Winning on issues

At Communities Digital News this week, I opined that Democrats and their left-tilting interest group allies are probably hard at work on issues that straddle the line between news and pop culture to identify voters early on who might be receptive to campaign messages next year. The article talks about wages, religious freedom, and police-involved shootings as the primary opportunities.

If it hadn’t been for the Rolling Stone debacle, the broad umbrella (no pun intended) of women’s issues might make the list – and it might still, once the concern over shoddy journalism evaporates.

The point is, grassroots campaigns need hooks that bring in voters who wouldn’t otherwise show up. Whichever side does a better job finding and using them will have an easier time of it next year.

#RaceTogether RIP

One week after uniting America in laughter, Starbucks shut down its #RaceTogether effort.

The coffee giant’s white CEO thought it would be a good idea for its busy baristas to slow up the lines to “start a conversation” about race relations in America.

“Start a conversation”?

How tone deaf can you be? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead, protesters were sprayed with fire hoses, and churches were firebombed – but thank goodness Starbucks is here to finally “start the conversation,” right? As silly as the concept is, it’s also amazingly arrogant.

And the poor Starbucks employees were right in the crosshairs on this. Imagine being a 17-year-old, suburban, white barista trying to “start a conversation” with a 60-year-old black man, who might have had to deal with segregation, busing, intolerance, and prejudice. The normally inane Gawker had a pretty accurate postmortem upon finding the internal memo preparing Starbucks staff for the campaign:

Not only, if you are a Starbucks employee, must you make coffee all day with the efficiency of a machine while dealing with entitled dickhead customers. You must also—at least this week—watch a video of your CEO talking about race, print out a USA Today ad, hand out stickers, then remove the original ad and replace it with a special insert. All so that you can “help foster empathy and common understanding in the country” as “the country faces ongoing racial tension.”

If you’re lucky, you make $9 an hour. Sounds great.

The worst part about Starbucks’s campaign was the complete ignorance of what the customer wanted. As JC Penney has found, trying to change your customers’ preferences is usually a bad idea. No one like getting told what to thing – especially by someone you’re paying to feed you caffeine.

Starbucks may have had their heart in the right place, but someone really should have stood up to CEO Howard Schultz and told him this was ticketed for disaster.

The right to discriminate

Kansas says that if you own a restaurant, your property is your property, even if you refuse to serve gay and lesbian couples.  Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern feels that’s an “abomination,” and Salon’s Matt Breunig calls out conservatives and libertarians who believe that discrimination carries its own consequences.

Breunig specifically calls out one of the most consistently pro-liberty voices on the right, Tim Carney:

This fact is important to remember as the state of Kansas considers enshrining into its law the right of public accommodations like hotels, movie theaters and restaurants to discriminate against couples in same-sex marriages. Under this law, a manager who spotted a same-sex marriage party dining at his restaurant is empowered to refuse them service and demand that they leave.

In his never-ending quest to be on the wrong side of history on all things LGBT civil rights, Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner took to Twitter to defend this legislation, perhaps hoping that he will get a mention in future documentaries about the bigotry of this period.

Suppose a gay wedding party goes into a restaurant, sits down, and prepares to order. The restaurant manager comes over and tells them that they must leave because they are gay. Angered by this bigotry, the patrons refuse to leave. Now ask yourself: What happens next?

Here’s what happens: The police are called, and the trespassers are removed from the premises.  Then, the incident gets a write-up in the local paper, and people stop eating at that restaurant because they would call the police to kick out a gay wedding party that was otherwise well-behaved.  The restaurant closes down, and the restaurant owner who called the cops either changes his mind or he goes broke and starves to death.

The idea that anti-discriminatory values have to be enforced is absurd.  If you’re a store owner that doesn’t like black people, go ahead and ban them from your store and see how that works out for you.  Don’t want Hispanic shoppers?  Hang a sign out front that says “No vendemos a clientes Latinos.”  Go for it.  I dare you.

No business owner in their right mind would do that.  And if they did, the people who shopped there would get funny looks wherever else they went.  Laws that tell us how we should live can mask social problems, but letting people figure it out for themselves non-violently tends to actually solve them.





Revisiting Willie Horton

The Boston Herald reported that a Massachusetts cop-killer could prove to be “Mitt Romney’s Willie Horton.”  According to Politics Daily, a sex offender in Minnesota just may end up as “Tim Pawlenty’s Willie Horton.”  Last year, Michelle Malkin chronicled a pair of violent criminals vying for the title of “Mike Huckabee’s Willie Horton.”

The stories themselves are sickening, but will likely have little impact on the 2012 primaries.  Still, the coverage highlights something interesting in the way Willie Horton’s name is invoked.  In each case, a criminal who was pardoned by a governor committed a second offense – mimicking Willie Horton, who incredibly got a weekend off from a Massachusetts prison while Michael Dukakis was governor and used his time off to commit more violent crimes.

For these Republican candidates, referencing Horton alludes to incompetence in governing.

But when Sharron Angle used extremely questionable imagery in an ad attacking Harry Reid, Horton was brought up again.  In 2006, a hilarious ad against hard-partying former Congressman Harold Ford incredibly led to the H-word being bandied about by a few racial arsonists.

In these cases, Horton is synonymous with political dirty tricks – and worse yet, dirty tricks which prey upon voters’ racism.  This, of course, goes back to the famous 1988 attack add on Dukakis:

This might simply be the observation of someone who didn’t grow up in the South, but pictures of Horton are not very scary.  The ad’s shock value lies in the subtitles, which graphically detail Horton’s crimes.  Horton’s race is irrelevant if the commercial’s impact relies on the Horton’s crimes, and the breakdown in law enforcement governance that allowed them to happen.

So either Willie Horton symbolizes race baiting, or Willie Horton symbolizes incompetence.  It cannot be both.

Now, if you want a really racist commercial… well, there’s always room for Jello.


Baiting and switching the NAACP

Last week, the NAACP looked to deflate the influence of the tea party movement by calling it racist, a charge echoed and kept alive by lawmakers on Capitol Hill even if it was through denials. The easy counter was to condemn the NAACP’s own sordid record of race-baiting.  But Andrew Breitbart went one step further.

When Breitbart releasing a video of an Obama Administration official making what appeared to be racist comments at an NAACP event, the NAACP denounced Shirley Sherrod and she lost her job in the progressive administration in which she served.

Now comes the rest of the story, which shows Sherrod is actually making a larger point about racial harmony.  The USDA is trying to give Sherrod her job back and the NAACP repudiating their repudiation.  (If I were Sherrod, I’d forego the job in favor of the eventual lawsuit settlement.)

The NAACP blamed Fox News, but really this is a bait and switch executed by Breitbart.  By releasing the bad part of the video before the context, he coaxed the NAACP to do exactly what it did to the tea party movement – make a wild accusation without examining the whole context of the comments.  (Breitbart may lose some cache for doing the same thing, but his reputation will be restored with the next sensational video he releases.)

Lest one think this gives Breitbart too much credit, remember that he, James O’Keefe, and Hannah Giles  used a similar strategy with their series of videos exposing ACORN, releasing the videos one at a time to build momentum.

The desired result of Breitbart’s masterstroke are two-fold: first, the NAACP is exposed for jumping on any charge of racism without evaluation.  Second (and, with campaign season around the corner, possibly more importantly) media outlets may be more guarded when looking at videos that show comments which appear, out of context, to be racist.

Diluting the tea

Claims of racial epithets and gay-bashing have diffused the impact of the crowds that descended on the Capitol last weekend.  The images on TV of citizens rallying by the thousands were amazing; the allegations that some of those citizens used ugly, personal, and unintelligent attacks.

Democrats have used the alleged incidents to criticize tea partiers – and it certainly gives them a convenient way to shift the debate away from the massive amounts of people who showed up to oppose a government-mandated reorganization of the health care system.

Far be it from me to say that Democrats are trying to use race to scare people out of siding with their opposition.  But it wouldn’t be the first time.

The real problem here isn’t what racial epithets may or may not have been used.  Anyone who has worked in legitimate Republican and conservative circles knows that racists tend to be booted out as soon as they are discovered.  The racial arsonists of the left start enough fires on their own, they don’t need any kerosene.

The guys having the beer already agree

One week ago today, the Cambridge Police Department and Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates released a joint statement, with both sides admitting the professor’s arrest was a “regrettable” escalation, and that dropping the charges of disorderly conduct was a “just resolution” to all sides.  Both sides had kissed and made up when, hours later, the President accused one side of “acting stupidly” – a statement which, while apparently true, was just as apparently incomplete.

Now, someone has lost their job over it. Lee Landor, an aide to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, criticized Obama’s criticism on Facebook, stating that arresting officer James Crowley was doing his job.  In another post, she called Sharptonian racial arsonists to task be questioning the idea that all white people in positions of power are evil racists.  According to Stringer’s flack, Landor’s comments “were totally inappropriate and in direct contradiction to the views of the borough president and his office.”  I’m not sure what parts of Cambridge, Mass. fall under the jurisdiction of the Manhattan Borough President, but apparently disagreement on this local issue and the national politics surrounding it constituted an irreconcilable difference.  Landor was forced to resign today (adding one more to the unemployment rolls).

The President will invite Gates and Crowley to the White House so they can make up “officially” and look like a peacemaker.  Crowley will, if he wants it, gain a degree of notoriety as the victim of a witch hunt at the hands of Sharpton and his ilk.  And for a professor who heads a department named after a Marxist who renounced his American citizenship, a racially-tinged flap with the police is a guaranteed moneymaker – Gates could make six figures talking at campuses in the next month and never leave Massachusetts.  Hopefully, Landor can find a way cash in on her involvement in this controversy as well.

Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be about health care?

With one off-the-cuff presidential remark, the story of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates became a national debate on race.

When asked about the Harvard Professor who was arrested after refusing to show ID after breaking into his own home, the President began his reply with, “I don’t have all the facts.”  That’s where it should have ended; since each situation is different, it’s unwise to apply issues (such as racial profiling) to an incident to an incident to which it doesn’t apply.  Instead, Obama fanned flames that had been set by Al Sharpton and other racial arsonists who claim the arrest was a cut-and-dried case of police harassment  of a minority citizen.

Sgt. James Crowley, the police officer who arrested Gates, has said he’ll never apologize, and that he isn’t a racist.  As Dan Flynn points out, the fact that he attempted to give mouth-to-mouth to dying Celtics star Reggie Lewis would seem to back this up.  That’s probably one of the facts that the President wishes he had before he brought race into a situation where it doesn’t seem to apply.

Sotomayor and identity politics

The confirmation battle over Sonia Sotomayor is already heating up – but it’s the left that has been turning up the thermostat.

Before any major criticism of Sotomayor can be levied, her proponents are already playing defense – and some are categorically dismissing any naysayers as racists and/or sexistsThe National Organization for Women even announced their campaign to support Sotomayor hours before President Obama announced her nomination.  Democrats and their allies on the left are all but baiting Republicans to launch an all-out war.

While there is planty to criticize Sotomayor about – and those criticisms should be levied – it might actually be tactically smart to allow the confirmation to be affirmed with some window dressing opposition.  Unlike Harriet Miers, President Bush’s failed nominee, Sotomayor will not face opposition from her own party (barring some shocking revelation that likely would have precluded her nomination in the first place). Given the nature of the Senate, her nomination is almost guaranteed – though that fact is not the reason to give Sotomayor a pass.

Remember that Miers’s nomination by Bush was a replacement of Sandra Day O’Connor – and given the identity politics which often surround high court noninees, Bush felt compelled to nominate a woman.  Miers was a disaster, derided by both left and right as an intellectual lightwieght and, more importantly, criticized by conservatives for her lack of strict constructionist bona fides.

Sotomayor is certainly “qualified” to serve on the Supreme Court, but in nominating a Hispanic woman, Obama lessens the pressure on future presidents to look for certain attributes and instead allows them to focus on qualifications. The idea that certain constituencies should be highly visible is an idea that goes back as far as politics and has a long tradition in America – in fact, it’s the reason that a small state (Delaware) was set up to be the first to ratify the Constitution.  And each pick that cecks off those boxes (especially qualified picks like Sotomayor) calm the effect of identity politics that factor into these decisions.   For instance: if in four or eight years, a Republican president has to pick a nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that President will be under less pressure to appoint a woman.  Not that this hypothetical President couldn’t or wouldn’t appoint a woman, but it would be a lesser priority – and anything that strips identity politics from the processes of government is, on some level, a positive thing.

Of course, there’s another cynical reason that a Sotomayor approval might be politically helpful for Republicans.  One or two opinions that reflect the same thinking as her support for New Haven, Connecticut’s racial preferences in doling out (and taking away) promotions for firefighters may serve be an albatross for Obama’s reelection campaign.