Tag Archives: Sonia Sotomayor

Ed Schultz: Progressive Populism vs. Conservative Populism

The Ed Schultz phenomenon: blue-collar and other working class Americans have found their voice in Ed Schultz.

As we celebrate Labor Day, populism is in the air as we honor the dignity of hard-working Americans.  I’ve been following progressive radio talk show personality and now MSNBC TV host, Ed Schultz for quite some time.  I’ve previously written here and here about him because he embodies what progressive populism looks like: pro-union, pro-worker, pro-rural, pro-football, pro-fishing progressive America … heck he’s even an advocate for catch-and-release fishing!  He’s the antidote to the conservative populism that has sadly come to be embodied by the likes of Sarah Palin‘s crafty political maneuvering and Lou Dobbs’ hate speech against Latinos and President Obama.  I say “sadly” because conservatives by using the tactics of fear mongering and racism have corrupted populism in its traditional sense to successfully create an inverse version of it.  George Lakoff (who I just blogged about a few days ago as it related to the current healthcare debate) explained it beautifully in his May 2009 piece Empathy, Sotomayor, and Democracy: The Conservative Stealth Strategy:

In the last election, conservative populists moved toward Obama. Conservative populists are working people, mostly white men, who have conservative views of the family, of masculinity, and of the military, and who have bought into the idea of the “liberal elite” as looking down on them. Right now, they are hurting economically, losing their jobs and their homes. Empathy is something they need. The racist card is an attempt to revive their fears of affirmative action, fears of their jobs — and their pride — being taken by minorities and women. The racist attack has a political purpose, holding onto conservative populists. The overt form of the old conservative argument is made regularly these days: liberalism is identity politics.

Ed Schultz understands how populism works, and he hits it out of the park plenty of times with his strong no-B.S. stance against conservatives’ lies.  However, I’ve seen Ed Schultz slip a number of times by falling into the same negating-reinforcement trap that progressives tend to fall into: strictly sticking to being on the defensive rather than turning the conservative attack inside out and into an offensive play.  Big Eddie, as his fans call him, would be far more effective if he were to read George Lakoff’s illuminating work on conservative populism.  Lakoff  explained it briefly during the 2008 presidential campaign cycle on his Don’t Think of a Maverick! Could the Obama Campaign Be Improved?:

Conservative populism on a national scale was invented in the late 1960’s. At the time, most working people identified themselves with liberals. But conservatives realized that many working people were what I have called “biconceptuals” – they are genuinely conservative in their mode of thought about patriotism and certain family issues, though they are progressive in their understanding of nature (they love the land) and their commitment to communities where people care about each other, etc. So conservatives have talked to them nonstop about conservative “patriotism” and “family values”, thus activating their conservative mindset.

At the same time, conservative theorists invented the ideal of “liberal elitism”: that liberals look down upon working people and are not like them. Conservatives have been working at constructing this mythology for nearly forty years and liberals have stood by and let it happen. Palin is a natural for the conservative populists. She understands their culture.

Conservative populism is a cultural, not an economic, phenomenon. These are folks who often vote against their economic self-interest and instead vote on their identity as conservatives and on their antipathy to liberals, who they see as elitists who look down on them. Simply giving conservative populists facts and figures won’t work.

They tend to vote for people they identify with and against people who they see as looking down on them. The job for the Obama campaign is to reverse the present mindset that the Republicans have constructed, to reveal the conservatives as elitist Washington insiders who cynically manipulate them, to get conservative populists to identify with Obama and Biden on the basis of values and character, and to have them see realities through Obama’s leadership capacities. Not an easy job. But it’s the real job.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Ed Schultz actually starts using George Lakoff’s lines down the road, though.  Big Eddie is a football sportsman and a political animal, and he knows that in the end, winning is what matters.  I just hope Ed uses them soon because he IS progressive populism incarnate and knows how to relate that in a language that his audience can easily understand, which is more than what I can say about other progressive media personalities (yes, Thom Hartmann, I’m looking at you! … OK I’ll give this to you Thom: you have actually improved ever since you left Air America and I respect you because you are the Godfather of Air America because of your business plan that served as its blueprint, and you have the balls to talk about progressive issues that sometimes not even Ed Schultz dares to talk about … but for Godssakes Thom could you please NOT start with the intellectualist dull debates at the beginning of your segments?! Leave that for the middle or the end please … I appreciate the historical contexts, I truly do, and I think you’re a smart progressive radio host; but some of us want to know first and foremost about what is happening right-now in-the-present-world!).

Now, if only MSNBC switched conservative-leaning Chris Matthews’ time slot with Ed Schultz, things will be perfect … so we’ll see if MSNBC gets its act together on that front.  But as far as Project Economic Refugee is concerned, the best way to boycott conservative “populist” hosts is to turn them off and instead tune into progressive populist hosts.  Case in point is Ed Schultz: instead of watching hate-monger Lou Dobbs, watch Ed Schultz from now on.  I promise you, you’ll be a better American for it.

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Sotomayor: Turning Point for Latinos

The nomination and confirmation of Sotomayor marked a turning point for the clout of the Latino vote.

The nomination and confirmation of Sotomayor marked a turning point for the clout of the Latino vote.

Much has been said about the nomination and confirmation of now-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  Much of the analsys has been focused on the fact that she was  the first Latina to EVER be nominated to the Supreme Court in the entire history of the United States.  Nevetheless, surprisingly little has been said about just how monumental a turning point her ascent to the Supreme Court was in terms of what it represents for the growing clout of the Latino vote. 

Perhaps for the first time, politicians (especially Republicans) who would otherwise not hesitate to oppose her based on her ethnicity and on the fact that she was nominated by a Democrat-President Obama, were forced to be extremely careful about what they said on Sotomayor’s qualification because they were afraid that they might alienate Latinos.  They were afraid of losing the Latino vote, and they had good reason to be afraid.  Key battle ground states like Arizona, Texas, Nevada, and others, which are currently under Republican control, have an ever-increasing Latino population that can vote and in fact will be voting.  Americans in general are said to have very short-term memories.  This is something that is different culturally with Latinos.  Latinos tend to remember the past for a LONG time, and they do tend to base their future voting decisions based on their memories (if you still doubt this, just remember how Latinos overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries based on their loyalty to President Bill Clinton).  Just ask a Latino about the U.S.’s undercover paramilitary operations to control Latin America’s affairs, and you’ll be sure to get an earful on things that happened 20, 30, or even 50 years ago and beyond. 

Nevertheless, an interesting schizophrenic dynamic developed inside of the massive conservative machine throughout the Sotomayor saga.  While Republican senators were careful in measuring their comments against Sotomayor in fear of offending Latinos, it seems that the extremist wing of the Republican party just could not help itself.  Instead of acting in favor of their political benefit, they chose to launch a vile campaign tainted with vicious and sexist attacks to descredit Sotomayor and bully other Senators into voting against her.  The twisted propaganda unsurprisingly gained much traction and dominated the coverage of her confirmation in the corporate media, cowardly lurking under the cloak of “reverse discrimination“.  I say “unsurprisingly” because this was not an isolated incident: the conservative media has displayed a disturbing pattern of promoting hate against LatinosEven from the time before Sotomayor was nominated, powerful conservative interests knew that it would be political suicide to attack Sotomayor but still, because of their racist tendencies, they could not help themselves and chose to go after her with unbridled hate. 

In the meantime, other powerful Republicans chose to stand in the sidelines and remain silent, perhaps thinking that by doing so they would be sidestepping Latino anger.  Yet, this might have proven to be a political mistake in and of itself.  After all, silence many times represents a tacit approval of what is going on and therefore shows complicity to the wrongdoing; it’s a sign of cowardice to stand up for what is right.  Take Sarah Palin, for example: I still think she missed a key opportunity to advance her chances to be the Republican Presidential nominee next time around because she hurt herself by remaining silent on defending Sotomayor while all the sexist attacks were being flung at the Supreme Court Justice nominee.  Should Palin have come out and castigated her Republican colleagues’ attacks on Sotomayor, she would have come out as the good guy, boosting her stance with Latinos.  This would have been a clever and timely strategy, being that her major obstacle to a future Presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich, went after Sotomayor and thereby virtually tarnished his chances of ever winning the Presidency because of his racist comments against Latinos.  Moreover, Palin would have repaired her overall image with mainstream America, being that she is currently an extremly polarizing figure who is loved by the extreme wing of her party but is quite toxic for everyone else’s taste. 

In the end, the situation became a lose-lose situation for Republicans: Sotomayor was confirmed and the consequences of conservatives’ unfettered hate seem to have started.  A new poll is out that shows that Republicans’ unwarranted attacks on Sotomayor DID actually enrage many Latinos.  The damage is done, and defying logic, the Republicans continue to shoot themselves in the foot by now siding with and riling up their ever-shrinking old guard of racist supporters, thereby completely undoing the gains that former President W. Bush had smartly made with Latino voters.  I’ve been blogging about how the conservatives have been spreading lies about the current healthcare reform debate by shamelessly claiming that it would cover “40 million illegal aliens“, while ignoring the greedy insurance companies’ CEO’s obscene behavior

Yet, what conservatives didn’t anticipate is that Latinos would start to mobilize to fight the right-wingers’ dirty tactics at the townhalls.  Conservatives have enraged the Latino community with the incendiary speech that right-wingers use against Latinos at the current townhalls on healthcare, further eroding support for the Republican party among Latinos.  It has become quite clear that the conservatives’ angry reactionary shouts full of racial and violent slurs have nothing to do with a healthcare reform that would care for the sick but rather are nothing more than people being afraid of their owns shadows, refusing to accept the fact that America is no longer a white-only elitist patriarchy with “white-only” drinking fountains.  Right-wingers may deny that their reactions are based on bigotry and fear, but their actions speak otherwise.  They are desperately hanging on to a racially segregated past, while the rest of us are moving towards a more inclusive mindset.  As President Clinton explained best at the recent Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh “we are growing more diverse … more orientated psychologically to communitarian solutions”:

Mark my words, the Republicans need to wake up to the fact that Latinos will NOT tolerate their racist tactics anymore, that they will NOT be their whipping boy anymore.  If they don’t wake up to that fact, Latinos will wipe Republicans off of the electoral map, just like the Latino electorate did in the wake of California’s governor Pete Wilson’s inhuman anti-immigrant Proposition 187.

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