Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stop Letting Their Lies Frame The Discourse

Inigo Montoya I do not think it means what you think it means. ~ Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

Stop Letting Their Lies Frame The Discourse

During the late 1980s, some millionaire in Texas (whose name I cannot remember) began floating the idea that the state should build a wall around its entire borders, not just against Mexico, and start steps to secede from the United States. It was a news item for a short while, causing much hilarity. Every single Texan I spoke with, even the reactionary members of my family, thought he was ridiculous. There were a few comments made about how he must have thought Viva Max was a documentary, and then it all went away.

Those of us who went through seventh grade in Texas, where Texas history is a mandatory part of the curriculum, were taught that part of our agreement to joining America instead of remaining a Republic included provisions allowing us (a) to secede at will, and (b) divide into as many as five states at some point in the future. I think the later U.S. reaction to Southern secession pretty much put paid to the first of those provisions. Texans will joke about these archaic cultural flotsam, but let me assure you, the overwhelming majority of us are not hankering for severance from America. Reformation, you bet. But divorce, nah.

So when I heard that Rick Perry had trotted out secession as a serious strategy at the Fox News Teabagger Jamboree™, I had a hard time believing it at first. It seemed like political suicide, and made me wonder if all that hair product has soaked into his cerebellum. For one thing, I thought, he can kiss goodbye the vote of any self-respecting Hispanic or African American: Secession and The Alamo share a white supremacist cultural etymology.

Of course, impossible contradictions do exist out there. Log Cabin Republicans -- say no more.

I began trying to do electoral math in my head. Texas damned near went blue for Obama, and I think I'll live long enough to see that happen. One main reason why it went red in the last two decades is because during the Bust of the 1980s, we had a massive influx of folks from California and the Rust Belt who had jobs they could relocate, keeping good salaries but finding the dirt-cheap real estate here worth a move. These immigrants, who swelled suburbs of our major cities, were mostly Republicans or Independents who were easily swayed right. They like to think of themselves as Texans now, in the same way Dubya does, but they are John Travolta-esque urban cowboys, not the real article who is much more populist and resistant to propaganda. They were bundled together with fundies and racists (not that any of them are mutually exclusive) by Republican gerrymandering, and the takeover of our state government was accomplished.

But their numbers have declined, and by any count, it's not nearly enough to win Perry a future political office by using one of their dogwhistles. In fact, it's patently obvious that he put the whistle to his pretty lips and gave a public blow, even to those who take pride in "knowing nuthin" about politics. And while we love our characters and eccentrics, we tend to not actually give them a government salary if they are more of a Kinky Friedman than a Will Rogers. I mean, Dubya was packaged as a regular guy, not the dangerous buffoon he patently is. And Perry was second-in-command under Dubya, he watched and learned.

So what, I wondered, did he stand to gain from it? I have a couple of guesses. One, of course, is money: White supremacy is coming out from under tissue-thin wraps among the corporate elite who run things and intend to go on running things. This is on a national level, not just Texas. And it's always been half of the money card for the Christian Right (the other half being woman-hating, which is decoupaged as the efforts to fight abortion and stop lesbian/gay marriage). Put those two fundraising bodies together under a common tent, and Perry will be rolling in it.

Further, it's becoming increasingly clear, the Republican Party has abandoned all pretense at winning major elections based on the actual vote. They will use money to disenfranchise beforehand or tie up elections in court challenges afterward in order to keep control as citizens turn away from them. If Perry wants to continue on in the Party of No, he needs to be in the money stream.

Even more, I hope it is obvious to everyone that the entire point of the Fox News Teabagger Jamboree™ was to further the goals of white supremacy. They needed to:
(1) Get white people in contact with each other while
(2) Whipping up lizard-brain emotions associated with generic patriotic fervor whose real message was
(3) Hate Obama. (The real reason for hating him didn't have to be said. But that dogwhistle "secession" is a great clue.)

The network they've begun with all this, small as it is at the moment, will be exploited to greater extent in the future. Thus, it doesn't matter if Perry just alienated himself from a majority of the voting public, just as the Villagers don't give a rat's ass what the actual majority of Americans are clamoring for. Nationalist-based fascism and separatism is not a Texas or Southern issue, it's the train that the Far Right is now riding in every region of America. It's embedded in our national fabric, and the time has come to deal with it. The Civil War not only did not resolve it, but Northern capitulation to the money boys actually exacerbated the problem.

So, gosh, thanks, all of you remote urban analysts who seized the opportunity for some Texas-bashing and regionalist superiority, you really helped us along, as usual. However, for those of us who long ago abandoned the Kyool Skool practice of making fun about other sections of the country as political strategy, there was a lot to learn from this episode. Especially living in a state that's the size of New England, the Mid Atlantic states, and several more combined, with profound geographic and cultural diversity, and a solid tradition of leaders like Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Molly Ivins, Sarah Weddington, LBJ and Lady Bird, Leon Jaworski, Henry Cisneros... Yeah, we elected Dubya, but so did you. Start looking at the bigger picture, will ya?

Because we are all in this together.