Saturday, November 1, 2014
Mary Landrieu's Inconvenient Truth
But while her demise might seem to be axiomatic, her comments in an interview concerning the racism that clearly exists in the South qualify as the D'oh! moment of the 2014 campaign. Asked about President Obama's low approval numbers in Louisiana, Landrieu started off by pointing out that Obama's energy policies have negatively impacted many people in her state. Fair enough. Putting a moratorium on off-shore drilling after the BP spill, while environmentally the right thing to do, definitely hurt the Gulf-state economies. But then Landrieu added the following,
"I'll be very very honest with you. The South has not always been the friendliest place for African Americans. It's been a difficult time for the President to present himself in a very positive light as a leader."
Of course, it didn't take long for the Right to freak out. They accused Landrieu of the typical race-baiting drivel that we've come to expect from them.
But, rhetoric aside, Landrieu simply said what every pollster who has been following these midterms closely has already discovered. That while Obama's numbers are low, they are considerably lower in red states, by a average of 5 to 10 points, and that is the principle reason Landrieu and Mark Pryor of Arkansas are trailing by 5 or more points, instead of being slightly ahead, as Kay Hagen is in North Carolina; or within the margin of error as Mark Udall and Bruce Braley are in Colorado and Iowa respectively.
And lest you fall for the nonsense that this is just about the fact that, well, red states have more Republicans than Democrats - that's why they're referred to as "RED" states - answer me these three questions: 1. How is it that Landrieu and Pryor got elected in the first place? 2. Why is it that Bill Clinton, the most successful Democrat since FDR - and white, I may add - is polling almost 10 points higher in both those states? In fact, Clinton is more popular than either of the two Republican candidates who are now days away from winning their respective races. 3. How come so many incumbent Republican governors are facing defeat this year, one of them in one of the most conservative states in the country?
Democrat vs. Republican, liberal vs. conservative, red vs. blue, are all just window dressing for a far Right that has stoked every racial tension imaginable and a lame excuse for a main-stream media too lazy to do its job. Yes, policy issues are important factors, as are the numerous unforced errors that this administration has committed, which I've addressed on many occasions.
But there's no denying the fact that race is playing the far greater role here in these states and to ignore it by sweeping it under the rug or by going after Landrieu for having a temporary moment of candor - something politicians are not wont to do in the first place - would be to do the nation a huge disservice and would only further the ridiculous charade that our two-plus century old struggle for racial equality is now over. The truth is, in many places in the South, the Civil War is still raging. The rising number of secessionist movements throughout the whole region are evidence of this. When you factor in the plethora of voter-suppression laws that are now threatening to disenfranchise potentially millions of African American and Hispanic voters, the intent could not be clearer.
Racism is America's original sin and we are still dealing with the consequences of it. While it may be comforting to some to point out that lynch mobs and church burnings are a thing of the past, I would also point out that not all forms of racism need be that overt to be harmful. And when whites insist that they are now the victims of reverse racism, I would counter that a few by-passed promotions do not compare to the systemic racism that still exists. 50 years after Jim Crow, blacks represent a far greater percentage of the prison population in this country than do whites. And even as the economy continues to improve, the sad fact is that for many minorities, unemployment remains considerably higher than the national average.
Far from being ostracized, Mary Landrieu should be congratulated for stating the obvious. In the end, it may not change her political fortunes, but perhaps her words will touch some and allow for the possibility of a real conversation on race; one which the country has desperately needed since its birth and without which we will never truly heal. Like the old saying goes, the truth may set you free, but first it will piss the hell out of you.