare I say ‘repressed,’ with strong admonitions that at all costs one must not interfere with anyone’s freedom of expression. Those who jump in first and hardest are often lost causes. No amount of discussion, no slew of examples, no pile of evidence, no plethora of historical facts will talk them down from the position that all speech must be protected at all times no matter what the speech is, who is saying it, the context in which it is said, its consequences, how it is being “said,” or anything. Not only that, but that which damages or represses speech is generally over-defined to include any call for putting a lid of any kind on any thing.

Those people, with their blind rage against repression, need to do one thing: Shut up. Continue reading

A question for you about humanism, atheism, skepticism, and politics

This issue, for various reasons, is on my mind lately, and a current news story focuses the question. The Center for Inquiry has issued a statement urging the “Obama Administration Not To Retreat Any Further on HHS Regulation.” This pertains to the recent dustup over reproductive health services (in particular birth control).

From the CFI:

On Friday, Feb. 10, the Obama Administration announced that it would continue to require health insurance providers and organizations providing health care plans to cover preventive health services, such as birth control, without charging a co-payment. However, it indicated that it would allow religiously affiliated employers not to offer contraceptive coverage directly—although their insurers would still have to offer such coverage.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is pleased that the Obama Administration has continued to hold firm to the principle that employees must have access to contraceptive services as part of any employer-sponsored health plan and has decided to keep in place the substance of guidelines that require health insurance providers and organizations providing health care plans to cover preventive health services without charging a co-payment. …

With regards to Advocasy, the CFI makes this statement about itself: “The Center for Inquiry advocates for science, reason, freedom of inquiry and humanist values…” and does so via a number of programs, and the mission of the CFI is stated as “…to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

Here are my questoins: Is something like funding of birth control a political issue? Is it the proper role of an organization like CFI to engage in political issues, and if so, is there some subset of issues they should leave alone vs. focus on? What about other organizations with a somewhat different mission, such as JREF?

In short, do Secular Humanism, Skepticism, other Secular movements or groups, or Atheism have a Political Agenda? Are these movements politically agnostic? Are the goals and philsophies of these organizaitons incompatible with certain political orientations?

Why do I ask? Because in a few weeks I’m going to be engaged in a debate about this topic and I’d like to know what you think about it.

Discordant Democrats vs. Republican Dittoheads

I was disturbed by a recent discussion on my favorite cable TV news channel. Anchors and pundits were discussing the different approaches used by the Republican vs. Democratic Party in the heath care reform fight. An anchor was pressing the two guests about this difference in strategy, challenging them with the idea that the Republicans were better at this sort of thing because they were coordinated and in lockstep. The word “lockstep” was used. Every single Republican will vote the same exact way on the health care reform bill (against health care). The Democrats, on the other hand, will be more diverse in their voting patterns and are currently more diverse in their arguments and positions on various aspects of each issue. This was clearly and unquestionably seen by these youngsters (I think everyone in the conversation was under 40) as a sign of weakness in the Democratic Party and strength in the Republican Party. Lockstep = good. Diversity of opinion and open, rational dialog = bad.

Continue reading