Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor
If the title of this piece shocks you, I apologize. On second thought, I won’t apologize for asking a legitimate question about a prominent politician who has made his proposals to harm the poor and middle class and give tax cuts to the wealthy his calling card in the conservative movement. Recently, Rep. Ryan made a statement about the people who inhabit the inner city claiming that those residents are less than motivated to work for a living.
‘ “Paul Ryan triggered a firestorm of recrimination this week. Speaking recently on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio program, the Wisconsin Republican and self-styled budget wonk linked poverty to “this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” ‘ Bill Moyers
It seems obvious to me who Paul Ryan is talking about here. What do you think he is saying here? Of course, Mr. Ryan tried to walk back from the statements, but how can you unring this bell?
“Paul Ryan’s claim that black people have “bad culture”, may be genetically defective, and do not have “normal” “middle class” values about the merits of “hard work”, is a simple channeling of legendary Republican strategist Lee Atwater’s tactics for mobilizing white voters by leveraging their hostility to black Americans.
Atwater famously advised Republicans to:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
The Southern Strategy has been the cornerstone of Republican politics for at least five decades. While former Republican National Committee chairmen Ken Mehlman and Michael Steele admitted (and apologized) that Republicans use racist appeals to motivate white voters, the Southern Strategy remains central to their party’s electoral logic and approach. Paul Ryan’s racism and embrace of the Southern Strategy is the Republican Party’s conventional wisdom in practice.” readersupportednews
It is argued by the aforementioned article that Rep. Ryan is just continuing the Republican Southern Strategy initiated decades ago. In light of Ryan’s comments, it seems like an easy argument to make. The real purpose of this article is not to point fingers at an individual Congressman who has a history of making comments and making policy that arguably harms the poor. What is important in this latest statement by Ryan is just how entrenched racism may be in this country and how it may still be impacting the politics of the day.
Was Rep. Ryan making an intentionally racist comment or was it just a very bad “slip of the tongue”? Are current politics and politicians carrying on racial stereotypes of the past and making bad policy accordingly? Is Rep. Ryan just a victim here or is he trying to take advantage of “white innocence” and “white privilege”?
It isn’t important what I think. What is important is what you think. Is racism still alive and well in this country? What recent examples of racism, if any, can you cite? Is racism pervasive in this country and/or in American politics? Once again, what do you think?
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