Bill Moyers and Ian Haney Lopez Discuss the Use of the Race Card in Politics

This Bill Moyers segment provides an in-depth discussion of race. Lopez focuses on how both parties use what he calls the racial dog whistle to mobilize voters, and how those passions are mapped onto policy issues, such as cutting food stamps and other social welfare programs. And not to worry, the Democratic party sleight of hand gets the attention it deserves.

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  1. huxley

    The caste system has been used for centuries in India to enrich the wealthy and keep the masses down, playing every group against every other and making a cultural tradition out of the fatalistic acceptance of poverty and squalor. A somewhat simplified system works just as well in America, particularly in the red states.

  2. BITFU

    Here’s an interesting response to this Moyers’ discussion from a blog devoted to “black consciousness” called “Within The Black Community”.

    If you give it a look, make sure to check out the little video at the bottom right of the page
    “The Conflict Between The Civil Rights Pharisees Vs The Neo-Progressive Establishment Players”

    This badge that he displays on his website is too good not to show as well

  3. Chris Maukonen

    Don’t forget how fascism and Nazism way of invading countries is used to make capitalism look good to the masses as well.

  4. diptherio

    Very good interview. However, ’tis more fun to be critical, ’cause I’m just an a-hole like that, so I’m gonna call BS on one bit.

    We need to understand that the middle class is not a term that should have a racial signifier. But when we get rid of that signifier–when we understand that everybody, of every race is a member of the middle class or should have the opportunity to become a member of the middle class. Only then will we be at a political place where we can pull government back onto our side and defeat this sort of negative politics that keeps so many people voting to give control of the government over to the very wealthy.

    I think this is some variety of a fallacy of composition. I mean, it’s in the name: Middle Class. Middle–as in having a class below and a class above…especially a class below…if everyone is in the middle class or above, or at least has that opportunity, it seems like a recipe for the bar being continually raised as to what “middle class” consists of. It’s like paying every CEO at least a little above average.

    Which maybe goes to highlight one of the shortcomings of class analysis. If the analysis doesn’t include other factors, you may just end up arguing for increasing the consumption of the “lower” classes to bring them up to middle class standards. And this might just end up ratcheting-up consumption levels and resource use faster than would otherwise have been the case. If someone living mostly off the dole, can maintain a “middle class” pattern of consumption, that amount of consumption will cease to be “middle class,” by definition.

    The real problem is providing adequate supplies of life’s essentials to everyone. It’s not a matter of bringing everyone up into the middle class, it’s a matter of making sure no 61 year old woman ever freezes to death because she can’t make rent (as happened here a few weeks ago). The other real problem is convincing most everyone who is already in the middle class or higher that they don’t need to consume so much sh*t. It is literally destroying the planet…capisce?

    The two above real problems imply a third pressing need: defining what an adequate supply of life’s essentials actually consists of. Food, clothing and shelter, of course, but also education and healthcare, free-time and cultural activities. We know scientifically that increasing consumption above a certain basic level does not make people happier–we also know scientifically that all of our consumption is wreaking havoc on the planet’s life support systems. What needs to be done should be clear.

    However, if we only talk about things in terms of class, we may just end up trying to increase the consumption of people who have already surpassed the zero-marginal-return threshold, at the expense of increased environmental degradation–with the result that we succeed in killing the planet without managing to make ourselves any happier.

    just sayin’…

  5. Brooklin Bridge

    It seems to me that Lopez focuses everything on racism. He sees all evils by that prism. If we get rid of racism, that signifier,…

    Only then will we be at a political place [one middle class for all] where we can pull government back onto our side and defeat this sort of negative politics [racist dog whistles that obscure where one’s self interest lies] that keeps so many people voting to give control of the government over to the very wealthy.

    Is that really the case? If you remove racism, you still have class warfare. But If you remove class warfare, it’s arguable that you remove racism along with it or at least any sustaining motive for racism.

    Lopes identifies conservatives, particularly from the south, as the principal agents in racism; the ones who manufacture the dog whistles. His focus on racism gives too little credit to Democrats in the larger collapse of our democracy and economy. They are sort of pulled into the Southern Strategy by the vortex effect; they might have used better judgement, but are not principal cause and this view illustrates perhaps one of the weakest parts of Lopes’ argument, for Democrats – while they may indeed not have fallen so far as their conservative counterparts in terms of racism – have become part and parcel of the disparity between the haves and have-nots, right up to their eye balls. The difference between a Democrat and a Republican in terms of their contribution to the economic asset stripping that makes up class warfare and the cascading set of problems and corruption that has ensued, is no more than the difference between tweedle -dee and tweedle-dum, between good cop and bad cop, between one bit-part actor and another. They all march to the dog whistles of the corporate elite.

    In the long term, racism is one of the tools used to perpetuate economic disparity, not the other way around.

  6. Banger

    Racism is very deep in the U.S. I don’t understand how Lopez says most racist are “good” people–they’re not nor are they “bad.” The racism they are attracted to politically is, today, not so much based on tradition but on ideology. Most right-wingers believe a bunch of nonsense about how the world works–that somehow, if you beat people up, if you hit your kid, if you invade other countries, if you treat addicts, criminals, unmarried pregnant women and so on as punitively as possible things will improve. This goes contrary to what we know about human beings–the fact is that when you treat people well and compassionately everyone does better.

    All of this is caused by most Americans, including many minorities, are morally illiterate due to the astonishingly poor morality preached by most conservative churches. Once churches begin to preach ideas that come from the Gospels rather than the OT maybe moral development can go beyond the 10-year-old level.

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