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Joe Wilson: Dog-Whistling Dixie in the Senate Chamber

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dixie tooAs one of Joe Wilson’s constituents, I feel compelled to weigh in on his “You lie” outburst during Obama’s speech. After scanning through the comments posted about the internet, I’ve noticed there’s a prevailing misperception that,  by virtue of being citizens of this state, we South Carolinians are all — each and very one of us — responsible for repeatedly re-electing this neanderthal to the House. 

Unless you have the misfortune to be a Democrat in South Carolina, you can’t possibly appreciate the futility of trying to elect intelligent, principled leaders of integrity in certain districts of South Carolina. Joe Wilson’s district covers some of the state’s largest concentrations of the poorest of the poor, juxtaposed with the richest of the rich.

Allendale County, in Joe Wilson’ district, holds the highest unemployment rate in the state and, in fact, vies with some of the highest in the country, at 22.5% — up from  its 15.9% high of one year ago. The state of South Carolina currently has the 6th highest unemployment rate in the country, at 11.8% (following right on the heels of  Nevada, California and Oregon), having nearly doubled in the past year. It has long been the distinction of South Carolina to rate among the worst in the country, concerning the health, education and well-being of its citizens.

We have politicians like Joe Wilson to thank for this — for cultivating and nourishing a climate that places South Carolina among the most backward states in the country.  We have been doing this for so long, that it’s become a tradition, of sorts.

One hundred years ago, we were the second most illiterate state in the country (see pg. 56), ranking in 49th place. Things have changed little since. Today, we still rank among the lowest in the country for graduation rates (49th) and SAT scores (47th/48th), while we rank (and you won’t Joe Wilson bellowing these words on the Senate Floor) among the top ten  highest states on infant mortality (45th), low birthweight babies (47th), child deaths (40th) teen births (42nd), children living in poverty (42nd), children in single-parent homes (48th), violent crime (50th), and unemployment (we were at 48th in May 2009, with the recent drop to 45th place likely due to folk giving up on the futility of looking for work). In 2008, South Carolina earned the distinction of being the third worst state in the country for human health (up 6 notches from 2007). It comes as no surprise, then, that South Carolina also rates as one of the worst places in the country (46th place, at last count) for raising children.  

With such deplorable health statistics for his state, in general, and his district, in particular, you’d think Joe Wilson would have something on his mind besides going to tea bag parties and spreading disinformation to kill the health care reform that would benefit the majority of his constituents. You’d think he’d be obsessed with something other than assuring the lords in his fiefdom that their tax dollars won’t (for the record, anyway) go toward paying medical care for the illegal migrant workers on whose backs their economies covertly depend. You’d think that, perhaps, Joe might have something more helpful to offer the national dialogue than, “You lie!” Joe’s actions only make sense when you consider the health of his corporate campaign contributions  (see bottom of post), as opposed to the blood and guts health of his constituents.

In South Carolina, as elsewhere in the country, the poor and the minorities are among the most disenfranchised citizens.

AN ASIDE: To be fair to Joe Wilson, Obama was just as guilty as any Republican last night of negating the existence of the poor. While discussing the number of uninsured in this country, Obama said, “These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans,” thereby dispelling, in one fell swoop, the existence of upwards of 30 to 40% of Americans who are neither on welfare, or in the middle-income bracket. This is the demographic which (scalawag notwithstanding) John Edwards fought for during his brief bid for the presidency — a mantle for the swelling numbers of poor in this country, which was not picked up by either Clinton or Obama.  

The careers of Republicans are made or broken, depending on their ability to make clear where their loyalties lie, without appearing blatantly racist. Last night’s outcry by Joe Wilson was a perfect example. 

 

dog whistleDog-Whistling Dixie

To understand the politics of South Carolina and men like Joe Wilson, one must first understand that the South Carolina Republicans have yet to forgive the Democratic Party for the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the desegration of public schools. To understand South Carolina politics, one must first understand the politics of Lee Atwater, the architect of the modern-day Southern strategy. 

Our politicians still fight as dirty as they did during the reigns of the Red Shirts, the Klan and the Jim Crow era. The only difference, today, is that in order to  disenfranchise minority voters, undermine education to the poor, and blackwash humanitarian and social programs that could elevate these people from the bondage of servitude and poverty, a politician must be subtle. 

Remember, it’s been only 50 years since South Carolina politicans were forced, in the name of political correctness, to hang up their  white hoods. In the interim, the burning cross has been  replaced with a system of verbal winks and nods that equally convey the same message. This strategy, as described by  South Carolina’s own adopted homeboy, Lee Atwater, works something like this: 

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites…..  You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Joe Wilson’s outburst last night was not, as he would have us believe, a spontaneous, impassioned eruption of frustration. No, it was an intentional, calculated  hard wink to his largest campaign contributors in the healthcare, insurance and pharmaceutical industries — as well as to his well-heeled constituents:  Not to worry, fellas. Joe Wilson’s got your back. 

In the realm of South Carolina politics, those two words, “You lie!” were pure genius — capturing, in one fell swoop, the continuing generosity to his campaign coffers from the health, insurance and drug industry, along with the continued support of his “people” — knuckle-dragging racists and elitists alike.  

Already, one group has declared Joe Wilson a hero, naming him “Tea Party Patriot of the Day” —  deeming his outburst a “major victory” against the radical left and the evil liberal media.  

None of this comes  as a surprise from a man who cut his political teeth working as an aide to Strom Thurmond, Or from a politician who — in 2002, long before it was in vogue — resurrected the ghost of Joseph McCarthy, declaring one of colleagues in the House, Congressman Bob Filner as being “viscerally anti-American” with a “hatred of America,” after Filner had factually reminded the body, during an Iraq war debate, that the U.S had, in fact,  supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical and biological weapons.  

Wilson later apologized for this outburst, much as he did last night, saying that he hadn’t ( perish the thought!) intended to insult Filner. Working from the time-honored Republican strategy that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to resist the compulsion to engage in reprehensible political theater, Wilson  did what South Carolina Republicans do best: he put on a show.  And he wasn’t just dog-whistling dixie.

That’s what keeps the re-election coffers filled: stoke the old hatreds, replenish the ignorance, stroke the priviledged and the kings of industry, and you are assured of a long political career in South Carolina.  Joe Wilson has many beaus in industry, the greatest being “health care professionals,” who, along with the insurance and pharmaceutical industry filled his coffers to the tune of $97, 235 in the 2008 election. His 2010 re-election is all but assured.

But if worse comes to worst, and the voices of the poor and the minorities in the state threaten to change the status quo, Joe can always revert to that thing that Southern politicans do when all else fails: redistrict. 

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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Potent Quotables from the Joe Wilson’s Town Hall Meetings

In the following statement, Joe Wilson is showing “concern” for his constituents in the poorest counties in his district — for whom he predicted dire results, should they be allowed equal access to medical care. His concern for this particular population, which holds the 2nd highest diabetes rate in the country, was that they might  “fall through the cracks” of “a big government system.” 

 We know that diabetes causes many other collateral health conditions, and quality of life is destroyed, families are destroyed because of diabetes. So, by adopting a big government system where people fall through the cracks, there are a lot of people, particularly people in the rural community I represent, who are going to be hurt. 

Joe Wilson on “Obamacare” and death panels, aka Bill 3200:

It will be the government determining the care you get and ultimately whether you live or die.

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The Infidelities of Mark Sanford: A Tale of Pitchforks, Lust & Lies

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lipstick Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Mystery solved. We now know what compelled Governor Sanford to seemingly disappear into thin air. We know why he impulsively hijacked a S.C. State Law Enforcement vehicle (fully-equipped with weapons, lights, sirens, bells & whistles), driving at high rates of speed as he departed in the middle of the night for parts unknown, abrogating his sworn duties to the citizens of South Carolina, and leaving in his wake a trail of lies as treacherous as certain passages on that very footpath  he was hiking. (psyche!) Mystery solved. The governor can now add dereliction of duty to his resume.

God hates lawlessness and is tireless in His desire to dissuade man from his fascination with lawlessness. Our hearts are lions’ dens of devouring lusts. Lawlessness torments righteous souls every day.  — Mark Sanford’s spiritual advisor, Warren “Cubby” Culbertson, whom the governor terms “a spiritual giant.”

Fortunately for Sanford, he was a Christian before embarking on his second trek to Argentina, making forgiveness pretty clear-cut, regarding matters of God and mortal sin. That leaves just us. Can we, the citizens of South Carolina forgive Governor Sanford for his marital infidelity — even as his hypocrisy makes him an even bigger liar than Bill Clinton?

Under the right circumstances, most people —  even athiests, heathens and other non-Christians — are pretty compassionate when they see another human fall. But the fact is, the extramarital affair of King David (as he’s now annointed himself) is ultimately a painful and private matter between the governor, his family and his concience. But what of the governor’s conscious decision to walk off the job — leaving his state unattended  and vulnerable to catastrophe for 6 days? 

I don’t know how the folk in Sanford’s circle handle such things, but where I come from, when you pull a no-show, no-call on the job, that’s it. Unless you’re laid up in the hospital or dead at the morgue, you’re fired, I don’t care who you pray to.   

lieTo be clear, South Carolinians couldn’t care less about the governor’s private life, even as his private lies reflect certain truths about his character. We are most concerned with his on-the-job mendacity —  including any pertinent fascinations with lawlessness that torment his righteous soul every day. These infidelities and lies — which have become somewhat of a pattern under his watch — belong entirely to the citizens of South Carolina, on whom the governor has been cheating for years. 

Several years before he absconded to Argentina, the governor secretly tried to sell (aka privatize) the state’s largest utility, Santee Cooper, to Credit Suisse. Then he lied about it. And, for years, he’s been running around with some sugar daddy scalawag from New York. Jenny Sanford has her own story to tell about the governor’s infidelities, which can only hope to scratch the surface of his lies. Here’s ours. 

Bibles, Pitchforks & Patriots: A South Carolina Tradition 

The longstanding object of Mark Sanford’s devouring lust is a real estate millionaire mogul from New York named Howard Rich, who has not only made a whore of Mark Sanford, but has purchased the loyalties of every Palmetto State politician whose ethics could be bought. As such, it is increasingly the idealogy of a man ironically named “Rich” that drives the political agenda of our state. The pity is that the sordid details of Governor Sanford’s affair with Howard Rich are not sexy enough to warrant wall-to-wall national media coverage. In fact, Howard Rich’s agenda — (dismantling public education in South Carolina) — is so unsexy, that it doesn’t even warrant mention outside the state.

I view guys like him as patriots. He’s a guy that passionately believes that choice in education is better education.Governor Mark Sanford, speaking of Howard Rich, who donated a total of $21,000 to the governor’s campaign

It is our state’s well-deserved reputation for backwardness makes South Carolina fertile ground for a man like Howard Rich. One hundred years ago, we were the second most illiterate state in the country (see pg. 56), ranking in 49th place. Things have changed little since. Today, we still rank among the lowest in the country for graduation rates (49th) and SAT scores (47th/48th), while we rank among the top ten  highest states (and you won’t hear these statistics from Howard Rich or Governor Sanford) on infant mortality (45th), low birthweight babies (47th), child deaths (40th) teen births (42nd), children living in poverty (42nd), children in single-parent homes (48th), violent crime (50th) and unemployment (48th as of May 2009). In 2008, South Carolina earned the distinction of being the third worst state in the country for human health (up 6 notches from 2007). It comes as no surprise, then, that South Carolina also rates as one of the worst places in the country (46th place, at last count) for raising children.  

Lucky for us, Governor Sanford and the rest of Howard Rich’s political henchmen have a solution. Rather than address the pathology of our diseased state, they’ll simply ignore it. Rather than aspire to unshackle South Carolinians from our historic bondage to poverty, illiteracy and disease, they’ll  legitimize it. It worked in the Jim Crow era; it can work today: simply make make laws that will disenfranchise all but the rich white folk. The trick is in getting the poor white folk to go along with the plan.  

One way to doing this is to blame the “other folk” (them’s who ain’t rich or white) for everything  that’s wrong. Another is to wave the flag and give the Bible a few good thumps. If you play your cards right, you can convince the poor white folk that — no matter how much it hurts ’em — it’s their patriotic duty to their country and God to do whatever our flag-waving Bible-thumping politicians tell them to do.   

USA-POLITICS/

To this end, the Rich-Sanford message has been crafted to appeal to the same classes of wealth, racism and religious zealotry that have been ruling this state since the first slaves arrived on our shores. Howard Rich — for all his talk about improving education — would be powerless, if not for his appeal to the most narrow-minded of South Carolinians. Lucky for him, the state still holds a majority of whites who have yet to forgive the Democratic Party for giving blacks the right to vote in 1965.

 

tea party

So far, so good. To date, Howard Rich and his gang have made substantial progress toward convincing South Carolians that:

  • Public schools, being a form of socialism, are ineffective and inherently evil.
  • By privatizing our school system, we will lower the cost of education and raise the quality, due to the hoo doo magic of that same free market competition that did such wonders for Wall Street and the U.S. health care system.
  • It’s cheaper, per child, to subsidize private school tuition than it is to fund a public school education.
  • Therefore, a better use of our taxpayer dollars would be take that money out of the public school system and use it, instead, to subsidize private school tuition for those families who “choose” to send their kids to private school.  

To those of us who worry that taking money out of the public school system to subsidize private schools for rich folk might further degrade our public schools — or that it will (and, in practice, does) resurrect the institution of racial segregation — the Rich-Sanford folk have an answer. See, there’s nothing barring minorities and the poor from enjoying these tax cuts and school vouchers. All they have to do is cough up the $3,000 out-of-pocket tuition, per child, per year — or, alternately, choose from the many charitable organizations that will no doubt be clamoring to give scholarships to blacks and poor people who cannot afford private school tuition. 

This is how we do things in South Carolina. This is how we “get around” inconvenient laws. This is nothing new. The roots of South Carolina politics were born in the plantation system, with our entry into the 20th century driven by wealthy plantation owners who had a gift for exploiting the ignorance, fears and racism of poor whites. It was Governor “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman who crafted the 1895 S.C. Constitution on the backs of these ignorant, fearful masses — giving birth to the Jim Crow era that disenfranchised blacks and the poor, and granting license-to-lynch to the second era of the Ku Klux Klan that terrorized this state for nearly half a century. Things have changed little since.

The same bogeymen conjured at the turn of the century by S.C governors “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman and Coley Blease are the same bogeymen being conjured today by Rich-Sanford and their henchmen: socialists, communists, blacks and any one else who poses threat to the sensibilities of the red-blooded, God-fearing, white American citizens of this state. The only difference, today, is in the semantics — a code, of sorts, which has evolved from the fiery rhetoric of Pitchfork Ben’s day, to the infinitely more polite racial code being used today. The architect of these semantics (South Carolina’s own adopted homeboy, Lee Atwater, aka “the Boogieman”) plainly described the evolution of this code during an 1981 interview, while explaining the Republican Party’s Southern strategy in the Reagan campaign:

Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry Dent and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn’t have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he’s campaigned on since 1964… and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster…

Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps…?

Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Today — courtesy of the Rich-Sanford plan — the words “school vouchers” and “tax credits” and “school choice” are part of this code, interfacing nicely with the economic concerns invented by Atwater. Could the Boogieman and Pitchfork Ben only hear as well as they speak from the grave, they’d be tickled pink: 

 

Hey, I grew up in South Carolina. I remember the mass exodus of Southern Democrats to the Republican Party in the wake of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I remember the mass exodus to private schools in the wake of integration and, later, to home-schooling in the wake of Reagan’s moral majority campaign. 

And when I listen to Howard Rich’s spin on saving taxpayer money and cutting spending, I hear the dog whistle loud and clear. I know exactly who and what he’s talking about when he says:

The other side is in it for one thing: taxpayer dollars. They love it every year when the legislature gives them more money for what they call [insert finger-quotes —->] education.

I’ve also been the recipient of the Howard Rich robocalls, attack ads and slick mailers, smearing the records of those candidates (Republicans and Democrats alike) who have refused to jump in bed with Daddy Howard’s money. I’ve been witness to those malicious smear campaigns — always cleverly delivered last-minute before election day, just in time to ensure that these candidates couldn’t effectively defend themselves against the dirty lies and accusations waged against them. I’ve seen enough of Howard Rich and his paid henchmen to know that they represent that most backward element of South Carolina politics that keeps us all chained to the dark ages. 

I’ve also watched Governor Sanford’s uncanny rise  to the call of fiscal responsibility — refusing stimulus money, organizing tea parties and being just generally contrary to anything and everything Obama — even as the good governor sat on his hands for 8 years while the Bush-Cheney Administration pilfered our economy, running up the largest federal deficits and debt in U.S. history. The old axiom is true enough in South Carolina: the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and never will. — “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman

But, hey, we must like it this way. We must care very little for the integrity and well-being of our state and the people who live here. We must also like being the butt of late-night jokes. We must like the fact that our state’s name is synonymous with stupidity. Otherwise, we  wouldn’t keep electing these politicians over and over — politicians whose agendas are little more than thinly-veiled attempts to correct the outcomes of the Civil War, the Voting Rights Act and school desegregation. And we wouldn’t continually be drawn — out of malicious spite, it seems  — toward policies that disenfranchise some folk at the expense of all. We wouldn’t self-righteously cling to the nativist ignorance that has earned us every negative statistic and stereotype we’ve ever earned. Namely, that we are a state of backward, illiterate racists. We would, instead, call the Rich-Sanford solution exactly what it is: a school system even better-equipped to keep us chained to our ignorant past.  

Deaf, Dumb and Blind Ambition  

Every politician has a bad moment from time to time, but viewing Governor Sanford’s infamous July 2008 interview with Wolf Blitzer carries new meaning today, given the contrast of his overflowing wordiness in the now-infamous emails to Maria, written during the same week as this interview. As we now know, the governor was not only basking in the limelight as a VP potential on the McCain ticket, but was also basking in the glow of consummated love. Here, we get a truer portrait of the man who has been governing the state of South Carolina for the past 6 years.

This is not the portrait of a fiscal conservative, much less a politician of stature or substance. Governor Sanford is simply a garden-variety “good old boy,” politician, doing business as-usual in South Carolina. It’s just like Lee Atwater said: 

…. fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster… You can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

Fortunately for the entire country, Governor Sanford — who was poised to take his infidelities and his lies (along with his gentry-class sense of priviledge, his selective obedience to morals, his veiled racism and his Bush-esque approach to fiscal responsiblity) all the way to the White House — never got a chance to make his pitch to a national audience. And he never will.

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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Governor Sanford at a recent tea party, protesting Obama’s evil ‘socialist’ agenda