FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gingrich Plays the Race Card, as Press Cheers “Debating Skills”

by LAURA FLANDERS

South Carolina. It’s going to be the state that keeps on giving to President Barack Obama. I’m not talking votes; I’m talking hate. Newt Gingrich’s primary win has the pundits praising his “debating skills,” but the less prudish among us can be clear: Gingrich’s skills aren’t rhetorical; they’re racial. He’s feeble at striking down his opponents’ arguments; what he’s great at is digging up his audience’s racial rage. It worked for the former Speaker in South Carolina; it’ll work for the Democrats all year.

War with Washington, the “best food stamp president,” a slap down of the one African American moderator (“First, Juan…) Newt Gingrich had the GOP crowd on its feet in Myrtle Beach last Monday with exactly the same linguistic bombast that worked so well to end federal income support for poor people when he was speaker of the House. For the Republican candidates it’s all about looking presidential and Newt Gingrich was so confident about what activists of the South Carolina GOP want in the White House that he re-cut his joust with Juan Williams for a campaign ad as if to say “Vote Newt! He Can Beat Up A Black Man!” Cap that with his attack on CNN’s John King and you have vintage Gingrich: beating up the straw black man – and the straw liberal broadcaster who coddles him too.

As I wrote in At The Tea Party… it’s sick but satisfying for Democrats to be reminded just how much racial resentment and flat-out racism remains, especially if it remains someplace else – far from where they are. Tea Party hate was never anything super special; its roots lay in the same old dirt that the GOP’s drawn on for decades, and not just the GOP, either.

The GOP’s racism is inexcusable, and let’s face it, no one on the stage with Newt muttered a peep to hush him. But it’s not only the Right that keeps alive the good ol’ boy idea that America is special, stand-alone, white and Christian. As a nation we keep our racist bombast warm because it’s just so convenient when it comes to cutting help for the poor, ending affirmative action, even waging war. (“Fight them over there, so they don’t fight us over here” and so on.)

Newt Gingrich is hardly the first to notice that there’s an audience for this muck. That audience doesn’t exist because people are dimwits or deaf. It exists because we haven’t put bias to bed yet.  In the last presidential campaign, for example, it was Mark Penn who suggested in a memo that he could not “imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.” Penn’s boss, Hillary Clinton, commented to USA Today soon after that her opponent’s support was flagging among “hard-working Americans, white Americans.” (Rebecca Traister reminds us of all this in her good book Big Girls Don’t Cry.)

The facts have always been there for the reporting. Contrary to what Gingrich implies, Food Stamps and other programs for those in need aren’t for African Americans. Less than one quarter of food stamp recipients are African-American. More welfare dollars went to white women than black women, too.

According to Timothy Casey, a senior staff attorney with Legal Momentum, a women’s rights law group, the 1996 “Personal Responsibility Act” which Gingrich championed reduced benefit receipts from 60 per cent of poor families pre-reform to only about 20 per cent of poor families today, and from over 80 percent of eligible families pre-reform to less than 40 percent today. “Block granting cash aid also led to sharply reduced benefits that in every state are now less than half the poverty standard,” Casey told the Institute for Public Accuracy last week.

The Republican plan for food stamp reform looks a whole lot like welfare reform — end uniform eligibility standards, end automatic raises during economic down times; give states block grants – and so mask a big cut to the program.

Unless Democrats grow some sudden spine, there’s no reason to believe Newt’s “best food-stamp president” will work any less well than his “welfare queen.” Poor people everywhere are in – more – trouble. Instead of holding firm against the Right’s assault on government programs, or talking up the facts of who suffers what when the nation’s stirred up by bigots — a President reluctant to call out white racist innuendo, has already agreed to multiple budget compromises that have cut social spending by billions of dollars.

President Barack Obama has defended food stamps generally but a battle is shaping up during the farm-bill debate, and that’s guaranteed to bore to death most urban voters — and all the media. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., a signer of Paul Ryan’s budget slashing plan, and House Agriculture Nutrition and Horticulture Subcommittee Chairman Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, have indicated they’re looking at tightening up eligibility for food stamps. Already Pennsylvania, facing a spike in use, plans to impose new “asset” tests on recipients, one that advocates say will hurt the poor already reeling from recession.

How hard will Democrats fight for food stamps and the poor? Only as hard as they have to. When Bill Clinton shows up to bracing applause on the campaign trail, we’ll remember just how hard that isn’t. The Democratic president who ended “welfare as we know it” never paid a political price. Only the poor paid. There are more of the poor now, and they’re more racially divided than ever.  The GOP knows how to harness resentment for their purposes. So far the Obama team have shown no inclination to do anything to stop it. Marginalizing the marginalized works. Will there be a line drawn in 2012? There’s not a chance of it. Thanks to the ghastly GOP display in the primary race in South Carolina the lines are already cold and clear. Will voters be with good guy Obama or with the racist GOP? Food stamps? Welfare? Who cares about the details when the other team is racist?

LAURA FLANDERS is the host of The Laura Flanders Show coming to public television stations later this year. She was the host and founder of GRITtv.org. Follow her on Twitter: @GRITlaura. 

Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv now seen on the new, news channel TeleSUR English – for a new perspective. 

More articles by:
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail