odd time signatures

To AngryBlackLady, Joan Walsh and their supporters: You’re big players, and the team needs you.

I’ve been afraid of this for awhile, but it’s now erupted into a full-scale blog war which I would stay the hell out of if I had more than a small pea brain and an overwhelming desire to fix that which probably can’t be fixed. Chalk it up to my childhood, where I learned to calm the angry beast that was my father by stepping between him and others whenever possible. Forgive me in advance for jumping in here…but I must.

Let me start with this: I really, really like AngryBlackLady and Joan Walsh. I think Joan does a great job of making conservative punditheads look like idiots on MSNBC, and I think AngryBlackLady is an absolute straight shooter who is amazingly smart and speaks plainly for those of us who support President Obama. Yes, I use the word “us” because my support for the President hasn’t weakened despite many barbs from the right and the left on that.

I unapologetically support him. Let’s just get all of that out of the way and on the table now.

This is why it pains me to see AngryBlackLady and Joan Walsh at loggerheads with each other. Hmm. Well, maybe loggerheads is a bad choice of words. At this point, it’s a full-scale, bubbling up of an accumulation of resentment from people of color at their perception that white progressives speak without taking them into account. It’s something I saw coming awhile ago…and wrote about several months back. Since I wrote about it, it hasn’t gotten better. It’s gotten worse, to the point where we have the liberal blogosphere nearly ignoring the right-wing insanity that’s going on right now, right here today, in favor of chewing each other (and the President) up.

This is not limited to the liberal side of things. The Tea Party is grumbling and restive and working to take over the Republican Party at local levels in order to install more of their types in Congress in 2012. As easy as it would be to dismiss their strategy and goals, I can’t. The reason I can’t is because I see a divide on our side of the aisle that not only justifies the compromises made by Democrats to this point, but sets the stage for even more, which will make some white progressives angrier and more critical and cause people like AngryBlackLady to become angrier, which means none of us are paying attention to the really important things like not only making sure the President gets re-elected but also getting some decent Congresscritters elected and while we’re at it, maybe clinging to the Senate with the shreds of our fingernails which are scratching hard to hold the edge. As long as we’re divided there is no other option for President Obama than to play straight to the middle, and even the center right. None whatsoever.

To Joan and ABL, I say this: You’re both right. Sort of.

ABL, you’re right that white progressives have leveled criticism without regard to how that feels to people of color who view it in the terms Ismael Reed laid out last year:

When these progressives refer to themselves as Mr. Obama’s base, all they see is themselves. They ignore polls showing steadfast support for the president among blacks and Latinos. And now they are whispering about a primary challenge against the president. Brilliant! The kind of suicidal gesture that destroyed Jimmy Carter — and a way to lose the black vote forever.

Joan Walsh, you’re right about needing some room to be critical without being perceived as being racist.

But the bigger point is: If progressives of any race want to turn valid, policy criticism of President Obama into a racial issue? They’ll be very, very sorry in November 2012. And so will the rest of us. I didn’t intend to be part of any brawl, but if someone flings race at me, repeatedly, when I think it’s unfair and divisive, I will tell you what I think.  I’ll do it with right-wing racists, as I’ve shown here for years, and I’ll do it with folks on the left. Race has divided us for too long, and people who want to continue the divisiveness are part of the problem, no matter how “progressive” they believe they are.

Joan, you’re right and you’re wrong all at the same time. When those policy criticisms are solely aimed at Barack Obama and don’t include the clueless Congress or what small, tiny little minds reside in the Senate, it’s hard to accept as legitimate, and I say that as a white chick who consistently gets hammered for being an apologist for the president. If you’re an executive with the ‘get-it-done’ team constantly divided in two diametrically opposite directions, an amazing and arcane process to navigate, the press gabbling on about whether your birth certificate is valid while Villagers all nod with wise and serious faces while soberly saying that extremists like Paul Ryan are actually serious, courageous politicians, it’s enough to make you just throw your hands in the air and say “screw this, who needs it?”

It is possible to criticize policy without criticizing the guy who’s trying to guide something through and get it done. And it is essential that we criticize policy while remaining firmly in support of the President in order to keep from being shoved farther right than they already are!

To ABL (et al, since I’m using her as proxy for the others who are also speaking out) I say this: Arguing over who is THE base is not going to get us anywhere. You or me or the president. It’s not.

Here’s the truth: White progressives aren’t THE base, but they’re part of the base. We are all interdependent on each other not only to keep this country from falling completely off the rails but also to actually move it forward, one painful inch after the next. We need each other, more now than ever.

Let me give you an example of why. It’s likely we’ve already lost the battle for our public schools, because the real legacy George Bush gave us was his faith-based initiatives, which opened a torrent of money to be poured into the charter school effort, church schools nationwide, and now they’ve got the Supreme Court decision they needed to back them up, thanks to his Supreme Court appointments. I have been digging deep for a month on this, and the deeper I go, the more despondent I feel about it. They’ve thrown BILLIONS at this issue. Billions. It’s unlikely we’ll ever recover the kind of funding for public schools that we truly need to make them competitive for all. Schools are on the brink. Prisons are already gone.

That’s what President Obama has to work with. A reality that education is big business now, and was before he ever took office, and he’d better try to navigate the very best deal he possibly can because his “base” at this point isn’t going to overcome those billions.

That’s where health care and Social Security will go, too, if we divide and in the process, hand over the Senate and the House and possibly the Presidency. It will go there. So while you both are arguing over who his base is, they’re out there funding huge youth initiatives, trying to woo away the Latino vote with the Marco Rubios of the world, and taking hard aim at social safety nets we have long held near and dear in an effort to end them forever.

We can’t afford this. We need to ALL be the base. We need to focus every single day on what our ultimate goal is. There’s only one. That’s to get this man re-elected for four more years to stop the insanity that WILL (not might, but WILL) ensue if we don’t.

If you think I’m being hysterical here, I’d invite you both to look at Wisconsin and Michigan and Florida and Texas and Ohio and Arizona, etc. etc. etc. What those governors are doing in those states is exactly what Republicans will do if they get their guy in the White House.

Finally, this to both of you: I am living, breathing proof that Twitter is an environment where the wrong thing can be said, cause pain to others, and cause the entire Twitterverse to blow up. I am learning to be more circumspect. I’m not always successful. But I’m learning, because I only have one goal in front of me, and that is to stand in January, 2013 and see Barack Obama inaugurated for his second term. Perhaps there’s room in this conversation to allow that what Joan said that set everything off was simply that we’re ALL part of the base. It was inartful, and that’s the 140 character limit crashing into a more complex thought.

My hope? Can we have a dialogue about how we can work together rather than shout at each other about how far apart we stand? Would Obama do it that way? I think he would, and the result would be to move ahead to the next obstacle in front of the goal. I think we call that progress.

Update: In an ongoing discussion with Rootless_e on Twitter and others on the comment thread here, I’ve come to understand a little more clearly one area where an apology would go a long way.

The issue seems to go not to “who is the base” as much as “who speaks for the base.” Walsh wrote this on her rebuttal to truthrose1 and others:

In my lifetime, African-Americans have been the most loyal and long-suffering Democrats, and they are key to the base.

In the original twitter discussion/flareup truthrose1 reacted to Walsh’s article on Wisconsin’s lessons with this:

@joanwalsh read your article, I resent white progressives who pretend they are the base of the Dem party and ignore AA’s, we are even

These two comments appear to be in agreement with each other, but they’re not. The issue escalates every time “the base” is referred to in commentary, blog posts and television when the president is referred to negatively or harshly criticized, or there’s a suggestion that he will “lose his base.” truthrose1 is correct that in those instances there isn’t anyone speaking for the base — the one that includes Latinos and African-Americans — because if that part of the base were consulted, they would say they hate the criticism and how it’s aimed at the President and view it as a personal attack on him rather than on the policies.

And that is at the core of this conflict. This idea that the base is acknowledged as the base until someone ‘speaks for the base’ and doesn’t consider the views of his considerable Latino/African-American base.

If I have this wrong, let me know. But I think it’s a reasonable objection for truthrose1 to make, and one that should be taken seriously.

Last Update: Instincts should never be ignored. I had a sense yesterday that it was probably a bad idea to try and sort out what’s going on here. I should have listened. The more I think about this, the less business I think I have saying anything. Carry on.

1 Read this brilliant post on public education for more information. h/t @DesertBeacon

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