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July 08, 2009

The Best and the Brightest: Obama, Palin, and the American Dream

Hamlet: What have you, my good friends, deserv'd at the hands of Fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?

Guildenstern: Prison, my lord?

Hamlet: Denmark's a prison.

Rosencrantz: Then is the world one.

Hamlet: A goodly one, in which there are many confines, wards, and
dungeons, Denmark being one o' th' worst.

Rosencrantz: We think not so, my lord.

Hamlet: Why then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.

- Hamlet Act 2, scene 2

Ever since Sarah Palin announced her resignation I've been reflecting on the visceral reactions she draws from across the political spectrum. What strikes me is how invested people seem to be in their positions. It's as though (having registered a gut reaction) we proceed to hunker down in the trenches and erect elaborate defenses against any fact or observation which threatens our position. I see this on both sides, and it troubles me because politics ought to be about more than personalities.

Such strong reactions tell me that Palin poses a challenge to our most fundamental assumptions about the way the world ought to work. Her certitude and confidence strike us differently depending on where we reside on the political spectrum. To conservatives, her upbeat assurance confirms the rightness of our world view. But to progressives that same breezy confidence seems dismissive and brash; an implied rebuke. I'm not sure why we take everything she says so personally but to this uncommitted observer, both the deranged attacks and the doggedly passionate defenses she elicits suggest more about us than they ever will about her.

I can't bring myself to fully back either side in this debate. I can't make myself see her as the last best hope of the GOP, as a self-absorbed, incoherent ditz who winked her way into the Governor's office, as the epitome of everything right or wrong with America. If that makes me a heretic, so be it. I don't particularly identify with Palin. Neither am I particularly offended by her. Not taking sides makes it a bit easier to see what animates both sides of the Palin wars.

There seem to be a couple of interesting things going on. Recent economic events and the election of Barack Obama have led many to think hard about what is required to foster success in America. Conservative and progressive explanations of - and remedies for - inequalities of income and achievement in America are nearly perfect mirror images of each other. This debate goes to the heart of what defines our national identity: the American dream. What is it that government ought to strive for in creating a more perfect union? For several days I've been following an interesting and profoundly disturbing conversation about the meritocratic vs. the democratic ideal:

In the last ten months, we've seen the son of a single mother, son of an immigrant, roots in Kansas, roots in the quintessentially American South Side of Chicago, standing for the "traditional values" of family, and the lesson we take from this is is that American meritocracy is broken.

Conservative condescension toward working class America, works in tandem with racial blindness. I have tried, through a few re-readings, to avoid seeing that in Ross's column. But it's very difficult to process the notion that Sarah Palin is a better model of the all-American meritocratic ideal than Barack Obama, without believing that that judgment hinges on race.

My black readers are laughing at me. Again.

I hate to break it to the gentleman, but it isn't just his black readers who are laughing at him. The oddly one-sided narrative he posits - Obama as the oppressed minority who miraculously overcomes deeply entrenched white racism and - through hard work and sheer brilliance alone - catapults himself to the highest office in the land, is some kind of minor miracle of willful subjectivity over that disturbing thing known as objective fact. Coates extends the idea in a bizarrely titled subsequent post:

... one of the most depressing things about being black and "making it" is the incredible randomness of it all. I have said this many times--I was a terrible student. To the extent that intelligence is measurable, I sat in classrooms with people who were smarter than me, worked harder than me, and studied longer than me. I was not without my own gifts--I possessed an obsessive and singular curiosity. I had a vivid imagination. I was creative. But I was also immature and lazy, and if not for the steady prodding/pushing/spanking/cajoling of my parents, I don't think you'd be reading this blog.

When you're black, and likely when you're Latino, and likely when you're a kind of white, you see brilliant people all the time--and they get taken out in the most horrific ways. They have kids too soon. They get shot on the way home from school. They get hooked on crack. They go to jail. And then there is that one kid who makes it, who despite the wages of race in this country, goes on and does something big. To many black people, that person is Barack Obama.

Here, in a nutshell, is the source of that yawning gap between the perceptions of whites and blacks; conservatives and progressives. In Coates' world people (black or white) don't make dumb decisions with predictable consequences: having kids too soon, using drugs, committing crimes. They aren't responsible for their own choices. Rather, some invisible and malign force "takes them out". Coates' world view depends heavily on seeing everything through the prism - and prison - of race. His earlier summation of Obama's rise is telling:

In the last ten months, we've seen the son of a single mother, son of an immigrant, roots in Kansas, roots in the quintessentially American South Side of Chicago...

It takes real determination to skew history this blatantly. Where are Barack Obama's real "roots"? Where did he spend his growing up years? Don't look to Ta-Nehisi Coates for honest answers. Facts that don't lead to the desired conclusion are conveniently discarded.

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. When his mother remarried, he moved to Indonesia where he spent the next four years in a mixture of public and private (St. Francis of Assisi) schools. From 5th grade on, he attended a private college prepatory school in Hawaii while living with his white grandparents. It would seem this "child of a single mother" was, in fact, raised by his married white grandparents. That was his upbringing; his "roots". There is nary a mention of either place Obama lived in: Indonesia or Hawaii. Instead, his "roots" are set in Kansas and the South side of Chicago. And perhaps most bizarrely, his eventual admission to Columbia and Harvard are framed as being surprising, given his background. He 'beat the odds'.

But how can this be, given that Barack Obama attended an exclusive private school whose entire purpose was to prepare students for admission to just such schools as these? His mother had a PhD and his father a Masters' degree from Harvard. Thus, Obama was hardly breaking the mold.

But the blindness continues. Coates is so entrenched in his race-conscious narrative that he never even tries to consider how conservatives view Obama's progress through life. The issue of experience was largely ignored during the election, but an objective look at the historical qualifications of Presidential candidates (as well as those who went on to be elected) shows just how odd it is that Obama was elected at all:

Since the Civil War, 49 men have won a major-party presidential nomination. Only three of these nominees were less qualified, by traditional measures of leadership and experience, than Obama.

That puts Barack Obama at or around the 6th percentile of presidential candidates chosen by a major party in the last century and a half, experience-wise. But we are not allowed to notice this, because it would be racist to elevate experience over skin color.

Interestingly:

None of those men was able to win the White House.

But we are not allowed to notice this, because it would be racist to elevate statistical evidence of voter preferences over skin color.

Americans have only elected 6 U.S. Presidents who had no previous executive experience. Notably, since the Civil War, we have only elected one: John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

But we are not allowed to notice this. You see, that would be racist.

Of course it didn't hurt that the media never bothered to subject a black candidate for the Presidency to the same scrutiny they reserved a female Vice President. In fact, despite telling us repeatedly that Obama's utter lack of executive experience was more than compensated for by his hard work and brilliance, the media felt it entirely unnecessary to examine either of those claims... that is, until after he was elected. His legal career was singularly unimpressive, especially considering his oft-cited leadership of the Harvard Review. Obama worked fewer hours in four years than most beginning lawyers work in two:

3,723: The number of billable hours Obama accrued while working at Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Gallard

Hmmm... let's see. Just as a rough tally, 3723/4 years equals about 930 billable hours a year.

That seems a bit light, doesn't it? Of course there were two autobiographies to write.

As this article points out, billable hours are a key metric used to measure attorney productivity:

The reason for a firm's reliance on billable hours as a measure of an attorney's productivity is largely a matter of convenience for the firm. This is particularly true at large firms. Under such a system, an attorney shows their value by bringing in funds from clients, and by satisfying the clients' expectations. It is assumed that a skilled attorney works efficiently to complete projects, so that her accrued billable hours can all be billed to the client without resulting in an exorbitant bill. Conversely, if an attorney is inefficient at completing a task, it may be necessary to reduce the amount of the client's bill to keep the client happy.

It is also important to understand that a stated minimum may be different than the firm's actual expectations; that's where it pays to understand a particular firm's culture regarding the billable hours. While a minimum may be stated, failing to exceed the minimum may impair an attorney's promotions in the firm (i.e., an associate failing to show adequate ambition may not make progress toward partnership). The actual meaning of a stated minimum can range from "our minimum is 2001 hours (wink, wink), but if you don't bill 2300 you're going nowhere," to "we don't have a minimum, honest."

But what about his legislative career? Here, too, the uncomfortable truth contradicts the comforting narrative:

Several months before Obama announced his U.S. Senate bid, Jones called his old friend Cliff Kelley, a former Chicago alderman who now hosts the city's most popular black call-in radio ­program... [Jones said] 'Cliff, I'm gonna make me a U.S. Senator.'"

...Jones appointed Obama sponsor of virtually every high-profile piece of legislation, angering many rank-and-file state legislators who had more seniority than Obama and had spent years championing the bills.

"I took all the beatings and insults and endured all the racist comments over the years from nasty Republican committee chairmen," State Senator Rickey Hendon, the original sponsor of landmark racial profiling and videotaped confession legislation yanked away by Jones and given to Obama, complained to me at the time. "Barack didn't have to endure any of it, yet, in the end, he got all the credit.

...During his seventh and final year in the state Senate, Obama's stats soared. He sponsored a whopping 26 bills passed into law — including many he now cites in his presidential campaign when attacked as inexperienced.

So here we have a multi-racial candidate - the product of an elite private school and two Ivy League universities, of a mother who earned a PhD and a father who had a Masters' degree from Harvard Universtity - being marketed as a triumph of hard work and brilliance over adversity. What would we normally expect from a child with such a background? On close inspection, his actual achievements don't seem to measure up to all that impressive potential. Contrast Obama's actual achievements with those of Sarah Palin:

Palin:
City Council member (1992-1996)
Mayor of Wasilla, AK (1996-2002)
President of Alaska Conference
of Mayors
Chair, Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (2003-2004)
Governor of Alaska (2006 - 2009)
First female governor of Alaska
Youngest person elected governor of that state

Obama:
First African American president of the Harvard Law Review.
Community organizer Developing Communities Project (DCP) (1985-1988)
Civil rights attorney in Chicago (1993-1996)
Lecturer, U Chicago Law School (1992 to 2004).
Illinois Senator (1997 - 2004)
U.S. Senator (2005-2008)

And yet Palin is, as Coates so trenchantly puts it, "fucking inept"? Charming. Barack Obama, product of a private college prep school, goes on to be elected to state and federal offices where he never had to assume responsibility for the policies he championed, never had to work out the practical details of day to day administration of government. But he's not an elitist - somehow his skin color trumps everything else about his life.

Sarah Palin, a product of rural public schools, community colleges and a rural state university somehow manages to get elected to a city council, a city mayorship, and the governor's office. But she didn't have to overcome any obstacles (such as, say, sexism). Nor is the ascent of a middle class wife and mother to the governorship of Alaska and Vice Presidential candidate emblematic of the democratic ideal because she is not black. Also, did we mention that she is stupid? The self-evident self-evidentness of this conclusion requires no evidence.

It's self-evident, you see.

It requires a special blindness to ignore any and all facts that contradict your comfy world view. Coates' assertion that black competence has always been trumped by white racism is amusingly afactual. Two brilliant black economists - Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell - have repeatedly demonstrated that it is behavior and not race which best explains success and the distribution of wealth in America. Williams and Sowell offer compelling evidence that when blacks refuse to excuse destructive and irresponsible behavior, black achievement soars, sometimes outstripping even that of whites with more advantages. Of course, to a conservative this is no surprise:

My colleague Dr. Thomas Sowell has written volumes on black education and an article worth reading is one he wrote some years ago in The Public Interest (Spring 1976) and reprinted in his book "Education: Assumptions Versus History."

Washington's Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School is one black school that Sowell writes about. From 1870 to 1955, most of Dunbar's graduates went off to college, earning degrees from Harvard, Princeton, Williams, Wesleyan and others. As early as 1899, Dunbar students had higher scores on citywide tests than students at any of the District's white schools. Dunbar's attendance records were generally better than those of white schools and its rate of tardiness was lower. Latin was taught throughout the period from 1870 to 1955 and in the early decades, Greek was taught as well. Large classes were the norm, 40 students per teacher. It was more than 40 years before Dunbar had a lunchroom, which was then so small that many children had to eat lunch on the street. Blackboards were old and cracked. It was 1950 before the school had a public address system. Most of the parents of Dunbar students worked in unskilled and semiskilled occupations. White-collar and professional parents totaled 17 percent.

Sowell also writes about Baltimore's Frederick Douglass High School, whose education tragedy was featured last June in the HBO documentary "Hard Times at Douglass High" and my column "Black Education" (July 23, 2008). Frederick Douglass was founded in 1883 as the Colored High and Training School before it was renamed in 1892. It survived for decades with inadequate support, located in a succession of hand-me-down buildings that whites had discarded, old textbooks used years before by white students, refinished desks from white schools, secondhand sports equipment and so on. Teaching styles at Douglass approximated those of rigorous colleges: discussion rather than lectures, reading lists rather than day-to-day assignments and papers rather than reliance on "objective" tests. The interest of teachers in the students was reciprocated by the parents. According to alumni, "The school could do no wrong" in the eyes of parents.

Douglass produced distinguished alumni, such as Thurgood Marshall and Cab Calloway, as well as several judges, congressmen and civil rights leaders. Douglass High was second in the nation in black Ph.D.'s among its alumni. Dunbar High's distinguished alumni included U.S. Sen. Ed Brooke and physician Charles Drew. During WWII, Dunbar alumni in the Army included "nearly a score of Majors, nine Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels and a Brigadier General."

These successful black schools and others contradict what the "experts" say is needed to improve black education. Today's Dunbar and Douglass High schools' teachers and students have resources that would have been the envy of their predecessors. Class sizes today are a fourth of what they were yesteryear. What about the argument that segregated schools, as in Brown v. Board of Education, are inherently unequal? Or, as argued in Serrano v. Priest, that equalization of expenditures per student is essential for equal education. These observations are not arguments for segregation or unequal school financing; they merely challenge assumptions that have become gospel.

Former teachers and alumni, whom Sowell interviewed, said that the most basic characteristic of their school was law and order. Respect was the term most used to describe the attitudes of students and parents toward the schools. "The teacher was always right" was a frequently used phrase. Without a civilized learning environment, academic excellence is impossible no matter how much money is spent.

Succeeding despite such daunting odds reveals a black America rich with talent and initiative - and one that refused to accept the shackles of low expectations. An open minded look at black history reveals the same lesson: even during an era when racism was stubbornly entrenched in American law, blacks who held themselves to the same standards as whites could not be kept down no matter what the legal or social climate:

By 1912, the states of Mississippi and Virginia vied for possessing the most black-owned banks, with 11 each. Of Tennessee's four banks, two were in Memphis, the Fraternal Savings Bank & Trust Company and the Solvent Savings Bank & Trust. The Savannah Tribune of July 12, 1912, after recounting several successful purchases of "stores and buildings" by the black-owned Wage Earners' Loan and Investment Company and Mechanics Investment Company, proudly proclaimed that these purchases attest to the fact that "in matters financial, as well as in other fields, the Negro is able to hold his own." The editorial went on to claim that such success was due to "the loyalty and support that came to these institutions from the Negroes themselves."

In 1912, when officers of 61 black banks met in Chicago, there was reason for optimism. This meeting of a loosely formed bankers association was a promising one, since most of its members (representing banks in 16 states) could report increases in yearly volume of business. Of the 61 banks, 52 were in the South. One of the most prominent of them was Durham's Mechanics and Farmers Bank, which was chartered in 1907 by a group of men from diverse professional backgrounds-barber, doctor, educator, attorney, tinsmith. Eventually opening a branch office in Raleigh, Mechanics and Farmers went on to play an indispensable role in the economic life of Durham's black population for a half century. It is one of the few banks from this pioneering period that survives today.

In a March 1914 commentary in the Washington Bee, Ralph Tyler praises the efforts of blacks to master the intricacies of the insurance and banking businesses. First citing the fact that these were two areas of business where blacks had little chance to "learn the ropes," since whites did not open their doors to them, Tyler describes how black men took the initiative to learn these fields from scratch. "That he has learned the banking and insurance business, has developed them, and is now conducting these branches of business with signal success constitutes one of the best possible answers to the statements by anti-race men, and proves the wisdom of the National Negro Business League."

But it isn't just hard work that ensures success. Concluding that race explains disparities in income and educational achievement requires one to ignore some very unsettling evidence. Oddly enough, it appears that blacks and whites who follow the same rules experience startlingly similar outcomes:

There's one segment of the black population that suffers only a 9.9 percent poverty rate, and only 13.7 percent of their under-5-year-olds are poor. There's another segment of the black population that suffers a 39.5 percent poverty rate, and 58.1 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor.

Among whites, one population segment suffers a 6 percent poverty rate, and only 9.9 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. Another segment of the white population suffers a 26.4 percent poverty rate, and 52 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor.

What do you think distinguishes the high and low poverty populations? The only statistical distinction between both the black and white populations is marriage. There is far less poverty in married-couple families, where presumably at least one of the spouses is employed. Fully 85 percent of black children living in poverty reside in a female-headed household.

In my post on the distribution of wealth in America, I underscored some rather startling statistics:

America's most prosperous households do one other thing differently from their poorer neighbors: they are, to an overwhelming degree, married:
One frequently overlooked dimension of the gap between the "rich" and the "poor" is how much it is affected by marital status. As Chart 10 shows, only about 30 percent of all persons in Census's bottom quintile live in married couple families; the rest either live in single-parent families or reside alone as single individuals. In the top quintile, the situation is reversed: Some 90 percent of persons live in married couple families.

Walter Williams points out a slew of stunning statistics:

In 1940, 86 percent of black children were born inside marriage, and the illegitimacy rate among blacks was about 15 percent. Today, 31 percent of black children are born inside marriage, and the illegitimacy rate hovers around 70 percent.

It is not blaming the victim to ask why, in a climate where there are more benefits and legal protections for blacks than at any other time in American history, blacks are worse off rather than better? Is it possible that the persistent refusal to abandon the comforting prism of race is the answer?

Is it possible that pundits like Coates will ever choose to entertain the possibility that many conservatives believe what they believe, not because they hate blacks and want them to fail, but because they believe all people - regardless of race - respond predictably to economic and social incentives? Is it possible for these people to step outside the prison of their own skins for a moment and look at the overwhelming evidence of black competence in the face of adversity? Is it even possible for them to admit that eliminating disadvantage - whether it stems from skin color, socio-economic status, or even a handicap, may be exactly the wrong way to ensure success in life?

It’s one thing to argue that being an outsider can be strategically useful. But Andrew Carnegie went farther. He believed that poverty provided a better preparation for success than wealth did; that, at root, compensating for disadvantage was more useful, developmentally, than capitalizing on advantage.

This idea is both familiar and perplexing. Consider the curious fact that many successful entrepreneurs suffer from serious learning disabilities. Paul Orfalea, the founder of the Kinko’s chain, was a D student who failed two grades, was expelled from four schools, and graduated at the bottom of his high-school class. “In third grade, the only word I could read was ‘the,’ ” he says. “I used to keep track of where the group was reading by following from one ‘the’ to the next.” Richard Branson, the British billionaire who started the Virgin empire, dropped out of school at fifteen after struggling with reading and writing. “I was always bottom of the class,” he has said. John Chambers, who built the Silicon Valley firm Cisco into a hundred-billion-dollar corporation, has trouble reading e-mail. One of the pioneers of the cellular-phone industry, Craig McCaw, is dyslexic, as is Charles Schwab, the founder of the discount brokerage house that bears his name. When the business-school professor Julie Logan surveyed a group of American small-business owners recently, she found that thirty-five per cent of them self-identified as dyslexic.

That is a remarkable statistic. Dyslexia affects the very skills that lie at the center of an individual’s ability to manage the modern world. Yet Schwab and Orfalea and Chambers and Branson seem to have made up for their disabilities, in the same way that the poor, in Carnegie’s view, can make up for their poverty. Because of their difficulties with reading and writing, they were forced to develop superior oral-communication and problem-solving skills. Because they had to rely on others to help them navigate the written word, they became adept at delegating authority. In one study, conducted in Britain, eighty per cent of dyslexic entrepreneurs were found to have held the position of captain in a high-school sport, versus twenty-seven per cent of non-dyslexic entrepreneurs. They compensated for their academic shortcomings by developing superior social skills, and, when they reached the workplace, those compensatory skills gave them an enormous head start. “I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence as a kid,” Orfalea said once, in an interview. “And that is for the good. If you have a healthy dose of rejection in your life, you are going to have to figure out how to do it your way.”

Setting aside your biases for a moment and considering ideas you find upsetting requires courage. The reflexive hostility to Sarah Palin on the Left makes no more sense than the reflexive and sometimes unconditional defenses of her from the right. There is much to admire in Ms. Palin's rise from obscure origins, and also much that ought to give progressives pause. Of course, this would require them to actually display the open-mindedness and tolerence they claim to believe in: to walk the walk rather than just talking the talk.

The debate over whether America is better ruled by aristocratic thinkers or scrappy doers is an interesting one. It's also one that requires us to examine our assumptions about the "merit" part of meritocracy. As David Brooks notes, life is full of tradeoffs:

I’d prefer to live under our meritocracy than under the aristocratic systems of the Wise Men or the Founders. And yet I don’t know about you, but something has been lost, some character formula, some aristocratic grandeur.

It is just these tradeoffs - and the intrinsic connection between behavior and success - that the Obama administration seems determined to wipe out. The phrase, "blaming the victim" is often and unthinkingly applied to anyone who attempts to demonstrate that the choices we make in life do matter. Palin's appeal was that she was not afraid to champion this idea - an idea that was once considered synonymous with the American dream. This ideal is on its way to being replaced with a depressing alternative: the idea that we are powerless victims who can only succeed by taking what others produce.

And make no mistake: that is precisely the message that put Barack Obama in the Oval Office - the idea that inequality of outcome is prima facie evidence of institutional injustice rather than the result of principles that create wealth and foster excellence regardless of race or gender. What a shame that, rather than engaging their opponents with evidence, pundits like Coates resort to the comforting belief that anyone who disagrees with them is stupid or racist.

Posted by Cassandra at July 8, 2009 08:56 PM

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Comments

Palin's appeal was that she was joyous -- that she took life on with a great, happy heart. Therefore she had become a mother and a mayor, wife to a man who was happy, mother of many children, a governor, and a successful governor at that. She had high approval ratings, a track record of success at tackling sticky problems, and the affection of the people of her state.

That, I think, was the real reason for the wrath and hatred that have struck her. It was not that she was able to do all these things, with only the support of a loving family. It was that -- while doing it all -- she was so obviously happy, joyous, beautiful, and beloved.

The people who have hated her are rarely any of those things.

Posted by: Grim at July 9, 2009 03:22 PM

That may be. I only know that what I've heard again and again about Palin from her supporters is that they loved the fact that she wasn't afraid to champion conservative values. When you got her on certain subjects, she did that quite well.

Being happy... I don't know. This is not going to be a popular thing to say, Grim, but I don't think being happy is anywhere enough reason to vote for a political candidate.

You have to be able to make the case for your beliefs and your experience - to convince voters that you have something to offer. Palin has enormous charisma. And I think that she is smart and competent. I think her record shows that. But I don't think she was very good at communicating that, even when she wasn't misquoted or edited dishonestly (and that absolutely did happen).

I see that she often has a lot of trouble communicating effectively, even sometimes when the message isn't that complicated. And communication is probably one of the single most important things a politician does.

Like Bush, she's more of a doer than a talker.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 9, 2009 03:45 PM

...as opposed to Obama, who talks everything to death but doesn't have much of a track record when it comes to *doing* :p

Posted by: Cassandra at July 9, 2009 03:45 PM

That's the longest, most roundabout way of explaining the Obama presidency I've ever read.

Not that it wasn't excellent; it was.

But I think a huge percentage of the country would have understood perfectly if you had attributed everything about Barak Obama's education, legal career, public service, nomination and election as President, as well as our subsequent dismay with his performance in office, to just two litle words:

Affirmative action.

Posted by: Joe Doakes at July 9, 2009 04:07 PM

Oh, wait a second! Xerxes IWon! is excellent at *doing* -- *doing to* that is.....*doing to* real Illinois Senators who worked and endured for legislation they initiated; *doing to* anyone who dared to ask him to provide the most basic of proofs that he is legally eligible to run for and execute the office of President; *doing to* ordinary citizens who asked pointed questions wrt his socialistic policy of "distributing the wealth"; *doing to* banking exec's who didn't want TARP money; *doing to* Gerald Walpin for simply investigating one of the many minions of the ChiMoCheen.....see? Plenty of *doin'*.
0>;~}

FWIW, I hear and understand Palin just fine. But, I admit that I'm the type of person who would prefer six .50 words to one of the $5 variety.

And, wrt happiness in a candidate, I'd have to say that the current situation we are in is due in part to electing *angry* people. That's not working out too well for us, is it? Maybe instead we should elect those who are genuinely happy in their lives. They seem to be the only ones who least want to use government fiat to control everything and everyone.

Posted by: DL Sly at July 9, 2009 04:08 PM

I think a huge percentage of the country would have understood perfectly if you had attributed everything about Barak Obama's education, legal career, public service, nomination and election as President, as well as our subsequent dismay with his performance in office, to just two litle words:

Affirmative action.

Perhaps. But I would have done nothing to back up my opinion.

And it's not just the choir I'm preaching to here. It's everyone, including those I disagree with, and I don't expect them to give the benefit of the doubt to my unsupported opinions. I assume that if they begin in a different place that I did, I need to provide some concrete support to back up my reasoning.

I know that I go on too long and over pedantic. I almost didn't post this at all. But I don't expect anyone to entertain the ideas I put out there if I can't provide ample support for them that is based on something more than my political opinion.

Anyway, here I go again. I need to learn to shut up.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 9, 2009 04:16 PM

This is not going to be a popular thing to say, Grim, but I don't think being happy is anywhere enough reason to vote for a political candidate.

Happiness is not normally a reason for running at all. If you are happy with the life you have, why would you run for a difficult and demanding office, normally?

('Because she was invited, and thought she'd enjoy the challenge' is my suspected answer.)

Posted by: Grim at July 9, 2009 04:22 PM

I meant to add:

But if one is a conservative -- if your main function for government is to preserve the goods we have already known, and found -- what better reason is there to run?

"I love America as it is; I wish to preserve it so."

Joy is a fine reason to run. It just isn't the usual one.

Posted by: Grim at July 9, 2009 04:26 PM


Don't apologize, Cass, you were not pedantic and I'm glad you posted these thoughts.

Your writing is always interesting, even if we meander around the meadow poking under rocks and peering into trees before finally getting to the picnic place to sit down to the meal. That's okay, I enjoyed the trip as much as the meal.

I understand that you're not writing only for right-wing kooks, but for a larger audience including thinking people across the political spectrum. Good for you, it needs to be done.

But America's obsession with race has led us to the point where I fear we can't even discuss what some of us think is obvious: the guy is tall, slender, looks fabulous in a nice suit, and can read aloud like nobody's business but there is no evidence that he is competent for his job. Too many of his prior sinecures were of the "First Black" variety to be impressive accomplishments and his performance since the election fairly shrieks "in over his head."

If we excuse his poor job performance because of the soft bigotry of low expectations and the fear of being called names, we exacerbate the problem that competent Blacks face - they're always having to prove they're not affirmative action hires. Because so many are.

Posted by: joe doakes at July 9, 2009 04:50 PM

Palin being happy isn’t a sufficient qualification for office but I do believe it's part of why the people who hate her, hate her so very, very much. As for why she would run for Vice-President if she was happy, I imagine it was some combination of (in no particular order): she’s ambitious; she was flattered to be asked; she admired McCain; she thought she could contribute both in the campaign and as Vice-President; it was a new world to conquer (Grim’s challenge, I suppose); it sounded like fun. On the other side, I don’t think she had any idea what kind of buzzsaw she was walking into and I’m sure she had no idea she was putting her children in the line of fire.

I do agree with Cassandra about Palin’s communication skills. I thought her resignation speech made perfectly good sense - except for the whole lame duck side-trip - but she certainly gives a speech as if she’s talking to one person over coffee in her kitchen. That can be powerful and charismatic but if she wants to talk to millions over the airwaves and explain herself to those who don’t know her or don’t like her, to convince the undecided to follow her lead, her speeches need to be more focused, more structured, tighter.

As for Coates, I’ve tried to read him and I usually find him incomprehensible. On those occasions when he is comprehensible - as in the section where he talks about how bad things just somehow magically happen to promising minorities - it’s impossible for me to believe he could actually be as unaware as he seems to be. It’s as if he’s not actually reading what he’s writing.

pundits like Coates resort to the comforting belief that anyone who disagrees with them is stupid or racist.

This type of attitude, embodied in a speech by Jean Rohe at the New School when McCain gave the commencement address there, was one of the major factors that made me question what I had believed about liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. My reaction to Coates is the same as my reaction to Rohe, courtesy of Joseph Addison:

A man must be both stupid and uncharitable who believes there is no virtue or truth but on his own side.

Posted by: Elise at July 9, 2009 05:29 PM

To a very substantial extent, this is all about educational credentials and mannerisms of speech.

There are a lot of people who have investment money & time getting advanced degrees (often in not-very-rigorous subject areas) and now find themselves working as untenured and poorly-paid adjunct professors (if they're lucky) or at Starbucks (if they're not.) Many of these people are mad as hell--not at those who got them to drink the Kool-Aid (which would be understandable)--but as "society" as a whole.

I suspect that to this class of people (the "lumpenintellectuals," as Marx might have put it), it is infuriating to see a person like Palin who has succeeded without an advanced degree or even a degree from an elite college, and who does not even bother to mimick the speech patterns associated with such educational credentials.

Posted by: david foster at July 9, 2009 06:54 PM

Palin being happy isn’t a sufficient qualification for office but I do believe it's part of why the people who hate her, hate her so very, very much.

Allow me, if you will, to refine that a bit.

I think that some people perceive her confidence and conviction as implied rebukes (IOW, the joy seems smug and the confidence, arrogant and brash rather than infectious).

If you agree with her, her story and her conviction are encouraging because they validate your pre-existing position. But if you spend your days preaching that women can't break the glass ceiling b/c of male oppression and then here comes a woman who has done just that while raising a larger-than-normal family to boot, it's not surprising that folks will want to prove that her life is some kind of lie: to destroy what they perceive is a myth.

The sick thing about all this is that in order to tear down what they see as a fraud, they didn't hesitate to attack her children. No one - not even Palin - is perfect. She never said she was perfect - only that certain things are not impossible.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 9, 2009 06:55 PM

A corollary (as David notes) is that these same people also have argued for decades that not having an Ivy League degree, not going to the right school or belonging to the right clubs, being shut out of the elite, is an insurmountable barrier to success.

It's just another set of excuses: "if only" more blacks/women/transgendered Arctic timber wolves went to Harvard, they think, America wouldn't hoover the way it so manifestly does. To see a woman who graduated from community colleges and a state U. get ahead without the elite creds they've been telling us are *essential* is really just too much to bear :p

Posted by: Cassandra at July 9, 2009 07:14 PM

Cass, your last comment is *precisely* what I've been trying to figure out how to say ALL DAY!

And given the state of the economy and government at the moment, I've got to say that those Ivy League degrees might be issued from some institutions suffering from so much hubris the education they offer has started to suck and they don't know it.

Not that I'm putting down Ivy League degrees in general - if you managed to get accepted to an Ivy League and got your degree there, more power to you!

On the other hand, it should not be a prerequisite to power. In fact, since we've got such an overabundance of them in positions of power and things are so royally screwed up, perhaps what we really need is a bit of a moratorium. You know, get some *real* diversity in there.

Posted by: airforcewife at July 9, 2009 07:35 PM

A lot of my friends from high school went to Ivy League schools. I got in, and attended for a year before deciding there were cheaper places for a young lady who wasn't serious about her education to party and drink way too much beer :p

My youngest wanted to attend an Ivy. I was very against it. He ended up going to a private college that (sadly) was just as expensive but that I think was a far better fit for him.

Hasn't held him back a bit. In fact, I think he got a better education where he went to school than he would have at any of the Ivies. I think it all depends on what you want out of life. To me, the networking opportunities weren't worth the money. But to some people, that's a big consideration in choosing a school.

And then there's the snobbery factor :p

Posted by: Cassandra at July 10, 2009 12:29 AM

A Special blindness or call it what it is - A Special Capacity for Self Delusion. Something happens in a child's development. To skew reality to fit the picture of the world the way they want to see it, not the way it actually is...lack of maturity maybe arrested emotional development? I think David Letterman is the best example of the behavior I am trying to describe......some people just never grow up. They can't they are emotionally stunted.

Posted by: Ree at July 10, 2009 12:53 AM

"But we are not allowed to notice this, because it would be racist..."

Amen and amen. One of the (exceedingly few) good things about Obama being elected is that we no longer have to listen to minority folk telling us how this society is keeping them down. They might still try saying it; but we no longer have to listen.

Regarding Sarah Palin...I like her. She's human, it shows, and she's OK with that. I think she's genuine in her beliefs, comfortable in her own skin. This might have a lot to do with why she puts off those who manifestly are not.

But what do I know know? I never finished college, either. ;-)

Posted by: camojack at July 10, 2009 03:52 AM

"But what do I know know?"

Hey! Is there an echo (echo...echo) in here? :-D

Posted by: camojack at July 10, 2009 03:53 AM

I've got to say that those Ivy League degrees might be issued from some institutions suffering from so much hubris the education they offer has started to suck and they don't know it.

I've known two Department Heads, several Professors and three or four Jes' Plain Lecturers at Princeton and Rutgers (and one lone Yalie) for a couple of decades, and the only thing they have in common -- aside from liking the barbecues I throw -- is their complaint that those institutions are becoming increasingly insular with regards to teaching core subjects, and increasingly manic in their pursuit of the latest New And Shiny popping out of the Diversity Drainpipe.

Next-door Neighbor was once told to revise his curriculum because it didn't place "sufficient emphasis" on the impact ancient Zimbabwe had on the rise of Mediterranean civilization.

Posted by: Bill (Using His Generic Mid-Central East Coastian Accent) T at July 10, 2009 04:02 AM

"I see this on both sides, and it troubles me because politics ought to be about more than personalities."

Even though you'd be hard-pressed to find a President in the last 50 years that wasn't a personality. The only one you could really say wasn't a personality in his own way was Gerald Ford, and he was an accidental President.

Which is why I would LOVE to ask conservatives a basic question: Where did you get this notion that politics "ought" to be more than personalities? Did you get that notion from uber-personality Rush Limbaugh? If you did, you've been the beneficiary of one of the biggest political sales pitches of recent US History.

Too bad it doesn't work anymore. Maybe that's what Palin is trying to tell people.

Posted by: Brad Schwartze at July 10, 2009 09:35 AM

No one is smarter than their criteria

Ever since the election, Gov. Sarah has been attacked by the leftist-humanists because they fear her re-appearance on a future ballot. They are afraid and rightly so! She is a perceptive excellent candidate to faithfully represent the Founders Principles and our American way of life with intelligent courage.

Additionally, since no one is smarter than their criteria, the collectivists are working from a pre-chosen mediocre (and worse) set of man-made carnal-ruled opinions that delimit perception of consequences-of-choice prior to choosing. In other words, they lack Vision. Based on a universe-sized ignorance, such devices are self-imposed, thus, the lefty collectivists can accurately and historically be defined as unintelligent.

On the other hand, Sarah and her chosen criteria, which is far superior to any man-made system of opinion, reasonably scares those who possess no practicing standard greater than mediocrity. Their collectivist egoistic carnal opinion rises no higher than eyebrows - or belly-button.

Sarah lives life governed by God's superior transcendent principles as found in The Holy Bible. Judeo-Christian principles are the founding precepts of the greatest nation in human history; America! Including, but not limited to, Human Defined: Earth's Choicemaker, Unique Individual Value, Personal Rights and Responsibility, and Representative Government.

Add: The Creative Process is a choice-making process and functions best in Freedom.

( 5th Grade - Lesson #1: God-made social criteria cannot be topped. All man-made social opinion has a delimiting ceiling! )

( Lesson #2: Every IQ Test is a test of one's ability to choose. )

Sarah is recognized by friends and admirers a worthy representative of all that is wonderful about America. 2012 will be here shortly. Keep your eye on this courageous intelligent leader - and pray!

2009 AD: The Season of Generation-Choicemaker Joel 3:14 Psalm 25:12 kjv

Jim Baxter
5th Grade Teacher 30 wonderful years!

Santa Maria, CA

semper fidelis
Sgt. USMC
WW I I & Korean War
pointman/follower of The Lion of Judah

+ + +

Posted by: Jim Baxter at July 10, 2009 09:36 AM

But if you spend your days preaching that women can't break the glass ceiling... [snip] ...to destroy what they perceive is a myth.

I'm going two routes with this.

The first is my politics-as-sports theory. She's the home team, and one feels obligated to defend her out of some since of loyalty. If the left's opinion of her was "meh" instead of the viceral loathing of her, I don't think she'd have such a following.

The second is that Palinmania isn't really about her. It's about us. Since Palin really did come from a "flyover country" background she's one of us. When you insult her because she's just a small town hick with a state U. degree you insult all of us small town hicks with a state U. degree, too. Thus if she gives the left their comeuppance, then so de we.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at July 10, 2009 09:42 AM

Which is why I would LOVE to ask conservatives a basic question: Where did you get this notion that politics "ought" to be more than personalities? Did you get that notion from uber-personality Rush Limbaugh?

Good nightshirt :p What is the fixation with Rush Limbaugh? Some listen to him.

I don't happen to. And last time I checked, Limbaugh was a talk show host, not a politician.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 10, 2009 09:42 AM

Obama's self-chosen disability...

Deterministic systems, ideological symbols of abdication
by man from his natural role as earth's Choicemaker,
inevitably degenerate into collectivism; the negation of
singularity, they become a conglomerate plural-based
system of measuring human value. Blunting an awareness
of diversity, blurring alternatives, and limiting the
selective creative process, they are self-relegated to
a passive and circular regression.

Tampering with man's selective nature endangers his
survival for it would render him impotent and obsolete
by denying the tools of variety, individuality,
perception, criteria, selectivity, and progress.
Coercive attempts produce revulsion, for such acts
are contrary to an indeterminate nature and nature's
indeterminate off-spring, man the Choicemaker.

Until the oppressors discover that wisdom only just
begins with a respectful acknowledgment of The Creator,
The Creation, and The Choicemaker, they will be ever
learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.
The rejection of Creator-initiated standards relegates
the mind of man to its own primitive, empirical, and
delimited devices. It is thus that the human intellect
cannot ascend and function at any level higher than the
criteria by which it perceives and measures values.

Additionally, such rejection of transcendent criteria
self-denies man the vision and foresight essential to
decision-making for survival and progression. He is left,
instead, with the redundant wreckage of expensive hind-
sight, including human institutions characterized by
averages, mediocrity, and regression.

Humanism, mired in the circular and mundane egocentric
predicament, is ill-equipped to produce transcendent
criteria. Evidenced by those who do not perceive
superiority and thus find themselves beset by the shifting
winds of the carnal-ego; i.e., moods, feelings, desires,
appetites, etc., the mind becomes subordinate: a mere
device for excuse-making and rationalizing self-justifica-
tion.

The carnal-ego rejects criteria and self-discipline for such
instruments are tools of the mind and the attitude. The
appetites of the flesh have no need of standards for at the
point of contention standards are perceived as alien, re-
strictive, and inhibiting. Yet, the very survival of our
physical nature itself depends upon a maintained sover-
eignty of the mind and of the spirit.

It remained, therefore, to the initiative of a personal
and living Creator to traverse the human horizon and
fill the vast void of human ignorance with an intelli-
gent and definitive faith. Man is thus afforded the
prime tool of the intellect - a Transcendent Standard
by which he may measure values in experience, anticipate
results, and make enlightened and visionary choices.

Only the unique and superior God-man Person can deserved-
ly displace the ego-person from his predicament and free
the individual to measure values and choose in a more
excellent way. That sublime Person was indicated in the
words of the prophet Amos, "...said the Lord, Behold,
I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel."
Y'shua Mashiyach Jesus said, "If I be lifted up I will
draw all men unto myself."

As long as some choose to abdicate their personal reality
and submit to the delusions of humanism, determinism, and
collectivism, just so long will they be subject and re-
acting only, to be tossed by every impulse emanating from
others. Those who abdicate such reality may, in perfect
justice, find themselves weighed in the balances of their
own choosing.

"No one is smarter than their criteria."

Jim Baxter
semper fidelis
- from "2010 AD: The Season of Generation-Choicemaker"
http://www.choicemaker.net/

Posted by: Jim Baxter at July 10, 2009 09:44 AM

"I see this on both sides, and it troubles me because politics ought to be about more than personalities." Even though you'd be hard-pressed to find a President in the last 50 years that wasn't a personality.

Sorry to wail on you Brad, but this makes no sense.

The issue isn't whether politicians have personalities - of course they do. It's about obsessing with a politician's personality (or personal life) to the point where the issues take a back seat.

The cult of personality gave us Barack Obama - a man whose supporters are only now figuring out how utterly full of sh** he is b/c they voted for the persona rather than the policies.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 10, 2009 09:45 AM

Advantage: CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES

Each individual human being possesses a unique, highly
developed, and sensitive perception of variety. Thus
aware, man is endowed with a natural capability for enact-
ing internal mental and external physical selectivity.
Quantitative and qualitative choice-making thus lends
itself as the superior basis of an active intelligence.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. His title describes
his definitive and typifying characteristic. Recall
that his other features are but vehicles of experi-
ence intent on the development of perceptive
awareness and the following acts of decision and
choice. Note that the products of man cannot define
him for they are the fruit of the discerning choice-
making process and include the cognition of self,
the utility of experience, the development of value-
measuring systems and language, and the accultur-
ation of civilization.

The arts and the sciences of man, as with his habits,
customs, and traditions, are the creative harvest of
his perceptive and selective powers. Creativity, the
creative process, is a choice-making process. His
articles, constructs, and commodities, however
marvelous to behold, deserve neither awe nor idol-
atry, for man, not his contrivance, is earth's own
highest expression of the creative process.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. The sublime and
significant act of choosing is, itself, the Archimedean
fulcrum upon which man levers and redirects the
forces of cause and effect to an elected level of qual-
ity and diversity. Further, it orients him toward a
natural environmental opportunity, freedom, and
bestows earth's title, The Choicemaker, on his
singular and plural brow.

That human institution which is structured on the
principle, "...all men are endowed by their Creator with
...Liberty...," is a system with its roots in the natural
Order of the universe. The opponents of such a system are
necessarily engaged in a losing contest with nature and
nature's God. Biblical principles are still today the
foundation under Western Civilization and the American
way of life. To the advent of a new season we commend the
present generation and the "multitudes in the valley of
decision."

Let us proclaim it. Behold!
2010 AD: The Season of Generation-Choicemaker Joel 3:14 KJV

Posted by: Jim Baxter at July 10, 2009 09:56 AM

The good news is that, according to the Obama administration, the rich will pay for everything. The bad news is that, according to the Obama administration, you're rich.
--- P. J. O'Rourke

Posted by: BillT at July 10, 2009 10:02 AM

"It's about obsessing with a politician's personality (or personal life) to the point where the issues take a back seat."

But the real issue (!) is that too many conservatives have used issues as a crutch for any and all personal/social issues they have with personality.

Posted by: Brad Schwartze at July 10, 2009 10:41 AM

Cass uses a lot of $5 words in this essay. Sadly, for me, she uses them correctly, which is surprising for a conservative. She also supports her opinions with facts and oustanding sources, which is difficult to accept since the opinions are so very wrong.

Some of you seem capable of being nice, like my grandfather. It is a shame all conservatives are still stupid racists.

Posted by: Bliss Goode at July 10, 2009 10:44 AM

"The cult of personality gave us Barack Obama - a man whose supporters are only now figuring out how utterly full of sh** he is b/c they voted for the persona rather than the policies."
I think most are still stuck in the denial stage of grief as described by the Kübler-Ross model. It'll be much more entertaining when they hit the depression stage.
*absent-mindedly thumbs Bartleby Quotes - The Brutal, YES, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE Edition*
"The bad news is that, according to the Obama administration, you're rich."
Funny how the percentage of rich who would foot the bill went from 10% during the campaign to roughly 90% post election. Shocked! Shocked am I!

Four Hundred seventy-nine days and a wake up, then throw the bums out! At least those standing for (re-)election.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at July 10, 2009 10:48 AM

too many conservatives have used issues as a crutch for any and all personal/social issues they have with personality.

Huh???

Maybe we should just dispense with all this boring talk about what policies government should enact? Then we could replace deadly dull elections with beauty pageants and popularity contests.

Kind of like American Idol, but with a government paycheck as the prize.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 10, 2009 10:50 AM

"But the real issue (!) is that too many conservatives have used issues as a crutch for any and all personal/social issues they have with personality."
Would you mind elaborating on that a bit? Maybe with an example of how a personal/social issue, minding its own business, and one not worthy of political consideration, was made into an issue at the behest of the dastardly conservative machine?

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at July 10, 2009 10:54 AM

bt,

Your own moniker is the perfect example of a conservative having a personal issue with personality. You have to do SOMETHING to address that lack of personality, while at the same time trying to stand out from the crowd. Thus your pride at being the "resident curmudgeon."

Cass,

Which came first: The ideas, or the people who promote the ideas? Was the Federalist Papers a founding set of documents, or a sales pitch? You have to have personality skills in order to sell most ideas. Too many conservatives (I am one, and I'm no longer blind to their personal shortcomings) pay a near-religious obeisance to ideas, and think that any old promoter of ideas will do.

Posted by: Brad Schwartze at July 10, 2009 11:34 AM

It is a shame all conservatives are still stupid racists.

Translation: "I wish I had sufficient facts to sustain any argument I might make refuting your statements, but I got nothin'."

Posted by: BillT at July 10, 2009 11:35 AM

You have to do SOMETHING to address that lack of personality, while at the same time trying to stand out from the crowd. Thus your pride at being the "resident curmudgeon."

Thus proving the Left *is* totally devoid of a sense of humor.

Ummmm -- well, okay, they *do* think toilet jokes are funny.

Posted by: BillT at July 10, 2009 11:41 AM

Good answer Brad! Now that you've analyzed me, I'll ask you to fret no more over my moniker and answer my question.

And when you say this;

"Too many conservatives (I am one, and I'm no longer blind to their personal shortcomings) pay a near-religious obeisance to ideas, and think that any old promoter of ideas will do."
From that I take it that you mean that you recognize that people, but particularly conservatives to the exclusion of others, are attracted to ideas. And conservatives will instead ignore, or focus on, the human failings of the messenger!? Exclusively? And the alternatives to making political choices are?

Please bear with me, but I'm still hung up on the whole issues as crutch point.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go mix it up in the crowd for a while. But I'll check back later.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at July 10, 2009 11:56 AM

Without ideas, you end up with an electable focus for a cult of personality who wavers from thought to impulse to meme. Yes, it would be very nice if someone who was charismatic, decent, photogenic, good with various forms of media AND a magnificent political thinker and leader were to suddenly appear and consent to run for office (and have the independent financial means to be elected). However, this being the real world, I'm going to start by looking for politicians and other national leaders (cultural, religious) whose ideas I can agree with, then go from there. What good is a magnificent salesman without a decent product? People may buy once, but they won't come back if you sell them a bill of goods.

Posted by: LittleRed1 at July 10, 2009 12:41 PM


"What good is a magnificent salesman without a decent product?"

On the otter heiny, and I think this is what Brad was getting at, what good are those ideas if you can't get anybody to listen to (much less believe in) what you're saying?

Or, at least, I *think* that is what he meant.

Posted by: DL Sly at July 10, 2009 12:52 PM

folks will want to prove that her life is some kind of lie: to destroy what they perceive is a myth

To see a woman who graduated from community colleges and a state U. get ahead without the elite creds they've been telling us are *essential* is really just too much to bear

I think these are both about a concept I’ve been struggling to formulate for a while now. It’s as if there are certain paths that one must take to be considered valid and therefore to be successful. The Ivy League part of it was what Douthat was talking about: “anyone, from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School and become a great American success story.” But, Douthat argues, if you don’t follow that path through the Ivy League you can’t be taken seriously.

If you’re not a white Anglo-Saxon man, there are additional aspects to the one true path. For women the one acceptable path leads through a high-powered career, husband with powerful career, few or no children, and - of course - favoring abortion and favoring government action to deal with inequality. Deviate from this path and you’re not genuinely female.

I think Coates himself lays out the one acceptable path for African-Americans when he explains (somewhat mendaciously) why Obama is genuinely black: black neighborhood, basketball, bap and bop, dark-skinned wife. What Coates doesn’t mention is that certain beliefs are also required to be genuinely black, like the power of victimhood and the imperative to produce equality of outcomes. I imagine there are similar one true path requirements for Hispanic-Americans, also. And none at all for white men of Western European descent.

It’s ironic that after all these years of slogging through the Valley of Equality we’ve ended up back where we started: only white Anglo-Saxon men get to be individuals; everyone else still has to be a stereotype.

Posted by: Elise at July 10, 2009 12:59 PM

...only white Anglo-Saxon men get to be individuals...

Until we're dead. Then we all get lumped into one category.

*mope*

Posted by: BillT at July 10, 2009 01:07 PM

Wonderful synopsis.

Posted by: Chris Muir at July 10, 2009 02:01 PM

The following is not intending to have any actual value.

I attended Clarkson College of Technology in Potsdam NY, graduating in the 70's. It was a very small engineering school. However, we played ECAC Div 1 hockey. Our tiny, frigid arena was home for watching our Golden Knights battle every Ivy League school. It was glorious. We drank far too much. We've probably all grown up to know that only a fool would not be stimulating the economy with nuclear power plants.

Posted by: tomg51 at July 10, 2009 02:09 PM

Brad, you do understand that the argument that personality should count for less than ideas is not the same as saying that personality should count for nothing. right?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at July 10, 2009 02:48 PM

I am not really sure how:

"politics ought to be more than personalities"

became:

"politics ought to be free of personalities".

The meaning of those two statements is quite different but I find that some people read what they've decided to argue with into even plainly worded sentences.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 10, 2009 02:57 PM

Simple enough, Ma'am -- if Someone desperately wants to argue with Someone Else, but can't fault Someone Else's statement without sounding like a twit, Someone must invent a statement that he *can* argue against.

Posted by: BillT at July 10, 2009 03:17 PM

Let me address a subset of progressives (the RINOs) and why they hate Palin.

It started with her nomination. Her nomination was a rebuke by McCain of the RINOs.

Before Palin, the liberal R's were pushing McCain hard. And instead of trying to make nice with the conservatives, they threatened and abused conservatives, even after he got the nomination. McCain let this go on.

The Liberal R's were trying to take over the Party, and instead of compromising, they intended to browbeat into submission the Base (or drive them out--better to rule the losers than be part of a coalition of the winners).

But then McCain had a burst of maverickness, and he realized he was about to make a five mile wide crater in the ground. Instead of choosing a real middle of the roader like Romney, he chose a woman who would become a Conservative heroine. Thus he rejected the Liberal R strategy at the last moment.

Their standardbearer, by actions, told the RINOs "You're never going to win, alone." Palin is the embodiment of that fact. Naturally, she is hated.

Posted by: Tennwriter at July 10, 2009 04:07 PM

"I think this is what Brad was getting at, what good are those ideas if you can't get anybody to listen to (much less believe in) what you're saying?"
I don't know Sly. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe if some refuse to entertain ideas because they are hyper-inclined to find any and all fault with the messenger, it's not a problem with the messenger as much it is a problem with those who turn away from the ideas.

In any event, I'm willing to listen to and attempt to understand Brad which is why I asked for clarification. But instead of clarifying the following;

"But the real issue (!) is that too many conservatives have used issues as a crutch for any and all personal/social issues they have with personality."
I get a one-shot from the Sigmund drive-through in the form of;
Your own moniker is the perfect example of a conservative having a personal issue with personality. You have to do SOMETHING to address that lack of personality, while at the same time trying to stand out from the crowd. Thus your pride at being the "resident curmudgeon."
A personal issue with personality? Lack of personality? A need to stand out from the crowd? Nailing me on my obvious vanity and pride? Zowie! I'd better check my bitterNclingy Fighting Words Reference, but that strikes me as a bit smug and self assuming, if not outright pretentious, in the implied abilities of trans-intertube insight into my persona contained in that brief analysis.

Especially given how well and how long Brad and I have known each other.

And, ok, maybe it's just me, but it still seems rather muddled to boot.

Ah well, after two requests for clarification, I think I'll just concede the point and try to carry on with my self-exploration of personality.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at July 10, 2009 10:22 PM

...but that strikes me as a bit smug and self assuming, if not outright pretentious...

The pop-psyche term for that is "projecting"...

Posted by: BillT at July 11, 2009 05:11 AM

Cassandra,

Thanks for expressing your thoughts so well and with such good factual support and obvious concern and care. I enjoy reading your long [or short] posts because I believe you write honestly and with every effort at being fair, rational, and thoughtful.

As far as folks' reactions to Sarah Palin, I think it's mostly fear. Fear makes folks lash out often, without thinking. She's a strong woman with [I think] strong, good values that are mostly identified with conservatives and, of course, that's a disadvantage when it comes to receiving balanced media coverage or consideration.

But that's okay. I think she's strong enough to persist and achieve whatever she sets her mind to. I hope that she will continue to educate herself and become an even stronger and more successful promoter and defender of America and what it stands for, especially as reflected in our Bill of Rights.

By the way, thank you for the info you provided from T. Sowell and W. Williams, too. I wish more folks read their work.

Keep on keeping on, Cassandra. You're a brave woman and one I respect highly.

Semper Fi,
Bruce, USMC, 64-68

Posted by: Bruce at July 11, 2009 12:26 PM

And yet another commenter who shows (again) why these words, "I need to learn to shut up." need to be removed from your vocabulary, Boss.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at July 11, 2009 01:18 PM

Sarah Palin is the citizen who volunteered to serve her community when she saw officials abusing the public trust. Her motivations arise from a store of virtue. That's why she is so refreshing. We are used to politicians who serve themselves first and always. Palin doesn't go along with that and it scares the powerful and entrenched. She will never be free of the attacks. To ask her to run for president is asking a lot. No matter how well she does, the media will proclaim the opposite. I hope she's willing to take it on, but I wouldn't blame her if she hung back to support others. However, I don't think that is her nature, it hasn't been her practice. Like that Yankee soldier said of Grant when he ordered a march south just after being mauled by Lee in The Wilderness, Sarah Palin "don't scare worth a damn."

Posted by: Gary Ogletree at July 12, 2009 12:43 PM

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