Friday, November 1, 2013

Politics and Morality: War on Poor, Angry White Men, Anti-Gay Laws and Logic Pretzels, George Wallace and States' Rights Redivivus

Paul Krugman thinks that a "war on the poor" is the central and defining issue in American politics today, and that it's fueled by a racial animus that is "the stain that won't go away" in American culture:

So there is indeed a war on the poor, coinciding with and deepening the pain from a troubled economy. And that war is now the central, defining issue of American politics.

Michael Kimmel reports about what he found as he wrote his book Angry White Men--he reports about why white male anger seems so predictably to drive the politics of rage and resentment in American life at present: 

What unites them, I came to understand, was a sentiment I called "aggrieved entitlement." Raised to believe that this was "their" country, simply by being born white and male, they were entitled to a good job by which they could support a family as sole breadwinners, and to deference at home from adoring wives and obedient children. 

Timothy Kincaid looks at the decision of the Missouri Supreme Court to deny spousal benefits to the surviving partner of a state trooper, because state law does not recognize same-sex marriage. He notes that in its decision, the court ties itself into a "logic pretzel" which supports gross inequity while pretending that it upholds the law impartially--though it refuses to recognize that the law it is applying is designed precisely to block the rights of a targeted minority:

They weren’t discriminating against gay people, you see, just people of the same sex being spouses, you see. They also oppose heterosexual people of the same sex being spouses. Just like they would tax Lutherans for wearing yarmulkes.

Rachel Maddow surveys the refusal of a number of states, with Texas in the lead, to comply with federal requirements to recognize the rights of same-sex couples in the National Guard. She compares the response of these states to Gov. George Wallace's response when the federal government asked that Wallace assure the safety of African-Americans attacked by local and state police in civil rights protests of the 1960s.

And that's the clip at the head of the posting--Maddow on the parallel between Wallace on states' rights vs. the Johnson administration in the 1960s, and Texas et al. on states' rights vs. the Obama administration in 2013. A clip that makes me shake my head when I hear people still asking today why the federal government is necessary, and why we can't leave issues like same-sex marriage to the states and expect the states to handle those issues justly and with a concern to protect the rights of targeted minorities . . . .

Those people either did not live through the Civil Rights period of the 1960s or have refused to learn the clear lessons that period should have taught Americans concerned about the rights of minorities and the role the federal government must play in assuring those rights.

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