Tag Archives: misogyny

The Idiocy Of The Isms…

Okay–I guess the time for mulling over relatively abstract issues of political philosophy has passed.

I really haven’t wanted to comment on the eruptions of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, or the wars currently raging in Ukraine or Gaza, because, after all, what can I add? That Russia’s incursion is inconsistent with global order and international law? That failure to help Ukraine would undermine democracy and stability around the world? That there are no unblemished “good guys” in the history of the Middle East? That there are deep divisions of opinion and politics within both the Israeli and Palestinian populations? That none of that is an excuse for the slaughter of innocent people attending a music festival?

That rain is wet…?

What I suppose I will never understand is the widespread tendency to believe that people who share a race or religion or ethnicity are all alike. (I think that’s the definition of bigotry.)

Like most members of the Indianapolis Jewish community, I get emails from our local Jewish organizations. I recently received one that began as follows:

Ruba Awni Almaghtheh drove her vehicle into a building in a residential neighborhood at 3500 N Keystone Av, Indianapolis. This building is identified as belonging to and representing a sect of the Black Hebrew Israelites (designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), with a semblance of a star of David on the front door. Based on this signage and “Hebrew Israelite” wording, it is believed Almaghtheh thought the building to represent Israel in some way, specifically citing the Hebrew Israelite symbol on the door. The woman was immediately taken into custody. Coordination with local and federal law enforcement continues.

I can’t help thinking that this incident displays –indeed, highlights–everything that’s wrong with bigots. Stupidity, of course, (in this case amplified by the perpetrator’s evident inability to accurately identify her target) but especially the stupidity of blaming an entire group of people for actions of some of them with which you disagree.

The incident just underlines the idiocy of racism and bigotry.

If an Arab kid stole your bike when you were young, would you grow up assuming that all Arabs are thieves? If you saw one woman faint at the sight of blood, would you conclude that no women could be surgeons?

Questions like these ought to answer themselves.

What intellectual deficit or personality flaw causes someone to conclude that all members of a defined group are alike, that any misbehavior by any one of them reflects characteristics and behaviors common to all of them–and that animus toward the entire group is thus justifiable?

(That lack of uniformity works both ways: Jews have received a wildly disproportionate number of Nobel prizes, but believe me, that doesn’t mean all Jews are smart…)

My mother used to say that the only thing two Jews could agree on was what a third should be donating to charity. She wasn’t far wrong–we’re a disputatious lot. So are Black people. So are Muslims, women, LGBTQ folks…

Humans are individuals.

Anyone who has been following the political turmoil in Israel knows that Israelis are deeply divided over the policies of the Netanyahu government, and deeply conflicted over the proper approach to Gaza and to the Palestinians. Anyone who has been following the internal politics of the American Jewish community knows that those divisions are equally sharp here. (As recently as July, for example, the Guardian reported on Jewish groups demonstrating against the Israeli settlements policy.)

The current increases in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents, along with the stubborn persistence of American racism, act as uncomfortable reminders that we humans are deeply and inappropriately tribal–that we apparently have a very dangerous need to see the world in shades of “us” and “them,” and to see “them” as a monolithic, undifferentiated whole.

I don’t know what deep-seated tribal hatred convinced Ruba Awni Almaghtheh that she should ram her car into a building she presumed was occupied by “them,” or what she thought such vandalism would accomplish (other than wrecking her car).  I do know that expressions of anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and the like are the antithesis of civilized behavior, and that our current global unrest is largely due to politicians like Trump and Putin who encourage and legitimate the latent and not-so-latent bigotries of not-very-bright people.

One of the most laudable aspects of the American legal system is that it is a system that is intended to ignore the question of identity. In America, who you are isn’t supposed to matter–what does matter is how you behave. Not how your clan or tribe behaves, but how you, individually, behave.

Bigotry isn’t just stupid. It’s anti-American.



No More Dog Whistles…

Indiana contributes more than its share to the crazy caucus of the House of Representatives. Our state’s intrepid culture warriors not only close ranks with the far-Right “lawmakers” (note quotes) intent upon blocking  anything close to actual governance, they are also happy to advance their bigotries publicly.

No more “dog whistles.” Just good old Hoosier White Supremacy.

Take Jim Banks. (Please!) In addition to his vote to shut down the government and his efforts to form an “anti-woke” caucus, he and Greg Stuebe (R-Fl) are coming after the accreditation of colleges and universities.

And why, you might reasonably ask, would they be doing that?

Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN) and Greg Steube (R-FL) urged Congress to take action to reform the college accreditation process to combat diversity, equity, and inclusion requirements from accrediting agencies.

In a Washington Examiner op-ed Wednesday, the two Republican lawmakers, known to be among the most conservative members of Congress, argued that the college accreditation system has become politicized with diversity, equity, and inclusion requirements and that congressional action is needed to solve the issue….

Banks and Steube are both members of the House Anti-Woke Caucus, which they said was launched in part because of the state of higher education. The two lawmakers, along with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), introduced the Fairness In Higher Education Accreditation Act earlier this year, which would ban accrediting agencies from requiring commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion from institutions seeking to be accredited.

Well, yes, I suppose efforts to combat historic discrimination and bigotry could be considered “political”–at least, if you are one of the far-too-numerous Americans who are trying to take the country back to a time when only straight White Christian men were considered “real Americans.”

“Credit” where it’s due: Banks doesn’t limit his bigotry to racism. He’s also a rabid misogynist/forced birther– 100% anti-choice with zero exceptions. (Evidently, if a ten-year-old is impregnated during a vicious rape, it’s God’s will…) During his time in Congress, Banks has endorsed a federal abortion ban, called the overturning of Roe v. Wade a “joyful day,” and supported imposition of a travel ban that would criminalize women who leave a state to access an abortion.

In an interview with a conservative Fort Wayne radio host, Banks touted such a travel ban–and went on to say, “there’s much more that we must do, that we need to do, that I’m going to fight for in the House, and when I get to the Senate, I’m going to fight for there in a bigger way as well.”

That certainly tells Hoosier women what’s at stake in the upcoming campaign for U.S. Senate…(You can donate to his Democratic, pro-choice rival here.)

And we shouldn’t forget Banks’ homophobia, demonstrated by his despicable attacks on trans children. The far-Right “Family Policy Alliance” has praised him for his introduction of a mean-spirited bill that would effectively prevent doctors from assisting children diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Senator Tom Cotton (AR) and Congressman Jim Banks (IN-3) have introduced federal legislation to protect vulnerable children from transgender interventions, the Protecting Minors from Medical Malpractice Act. The legislation provides minors a private right of action to sue the medical professionals who perform their “transition” procedures for 30 years after they turn 18…

Here at Family Policy Alliance, we firmly believe that hurting children deserve real help, not the harm of experimental hormones and irreversible surgeries. That’s why we authored our Help Not Harm legislation to protect children at the state level. Now, Congressman Banks and Senator Cotton are boldly taking that language to the federal level to protect children around the nation. We heartily support them in this effort.”

Rep. Banks noted of the legislation, “This is such a common-sense bill, and FPA’s been on the front lines advocating for this legislation at the state level, which is where we pulled ideas from to write the federal version of this bill.”

What kind of person considers it “common sense” to over-rule the considered and difficult decisions of medical professionals, their patients and patients’ families–to insert government into the doctor-patient relationship in order to ensure that vulnerable children abide by his Christian Nationalist beliefs?

The answer is: the same sort of ignoramus who would say–as Banks did in October of 2016, according to Wikipedia–“I believe that climate change in this country is largely leftist propaganda to change the way Americans live and create more government obstruction and intrusion in our lives.”

For a guy who opposes “government intrusion in our lives,” he’s sure willing to use government to limit women’s rights, interfere with health care for LGBTQ youngsters, and prevent colleges and universities from battling discrimination.

Georgia has Margery Taylor Green. We have Jim Banks.

What an embarrassment……

Our Freudian Politics

Warning: this post contains a number of sexual references, so if you find discussions of genital endowments inappropriate, you should probably skip this one.

Why am I addressing sexuality in a blog devoted to policy and politics? Because I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that a great number of America’s dysfunctions can be traced to misogyny–and that a great deal of that misogyny is the result of men’s concerns over the adequacy of their endowments–concerns that explain a number of, shall we say, “odd” fixations.

Some of those fixations are pretty well known: the racist obsession during slavery and Jim Crow with Black men’s “endowments” (and fears that Southern women might enjoy being “ravished”) , and the more recent “Incel” phenomenon, where men who can’t find women willing to have sex with them (gee, I wonder why? they sound so nice…) express their grievances by attacking women. And of course, there are those “tough” men who carry their guns to the local Kroger (compensate much?).

But there are less recognized aspects of this particular obsession.

Recently, an article in The New Republic considered some of the weirder aspects of the Right’s fixation with Hunter Biden and his laptop. The article was prompted by Elon Musk’s equally weird “expose” of Twitter’s earlier decision not to indulge the original frenzy around what appeared to most credible journalists as a very sketchy story. (After all, the laptop had been in the possession of Rudy Guliani for a period of time–if there had really been something damaging to Joe Biden, it’s likely we’d have heard about it.)

Despite Musk’s breathless implication that he was about to reveal some nefarious plot to hide wrongdoing, the communications he dredged up and published basically showed a discussion by Twitter’s then content moderators considering whether the story violated their standards. Ho-hum.

But then the article noted the “prurient interest” aspect of the whole matter.

Now: Here’s the psychotic part. As Miller put it: “The offending material that Taibbi revealed was removed by Twitter at the Biden campaign’s request turns out to have been a bunch of links to Hunter Biden in the buff.” And these photos revealed to the world that Hunter has … well, you know … let’s just say that he has been blessed by nature. The New York Post reported over the summer on its actual size. You can go look that up if you wish.

So here, clearly, is still one more thing for the right to hate about Hunter. Don’t laugh. Men don’t talk about it much in polite company, but this is something many men think about to the point of obsession. And isn’t it particularly acute among conservative men, all full of that macho swagger? Isn’t that swagger a form of compensation, like that bright orange Dodge Charger the 61-year-old balding man suddenly decides he can’t live without? And isn’t Donald Trump, who still smarts 30 years later from being dubbed “short-fingered” by Spy, the most insecure of all men along these lines? You surely don’t forget the time he actually made his penis a campaign issue in 2016. It’s not the kind of thing you can unremember.

OK, I’ll admit that I can’t look deep into the psyches of all these right-wing men and so I should not overgeneralize about them. I am not asserting that James Comer, the incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee who has vowed to make the 118th Congress entirely about Hunter Biden, is thinking about how the first son holsters his Dillinger as he contemplates how he’s going to cut him down to—as it were—size. But I am saying, absolutely, that there is something strange and psychological about the Hunter obsession.

Perhaps it comes down to simply this: It’s all they have, and that makes them insane. Joe Biden has been in public life for half a century and has never been attached to a whiff of financial scandal. It makes the right, especially the Trumpy right, nuts. In Trumpworld, everyone is corrupt; that’s a given. Only schmucks aren’t out to cut corners and game the system. The only difference is between those smart enough to get away with it and those dumb enough to get caught.

Democrats have responded to the GOP’s threat to make the next two years all about Hunter Biden–who has never been part of government– by pointing to the multiple grifts of the Trump offspring, who made out like bandits while occupying high government positions for which they were manifestly unfit. True enough–and certainly more appropriate material for public discussion.

But have you looked lately at squirrelly Jim Jordan, and some of the other Republicans engaged in this particular vendetta?

Just asking…




Readers of this blog frequently send me articles I am unlikely to have seen; often, those are from their local papers (where such papers still exist). I keep the ones I find interesting in a file, and from time to time, I review them.  Often, the saved articles no longer seem relevant, but sometimes, the opinions expressed and predictions made are even more meaningful than when I first saw them.

That was the case with “Early Warning Signs,” an essay from the Madison, Wisconsin Capital Times. Published in March of 2021, the essay began

You’ve likely grown numb to daily outrages by the Republican Party of Donald Trump. You’ve given up hope that at some magical moment, when some line is crossed, masses of educated, intelligent people who identify as Republicans will gently slap their foreheads and say enough is enough.

Enough of the lies about stolen elections, the denial of facts and the rejection of expertise. Enough with a party that has morphed from being about personal responsibility and limited government to one primarily about grievance.

The author then looked back, to see whether incidents” that seemed innocuous at the time” might actually have been “harbingers of catastrophic dysfunction.” He identified three: the vast number of threats to the life of then-candidate Obama that required Secret Service protection much earlier than had been the case with previous Presidential candidates; John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate; and the rise of  Rush Limbaugh and “hate radio.”

The volume of threats against Obama–then a little-known Senator–was very clearly prompted by the racism and racial grievance that has become far more visible since his Presidency.

Here in 2021, one can see the direct line from there to a party whose white supremacist faction carries Confederate flags, including inside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection. Is it any wonder that after eight years of fury about a Black man being president that those boiling with racial hatred would come to worship a racist like Trump?

The choice of Palin–and especially the GOP base’s response to that choice– was the moment when it “became OK for a politician to just exalt in ignorance.” The author quoted Obama’s recent book:

“What became abundantly clear as soon as Sarah Palin stepped into the spotlight was that on just about every subject relevant to governing the country she had absolutely no idea what the hell she was talking about,” he wrote.

“I noticed from the start that her incoherence didn’t seem to matter to the vast majority of Republicans; in fact, anytime she crumbled under questioning by a journalist, they seemed to view it as proof of a liberal conspiracy.”

Like they did with Ronald Reagan years earlier, Republicans said the self-described “hockey mom” had “good instincts” and would grow into the job, Obama wrote. “It was, of course, a sign of things to come, a larger, darker reality in which partisan affiliation and political expedience would threaten to blot out everything.”

As the essayist noted, it’s a straight line from Palin to Trump and to Marjorie Taylor Greene and her ilk.

With his choice of a third omen, the writer echoed my frequent lament about the sea-change in America’s media environment, a change foreshadowed by  the emergence of Rush Limbaugh. As he noted, Limbaugh  sounded “Trumpian 25 years before Trump became president.”

Limbaugh introduced a formula for ratings success that many others would ape: giving voice to the cultural grievances of older, uneducated White guys. After the creation of Fox News–which was specifically and very consciously aimed at the anger of that same demographic–it became acceptable to openly express, and defend, ignorance, racism, homophobia and misogyny.

And so here we are.

There may have been other signs, other omens we missed, but it’s hard to argue with the three chosen by this writer. That, of course, leads me to wonder what omens we are currently missing.

The overturning of Roe is clearly one of those–but will it trigger a return of respect for women’s autonomy, or a march toward Gilead?

The revelations of the January 6th Committee could prompt a return to serious, democratic governance–or fail to halt the next coup effort by proponents of the Big Lie.

The astonishing overreach of the Supreme Court’s hobbling of the EPA  (not to mention the ability of all executive branch agencies to issue regulations) could generate  environmental energy–or be a harbinger of planetary doom.

That’s the problem with omens–you can’t tell where they’re pointing until after the fact.


So What Can We Do?

There was a favorite example I used in my classroom when we were discussing the challenges posed by living in a country whose citizens increasingly occupy wildly different realities: if I say this particular piece of furniture is a table, and you insist it’s a chair, how do we have a productive exchange about its use?

Americans are continually having that maddening–and worthless– conversation. But it has taken a long time for the people who live in the reality-based community to recognize the basis of the problem.

In the wake of the 2016 election, well-meaning observers grasped for rational, evidence-based reasons to explain votes for a man who exemplified everything those voters claimed to detest. It was economic distress. It was an effort to “blow up” a system that wasn’t working for them. It was an inability to cross party lines.

Some of us suspected what has since become too obvious to ignore: Trump’s racism resonated with Americans whose chosen reality was being threatened by the increasing intrusion of “uppity” women and people of color. In Trump voters’ reality, White Christians enjoyed an obvious entitlement to cultural dominance, and that dominance–the position of “real” Americans– was being eroded.

Most of my friends are liberals (although many of them would have been classified as conservatives before the political spectrum lurched so far to the right that sanity is now a “liberal” marker…), and many of them are simply too nice to believe what the data so clearly confirms: America is split between those who live in a world where people are people, no matter their gender, skin color or religion, and those whose worldview assigns worth solely on the basis of those categories.

The data is unambiguous. Just look at this recent report by Alan Abramowitz from Sabato’s Crystal Ball. The article was about the prospects of Democrats winning back White voters without college degrees, and Abramowitz concluded that appealing to the economic interests of White non-college voters wouldn’t be enough for Democrats to win back their support, because the realignment among those White voters isn’t being driven by economics.

If the increasingly obvious argument is correct– that “economic discontent has little to do with the flight of white working class voters from Democrats”– economic policies aren’t going to prompt their return. As Abramowitz notes, the research strongly suggests that the “main factor behind the shifting party allegiance of these voters is the success of Republican leaders like Donald Trump in appealing to the racial resentments and grievances of non-college white voters.”

In this article, I use evidence from the 2020 American National Election Study to examine the effects of various political attitudes on the candidate preferences of college and non-college white voters in the 2020 presidential election. In line with the arguments of racial resentment theorists, I find that economic insecurity had very little impact on white voter decision-making in 2020. However, I find that the rejection of the Democratic Party by white working class voters goes beyond racial resentment alone. Instead, I find that support for Donald Trump among white working class voters reflected conservative views across a wide range of policy issues including social welfare issues, cultural issues, racial justice issues, gun control, immigration, and climate change. In other words, the rejection of the Democratic Party by white working class voters is fundamentally ideological. This fact makes it very unlikely that Democrats will be able to win back large numbers of white working class voters by appealing to their economic self-interest.

Those “conservative views,” of course, are also driven by racial bias. Sociological research has demonstrated, for example, that negative views on social welfare are connected to the belief that (“lazy”) Black Americans will primarily benefit. In the body of his analysis, Abramowitz notes that non-college whites “leaned to the right in every issue area but especially on social welfare, racial justice, and immigration issues.”

Abramowitz applied a regression analysis to the data, and found that

Racial resentment and party identification are by far the strongest predictors of conservative ideology. Evangelical identification has a significant impact as well, but its effect is not nearly as strong as the effects of racial resentment and party ID. Family income has almost no effect on ideology and economic insecurity has a negative effect.

So–back to that argument over whether the furniture is a table or chair. How do we talk to (never mind debate) people who occupy a wildly different reality–not just the looney-tunes who take horse de-wormers and/or accept QAnon fantasies, but the seemingly normal Americans who harbor stubborn hatreds and resentments untethered to fact or evidence (or for that matter, the Christianity they proclaim)?

I’m stumped.