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Hullabaloo


Sunday, March 16, 2014

 
Pouncing on Paul


by digby

Poor boo-boo:
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday addressed the controversy over Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) remarks about a "culture problem" in inner cities where men don't want to work.

When asked about Ryan's comments by the host of CNN's "State of the Union," Candy Crowley, Priebus did not directly address whether Ryan's comments were appropriate, but defended the congressman's efforts in general.

"Paul said he thought it was inarticulate, but quite frankly Democrats are lying in wait as well to pounce on whatever might be off tone," he said when asked about Ryan's claims.
You know, there's a lot of hair-trigger offense-taking that goes on in our political discourse these days so I might be sympathetic to his claim that people are lying in wait to attack if it weren't for the fact that there's even a name for the cold, calculating strategy that employs the very same "inarticulate" phrasing Ryan used. Unless Paul Ryan is even dumber than we think, he knew exactly what he was doing.

[W]hat of Ryan’s insistence he did not consider race whatsoever, or his later explanation that he had been “inarticulate” in his comments? Perhaps Ryan genuinely did not recognize the racial narrative embedded in his remarks about an inner city culture that devalues work. But at best, this suggests that Ryan has uncritically adopted the charged rhetoric of his party without understanding its racial undertones.

Less charitably, in weighing Ryan’s protestations of innocence, we should be clear that denying racial intent is par for the course in dog whistling. The whole point of speaking in coded terms is to transmit racial messages that can be defended as not about race at all. Today’s broadly shared anti-racist ethos condemns naked appeals to racial solidarity; those politicians who nevertheless seek to trade on racial provocations must do so in ways that maintain plausible deniability.

Another defense is to insist that Ryan is no bigot. Here’s one version, from Republican political strategist Ron Christie: “Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is not racist nor did he blow a ‘dog whistle’ to launch a thinly veiled racist attack against black people. I offer this from the perspective of someone who has known Paul for more than 20 years: there is not a racist bone in his body.” The fact that Christie is black no doubt lends credibility to his testimony.

But this retort misses the point. Dog whistling is not rooted in fiery hatred but rather in cool calculation—it’s the strategic, carefully considered decision to win votes by stirring racial fears in society. Suppose we stipulate that Ryan is no bigot. So what? The question is not one of animus on Ryan’s part, but of whether—as a tactical matter—he sought to garner support by indirectly stimulating racial passions.

Of course, an individual’s mindset in any particular instance is almost impossible to know. We cannot be certain what Ryan intended. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that Ryan employed rhetoric closely connected to a dismal history of Republican racial demagoguery.

No, there is no doubt. And there is also no doubt that he also has a history of being a standard issue right wing demagogue when speaking to right wing audiences and then trying to deny that he is one. At some point people in the beltway need to grapple with the fact that their lovely young "wonk" is actually not much different from Michele Bachmann. He's just smoother.

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