Racist Drinking Game?

My last blog post was on the subject of political correctness. And I just read an article which I think exemplifies how politically correct our society has become.

The article was from the New York Times. It was called “‘Racist’ Drinking Game Causes Uproar an High School in New Jersey.” The game was a version of beer pong called Jews vs Nazis or Alcoholocaust.

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As you can see, one team has their cups arranged into the shape of a swastika while the other team has theirs in the shape of the Star of David.

One of the kids at the party took a Snapchat of the beer pong table. A classmate of theirs saw the photo on Snapchat, took a screenshot of it, and posted it to her blog.

That blog post went viral. Numerous news sources ran stories about it. It was even made the news in Israel.

The school released a statement about how they intend to speak with all of the students involved and the parents of those students. And the police have started an investigation.

So, were the students involved actually being antisemitic? Or as the New York Times surprisingly called it, racist?

The student who blogged about it certainly thought so, “They must be trapped in the delusional mindset that making a drinking game based off of the Holocaust is cool. Or funny. Or anything besides insane. Because that’s what this is: insanity. I’m not even Jewish and I’m still offended.”

Well, I am Jewish. And I was offended as well. But not by the Alcoholocaust drinking game, which you have to admit is a pretty clever name for it.

I was offended by the way this self-appointed social justice warrior singlehandedly turned her friends stupid drinking game into an international incident.

As the New York Times pointed out, “The high school boys who crowded into a Princeton basement for the game included Jewish students.”

So this shiksa, which a yiddish term for a non-Jewish woman, who wasn’t even invited to the party was offended by what was taking place there. But the Jewish students who were actually there, were not offended.

I think that is insane.

Now I’m not saying that what these kid did was appropriate. But I do think that their biggest offense is the fact that they were drinking while underage.

How antisemitic could they actually be? They invited their Jewish friends to the party and they obviously don’t know what a swastika really looks like since they made theirs backwards.

They aren’t exactly young skinhead Neo-Nazis or members of the Aryan Brotherhood for God’s sake. Let’s just keep things in the proper perspective people.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?

 

 

 

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Bernie or Bust?

According to a recent McClatchy-Marist poll, 25% of Bernie Sander’s supporters would refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton if she becomes the Democratic nominee. This seems insane since there are so many similarities between the political philosophy of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and such a stark difference between the Democrats and Republicans.

There is even an online petition called Revolt Against Plutocracy which has gained over 70,000 signatures from people pledging to vote for the Green Party candidate if Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee. Is this some sort of political death pact?

While I would like to see more legitimacy given to third party candidates, I am afraid that this election is far too important to split the Democratic vote. I believe that Bernie Sanders would be a better president than Hillary Clinton, but I also believe that either one of them would be a far better option than anyone running on the Republican side.

Ralph Nader was widely condemned for splitting the Democratic vote during the election of 2000 which gave George Bush the presidency even though Al Gore had won the popular vote. Damn electoral college.

I don’t think that the criticism Ralph Nader received in the aftermath of the election was fair. But it is a fact that if the votes which went to Nader had gone to Gore instead, then Gore would have won the presidency.

I can understand the feeling of disillusionment which can occur when the candidate you prefer is not chosen as the nominee. But to refuse to vote for the person who is chosen even though they share many of the same political views simply because they weren’t the one you wanted is childish.

I can also understand the feeling of frustration at the political establishment and the desire to see a candidate nominated who would fight to change the system. That’s part of the reason why I supported Barack Obama in 2008.

I was disappointed by some of the policy positions he has taken over the years. But I supported him again in 2012 because he it was a choice between him and Mitt Romney.

Even though I didn’t agree with everything Barack Obama had done, I still thought he was the better option.

If Clinton is the nominee. I would vote for her because she would be the better option.

And I like Bernie Sanders far more than I like Hillary Clinton. But if he is not on the ballot, than he is not on the ballot.

I think that the country has a political system which is based upon compromise. A system of checks and balances keeps our government functioning properly, when it’s functioning.

Politics have become so dysfunctional because politicians no longer compromise with one another. And they don’t do it because they know that if they did, it would cause them to lose elections.

One of the most effective criticisms of Chris Christie during the early days of election season was the photo of him hugging president Obama. It happened during Obama’s visit to the Jersey shore after hurricane Sandy.

The man hugged the president in the aftermath of a natural disaster and it was viewed by members of the Republican party as treason. It basically capsized his campaign.

The Republican Party seems to have been slowly splintering apart ever since the Tea Party surge of 2010 when a freshmen class of ideologically driven and uncompromising congressmen came to the capital.

In some ways you could trace the origins of Donald Trump’s campaign back to the start of the Tea Party. In some ways you could trace it back even further.

Now there is a segment of the Republican Party who wants to prevent Donald Trump from receiving their nomination. They think that he is dangerous.

If members of his own party think he is dangerous, he probably is. So let’s hold it together Democrats, now isn’t the time to turn into the Tea Party.

 

 

The Discourse Divide

Politics has become so contentious that violence is increasingly becoming a part of our political debate. But how did it come to this? Surely, it can’t all be blamed on Donald Trump.

It is undeniable that Trump has used incendiary rhetoric while campaigning. His controversial comments have been widely reported and criticized by most main stream media outlets.

However, instead of damaging his campaign, his comments have only increased his poll numbers. He once bragged, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Controversial comments like this typically capsize campaigns, so how could courting controversy increase Donald Trump’s support?

To better understand this, it is important to consider the discourse divide between the liberal left and conservative right.

When I say discourse divide, I am referring to the way that the country’s political discourse has increasingly become less of a debate between the two political parties and more like two separate conversations simultaneously being conducted within the rigid confines of those political parties.

Even when discussing the same issue, liberals and conservatives use terms which don’t seem to line up with one another. Take the abortion debate for example, by using the terms pro-life and pro-choice, the issue becomes convoluted. Would anyone say that they are anti-life or anti-choice? Of course not. And is life the opposite of choice? Of course not.

This type of political messaging has caused the base of each party to become more ideological and less compromising. And political messaging has become an industry.

The carefully crafted rhetoric used by politicians has become so focus group oriented that it seems more like manipulation than messaging.

Consultants like Frank Luntz have,”forever redefined the way public policy issues will be framed,” as his website points out, “It’s not what you say. It’s what they hear.”

So what do people hear when Donald Trump makes controversial comments? They hear what they want to hear.

The Washington Post has accused Trump of using racially coded language. Perhaps that’s why he has earned the endorsement of several white supremacist groups. But his supporters insist that he is not a racist.

His controversial comments have gained him a lot of support, but there is an anti-Trump movement within the Republican Party.

I think that the discourse divide is almost like a wedge has been driven between the two political parties and Donald Trump snuck in through the gap.

So is this damaging the country? Appellate judge Charles W. Pickering once said, “A healthy democracy requires a decent society; it requires that we are honorable, generous, tolerant and respectful.” So, the answer is yes. Yes, it is.

 

 

Polarization as Political Strategy

We live in a surreal world of increasingly partisan politics. There is an ever widening gap between republicans and democrats, conservatives and liberals, right and left.

The perceived difference between the two sides is like the difference between a persons’ right and left hand; mirror image opposites of one another. As our county’s political discourse continues to heat up, the metaphorical mirror is getting steamy. The image is being blurred, and the person in the middle is slowly disappearing.

Moderates are an endangered species in the process of extinction. They are going the way of the dinosaur, the dodo bird, and people who pay to download music. This is true for moderate politicians in both parties, and also the citizens who elect them.

The United States has among the lowest voter turnout in the developed world. So politicians use carefully crafted rhetoric specifically intended to appeal to the base of their party in order to increase the likelihood of their supporters actually being motivated enough to get off their couches and into a voting booth.

The political party who does a better job stirring their base into a frenzied fervor is the party who wins the election. And nothing creates a frenzy better than fear. So political messaging has become increasing targeted to trigger the inner fears of people on either side of the political divide.

This has caused both sides to become more ideologically extreme. However, it would be historically inaccurate to say that both political parties are equally to blame for the contentious political climate currently enveloping the country.

Many historians have pointed to the shifting political landscape of the 1950’s and 60’s, as the emergence of our modern political configuration.

In 1948, the States’ Rights Democratic Party, commonly referred to as the Dixiecrats, split from the Democratic Party due to their disagreement with the Democratic party’s support of racial integration.

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The Republican Party was, as many modern Republican politicians like to point out, the party of Lincoln, who freed the slaves by signing the Emancipation Proclamation. But when the Dixiecrats split from the Democratic Party, leaders of the Republican Party saw an opportunity to pursued disillusioned Democrats in the South to switch sides.

The Southern Strategy refers to the systematic way Republican Party candidates started appealing to white voters in Southern states who resented forced racial integration.

When Barry Goldwater ran for the presidency in 1964, he used political messaging which contained coded language supporting segregation and racism.

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He responded to the call for the federal government to recognize the civil rights of African Americans by declaring the importance of states’ rights. This meant that Southern states should be able to continue denying equal rights to African Americans without interference from the federal government.

He responded to the call for desegregation by supporting something he called freedom of association. This meant that business owners should be able to continue choosing who they would and wouldn’t allow into their businesses. In other words, a continuation of segregation and discrimination based on race.

Thankfully, Barry Goldwater lost the election to Lyndon Jonson. And the Johnson administration oversaw the enactment of the Civil Rights act of 1964 followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This effectually nullified the Jim Crow laws of the South which had previously provided the legal framework for racial segregation and discrimination. The unintended consequence of this was an increase in racial resentment among Southern whites.

Richard Nixon used the racial resentment of white Southerners to win the presidency in 1968. During the race riots which followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Nixon promised to restore law and order to the country, and he frequently called his core constituency the silent majority. In other words, whites who were not taking part in any protests against racial inequality or against the war in Vietnam.

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Donald Trump, the leading candidate in the Republican primaries, also calls his core constituency the silent majority. And he also seems to be using something very similar to the Southern Strategy by making racist comments which stir a surprisingly large amount of white people into a frenzy.

He has received the endorsement of the country’s largest white supremacist organization, Stormfront. He has also received the endorsement of the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke.

Many members of the Republican Party establishment have expressed extremely unfavorable opinions of Donald Trump. They say he isn’t truly a conservative, or even a real Republican.

Regardless of what they say, Trump has already won several Republican primaries, and it is very likely that he will become their nominee for president. To understand how this has happened, it is important to recognize that a political strategy of racial polarization is the cornerstone of his campaign.

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In 2005, before Donald Trump decided to become a politician, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman, spoke at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He apologized to them for his party’s history of exploiting racial prejudice, and said, “Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization.”

Donald Trump could learn something from Ken Mehlman, who also said, “It’s not healthy for the country for our political parties to be so racially polarized.”

 

 

To the Donald Trump supporter with whom I had lunch.

When we agreed to have lunch, I didn’t know. While we were eating and discussing an upcoming assignment for our Spanish class, I had no idea what your political inclinations were. And apparently, you had no idea what mine were either.

I thought it would be a good idea to bring up the presidential primaries; to ask you which candidate you supported. I had no idea of how wrong I was.

You said that you didn’t really follow politics, and that you didn’t have strong feelings about any candidate. I should have taken the hint.

When I revealed that I was supporting Bernie Sanders, I was surprised by your response, “But he is a SOCIALIST! He wants to destroy the country!”

I didn’t know what to say. But I attempted to define what being a democratic socialist really means without being confrontational.

You said that Sanders was a liar and that the country needed someone like Trump who told the truth. I didn’t bother to say that Sanders has been much more consistent with the political positions he has held over his entire lifetime than Trump has been in the past six months.

I wanted to find some common ground between us. I tried to bring up areas where we were in agreement with each other. But I failed.

I tried to turn our disagreement into an intelligent conversation about the differences between the liberal and conservative perspective on the appropriate role of government. But I failed.

You said that if I had more common sense I would be supporting Donald Trump. And I attempted to explain that neither of us were lacking common sense, that no one wanted to destroy the country, that we just had different ideas on how to improve America.

You were dismissive of my comments, and subtly asserted that conservatives had the intellectual high ground while liberals were just too stupid to see that they were like sheep being misled by dishonest and manipulative politicians who secretly hated America.

Still, I attempted not to be confrontational. To discuss things with you in a way that just might get you to understand my perspective.

I made historical references, mentioned policies enacted by previous administrations of both political parties, and made comparisons to other forms of government in various countries. But you brushed my statements aside as if they weren’t even worthy of a response.

So we went back to talking about our upcoming Spanish assignment for a few more minutes, and then you excused yourself. I finished eating lunch alone with only my regrets to keep me company.

I regret not being more confrontation with you. I regret not pointing out how conceited it was for you to assume that people who don’t agree with you must be your intellectual inferiors.

I regret not pointing out that you aren’t the first person to tell me that liberals hate America. I regret not pointing out how insane it is to actually believe that.

I regret not pointing out how liberal Trump used to be, and how liberal he still is when it comes to certain issues. But most of all, I regret that fact that I couldn’t get you to see things even for a single second from someone else’s perspective.