Wednesday, January 31, 2018

More on the language we use

Had a couple of interesting twitter exchanges this weekend with a couple of acquaintances that got me to thinking a bit.

The first had to do with something labeled identity politics.

At the birth of the republic the only folks who could vote were white men - and in many places you had to be a property owner to get to vote. Blacks won the right to vote after the Civil War - though in many places in the South that right was something honored much more in the breach than in the observance. And even after the passage of the Voting Rights Act states continued to find ways to deny blacks the right to vote.

Women won the right to vote across the country in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment - though, in fairness, women had been voting in some states out west prior to that.

Across this country white men make up the largest share of legislators, governors and congressmen. In many regions that's due to the manipulation of the voting public through gerrymandering and at-large representatives. After the 2010 census, Republican lawmakers across the country set out to redraw district lines to benefit Republican candidates. They also began passing voter ID measures to make it harder for the elderly, the poor and minorities to vote.

And just why did they go to these lengths? Primarily because the old white power structure across this country is crumbling thanks to demographic changes. The only way to fight back against this was to redraw district lines to benefit white suburban and rural voters and to make it harder for those who would typically not vote Republican to vote. This also explains the anti-immigrant rhetoric and calls to restrict immigration from non-white parts of the world.

Yet somehow this is NOT an example of identity politics. That pejorative is only used when discussing folks who don't fall into the conservative white camp. These folks like to tell you that we, as a society, have moved beyond race. But we have yet to move past this social distinction that guided most of the history of this country.

The other had to do with the term "party line."

I make no secrets of my political and philosophical views. I am opposed to the increasing militarization of this country. The military is too big and takes up too much of the federal budget. There is no need for the number of troops and equipment we have stationed around the world. In large measure, the only reason is to ensure the safe passage of oil from one part of the world to another. This subsidy is one of the reasons that the price we pay for gas at the pump doesn't reflect the actual cost of the fuel.

US troops are also based around the world to prevent political movements that oppose the US and its policies from taking power. Post World War II history is littered with accounts of nations that the US has invaded - or organized armed opposition - to overthrow democratically elected leftist governments.

I commented that we were spending too much money on the military. The response accused me of being naive and following the party line.

It was the use of the phase "party line" that got my attention. I find it interesting that anyone who talks about the need for the US to be the world's policeman isn't accused of following the party line. Anyone who advocates the intervention of the US into the internal affairs of another country is never accused of following the party line. Anyone who says that you have to have a big stick in order to carry out diplomacy isn't accused of following the party line.

It's only those of us who challenge those assumptions that are accused of following the party line.

Maybe it's because they can't put together a coherent argument for why the US needs to intervene in the affairs of other countries. Maybe it's because they were brought up believing it was necessary and have never taken the time to research the issue. Maybe it's because they are too lazy to try to put an argument to paper. And maybe it's because they are the ones parroting the party line.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Most of the lawmakers in this country are white men because white people comprise about 75% of the total population. It seems to me that there are more white men wanting to be elected than white women. Ergo, white men rule this country. I say this not to sound racist, but to point out the obvious.

I do not think that requiring an ID to vote. An ID is required for many activities and does not place an undue burden on folks.

I totally agree that we have out of control spending on our military. We should have long ago taken the advise of Congressman Ron Paul and closed every foreign military base and bring these folks home.