In recent years, a popular practice for online writers when they need a lively, often over-the-top or humorous quote, post or tweet is: Go to the latest from Matt Taibbi (often on Wall Street and the economy) or Charles P. Pierce (on politics and everything else). I do it myself. For me. Taibbi is more of 2011–12 phenomenon but Pierce and I go way back. Well, as far back as 2009 and his prescient—and naturally quite quotable—book Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.
If you’re new to Pierce, 58, just know that he first came to attention at the Boston Phoenix, then as a sportswriter for the Boston Herald and staff writer at the Boston Globe magazine. Probably the first line of his Wikipedia bio, however, explains him better: “Pierce’s first job was as a forest ranger for the state of Massachusetts, where among other duties he retrieved disposable diapers from trees so that raccoons would not choke on them.” Today, some might know him best from the NPR shows, ‘Only A Game’ and ‘Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!’ ”
On a personal note, I disclose that I bonded with Pierce this year on Facebook after we both attended (in different cities) a performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.
In any event, this year—in fact, in just the past weeks—he has outdone himself via his daily Politics blog at Esquire online and in print pieces there. I’ve cited him often here at The Nation and there’s far too much incisive or just savagely witty to repost now. I could even devote a full column to his rants since Saturday re Paul Ryan, now constantly referred to simply as the “zombie-eyed granny starver.” But let’s stick to his current calling out of Romney and gang as racists—or at least adopting racism—in their twin ads concerning Obama “gutting” welfare-to-work. I had, in gentler tones, predicted this last week, saying I heard the “dog whistles” of racism.
First, take a look at the latest ad:
Pierce is a longtime Romney watcher (as a lifetime Massachusetts resident), who refers to Mitt as “once my governor and onetime human being.” He had called out last week’s first Romney Obama-loves-welfare ad, but really went to town on the new one which, on top of everything else, is wholly inaccurate (i.e., one fat lie). Pierce titled it, “Mitt Romney is Stuck in the Racist Sewer of Our Politics.” He noted that “Willard” is now “diving into the deepest, oldest, foulest sewer in American politics to retrieve the blackened shards of Strom Thurmond’s soul for a replacement.”
We’ll continue with Charlie in a moment, but note a few updates today at the bottom of this column. Other writers—including Ed Kilgore, Joan Walsh, Jonathan Capehart, Jamelle Bouie and Dana Milbank—have started weighing in on the same subject.
Excerpt from Pierce: “There is nothing for now than to say, flat-out, that Willard Romney has decided that the only way he can become president is to become a racist and to appeal to the racist base of his party. This is the second ad in as many weeks centered on the general theme of The Negro President Wants To Give Your Money To The Black People Like Him….the dogwhistles are now air-raid sirens, and the Republicans are no longer even trying hard to camouflage what they’re actually saying.
“That is the muck in which Romney freely immersed himself, and now, like some toxic monster, he has become the muck in which he swam. .. I might point out that, sooner or later, if you go into this running river of sludge deeply enough, it no longer matters whether you are a racist or not, as long as you’re so obviously promiscuous about performing as one on the public stage. If you get elected, whom will you owe for it?”
Also check out Pierce’s column for the print version of Esquire this month on racism and Obama’s difficulties in responding to it.
UPDATE, as promised: first, there’s Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly, who agrees that
“the Romney campaign is reviving the single oldest tactic of southern reactionaries: race-baiting white working class voters to distract them from the many issues on which this segment of the electorate is naturally unsympathetic to policies that reinforce economic and social privilege. It’s how the Bourbons reasserted control over the Populists in the late nineteenth century. It’s how conservatives undermined southern support for the economic policies of the New Deal and Fair Deal and New Frontier and Great Society. It was ultimately the fulcrum for the realignment of the whole region from the Democratic to the Republican Party.
“So it’s a familiar tactic, but what makes it novel is that it is not being narrow-cast into North Carolina or Virginia or northern and western Florida or Missouri, but broadcast everywhere. And there is zero way it can be rationalized as a part of an overall GOP message supposedly focused on economic recovery and job creation—or even, given the ridiculously small quantities of federal money that go to the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) program, as part of a budget austerity message. It’s a flat-out racial appeal aimed at convincing non-college educated white voters that this black president wants to take their tax dollars to give them to his shiftless black brothers and sisters.”
Here’s the Washington Post’s Joanthan Capehart on Morning Joe today. And Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect. And column by Dana Milbank. “This is my problem with Romney: He is a decent man, but too weak to stand up to the minority on his own side who are not. With the welfare attack, he is encouraging them.”
And then there’s Joan Walsh at Salon:
“I think the Republicans doubled down on whiteness, and I think they have a problem. It could be a winning strategy, temporarily. They are making decisions that, well, it’s not great that Latinos and Asians don’t like us, but we have to double down on that base. This could get us through 2012, and we’ll worry about 2016 later. I would think that, as a Republican, you would think it’s a problem that nine out of 10 self-identified Republicans are white, in a country that’s about 60 to 62 percent white right now. One of our two major parties is a white party! It’s not named the white party, and I’m not going to call it a white supremacist party. But it’s the white party, and they don’t seem to give a damn about that. I think that’s a demographic and political and social disaster…. But for 2012, their only hope is to double down on whiteness and play Paul Ryan’s “makers and takers” card.”
Greg Mitchell’s books and e-books on influential American campaigns include Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady, The Campaign of the Century (on Upton Sinclair’s 1934 race) and Why Obama Won. He also blogs daily at Pressing Issues.