July 31, 2009

This was another gem from Hardball yesterday besides Matthews' "deather" rant where bad Tweety was rearing his ugly head again. Was it a full moon yesterday or what? Joan Walsh attempted to give Chris Matthews a bit of a history lesson on the divisions in the United States which have been played upon by politicians and corporate interests to keep people voting against their own interests, and Matthews attacks it as being "Marxist".

Joan had something to say about this over at Salon, Is GOP using race to block Obama agenda? Ya think?:

There is one main reason the U.S. doesn't have the social democratic traditions and programs enjoyed by most Western democracies -- we are the only such nation without some kind of universal healthcare -- and that reason is our history of ethnic, racial and class strife. (The bounty of the eternal frontier and American exceptionalism fit in there too, but I'd pick our fractious and well-manipulated heterogeneity as the top reason.)

The history of the 19th century and early 20th century is the history of labor and political coalitions splintered by divisions between Northern Europeans and Southern Europeans, between middle-class Germans and less well off German Jews, between the Irish and everyone else, and, increasingly after blacks won something akin to freedom, between all white ethnic groups and African-Americans. Latinos and Asians came with their own demands and baggage and relations got more complicated still. Barriers of language, culture, class and skin color thwarted many efforts to grow labor unions and build a social-democratic majority.

Meanwhile, the one constant for at least 150 years has been a savvy cadre of political operatives who used those racial and ethnic divisions to advance their pro-business agenda. Go back to Karl Rove's idol Mark Hanna, who made turn-of-the-19th-century Republican politics safe for whites-only organizing in the South, to Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy, to Lee Atwater's Willie Horton strategy to Rove's own neo-Southern, pander-to-the-base strategy that has driven the GOP into its current ditch. Where in other Western nations, those years saw the fairly steady advance of basic conceptions of human rights, labor rights and an expanded social safety net, in the U.S. such social progress -- and especially such programs -- was more sporadic and limited.

Matthews didn't buy my analysis; in fact, he called it "Marxist" -- I challenged him, as it's not that simple, and he changed it to an "economic analysis" -- and he put former Rep. Kweisi Mfume on the hot seat asking if he agreed with me. Mfume started off by saying he's not a conspiracy theorist -- for the record, neither am I -- but then he added with a smile, "I don't believe Humpty Dumpty just fell; I believe he was pushed. And there are people who are pushing buttons to try to hold back the progress we are making in this country as one nation. And when you push those buttons, it causes the progress to slow down ... This is anti-American."

Digby weighed in on the interview as well.

Joan's thesis was correct, but Tweety looked at her as if she'd just said she'd joined the Heaven's Gate cult. But then he is the same guy who had earlier blithely asserted that Obama had racially profiled Sgt Crowley, so his awareness of how racism worksa is obviously limited. But the truth is that he's actually just a typical selfish wealthy person who believes that he's rich because he's morally superior to everyone who isn't as wealthy as he is. (And who obviously then admires those who are even wealthier.) His cohort's desire to kill Obama's agenda is just plain old class solidarity.

But when Matthews and other wealthy people obsess over race in the broader sense, and encourage this nonsense about reverse discrimination out of some absurd self-identification as a white working class dude, they do the work of the ruling class as well by reinforcing the All American racial divide --- and its resultant antipathy toward any kind of social welfare. Tweety and Villagers who pretend to be jess folks on yer TV do the work of conservatives by presenting their elite views in the guise of blue collar attitudes. It's a great scam.


MATTHEWS: You know, Joan, you and I have been on television together an awful lot together over the years. And I just wonder whether you believe what you said a minute ago. Do you believe you know this guy Beck enough to make that accusation, that he‘s really charged by racism himself, or that Rush Limbaugh is?

WALSH: You know, I really...

MATTHEWS: Do you really believe...

WALSH: Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS: ... you think you know their motives enough to say that?

WALSH: Yes, I do. I really do. I‘m sorry, Chris because I think that words have consequences, and I think that if you—I judge people not only by their words but what they do. And if you look at people who have a pattern, who‘ve built a career out of dividing people and who built a career out of often not just Obama but finding ways to degrade and diminish African-Americans and African-American leaders, I don‘t care what‘s in their hearts, to be honest with you. They can tell themselves they‘re not racist. They can tell me they have black friends. I don‘t care. It‘s racist to consistently make your living on the backs of black people.

And you know, you brought up 400 years, and let‘s consider this an intellectual show where we can talk history. I truly believe that this assault on Obama is linked to what you referred to earlier, with his health care numbers dropping. And I will tell you why. In the 230-year history of this country, the reason we have never developed a social democratic base, the way they have in Europe—we‘re the only Western country without some kind of universal health care, Chris. There‘s a reason, and it is because corporate interests have divided the American people by race and ethnicity, the Irish from the blacks, the Germans from the German Jews. It goes back to the 1700s.

It‘s been very smart. It‘s been very effective. And people have voted against their self-interests to keep some other group down, and therefore, we don‘t have the basic things that other countries take for granted in terms of a social infrastructure. That‘s what they‘re doing again. They want to defeat health care. They want to defeat his whole agenda by dividing us on racial lines. I don‘t think it‘s going to work. I really don‘t. But that‘s what‘s happening.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe this grand theory, Congressman, that Joan just put out there that there‘s some grand sort of almost Marxist analysis, where you can say that the corporate world...

WALSH: I‘m not a Marxist!


MATTHEWS: No, but it‘s an analysis. It‘s an economic analysis of human behavior. Yes, it is an economic analysis of human behavior, and I think it‘s more complicated. I think we all have tribalist tendencies. We‘ve got to overcome them. I don‘t think the corporate world created those tribalist tendencies. I think we‘ve...

MFUME: Well, Chris...

WALSH: I think...


MFUME: Chris, I‘m not a conspiracy theorist, but I don‘t think Humpty-Dumpty just fell. I think he was pushed. And I there are people who in this country are deliberately pushing buttons to try to hold back the progress that people are making in this country as one nation. And when you push those buttons, as Mr. Glenn Beck did and so many others, it causes the progress to slow down. As I said before, this is anti-American, and most of all, it‘s insulting to the democracy that people work day in and day out to preserve.

(Originally published July 30th, 7:30pm)

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