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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Philly Columnists Fight

As someone long familiar with the work of both Christine Flowers and Will Bunch, I've developed two good rules of thumb; If Will Bunch is arguing with someone, Will Bunch is likely to be right, and if Christine Flowers is arguing with someone, she is likely to be wrong. Given this experience, you see where my prejudice lies when Will Bunch and Christine Flowers argue.

As I see that Bunch and Flowers are arguing, I'd like to note that my trusty empiricisms didn't fail. It started when Bunch wrote a post pointing out that explicit racism and ignorant us-vs-them-ism is not the fault of a candidate subjected to it, but rather those that hold the offensive views. This was in response to weeks of hearing "Why can't Obama convince these voters? What's wrong with him?" Bunch wrote:
Look, whoever the next president is, he or she is going to need to fight for blue-collar, working class people, for retired coal miners and ambulance drivers who wants better access to health care. decent wages or job opportunities. I believe a candidate can win and then try to accomplish those things in 2008 -- to be a president for all Americans without pandering to the lowest instincts of some of them.

When the views of some voters like these are based on false conspiracy theories or just a distrust of an American solely because he doesn't look like them, we shouldn't criticize or blame that candidate for not getting their votes. In fact, it's a pretty powerful argument why America needs exactly the opposite -- a president with the ability to overcome such small mindedness, and unmask it for what it is.
Emminently sensible, in my opinion.

But Flowers would have none of it!

Flowers shot back with a typically inane column, managing to simulatenously decry stereotypes while lamenting that "There is that sense among people with college degrees, 401(k)s and wine cellars that those who never made it to their educational or economic level have a stunted existence that makes them much more susceptible to racism and sexism and all the other -isms (except, of course, "multiculturalism") that make them unworthy of the vote." Christine, I think that's "stereotyping."

My apartment doesn't have a wine cellar, but it does have a basement with a washer/dryer. I don't know about Will Bunch, but I'd be surprised if he had a wine cellar either. In fact, none of the "Obamanites" I know have wine cellars, even those with college degrees and 401(k)s.

Her sin goes beyond the typical "wine-track" caricature of Obama's support, however. She concludes her column:
There's no denying that some of those who oppose Obama do so for irrelevant, mean-spirited reasons. What's insulting is the suggestion that people who don't crack some imaginary education or affluence threshold shouldn't matter as much as we the enlightened. (Unless, of course, they like Obama. Then they've exceeded low expectations.)

Someone should remind the party of the people that, when

it comes to the vote, we're all created equal.
What's she saying? Well Bunch had argued not that racists and ignoramuses shouldn't be allowed to vote, but rather that pundits and politicians shouldn't indulge their prejudices and treat those opinions as equally valid. Flowers seems to not realize that Bunch had not argued generally against some class of voters, but rather specific individuals who were explicitly racist.

Bunch himself pointed this out in his response to Flowers on his blog.
I knew it would be extremely hard to talk about the intersection of racism and "para-racism", politics, and personal responsibility in America in 2008, and the response from people like Christine was what I expected. I bent over backwards not to generalize about all West Virginians, and certainly not to call them "hillbillies" or worse names, as was the case on some other Web sites. Instead, I tried to address highly offensive statements by real people, identified by name in news articles by reporters who added that they interviewed others in West Virginia who had similar views, or who insisted on believing falsehoods about Obama (even when they are aware of the truth, as this woman insisting to ABC that Obama is a Muslim.)
I recommend reading the whole thing, so I won't summarize anymore, but I am forced to include Bunch's rally cry at the end:
You know, if the definition of "elitist" or "snob" has become someone who loathes any form of racism and who wants a nation where people have full access to education and where people highly desire that access, and who wants a democracy where both voters and the media work together to keep people rooted in facts and not in rumor, then, God yes, I am an elitist. But I never thought that's what it meant to be an elitist. I always thought that was what it meant to be an American. Forgive me if I am mistaken.
Hear hear!

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't point you to Dick Polman's excellent piece on the same topic, "Equal Time for the Willfully Ignorant". I support everyone's right to vote, but the flip side of your constitutional right is a responsibility to be an informed citizen. I find voting under the ignorance (VUI) a disgraceful act.

Click "There's more..." for the rest of this particular pie fight!