Friday, February 29, 2008

I Told Ya So

Via CB:

The Dems’ Texas primary on Tuesday is open to independents and Republicans, and they may give Obama an edge: “If the latest polling data are to be believed, those Republicans aren’t whispering in Texas, where 195 of the 228 delegates the state will send to the Democratic National Convention will be chosen in a primary and caucuses Tuesday. As many as a tenth of the Texans voting in the Democratic contests could be Republicans, and overwhelmingly they favor Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, the polls show.”
I've been posting comments to a few different sites for a while now suggesting that the unusual youth turnout for Obama in Iowa, the unusually strong turnouts in our primaries and caucuses in general, and the big leads Obama has been getting have been partly due to Republican raiding, or switching parties in a primary to vote for who they believe is the weaker of the opposition's two candidates. I hope for some people this will be more believable now that they are presented with this evidence standing right in front of their faces.

There are a few reasons why I think the Republicans would want us to run Obama. One is that, I think they think Obama is going to end up being easier to beat. If there's a whisper-campaign to get Republicans to raid for Obama, it may also be part of it to get them to respond to polls about the general election saying that they are Democrats and are going to vote for Obama, so pollsters might not necessarily reveal the raiding. They may think he is easier to beat because they may think that voters are still too racist to vote for him when it comes down to the day of the general election- even if they think the polls show him as strong, they may be relying on a Bradley Effect, and on Republican gap-closing propaganda to work especially well on a black man with Obama's foreign, Muslim-sounding name. Also I think they may think Hillary is more wise to Republican trickery and dastardly political maneuvers than is Obama. Finally, I think for some core Republicans, misogyny may just be stronger than racism when picking a Commander in Chief.

If this last reason is really the biggest reason why the Republicans are favoring Obama, then we have the least to worry about if the Republicans really have monkey-wrenched our primary election process and got us to favor a candidate who, for all his public speaking aptitude, is really the less-electable and less smart candidate. If however the other two reasons represent better what's going on, than if the Republicans have cause us to nominate Obama instead of Hillary, we have steered ourselves into something of a jam.

The Poor Personality of John McCain

Via CB:

At a town-hall meeting in Texas yesterday, John McCain inadvertently described himself as “a proud conservative liberal Republican.” Quickly realizing he’d used one word too many, McCain corrected himself, adding, “Conservative Republican.” As the audience laughed, McCain said, “Hellooo, easy there.”
Incidents like this, to me, look like John McCain was on the verge of losing his temper: as if he was angered that the audience laughed at his gaffe, and thought they should have known better and not laughed at him, to make him look better- as if he thinks there should be some people who don't make laughable mistakes, and he should be one of them.

That's not normal. A man like him shouldn't be our president.


Weird post from The Carpetbagger Report today.

Steve Benen (The Carpetbagger Report), Kevin Drum, and Matt Yglesias used to be three of the best bloggers out there. Now they're each slowly getting less and less reliable over the past few months.

Here's this gem from Steve Benen today about the latest Hillary Clinton ad:

Maybe I’ve become desensitized a bit, but this one didn’t really faze me that much. It feels like a regular ol’ Republican ad,
Get that? An ad that does nothing at all more than emphasize the difference in experience between her and her chief primary rival, in a race in which the greatest relavent difference between the two candidates is the experience gap, is accused of being "a regular ol' Republican ad." What? What does this ex-campaign adivsor want us to do? Not play politics effectively?

Like the commenters on the liberal blogosphere, who, unlike Democrats in general, have become inexplicably, over 90% Obama supporters, and often vituperatively so, like the worst of Rush Limbaugh talking smack about Hillary (and then when they are challenged about it in comments, they protest that it isn't so and accuse the Hillary campaign and supporters of doing all the nasty stuff) Steve Benen has gotten straight-up weird lately.

What explains all that?

Even if he's decided he strongly supports Obama, why does he want to set an example of how not to do effective campaigning and ads?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Abortion: Do We Need It To Continue To Develop A Better Society?

In an earlier post, I talked about abortion, and I just wanted to elaborate here on what I meant by allowing abortion being the best choice not just for individuals' rights (commonly described as "privacy" in this context) but for the healthy development of civilization.

The US, of course, is the richest country in the world, and I am not claiming that there can be no economy at all or something like that without abortion.

But let's look at what the US would be like without abortion. There is a great demand for abortion. So probably there would be a thriving underground abortion industry. By its clandestine nature, this industry would probably be a very unsafe place for women. It would probably be serviced often by doctors who couldn't get jobs elsewhere, for example by people who lost their licenses due to recklessly not following standards. Women who patronized the underground system would run the risk of accidental injury or criminal extortion at the hands of the worst of these doctors, with much less recourse than if they dealt with doctors who are on the up-and-up.

A complete ban on abortion might not change the society in Ireland much. But if there was a complete ban on abortion in America, it might be different. A lot of women who could contribute a lot to science, to intellectual thought, to political leadership, in short to all sorts of professions would not be able to if they got caught in an unwanted pregnancy, and had to take several years off to raise their children. This could cause technology, foreign policy thought, political philosophy, and any number of sciences or sectors of the economy to stagnate. Any of those fields or parts of the economy would have effects on other parts of the economy.

Forcing women into pregnancies makes women more beholden to men and more at risk when they consider getting into a sexual relationship with a man. It makes there be too many new things a man can do to hurt a woman. Since it is not really that is to tell who is a good man and who is not, it is not fair to force a woman to be subject to that kind of extra leverage a man can put against her. Threatening to rape a woman and get her pregnant simply opens up a whole new field of extortion for the date-rapist, extortionist, etc.

Also abortion probably plays a part in population control.

Completely prohibiting abortion is just stupidly playing with fire. Based on all I've written above, it obviously makes it possible for us to have a much better, more powerful, more even and fair and dynamic society if women are able to "bail out" of a pregnancy every once in a while, and only carry to term the pregnancies they actually want.

Some may say that some of these arguments may apply with equal vigor to countries like Ireland an Germany, where abortions have been made completely illegal. But for a long time in the past when abortions weren't available in the U.S. or elsewhere, they were part and parcel of a big regime of patriarchy that kept women powerless and made their lives hell.

Bringing abortion-prohibitions back now, without the rest of the regime, certainly isn't the same exact thing as the old days.

But the point disappears because you can't prove a negative. You can't prove to me that Ireland, Germany, etc., aren't really stunting their potential, and that things wouldn't be a lot better for them if they did have legal abortion.

The argument ignores, too, the fact that America isn't one of those countries, and prohibiting abortion would probably work out a lot differently here.

For one thing, America is the world's leader in a lot of things, a lot of industries and endeavors. Simply as the largest 1st World country, in terms of population, our "economy of scale" with respect to our labor force makes us much stronger and influential than Germany or Ireland. Just to make a hypothetical number, let's say 1/10 people are really smart. So that means in the US, we have a lot more total smart people (than Ger., Ire., etc.) even though they may be the same proportion in the population. If that were 100,000 smart kids in America in each generation, more or less, that would be a lot more chances that there would be some nerd in each generation in our country who would think up some great invention. There aren't just nerds in science. There are great minds in all disciplines. So for this reason America is a vigorous leader.

So when you do something that takes great contributions out of America's workforces, it effects the rest of the world in a big way, because we are the leader in all of these industries because of how much brain-power we have. By putting all these women in a nursery, by stunting their careers, we are accepting making less of a contribution to the world, less technology other nations can improve on (and give the improvements back to us) once we've produce the invention, or less improvements we can make on their inventions, and so on.

Plus, Germany and Ireland don't have the crazy religious blocs we do in this country- not nearly to the same extent. Those people will probably try to take advantage of a ban on abortion to push people around. We don't want those people to have more control than they already to.

Plus, kids (and people in general) in Europe are often a lot more responsible and realistic about things like sex and alcohol than we are here in America. I don't have the statistic in front of me, but I think we far and away have more teen pregnancies in America than they do in those countries. This isn't because Germany and Ireland don't have abortion, it's because girls their use condoms when they have sex with their boyfriends, and they're not getting pushed into a lot of stupid, condom-less sex by asshole guys in the first place. European women are more feminist and better able to think about these things when planning/thinking about their sex lives, and to stick up for themselves. Europeans men are probably a little more feminist, too. It's feminism that defends women, not abortions.

So, no, all the arguments do not apply with equal vigor to those countries.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

McCain's Not Great

This kind of a post is actually a little discouraging. I used to think the Carpetbagger Report was just naive every once in a while, but recently, it's gotten worse, and he writes things like this too often. Let's not be mistaken here- if a person like John McCain, with the record of saying things he says and doing things he does, makes a statement like this when he's running for president, there's a pretty good chance he's just trying to make himself look alright for moderate voters in the general election. Every presidential candidate does it, George Bush did it, we've all seen it before- the candidate's statements beginning during the general election campaign and running right up until the day of the general election do not reflect the actual man. But the point with John McCain is that the actual man is like Bill Cunningham. Praising that kind of man when he puts up a fig leaf to mislead you, and doing it on a big, widely-read blog, is not helpful at all.

Also terrible is the description of John McCain having a face-to-face shouting match with another Senator. "Two pit-bulls"? "Though I was going to witness a murder"? What is this-- supposed to put people in awe of McCain's temper? It sounds too much like trying to make a bad personality characteristic (a bitchy, whiny short-fuse temper) sound like awe-inspiring or admirable personality characteristics-- having balls, being tough. John McCain is neither. He is a little, self-important, rich-kid prick who lies his way through his work at congress and in front of the media, and who deals with dirty money while claiming he's the best at fighting corruption. The guy is a dishonest liar and he shouldn't be holding his chin up and giving tough looks to anybody- it's unlikely there is anybody he could find to argue with who less deserves his pride than himself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The World Versus Islamic Terrorism

To elaborate a little bit on a post from before:

When anyone talks a lot about the horrors that occurred on 9/11, a pretty typical response for some very left-wing Americans was probably to think something like, "YEAH-- BUT-- powerful, avaricious forces in America have, for the longest time, been working against democracy and against self-determination for the common person in the Middle East. They have been supporting oppressive regimes militarily, and maintaining those regimes often has come down to violence. Poor or middle-class people from the Third World hitting back at the plutocrats in the Middle East and their capitalist, American string-puller sponsors looks a hell of a lot like the traditional narrative the left-wing in the Western world explains its cause with- anybody has to admit that. Isn't this more or less what we're fighting for?"

Despite the superficial resemblance, the undisputable answer to speculations like that is a resounding NO, and the key to why is that Al Qaeda is not the character the analogy requires them to be for the analogy to work.

Al Qaeda is not really like Robin Hood. Nor was most of the ruling order in the old Soviet Union, and the ruling class of communist China wasn't that either. The closest the situation of America versus Al Qaeda gets to being like your fantasy, if it is fair to compare it to that fantasy at all, is evil v. evil. Rather than being Robin Hoods, Al Qaeda's cause is promotion of religion for control and evil. Al Qaeda is like the Nazis or like the evil rulers of Gilead in the novel A Handmaid's Tale. Just because they are the weaker force and the underdogs, and some pretty bad guys are after them, does not make Al Qaeda or other extreme, oppressive Muslim fundamentalists the good guys.

The principle liberals need to adopt, and to learn from the so-called "War on Terror", is that there are limits to liberals' characteristic and wise tolerance of religion. One of those limits is that people do not get to use religion as an excuse to hurt and kill innocent people, no matter what the religion claims. Within America, we easily see that this is wrong: we liberals are all opposed to "pro-life" murderers shooting abortion doctors. Now, America and Al Qaeda operate on a global stage. Taking steps to try to prevent them from coming here to our country to murder our civilians does not automatically equate to an unjust action of imperialism against Muslim nations. Al Qaeda has no right to come here and kill civilians. Global actors need to adapt to global rules that do not have to do with a single nation's sovereignty within its own borders, but that foster all peaceful, cooperative actors' ability to further their own peaceful interests and to live without being interfered with. This also has nothing to do with using things we don't like about other peoples' religions to justify our kicking down their national defenses and deposing the rulers and authorities of their countries. Rather, the only thing, as usual, that justifies such force for liberals is the necessity of use of such force to defend ourselves. As always, when it is proportionate to respond to a violent threat by traditional law-enforcement investigation and surveillance measures, our foreign policy as concerns the threat of foreign-based terrorism should be limited to those responses. So self-defense responses to attacks do not have to do with intolerance to religion, but rather with our own self-interest in protecting the safety of our citizens.

All liberals need to do to overcome this problem (this problem in speaking to our countrymen in America about our approach to terrorism) is to accept these ideas and to talk and act as if we accept them. People will see that we "get it" and we will better withstand smears that we do not know how to respond to these threats properly. Also we will understand our fellow man and our place in the world better; we will be better prepared for the future. We will be encouraging behavior that will help the world grow into an international community that can eventually work, rather than becoming a free-for-all that may only subside into peace when eventual, inevitable wars settle things and leave the world (after who knows what kind of bloodshed) subject to a single master-- unless those wars destroy civilization enough so that we are left with anarchy, and a world that will be even more warlike than it is now.

The Abortion Debate As A Bigger Problem Than You May Have Thought Of It As

I think the "privacy v. life" meme about abortion is not doing enough for us (that is, the "privacy" argument by itself doesn't do enough to explain to everybody why we need to allow abortions). I think we have to start seeing an anti-abortion regime as a bulwark against our society's proper devleopment. It's going to inevitably cause social problems and lead to women not being able to live equal to men. In order for our civilization to develop, women need to be able to be equal to men in a meaningful sense. In order for women to be able to be equal to men in a meaningful sense, women need to be able to have abortions available as more than just a rarely-allowed exception to a regime of default forced pregnancies. So people need to grow to see abortion as a necessary element of our society, even if it's still something we find distasteful, especially later on in the pregnancy, and something we try to avoid, especially because womens' avoiding unwanted pregnancies goes hand in hand with living a responsible, self-respecting sexual life.

It's just one of these big things I think we've got to face and overcome for our civilization to continue to develeop. Another is the whole facing-Islamic-terrorism thing. Liberals need to get the rational to overcome their traditional broad cultural relativism. Until they do, they're not going to talk about their boundaries against alllowing Islamic terrorists to run amok in a clear, confidence-inspiring way, and specifically they're not going to talk about Muslims not embodying their views in violence in a morally proscriptive way.

I think liberals were hesitant to take the lead against terrorism the way they should have because liberals who do not really reflect as much as they should kind of have a belief that everybody is more or less right, and that the most dramatic demonstration of this is across different cultures- but for liberals who held this belief which stems from not enough reflection, the belief went too far and they were not prepared to see something like a post-9/11 world clearly enough or to react to it quickly enough. For those who don't know me and may be confused, I'm not saying we should have pulled a Lieberman and acquiesced to everything the Republicans wanted more heartily; I'm just stating that we have some beliefs and behaviors that are wrong, and holding those beliefs, even if we think we didn't express them that openly, probably contributed to Republicans' successfully portraying us as not able to properly respond to Al Qaeda with some people.

Until the population gets these better rationales to view the abortion and terrorism issues, a lot of money and ink and effort are going to be wasted on fighting those debates, and we are not going to be able to bring our society to the next level. More concretely, people are going to have trouble electing Democrats (and liberals abroad) all the time, and this is going to keep the smart people who really care and who have all the good ideas from getting a meaningful chance at bat.

They're Not Saving Any Lives

I read this story today about the President's spokesperson talking about FISA and the PAA.

Pertinent bits of press-briefing transcript from the post:

QUESTION: Is it not the case, as the writers of the op-ed in today’s Post claim, that the law protects all of this until August?

PERINO: It’s a little bit more complex than that. […]

QUESTION: Dana, to be clear, don’t you still — you can still pursue that information, go after it, as long as you come back within three days and get a warrant under FISA, correct? I mean –

PERINO: I’m not a lawyer. […]

(Click through the link to get more of a flavor of what went on.) From this, I think whatever they were doing with the telecom companies' wiretapping and the PAA wasn't saving lives. If it was, then I think Perino would comfortably state that the law was broken, but that it is OK because they needed to do it to save lives. That Perino won't do this says to me that they are concerned that if they have to show that they saved lives in order to justify before the public their law-breaking, they wouldn't really be able to come up with proof of that. So instead, in order to shield themselves, they're forced to deny reality and state that the law wasn't even ever broken.

What did come out of the wiretapping? Was it used for any political motivations instead of terrorism-fighting ones? (Surely there are Republicans, including influential ones, who would argue at least privately that anything that helps the Republicans helps to fight terror, but that is besides the point.) From what we know, we can't say for certain, I think, that it was, and that the administration is not just worried about being caught breaking the law. But, we do know that they pretty typically use things they are not supposed to for political reasons, even things we think are revolting for them to use for political reasons. I myself wouldn't be surprised to find out Bush and Cheney were doing things more or less like ordering the Secret Service or the FBI to take Obama signs off of peoples' lawns during the general election campaign, or to find out that many Secret Service members or FBI agents were complying with orders to do things like that while they were working, on the government's payroll. So while the specific information about the scandal doesn't directly indicate whether this is what the White House was doing, one way or the other, I think it's a natural conclusion to draw that they were.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Kristol's Advice to Clinton

I read this story today about Bill Kristol recommending to Clinton that she use "the politics of fear" to win out over Barack Obama, which he says is pointing out that Barack wants to negotiate with Iran, and then pulling out some quotes about "what Ahmadinejad has said about blowing up Israel."

My initial opinion of this is that the Republicans are looking at what they would do, if they were in her shoes, and then trying to head her off by having Kristol (1) call it "the politics of fear" in his piece, so if she actually follows the advice, everybody will say, "Look, she's taking Kristols' 'politics of fear' advice," and (2) having slimeball Kristol "recommend" it, so that she'll be even more averse to actually doing it-- what liberal wants to be seen taking his advice? That is, the Republicans are having Kristol float what they think is the best strategy for her, but they're doing it in a way to dissuade her from taking it.

I think this kind of a meme (not considering how Kristol's column has changed how the public will take things) would fit in nice with Clinton's practice of pitching herself as a tough-minded moderate, but I think the Republicans probably have been over-cynical this time, like they sometimes are. For one, Ahmadinejad is slime- and he may well really want to see Israel destroyed in a war- but as I recall, his publicly recorded statements actually aren't too clear about wanting Israel destroyed. They take some interpretation or some partisan twisting for someone to come up with that meaning. As I recall, he said something more like that Israel was on its way out, not that he actually wanted it destroyed. So if Hillary says "Here’s what Ahmadinejad has said about blowing up Israel. . .” she's going to open herself up to looking even more like a Republican, and alienate more of the super-liberal base. Furthermore, even if it gains her enough points from moderate liberals, it probably hurts liberals relative to conservatives in a general-election or long-term sense, because it gives the Republicans' hyperventilation about Iran some credibility when Hillary Clinton goes around sounding not only like she thinks Ahmadinejad is bad, but even like she's saying he's someone we should be thinking about deposing soon. You and I know she wouldn't be saying that, but for the whole media, it would be inevitably twisted into, "Isn't she really saying here what the Republicans have been saying all along, which is that. . ."

You get the picture.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rudy Giuliani

Since Rudy Giuliani's campaign disappeared, or faded away, or whatever description you may find most amusingly deprecative, I've started to reflect on that a little more deeply at times when I've remembered, "Wow. Giuliani's campaign is over, and I barely think about it anymore. That's funny how it's so over with." I don't give a damn about Rudy enough to continue this train of thought for long, usually, but I think I've finally got the thing: the failure of Giuliani's candidacy shows us, at least, that the formula of pandering in the worst, most cowardly, dishonorable way-- being the most dishonest and appealing to the worst in people-- is not, now, a winner. It is not the formula to persuading the American people.

And that is a reason we still have hope.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Some observations

I went to an aquarium the other day, and on a wall inside the building they had huge drawings of mythic sea-creatures that must have been reproduced from some old map of the sea, or some exploration-era, hoaxed zoology/geography work. It just occurred to me today that this is a good metaphor for how red-state Republicans see the rest of the country: they believe a lot of scary, unreal "beasts" so to speak are all around "blue" America, because there is a hobby of spreading unreal stories around in red America, including stories about us, and accepting these stories uncritically as fact, and then passing them on. By the time red Americans get around to dealing with blue America, they have a totally mistaken idea of what goes on here and what we are like, which they think is the pragmatic, cynical truth that must maturely be accepted.

* * *

I am reading Krugman's The Conscience of a Liberal and There's Nothing In This Book I Meant To Say by the comedian Paula Poundstone now. Often when I read two or more books at the same time, I find there is a surprising correlation between topics covered in them. Conscience of a Liberal is worth picking up if you haven't had a look at it yet. Krugman explains in much of his book how pre-New Deal America became New Deal America, to argue that America today is similar to pre-New Deal America in certain ways, such that a sort of modern version of the New Deal could be done in America today (focused around natiolnalized health care just as Social Security was the centerpiece of the New Deal), and could produce a similar positive economic result.

On the way there, Krugman talks about how in both modern America and pre-New Deal America, conservative forces were / have been able to win electorally, even though their platforms were against people's interests, partly because they were / have been successfully able to divide the people that New Deal-style programs would help by using other issues the people can't agree on. As a pre-New Deal era example, he tells of how William Jennings Bryan, a pre-New Deal politician, failed as a populist emancipator because he was unable to unite City Mouse and Country Mouse to form a political coalition against the wealthy corporate interests. Rural working-class and poor people were simply disempowered and exploited in different ways than were urban working-class and poor people, and apparently the relief the two groups needed was just different enough, and the voters were just unsophisticated enough, so that the urban voters could not easily see how Bryan's platform, based mostly around helping farmers, would also help them. This was all besides the vast cultural differences between the rural and urban (heavily immigrant) populations that made it hard for them to see eye-to-eye. Issues like Prohibition and civil rights also divided both political parties, in an analog to issues like the Teri Schiavo case and stem cell research nowadays. For example, fo urban Catholics, drinking was more a part of life and speak-easys flourished during Prohibition, while for rural Americans Prohibition was more of a crusade.

Paula Poundstone is a clever comedian I have always enjoyed and she has written kind of an autobiographical humor book. A few years ago she was (in my opinion probably somewhat inaccurately) charged with and convicted of some felony charges that supposedly involved endangering her adopted children, but she can't discuss all the details of the case because some of it has been sealed by the court, as is routine for matters involving children. But the court put her through a really terrible, Catch-22ish regime of court-ordered therapy, that seems anything but kosher, and she talks a lot about that in the first chapter of her book. But, she's a liberal, and she can't help mentioning some things that are interesting to us along the way. It turns out Paula Poundstone knows about the problem with electronic voting machines that do not produce a voter-verified paper ballot, and she opposes them. Another thing she points out is that one of the steps in Alcoholics Anonymous is to turn your life over to God, so it's unconstitutional for courts to order people to AA (Paula was ordered to AA; according to her, AA tries to cheese their way out of how wrong what they're doing is by telling people that "It doesn't have to be God; it can be any 'higher power,' like the ocean or something"- but we all know how BS this is- sounds like a cultish effort to force people to accept Christianity, to me. And what better way to get people to irrationally submit to your authority than by getting them when they feel guilty and vulnerable and like you're holding the keys to their success in life, freedom, or ability to raise their kids?).

More topically, Paula was invited to do a LiveAid benefit (the benefit that helps impverished American farmers) years ago. Her story about this is a good example of how the kinds of divisions Krugman talks about in his book live on to this day. Acoording to Poundstone, another comedian named Paul Rodrigues performed at the same LiveAid concert in New Orleans Poundstone did. I don't know what may have upset Rodrigues before he performed, but Poundstone writes that when he went on, he made jokes about hanging out in New Orleans the night before the concert and sexually harassing the women, complete with gestures imitating breast-groping, and the crowd did not appreciate those jokes at all. I can only guess at what was going on in Rodrigues' mind- maybe he felt like the hicks in the audience were a bunch of crackers who would hate his guts no matter what, so he wanted to antagonize them. I doubt he was really out sexually harassing or assaulting anyone. But I know behavior like his at the concert does not help bridge divides between urban and rural liberals. And I know that if I as a white man were to go to Puerto Rico or Miami or some place like that, and try my hand at comedy, including jokes where I talked about sexually harassing and groping women from their town, the audience would probably like it just as little as the New Orleans' audience liked Rodrigues' jokes. Maybe for some people racism plays a part in that displeasure, and maybe for others it doesn't- my guess is it's a mixture of both.

Besides just city-and-country divides, Krugman also talks about racial divides, and how they fail to lead us to success in politics. I think one of the big dilemmas for us nowadays is that to some extent, bridging the divides is going to depend on minorities realizing that they have to modify their behavior, and not have such a big chip on their shoulders and be defensive about perceived racial slights when liberal whites are trying to heal those divides. To provide an example, if there were many cool, non-racist whites in that New Orleans audience (I'm not saying this was so, but let's just pretend) and, for the South at least, not so many intolerant, stupid racist ones, and Rodrigues just got roughly talked to or handled by some racist just before the performance and then assumed that the one or two people he just met represented the whole crowd, then Rodrigues' actions on-stage may have been a big mistake. His words could have ended up alienating a lot of cool white people in the audience who otherwise tended to be more sympathetic to him. I'm not, of course, saying that every time a minority says or does something like this and a not-too-racist white person witnesses it, that white person will be instantly converted to not being a liberal on race, and that it will be all-and-only the minority person's fault that happened. But it could be the "straw that broke the camel's back" for some white people, and a person who would otherwise have been saying anti-racist things to their white peers every once in a while for the rest of their lives, when race came up, may not be saying it now.

It can sound uncomfortable, because as liberals our general orientation is not to jump to blaming the minorities for things, and because it's a conservative tactic to try to make it sound as if society puts no unfair burdens on minorities or women at all. But a common problem in the liberal movement as regards women and minorities is that at some point, if they are not doing it already, women and minorities have to realize that they have a role to play in bridging the racial/gender divide, and they have to accept mens' or whites' good-faith attempts to try to heal our rifts, and try to encourage those attempts to grow. I know it's a tricky subject, and that conservaties will surely use empty gestures and pleasant talk to try to make themselves look as if they are non-racist or non-sexist. I think though that if minorities and feminists don't make a little more of an effort to see the liberal, for-real part of this new egalitarianism as for-real, though, it will simply leave liberals politically in the dust.