What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Gridlock

Like most middle-of-the-road newspapers, the one in Tacoma really isn’t middle-of-the-road.  Its editorial stances and what it decides to cover center themselves consistently on views one might associate with the GOP before Reagan came along.  One highly influential factor is that Joint Base Fort Lewis/McCord sprawls just south of the city, employing around 60,000 persons in a county where the other large employers supply jobs in the sub-10,000 range–and then it drops off from there. It would not be fair to say the paper never report negative news about the military, but it is probably fair to say the paper treads lightly, and it is a matter of fact that as Bush II was about to order the invasion of Iraq, the paper asserted that he had done “all he could” to avert war.

Also like most media that like to present themselves as “balanced,” the Tacoma paper reports the current budget-impasse as “gridlock,” politicians bickering, the same old thing only worse, and so on.  For example, it describes both parties as using the Affordable Health-Care Act as a reason not to budge.

What “gridlock” and “bickering” and “same old Washington” leave out, however, consists of at least two items: 1) race and 2) significant change in the GOP, part of which is related to race.

The House GOP  opposes Obama at all costs, partly because its members profit by opposing him at all costs; their constituents remain permanently horrified that a Black man is their president, so they refuse to see him as their president.  Does this mean Obama is a fine if embattled president?  Of course not.  It is a both/and situation.  Obama has flaws and makes mistakes, but this isn’t the primary reason for the unprecedented opposition.

You could say the Tea Party, which some GOP brass started, is now a monster the brass can’t control; you could also say that the Tea Part is just the most recent path by which the GOP returns to its Dixiecrat roots in the late 1940s; and in both cases, you’d be right.

But when we or the media or both adopt our “objective,” treat-both-parties-the same, “just reporting” attitude, we shy away from race because “so much progress has been made” and “why do you always have to bring up race?”  We sit back in the old White (or beige) recliner and just marvel at how these politicians bicker.  We resist admitting that one major political Party has gone completely off the rails, impelled in part by virulent racism.  We don’t talk much about the states that have opted out of the Medicare extension, thereby hold back health-care insurance from two-thirds of those African Americans who are in poverty, not to mention other poor people from other ethnic groups. 

After President Obama was elected, now-former Southern Senator Jim Demint said, “We’ll break him.”  Break him the way a foreman on a plantation would have, back in the day, Jim?  If you choose to overlook the unapologetic racism of such a remark and to overlook how it is a symptom of what fuels the GOP, then you’re missing something crucial, in my opinion, and the rhetoric of “gridlock” and “Washington politicians bickering” isn’t serving well.

Consider this: I have a White friend in North Carolina who is a Democrat.  His father served in the House. He is more or less a disinterested viewer of the process.  He openly admits that he simply wants his Party to win.  That said, he thinks Obama isn’t much of a leader, and he opposed the health-care reform.  He would vote for Obama again, but mainly because he likes his Party to win.  Yet even he says that most of the fierce opposition to Obama in the House has to do with Obama and not policy.  Why does he say this?  Because he’s lived in the South his whole life, and he’s not afraid to call it as he sees it, as in fact, it must be seen. Both/and.

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