Thursday, July 31, 2008

Playing in the Dark

(With apologies to Toni Morrison, but it had to be.)

Moose insisted we were not going to post today. "Nope, Rox," she said, "noop, nuh-uh, not gonna do it." She was so determined not to post that she decided today would be the day she re-organized drawers and closets and polished her jewelry in advance of the fall semester. When I pointed out that she hadn't even ordered her books for fall and suggested that the sudden interest in sweaters and earrings might be an avoidance tactic, she shot me one of those frightening "Mommie Dearest" looks that made me think I might be next in line for cleaning and polishing if I didn't get out of her way. I snuck downstairs for a nap while she was looking for an old toothbrush to help get the tarnish off those hard-to-reach spots on a brooch she inherited from her beloved grandmother Jane.

To tell you the truth, I can understand Moose's blog-avoidance today. I mean, if we were to post, we'd have to weigh in on the utter nonsense that has now completely overtaken the presidential race and all the commentary about it. McCain is a racist! Obama is playing the race card! The word "presumptuous" is part of a complex racial/racist code that you need a dogwhistle to understand!

Dogwhistle??? Digby -- o great and powerful and blazingly intelligent politics 'n media blogger whom we revere more than just about anybody in the 'sphere -- have you lost your mind? I mean, look, I get the whole concept of the dogwhistle, being a dog and everything, though I've never actually heard one and probably couldn't hear one now, being nearly deaf and all, and of course you're right that Republicans have developed a pretty sophisticated system for appealing to racist sentiments among some voters without being obvious or explicit enough to offend everybody else, but does that mean that every time anybody uses the word "presumptuous" to describe Barack Obama they are telegraphing the idea that he is "uppity," as in, "an uppity N-word?" Really? Digby?

The guy is 46 years old. He spent 143 days in the United States Senate before launching his presidential campaign. He gave speeches behind an ersatz presidential seal and celebrated his presumptive (if I may) nomination by taking an international tour in which he met with heads of state. Of the crowds who turned out to see him in Europe, he said, "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions." I dunno, Digby. Call me crazy, call me racist, or call me an old dog with really bad hearing, but that all sounds pretty darned presumptuous to me. I even checked the OED, and it says that "presumptuous" means "unduly confident or bold; arrogant, forward, impertinent, overweening." I suppose you could add the word "uppity" to that list of synonyms, but does that mean that "presumptuous" is always racist when used in reference to an African American? Or only when the speaker is white, in which case, well, I'm just really confused?

Help on old dog out here, Digby. I'm trying to wrap my paws around this whole whistle conundrum you've set up. Roxie's World was critical of Senator Obama through much of the primary season and has grown more deeply disappointed with him since that season ended on June 7 with the formal suspension of Hillary Clinton's campaign. Much of our criticism has been directed at what we have judged to be considerable evidence of presumptuousness on Senator Obama's part. He rubs us the wrong way because his confidence often comes across to us as arrogance. His efforts to appear and act "presidential" suggest to us that he thinks his election is a foregone conclusion. Voters are mere spectators to a show whose ending has already been written. Does that mean we've been blowing the dogwhistle without knowing it? Can a dog blow a dogwhistle, Digby?

Boy, I'm really starting to understand why Moose didn't want to post today. I can see why she just wanted to toss up a few links and tell you to
  • Go read Historiann. She's got a great piece up on a hilarious/pathetic open letter The Nation has published begging Obama to "stand firm on the [allegedly progressive] principles he so compellingly articulated in the primary campaign." Quick, quick! More Kool-Aid, more Kool-Aid! My brain is starting to work again, and it hurts!
  • Go read Lanny Davis's Wall Street Journal opinion on why Obama should select Hillary for veep. It may be tinkling into the wind at this point, but we still think that's the winningest ticket Dems could put together this year. It would be foolhardy for the party to ignore evidence in recent polls that Obama has still not closed the sale with a lot of voters and sheer lunacy to suppose that the closer is likely to be the anti-choice Tim Kaine, the homophobic Sam Nunn, or the beyond-bland Evan Bayh. Not even the Hoosier in our household can get behind that sleep-inducing possibility.
Here's the thing, kids. It's a long way to November. Voters will justifiably tune out in disgust if this thing turns into a playground brawl over who's playing the race card. Such a brawl demeans both the candidates and the process in which they are participating. Our language and all the semiotic systems that shape U.S. culture are so thoroughly racialized -- one might even say racist-ized -- that it is almost impossible for any speaker to make a criticism of a person of another race that doesn't seem racially charged. Which is not to defend McCain's stunningly stupid "celebrity" ad linking Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton or the obnoxious new rap by Ludacris that calls Hillary Clinton a bitch and urges African-American voters to paint the White House black. Those are examples of entirely avoidable idiocies that you don't need a dogwhistle or a decoder ring to figure out.

We get that the progressive blogosphere is on high alert, ready to blow up the Swiftboats of racist innuendo that are sure to be headed in Senator Obama's direction. Nonetheless, we confess to being depressed indeed by the prospect of the long daze of summer being followed by a discontented autumn of charges, counter charges, and long-winded commentaries upon the charges as the nation loses itself in a pointless game of pin the tail on the racist. Such a game will do nothing to ameliorate the deep and real problems of structural racism, and it will likely be of little help in motivating voters to get to the polls in November.

But, hey, I guess it'll be a whole lot more fun than trying to figure out the differences between the candidate who thinks we should stay in Iraq for a hundred years and the candidate whose plan to "end" the war in Iraq turns out to be a plan to accelerate the war in Afghanistan. Yo, dudes -- Spin me 'round in a circle, and hand me that tail. I got a game to play!

1 comment:

  1. "Pin the tail on the racist" -- couldn't have said it better, Rox: this Presidential election has been reduced to that. How sad. But thanks for this!

    We'll see if Obama has the wisdom to choose Clinton as his running mate. Davis is right: he can't lose with her. And how is she the same ole same ole -- a woman VP? Give me a break. If he has the courage and ego to make this choice, then perhaps the current game will seem considerably less interesting. . . .

    I guess it's better late than never that The Nation folks are finally reading the fine print of his candidacy.

    Peace out,


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.