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October 13, 2009

E.J. Dionne Explains Angry White Men to Blue America

Why is it that Obama supporters never want to defend his transparently vague brand of transformative change on the merits? Is it because - despite approximately 10,000 utterances of the phrase, "Let me be clear", progressives have yet to figure out what he intends to do and when he intends to do it?

Ah well, change isn't easy. Make no mistake about it.

Perhaps the only thing more diverting than E.J. Dionne attempting to explain how a typical white man thinks is watching E.J. Dionne try to explain conservatives. The result is a howler of a column, chock full of cringeworthy straw man caricatures of angry white men driven by rage and poorly concealed racial animus.

Dionne's language is a masterwerk of enlightened tolerance unt civility: "rage" appears four times in a one page column. Various forms of the word "anger"? Five times. "Hatred" appears twice, "anxiety" three times, "extremism" twice. References to racism? A whopping seven times. Intelligent (read progressive) readers will quickly twig to Dionne's subtle theme.

"Psssst: these "angry white men" can't really be taken seriously, can they? After all, they aren't rational."

Smart (read progressive) folk know that opposition to Obama's policies stems more from fear and insecurity than the dispassionately informed thought processes common to downtrodden members of the proletariat non-angry non-white non-men:

...there is a second level of angry opposition to which Obama needs to pay more attention. It involves the genuine rage of those who felt displaced in our economy even before the great recession and who are now hurting even more.

These Americans are sometimes written off as "angry white men." In analyzing anti-Obama feeling, commentators have taken to rummaging around the work of historian Richard Hofstadter during the 1950s and '60s, focusing on his theory that "status anxiety" helps explain the rise of movements on the far right. The idea is that extremism takes hold in groups that feel their "status" is threatened by new groups on the rise in society.

The problem with status-anxiety theory is that it focuses on feelings and psychology, thus easily crossing into condescension. It implies that the victims of status anxiety should be doing a better job accepting their new situations and plays down the idea that they might have something real to be angry about.

In fact, many who now feel rage have legitimate reasons for it, even if neither Obama nor big government is the real culprit. September's unemployment numbers told the story in broad terms: Among men 20 and over, unemployment was 10.3 percent; among women, the rate was 7.8 percent.

But rage and status anxiety are only the tip of the iceberg. Simmering beneath all that rampant testosterone is a veritable volcano of ignorance:

Middle-income men, especially those who are not college graduates, have borne the brunt of economic change bred by globalization and technological transformation. Even before the recession, the decline in the number of well-paid jobs in manufacturing hit the incomes of this group of Americans hard. The trouble in the construction industry since the downturn began has compounded the problem.

But how accurate is E.J. Dionne's portrayal of angry white men? To find out, the Editorial Staff consulted a prominent racist angry white male Obama hating extremist.

OK, that last may have been overkill... We admit that at least two of those adjectives would seem to be redundant. Still, when we're right, we're right!

A substantial number of voters seemed to believe that Obama would bring to Washington a large supply of magic pixie dust, which he would sprinkle hither and yon to create Good Jobs, Peace, Prosperity and Social Justice.

Some nine months in, a lot of those people are baffled to discover that we have a pixie dust shortage. The "angry white males" of the Dionne headline are basically Republicans who didn't vote for Obama, and now they're saying, "Hey, you morons, we tried to tell you this guy was hosing you, but you wouldn't listen!"

How many people "hate" Obama? I don't know. Dionne talks about "too many racist signs at rallies and too many overtly racial pronouncements in the fever swamps of the right-wing media," but I spoke at two Tea Party rallies in Alabama -- of all places -- and don't recall any such signs. As for the "fever swamps," I suppose that Dionne means talk radio and Fox News, but cites no examples of the "overtly racial pronouncements" which alarm him.

Typical white guy. Angry. Hostile, even. Blind to his own racism and certainly too unhinged to acknowledge the searing emotional truthiness of Dionne's winning defense of Angry White Male Loserdom. Let's face it: these folks are desperate. On the ropes! Capable of anything! Of course, if we can just turn them into victims - establish a dialog with them - perhaps they'll go away. Maybe - if we pretend we're on their side - they won't blow us to Kingdom Come with their unregistered assault weapons when the military rise up and take control of the federal government.

The odd thing is that we know a lot of white males who oppose Obama's policies and not one of them - not one! - is unemployed. In fact, they're all financially secure. But hey - if the Age of Obama promises an end to the failed divisive rhetoric of the past 8 years, let it begin with E.J. It's time for the healing to begin.

Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

Update: Dang. Why are white guys such haters?

As for the Obama administration, whether the grumbling is about Republicans on Fox or bloggers in pajamas, there's a word for what the president and his aides are doing. That word is "whining." And nothing -- no attack by Glenn Beck, no blogger busting about Guantanamo -- does more damage to Obama's credibility or authority than the sense that a popular president is becoming the whiner-in-chief.


While I can point to no real evidence of racial animus, there's no denying that racial bias is driving much of the criticism of this President. Not that I'm implying anything, mind you.

Posted by Cassandra at October 13, 2009 06:16 AM

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...progressives have yet to figure out what he intends to do and when he intends to do it?

Which means they have *something in common* with us! O, frabjous day, calloo, callay, chortle-chortle!

I eagerly await with boundless eagerness the dialogue opportunity which this opportunity awaits with the opportunistic awaitiness.

Wake me up if it happens.

Please try not to step on my knuckles...

Posted by: BillT at October 13, 2009 09:45 AM

Thank God we have a man who is as qualified and deserving to be President as he is, say, to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Posted by: RIslander at October 13, 2009 10:55 AM


Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 11:00 AM

Actually, I think status anxiety drives much of the current behavior on the *left*.

Consider someone who drank the academic kool-aid and got an advanced degree in some soft subject. Now he is working as an adjunct professor with no realistic hope of tenure (if he is lucky) or as a clerk at Borders (if he isn't). He's mad as hell that people *without* advanced degrees are making more money than he is, and enjoy greater social status...and he will support any government program that promises to take those people down a peg or two.

Posted by: david foster at October 13, 2009 11:42 AM

This made me smile on your behalf Cass:

I was going to spend a little time this morning over EJ Dionne’s Fossian “white men in the mist” sociological exposition, but then I learned that Cassandra had beaten me to it.

Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the superior quill.

Neptunus Lex

Posted by: MikeD at October 13, 2009 11:46 AM

"White men in the mist"

I like that. It makes me feel.....moist.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 13, 2009 01:07 PM

What amazes me is the constant need for the leftists to "explain" the other side. Seems to me that what they are really trying to do is make certain that everyone on their side understands the party line versus the opposition. I also sense a great deal of angst, inthat they seem to need continuous reaffirmation of their own self-worth and perceived values. It's almost as if they were all just terribly insecure. Probably explains why they all gravitate towards tyrants and dictators. An authority figure to actr as a surrogate parent.

Conservatives would be happy if they'd just shut the h3ll up.

Posted by: AW1 Tim at October 13, 2009 01:14 PM

I can't be explained
Only observed in situ
And absolved later.

Posted by: spd rdr at October 13, 2009 01:34 PM

david foster hits the nail on the head of the tenured morons & wannabes who are spurned by people who have to meet a payroll. Rightly so, as the tenure-trackers simply churn up "social science" like the two Nobels in Economics "earned" for absolutely nothing.

It's when the tyranny of the [infrequent] majority tries to grab the reins of power permanently, as Obama & the whiners now are trying to do, that we have to keep the Constitution alive.

Posted by: daveinboca at October 13, 2009 01:37 PM

I can't be explained
Only observed in situ
And absolved later.

Aye yay yay... he *does* trust me!
Nope, not going there. Wouldn't be prudent.

Posted by: The Ten Foot Pole... at October 13, 2009 01:46 PM

Thanks for the linky-love, Cassandra.

Posted by: Robert Stacy McCain at October 13, 2009 01:53 PM

Tim, I made the mistake of discussing politics with a relative over the weekend.

I didn't think things were going that badly. I was doing my level best to keep my mouth shut and just listen because it was obvious I wasn't supposed to have an opinion. I was OK until (after saying that I didn't agree but I thought the reason we disagreed was that we don't think doing X will have the same practical result and in light of that, if you assumed Y would happen then I could see logic even in what I disagreed with) I was informed that pretty much everything I agreed with under the last administration was "stupid", as in "it would be hard to be dumber than that".

I was pretty dumbfounded.

Sometimes it's just better not to say anything. At the point where someone can't see how utterly offensive that is...

I don't know. I don't get it. I disagree but I try not to be patronizing and to see the other side.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 01:54 PM

Thanks for the linky-love, Cassandra.

Heh :)
I just wanted to call you a raaaaaaaaaaaacist to preserve my street creds. Though I suppose angry white man would have amounted to the same thing :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 01:56 PM

I was informed that pretty much everything I agreed with under the last administration was "stupid", as in "it would be hard to be dumber than that".

So -- you admit that even *you* are sometimes perplexed by trying to follow feminine logic...

Posted by: BillT at October 13, 2009 03:07 PM

What AW1 Tim said.

Now all seriousness aside... IIRC the proper response to the

"pretty much everything I agreed with under the last administration was "stupid", as in "it would be hard to be dumber than that"
declaration is, Oh! Oh yeah! Takes one to know one. But then it's probably been 50 some odd years since I've had a discussion like that.

Posted by: bthun at October 13, 2009 03:20 PM

...and how *would* Ee-Jay Dionne explain angry Blue Men to White America?


Posted by: BillT at October 13, 2009 03:22 PM

Cass: As one of the leaders of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (of Racist, Angry White Men), you forgot to attach the latest talking points memo to your post! How will I know what to say? How will I know what cliches to chant and hackneyed signs to wave? You must not forget to properly direct the rest of us, your zombied minions!


Posted by: a former european at October 13, 2009 03:23 PM

SELFISH OPPRESSOR!!! When will you lift your hobnailed jackboots from the necks of less productive WAGE SLAVES?????


Posted by: Barak Will *work* Your Big Behind.... at October 13, 2009 03:30 PM

So -- you admit that even *you* are sometimes perplexed by trying to follow feminine logic...

No, because I'm female and we're smarter than the average Neanderthal :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 03:32 PM

...although "feminine logic" could aptly be used to describe Herr Dionne's latest offering.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 03:32 PM

Umm... What smell dat I smell, since last November? Ugh, it new age of enlightenment say whiny, pencil-neck in fish wrap.

Must go now, bang angst, anger, and rage from skull.


Posted by: Average Neanderthal at October 13, 2009 03:40 PM

Did anybody, besides me, take Logic and Sets in college? Well, if and only if everybody had to study it, there wouldn't be any Liberals, and we wouldn't have to worry about their lack of logic.

Posted by: RIslander at October 13, 2009 04:06 PM

I exasperated my Logic prof. I proved that it was impossible for me to have become involved in a food fight in Cafeteria Bacteria, because it would first be necessary to prove that what had been served that day could be defined as *food*...

Posted by: BillT at October 13, 2009 04:31 PM

Did anybody, besides me, take Logic and Sets in college?

Nope. What could the study of logic teach me other than that I aready didn't understand?
(Cue Zen rim shot of deafeningly profound silence.)

Posted by: spd rdr at October 13, 2009 07:29 PM

*rolling eyes* :)

Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 07:59 PM

I'm hurt because I thought up the idea of E.J. Dionne explaining Angry Blue Men to
White America early this afternoon (Easter Daylight Time), but I've got a JOB, WORKING, while BillT stays up half the night in Iraq playing aroung with a computer. Cheez Louise!

If someone strikes
A Zen rimshot
Does it make noise
To be heard?

Burma Shave.

Logic on the Set of "Star Trek", circa 1967:

Amanda (human mother of Spock), "Logic! Logic! Logic! I'm sick to death of logic!"
Spock: "Emotional, isn't she?"
Sarak, Spock's father: "Quite so"
Spock: "Why did you marry her?"
Sarak: "At the time, it seemed the logical thing to do."

So yeah, I studied logic and sets in grade school. Take that.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 13, 2009 08:40 PM

The Hun's Zen Lotus® abruptly swerves,
into a cosmic ditch at the trancendental curve,
upon not hearing the deafening yet silent crack
of the rimshot's dharma while in his meditative whack!

Burmese Shave*

Posted by: bt_on_his_last_Zen_pillar_hun at October 13, 2009 09:57 PM


Posted by: Cassandra at October 13, 2009 10:01 PM

Dionne riffs on variations of anger,rage, extremism, hatred, anxiety and racist when he thinks about this tired old white guy in Southern California.

On the other hand, when I think about folks like Dionne writing about folks like me, my mind riffs on variations of moron, imbecile, cretin, idiot and "intellectually challenged" and "dumber than a box of hammers". But he's not a racist!

Posted by: Mike Myers at October 14, 2009 01:50 AM

I'm trying to graduate to Cro-Magnon...with limited success. ;-)

Posted by: camojack at October 14, 2009 03:43 AM

No, because I'm female and we're smarter than the average Neanderthal.

Must be opposable thumbs, then? Can get at Wal-Mart?

Posted by: Pithecanthropus E. deBille at October 14, 2009 08:45 AM

"Must be opposable thumbs, then? Can get at Wal-Mart?"
Me found velcro, double-side tape, and one very long fingernail cover most need.

Now waiting for Meet Hot Chicks through Advanced Calculus on tape and poster package to arrive.

Posted by: Average Neanderthal at October 14, 2009 09:01 AM

I thought it was *bunnies* that multiplied...?

Posted by: Snarkammando at October 14, 2009 01:11 PM

Around here, it's cavemen and Cajuns...

Posted by: BillT at October 14, 2009 03:40 PM

...and bthun's alter-egos.

The man is a bigger polymorph than AFSis...

Posted by: BillT at October 14, 2009 03:41 PM

Huh?! you call? AWB Neanderthanl was thunkin' in section on λ-calculus...

*stares at what used to be long fingernail, wonders why top of head hurts*

*returns to example function and re-reads direction on variable placement... again... throws abacus against cave, stares at bikini Neanderthal-babe poster, wonders how to pass on angry Neanderthal genes if no master λ-calculus?*

Hey! Hey! Journalism! *big grin and urge to dance around monolith*

Posted by: Average Neanderthal at October 15, 2009 07:02 AM

Hey! Watch where you throw that thing!!

Almost knocked my beer over.

Posted by: DL Sly at October 15, 2009 10:51 AM

*starts chipping away on rock*

Can quote you on that? =;^}

Posted by: Average Neanderthal at October 15, 2009 11:48 AM

*covers top of beer with hand*
Just keep those rock chips outta my beer... 0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at October 15, 2009 03:31 PM

Don't like beer and chips?

Posted by: Pithecanthropus E. deBille at October 15, 2009 03:50 PM

The only thing I like in my beer is a shot glass full of whiskey.....
Besides, without guac, who needs chips?

Posted by: DL Sly at October 15, 2009 04:12 PM

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