The Ugly Heart of the Radical Right

The radical fringe right is rallying their base and spreading lies and reactionary opinion pieces, all of which is race-baiting the popular discourse about the economic crisis and ultimately the election. In a calculated move, they have people like Ann Coulter and Jeff Jacoby publishing opinion pieces basically saying that the blame for the economic crisis is on the shoulders of liberals and people of color.

Last week, the American “Family” Association revealed their true racist colors in two emails they sent out, pointing fingers at the Clinton and Carter (what?) Administrations, equating liberal advocacy for minority home ownership with the risky loan products that the predatory lenders on Wall Street have been so happy to take advantage of. What they refuse to acknowledge is that greedy lenders and investors were taking advantage of the hopes of poor people, knowingly selling them loans that they couldn’t afford. All of this in a deregulated market happened under the watch of the Bush Administration.

The Campaign for America’s Future is addressing these racist attacks on their website, explaining the history of banks discriminatory lending practices, and Carter’s and Congress’ passage of the successful Community Reinvestment Act in 1977.

People are freaked out right now, and I fear that many will fall for this damaging and dangerous misinformation coming from the radical right, making racism acceptable, even patriotic. This translates back to the election.

No one wants to talk explicitly about how race is playing out in this election, so while people are busy trying to be polite and not make anyone uncomfortable, the radical right is preying on the prejudice and fear that live in people’s hearts. They aren’t ashamed to cross the line, as illustrated by this quote from Ann Coulter’s recent opinion piece:

“Instead of looking at ‘outdated criteria,’ such as the mortgage applicant’s credit history and ability to make a down payment, banks were encouraged to consider nontraditional measures of credit-worthiness, such as having a good jump shot or having a missing child named ‘Caylee.'”

As posted in a comment on John Ridley’s recent article on the Huffington Post, “They are using these tactics to distract and to exacerbate racial resentment among hardworking whites in the swing states.” They continue to expose their hateful hearts at every turn, and I just hope that the American people are smart enough not to fall for their bunk and once again vote against their own interests.

On Being Politically “Moderate”

In this campaign season, I have been thinking about all of the people I know who describe their views as “moderate.” Democrat, Independent, or Republican, I wonder what “moderate” means.

In this society of ours we over simplify things by envisioning ourselves along some sort of spectrum between opposite extremes. We feel the need to define who we are and what we believe about the way our country should be governed by fitting ourselves into neat little boxes. Yet paradoxically, we resist being pigeonholed or put into what we think are little boxes that limit our true expression.

The truth is that humans are complicated beings. If there’s one thing I know about people, we are not moderate about the opinions we hold. I have very strong opinions about social justice, civil rights, economics, foreign policy, and health policy. I may express my views in moderation, but when engaged I don’t hold back. I am more than happy to speak my mind.

I bet that my “moderate” friends have strong opinions, too, and when pressed would say emphatically what they think is right.

I’m not suggesting that people dig their heels in on one side of any issue and be unwilling to compromise or see the other side of things. But it seems to me in contemporary politics if you’re not strong in your convictions, you stand for nothing. Another definition of the “moderate” is “mediocre” or “fair.” Indeed, the reality of politics these days is that if you occupy a moderate political platform, you end up making compromises on some of the very most important issues. It happens to every politician as they achieve greater power and success.

To my mind, identifying your political views as moderate is akin to staying in the closet. I’ve met a lot of queer people in my life who say things like “I don’t want to be labeled,” saying that they don’t want people making assumptions about who they are because of their sexual identity. Coming out, calling themselves gay or lesbian, would cause others to stereotype and believe things about them that aren’t likely true, thus limiting who their self expression. Indeed people do stereotype, and it sucks.

As difficult as it is, I argue that not expressing who you really are is even more limiting. When you don’t express your true self, people make even more erroneous assumptions about who you are, and then you’re really pigeon-holed into an identity that is not you.

Coming out, whether its about your sexuality or your political views, is hugly important for yourself and your community. It might make some poeple uncomfortable, but we’re going to have world peace, really learn to live together in this world instead of flocking to spearatist communities of the like-minded, we had better learn to be honest about who we are, and we had better learn how to talk to each other respectfully about it.

Being politically moderate is like being in the closet. Perhaps it is true that our politics do exist along a spectrum from left to right, but even if you identify smack dab in the middle I bet you money that you don’t feel your political convictions moderately.

Mixed Metaphors and Glass Houses

Since I’m on a roll with my opinions, here is what I think about the recent revelations of John Edwards extramarital affair. Or more accurately, here are some metaphors that describe what I think about what the Dems’ and left-leaning political folks are doing to Edwards (and themselves) in reaction to the affair:

  • Throwing Edwards under the bus (or to the wolves or the lions)
  • Cutting of their nose to spite their face
  • Shooting themselves in the foot
  • Throwing the baby out with the bathwater

Like many people, I was disappointed to learn that John Edwards cheated on his wife. And yes, he shouldn’t have lied to the press when he was asked about it. But I’m willing to forgive him for both transgressions, because like many of us, Edwards is imperfect. And more importantly, he remains committed to his marriage and his wife. It’s equally important that Elizabeth Edwards also remains committed to her marriage and her husband, when most would agree that she would be well within her rights to walk out in heartbreak.

Love. Commitment. Forgiveness. Honesty. These are all the family values that we should aspire to embody in our daily lives and our relationships with our loved ones. If anything, John and Elizabeth Edwards should be regarded as role models; imperfect, able to forgive, committed to family, and able to own up to and learn from their mistakes.

Within the public discourse, it seems that the general public would rather see high-profile people (especially women) whose spouses cheat on them leave their adulterous partner than struggle through the pain to uphold the integrity of their families. When it comes to adultery in marriage, there is no paradigm for forgiveness and reconciliation in the public eye. This exposure and pressure in the media (and the public consumption thereof) reveals a wider public sentiment of judgment, stubbornness and self-righteousness. It is no wonder the divorce rate is so high.

I’m disappointed in Edwards because of the affair. I’m equally disappointed to see that fellow Democrats are so quick to condemn him. They are saying that Edwards political career is virtually over since the revelations of his affair. I’ve seen within the so-called “progressive” blogosphere comparisons with Edwards and Newt Gingrich’s indiscretions, which make me scoff.

Gingrich’s moral compass points to heterosexuality and the “traditional” family. Meanwhile, he has been divorced twice and married thrice. Both of his first two marriages ended because he began relationships with other women. And it is worth articulating clearly that he left his first wife for another woman while his wife was recovering from cancer. All of this while simultaneously condemning committed same-sex partnerships as “immoral.”

Edwards is the only high-profile politician, Republican or Democrat, whose moral compass consistently points to finding a solution to the enormous tragedy and injustice of poverty. He had an affair with a woman that he doesn’t love, and in the end admitted to his bad judgment.  The bottom line is that he is staying with his wife and family, and taking full responsibility for the betrayal. He may have cheated on his wife in the midst of a health crisis, but he did not abandon her the way that Gingrich abandoned his wife.

Edwards done wrong, he admits it and he’s trying to do the right thing. Let’s all make peace with it and move on.

While I believe that any public figure has a right to work out their marital difficulties in private, I also recognize that the choices that a politician makes in private are a reflection on decisions they make in public office. Indeed, I am disappointed in Edwards, but he is not the hypocrite that Gingrich is, and even making the comparison is ridiculous.

I am taking the long view on this, and I hope that Edwards will be able to again take his place with his important voice for social and economic justice within American politics. And maybe even John and Elizabeth Edwards will stand as an example of marriage and family values, honoring commitment in spite of their trials and tribulations, and the cruel attention of the media and judgmental public.

Throw stones if you will, but be prepared to replace some broken windows.