Tag Archives: Matt Tully

Dealing with the Embarrassment

I logged onto the Star’s front page this morning, only to discover that Matt Tully had already written my intended post.

It’s embarrassing. Even those of us who hate football have to be impressed with the skill and energy and sheer hard work that has gone into SuperBowl preparations. Even those of us who disagree with the city’s persistent prioritizing of sports arenas over, say, schools and parks, have to be impressed–and considerably mollified–by the use of this particular sporting event to trigger reinvestment in the near-Eastside neighborhood. And even Indy dwellers who are urbanists with a permanent sense of our inferiority to great cities like Chicago and New York have to take pride in the ability of Indianapolis to rally thousands of volunteers, master complex logistics, and throw one hell of a party. (I just passed the amazing ice sculpture of the New York skyline that appeared overnight next to the firehouse on Mass Avenue. Very cool–in both senses of the word!)

And then there’s our legislature.

Tully compares the General Assembly to that weird cousin everyone has, and asks visitors to simply discount them. And there is certainly more than a grain of truth in that observation. Just like the weird cousin who is so fixated on his collection of Star Wars figurines he can’t carry on an adult conversation, Indiana’s lawmakers are so firmly rooted in their alternate realities they can’t be bothered to do the state’s business. After all, if they paid attention to water pollution or public transportation, who would undermine science education or ensure the proper singing of the national anthem?

That said, the spectacle that is the Indiana General Assembly can’t all be attributed to its rampant assault on science and reason. The anti-Indianapolis resentment that has long characterized our state legislature has played a prominent role, and it has been aided and abetted by a Governor who knew exactly what he was doing.

A video of a speech Mitch Daniels gave barely a year ago has been all over Facebook and local blogs; it shows the Governor disclaiming any interest in proposing a “divisive” Right to Work law, which he accurately described as something that would set off a “civil war.” Leaving aside the merits–or lack thereof–of the law itself, why would the Governor reverse himself and promote a measure he clearly knew would enrage thousands of Hoosiers at the very time the state capitol would be hosting the SuperBowl?

Hosting an event of this magnitude is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put our best foot forward, to use our brief visibility to impress potential visitors and employers. It’s bad enough that the usual buffoonery at the statehouse is an embarrassment, potentially undermining the efforts of countless volunteers. It’s inexcusable that the Governor and Speaker–who actually do have IQs–preferred an opportunity to weaken Indiana’s few remaining unions over a chance to support the efforts of citizens who have worked countless hours to host this event.

At the end of the day and despite our sorry excuse for state government, Indianapolis will still shine. Most visitors will accept Tully’s (apt) characterization of our horrendous legislature, if they think about it at all. But those of us who live in Central Indiana need to remember who embarrassed us in February–and we need to deal with them in November.


Sticks and Stones

I largely agree with Matt Tully’s “take” on Andre Carson’s controversial words in this morning’s Star. As Tully notes, Carson has been a substantive, hard-working legislator who has steadily gained stature, and the language he employed was unnecessary to and a distraction from the points he was trying to make. “Why,” Tully asks, did Carson deviate from his usual civil demeanor?

I agree with Tully that this was out of character and unfortunate. I also have a possible answer to his question “why?”

If I were an African-American Congressman who’d been spit on, who had watched the country’s first black President demeaned from the first day he was elected, who had seen the racist emails, the “clever” signs with watermelon patches on the White House lawn, the posters at Tea Party gatherings showing Obama as a witch doctor–if I had heard colleagues on the floor of the U.S. House ask for “proof” that the President was born in the USA, and political figures supported by the Tea Party call for repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Rand Paul)–if I had heard Rep. Peter King compare a settlement of the discrimination lawsuit by black farmers to “reparations”…..well, I could go on, but I’ll stop there–I might address the motives of these people in less than civil language.

The Tea Party spokesmen who are demanding an “apology” insist that only a small fringe is responsible for the racist signs at their rallies. Perhaps they are right–but I must have missed their calls for those people to apologize.

A lot of people who are well-meaning and not racist will excuse the bile and excessive, irrational hatred of the President by comparing it to Bush hatred. The problem with that comparison is that most of us who came to detest Bush really were reacting to his behavior in office. Most of us were agnostic about him early in his tenure, as polling from that time reflects, and if you asked us why we were so angry with the administration, most of us could give you a long list of policy decisions with which we strongly disagreed . In contrast, the venom directed at this President began before he even assumed office.

I had a recent conversation with a woman who self-identified as a member of the Tea Party, and asked her why she hated Obama. “He’s a socialist,” she told me. Leaving aside the fact that Obama’s “socialism” would have placed him in the middle of the Republican party back when I ran as a Republican, I asked her for an example. “Obamacare,” she said. I asked her if she was aware that “Obamacare” was pretty much the same program advocated by Bob Dole and actually enacted in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney. She refused to believe me. “Ok, what other evidence of Obama’s socialism is there?” No response. “What other proposals/policies has he advocated that you disagree with? “He’s a socialist, and he’s Muslim and he wasn’t even born in this country!”

I know there are Tea Party people who aren’t racist, aren’t hysterical, and who have genuine policy differences with the President that they can articulate. Unfortunately,they aren’t spending their time trying to weed out the folks carrying banners with the “N word” or those self-identified Tea Partiers who post to this blog (I spam them) to argue that Obama wants to give all “our” tax money to lazy drug-using mothers who have children so they can live on welfare.

None of this excuses the use of uncivil language. But it sure goes a long way toward explaining it.