Latinos See Through GOP Even Without Trump

Jonathan ChaitI constantly find myself at a loss to understand what mainstream commentators think about the Republican Party with respect to recent immigrants — most especially Latinos. It really makes me wonder who treats Latinos worse: the Republicans or the commentators. Because you would really have to think that Latinos are idiots listening to the arguments for what the Republicans should do to appeal to them. Thus it is with an article Jonathan Chait wrote last week, How Donald Trump Destroyed the Republican Party’s Best-Laid Plans.

It started by noting that the Republican’s “most important strategic imperative” was to “narrow the gap between its core voting base and the immigrant communities.” That’s just nonsense. The most that the Republican Party has ever been willing to do is try not to go out of its way to insult the immigrant community. There was never any way to narrow the gap between Latinos and the Republican base, because hating immigrants (and just about everyone else) is more or less what defines it. The plan was always to make the party seem softer to immigrants, but not to do a damned thing.

Chait claimed that the first thing that the Republicans needed to do was pass immigration reform. It’s now three years since I started hammering on this issue. Just at the very top, this makes no sense. The Republican approach to it was always, “Okay, we’re going to do this one thing for you, and then we don’t ever want to hear from you again!” This was not something that was ever going to appeal to the Latino community. My argument all along has been that passing some symbolic legislation is not going to fool immigrants when it is only too clear that the Republicans are doing it with great reluctance. As it was, a two decade path to citizenship wasn’t good enough for them. They couldn’t do it cheerfully, so why do it at all?

But the other side of this is that immigrants are like everyone else. Immigration just isn’t that big a deal to them. A Gallup poll back in 2012 found that Hispanics rated healthcare, unemployment, economic growth, and inequality above immigration as their top issue. But I get it: immigration is a disqualifier — an issue that is necessary but insufficient. But that just gets us back to my main point, which is that Latino voters are not going to vote for Republicans because they make one ostentatious display, while being willing to do less than nothing about the issues that harm the poor in this country.

Chait went on to claim that the second thing that the Republicans needed to do was keep control of the debates. Well, if that was the case, they certainly didn’t agree. The party just threw up its hands and allowed the cable news channels to decide how to do the debates. But it is on this subject that Chait brings up Trump — as though there wouldn’t have been at least one major candidate who saw political gold in appealing to the most predictable aspect of the base.

The Republican Party depends upon angry white people for its power. It is not going to release its grip on this base because it sees that in the future this will be untenable. The Republican Party will change when it has absolutely no option to do anything else. Chait is just silly to think that the party’s discussion of immigration reform was ever serious. And he’s unintentionally offensive in thinking that Latinos and others would buy the little con that he thinks the Republicans should be running.

Conservative Bigotry Whack-a-Mole

Rick PerlsteinThis particular understanding of the gap between public profession and private confession is one of the five or six things most fundamental to conservative thought. The spectacle of Republicans lowering a flag could not be more public. The act of a Republican anonymously telling a pollster what she really believes about the candidate with the guts to call Mexicans what they “really” are, which is barely-human vermin, is not so public. Significantly, one of two polls that finds Trump ahead by four points was staged by YouGov, which does its polling online, without requiring respondents to talk to another, possibly judgmental, human being—about as private as a political act could be…

This is important: conservatism is like bigotry whack-a-mole. The quantity of hatred, best I can tell from 17 years of close study of 60 years of right-wing history, remains the same. Removing the flag of the Confederacy, raising the flag of immigrant hating: the former doesn’t spell some new Jerusalem of tolerance; the latter doesn’t mean that conservatism’s racism has finally been revealed for all to see. The push-me-pull-me of private sentiment and public profession will always remain in motion, and in tension.

Rick Perlstein
Down With The Confederate Flag, Up With Donald Trump!

Mick Fanning and the Curious Shark

Mick Fanning and SharkMick Fanning is a professional surfer. He’s a triple world champion. And I have to admit, I think surfing is cool. I love watching people surf — whether on television or when I’m down at the beach. It’s beautiful to watch. And also, it’s impressive that people do it. Also: good God, don’t they realize there are sharks in the ocean! Well, Fanning knows, and so do all the people watching the J-Bay Open, the most recent leg of the World Surf League Championship Tour. It’s being reported like this, Shark Attacks Australian Surfer Mick Fanning During Live Competition. I’m not so sure.

If you look at the video, it’s not at all clear that the shark was attacking. It seems to be simply investigating the odd object it found in the water. That’s not to say that it was not trying to figure out if Fanning might be a tasty treat. But sharks, like most predators, are suspicious of things they don’t commonly eat. And if the shark was interested in anything, it seems to have been Fanning’s surfboard, not his body. Take a look at the video. It certainly seems that if the shark had been ready to eat, there would have been some damage.

Another interesting aspect of this is that Fanning is dressed in blue. A study published a few years ago found that of 17 shark species studied, 10 were totally color blind and the other 7 saw only grey and green — making them effectively color blind. This indicates that sharks may not see very well when it comes to light blue objects in the ocean. So it is quite likely that the shark was attracted to Fanning’s bright white surfboard. But again: the board didn’t seem to even have any bite marks on it. So I don’t see this as an attack.

What I’m really interested in is what the species of the shark is. At some points, it looks like it has a really long dorsal fin, but that is just the shark on its side — its pectoral fin coming out of the water as if waving to the television audience. We see the dorsal fin for just an instant at the beginning. I know there must be biologists out there who know what this magnificent creature is. It might explain more about its behavior as well. I’ll watch the news for a few days to see if anyone has any insights.

By saying all this, I don’t mean to say that Mick Fanning didn’t go through an amazing and deeply frightening experience. He tussled with a really big shark that was clearly interested in him. Apparently, Julian Wilson, the guy who was surfing with him, was as freaked out about the episode as Fanning was. Understandably. These people have got to normally suppress the idea that they make their living literally swimming with the sharks. And yesterday, they couldn’t. They are braver men than I!

Update (20 July 2015 9:10 pm)

Speculation is that it was a great white shark. I want to add to this discussion that by the time Fanning even noticed the shark, it’s mouth was way past him. I think I was wrong above when I said we see the pectoral fin; I think it is actually the caudal or tail fin.

Republicans and the Purple Heart Band-Aid

Purple Heart Band-AidsI’ve been vaguely aware of this whole thing about Donald Trump attacking John McCain. He apparently said, “He’s not a war hero.” His reason for saying this — nominally, anyway — is because McCain was captured. It’s pretty silly. There has been much outrage on the right over this. How is it that Donald Trump could criticize one of the troops? That, above all else, is what Republicans are supposed to stand for. Or at least, that is what Republicans are supposed to stand for if all it requires is putting a yellow ribbon on the back of a car; if it involves properly funding veterans care or not starting frivolous wars, well, that’s a bridge too far.

I’m actually in agreement with Trump, although not for his clearly finessed reason. I discussed this a couple of years ago, “Hero” John McCain. I noted then that it is hard to think of McCain as a hero except in the de rigueur sense that we claim that every person in the military is a hero. But it’s more than that. McCain’s primary job in the military was to drop bombs from well above the conflict. I certainly think that takes bravery, but it doesn’t exactly make him Achilles or Hector.

But okay: I don’t want to start a fight. I don’t much care about John McCain as a soldier either way. He’s been far more important as a politician. And in that regard, he’s been an unrelenting stream of bad news. But that doesn’t much distinguish him from any other Republican politician. The main thing is that I can’t get past the fact that Republicans make such a big deal about John McCain the great war hero, when they were only too thrilled to belittle John Kerry’s far more heroic actions in Vietnam.

Just how bad was it? Well, for one thing, I remember many conversations with conservatives in which they dismissed Kerry’s Bronze and Silver Stars and three Purple Hearts as, “What? He got shot in the ass!” In point of fact, Kerry did get a small shrapnel wound on his behind — the other four metals were just lost to conservative memory. But I was just amazed at the way conservatives treated him. I’m not a great lover of the military. But this went against everything that they claimed they believed in. They are the ones who claim that the military is so important and how we absolutely must bow down to every person in uniform lest it cause us to lose all our wars.

With regard to this, Digby reminded me that all of this was not just during the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth nonsense. The picture above is from the Republican National Convention in 2004. It is just one of many that show the delegates wearing band-aids with purple hearts printed on them. Oh yes, they felt very proud mocking the man who actually fought in Vietnam, even while they were voting for two men who were highly successful in their elite efforts to stay out of that war.

This all shows everything that you need to know about the modern Republican Party. It is power over honor — always. They are a great shame to this country.

Morning Music: Bobby Lewis

Bobby LewisMy sister was telling me about how her husband is always complaining that he can’t sleep. I immediately thought of the song from the 1950s that starts, “I couldn’t get to sleep at all last night.” So I went searching for it online and all that came up was “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All” by The 5th Dimension. I don’t especially have a problem with that song, but by and large, I find The 5th Dimension to be pretty anemic stuff. And that definitely wasn’t the song that I was looking for.

Then I remembered that the refrain of the song was, “Tossin’ and Turnin’.” Interestingly, the lyric is not actually “I couldn’t get to sleep at all last night.” A Google search of that (without the quotes) really does bring up nothing but The 5th Dimension song. The actual lyric is, “I couldn’t sleep at all last night.” And that very similar phrase (again, without quotes) brings up nothing but “Tossin’ and Turnin'” by Bobby Lewis. He didn’t seem to have much success besides this song. It’s sad, because much of the rest of his work is equally great. (This was originally a live version of the song, it was taken down.)

Anniversary Post: Apollo 11 Landing

Apollo 11On this date in 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. It would be six hours later — technically the day after — that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin actually walked on the moon. With the recent New Horizons flyby of Pluto, I has been thinking of the lunar program. I keep thinking about James Burke. He was the chief reporter on the Apollo missions for the BBC. And he made the point much later that the BBC was committed to reporting on what was actually being done on those missions — the science. The US media did not cover these missions this way.

When I was growing up, the Apollo missions were about Tang, moon rocks (for what purpose I could not have told you), and most of all, the very fact of landing on the moon. As Burke noted, it wasn’t surprising that the American public quickly lost interest in the Apollo program: how many times are you going to get excited about landing on the moon when each time is pretty much the same thing? It turns out the answer that is: once.

I saw the same thing in the coverage of the Pluto mission. The best coverage was found on the BBC and the Guardian. The US media generally did a worse job. There were exceptions. I thought that Time did quite a good job of covering it. But the television coverage — both local and national — was pathetic. I don’t think that Discovery Channel could stop airing reruns of Mermaids: The Body Found long enough to cover what was happening near Pluto.

Americans don’t seem to get as interested in unmanned space exploration. It’s all about science — there is no “adventure.” Or maybe it is just the media. If the media got excited about it, the people would probably follow. For me, it’s much nicer to have unmanned probes. If I were watching manned space exploration, much of my enjoyment would be ruined by my concern for the safety of the people involved. Plus: I’m not sure it is necessary to send people out. Couldn’t we now send a robot to the Moon, pick up some rocks, and fly back to Earth? Maybe manned space travel was just a necessary crutch until we learned how to do this properly.

Regardless, to me it is all about what we learn, not the process by which we learn it. But landing on the moon was important — one small step in our continuing exploration of the cosmos.