The "Subsidization" Queen: a new way of making a very old charge

The "Subsidization" Queen

by digby

You know, I have taken a boatload of shit over the past few years for suggesting that many Americans might still be harboring some racial animus and that the election of Obama was forcing it to the surface. I hate to say "I told you so" but I told you so.

This article by Ron Fournier -- no friend to liberals -- spells it out in minute detail. It starts off like this:
At Linda’s Place at 9 Mile Road and Harper, where $2.99 gets you two eggs, hash browns, bacon, and an honest conversation about racial politics, I chatted with Detroit firefighter Dave Miller and his pal, contractor Benson Brundage. As it turned out, that breakfast-table conversation helps explain why (and how) Mitt Romney is playing the race card with his patently false welfare ad.

“Let’s talk about your polling,” Benson said. He grabbed from my hand an Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor survey showing that middle-class blacks and Hispanics are far more optimistic about their children’s future than are whites of the same economic status. “What do you think the unemployment rate is among blacks? In Detroit, it’s probably 40 percent. If the unemployment rate is that high, why is it that they are so optimistic about their future and the future of their children?”

Benson paused, heard no reply, and answered his own question.


There it is. The Macomb County buzz word for welfare, a synonym that rests on the tongues of the white middle class like sour milk. Men like Miller and Benson don’t use the N-word and they don’t hate (disclosure: I grew up with Miller, who now lives in Macomb County): For a five-figure salary and overtime, Miller risks his life fighting fires in a black neighborhood just south of 8 Mile Road. But Benson casually overestimated the black unemployment rate in Detroit by more than 10 percentage points, and both he and Miller will talk your ear off about welfare cheats.

“It’s a generational apathy,” Miller said, “and they keep getting more and more (apathetic) because they don’t have to work. If they sleep all day and free money …”

“ … Comes in the mail,” Benson said.

“… not in the mail anymore,” Miller said, “It’s in a magic card they can swipe.”
They poked at their egg yolks until Miller broke the silence. “I feel like a fool for not jumping on that shit and getting some (welfare) myself,” Miller said. “But I couldn’t sleep at night.”

And that attitude is exactly what the Romney campaign is exploiting with their welfare ad and that's because their polling is showing that it works:
Before explaining why these tactics work (and why Romney’s team knows, or should know, they are playing the race card), let’s quickly deal with this fact: The ad is wrong. As countless impartial fact-checkers have noted, the Obama administration memo cited by the Romney team actually gives states flexibility to find better ways of getting welfare recipients into jobs.

Why ignore fact-checkers? First, internal GOP polling and focus groups offer convincing evidence that the welfare ad is hurting Obama. Second, the welfare issue, generally speaking, triggers anger in white blue-collar voters that is easily directed toward Democrats. This information comes from senior GOP strategists who have worked both for President Bush and Romney. They spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution.

Furthermore, a senior GOP pollster said he has shared with the Romney camp surveys showing that white working-class voters who backed Obama in 2008 have moved to Romney in recent weeks “almost certainly because of the welfare ad. We’re talking a (percentage) point or two, but that could be significant.”
I quoted Time's Michael Scherer saying that the only way to stop these lies is for their own to call them out. Well, in many ways that's what's happened here. Fournier is a conservative journalist. The McCain campaign tried to hire him.

Never let it be said that Mitt Romney isn't a real Republican. He has shown that he's as willing as George W. Bush was when they staged their South Carolina whisper campaign against John McCain's "black child" in 2000 and Bush Sr's Willie Horton and Ronald Reagan's Philadelphia Mississippi speech. Hell, he's right up there with Jesse Helms' famous "hands" ad.

But I am struck by how obvious it is. Lee Atwater wasn't exactly correct when he made this famous prediction:
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."

Perhaps "subsidization" is more abstract than "nigger, nigger", true. But Romney's welfare trope has been around since Reagan's day and we're 30 years on. (Read the article to see its racism fully deconstructed.) Obviously, the election of the first black president has brought some of this back up to the surface, but the crudeness and the total abandonment of any adherence to the truth in the details wasn't supposed to work after all this time.

But it's clear that this bigotry still exists in the United States. It's as American as apple pie.

h/t to Corey Robin

I urge you to read the whole Fournier article. It's the best thing I've ever read by him.