Sunday, November 18, 2012

50 Shades of Brown

When I returned to teaching college English, I helped select a textbook of essays for students to read and then discuss.  We selected a text with a wonderful variety of engaging essays on a wide array of topics.  One of the essays, written in 1998 by Luis Urea and titled “Nobody’s Son”, included the observation that by the year 2050 “Latinos will be the majority population of the world. Not only will America be ‘brown,’ but it will also be the home of the new Democrats.”

I posed the question to the class—what do you think will happen in the U.S. when the majority population is brown?  Well, swaggered one student, it won’t matter because whites will still hold the power.  And, I swear, he snickered at his brilliance.  Maybe this year, that former student voted for Romney—and like Romney must have been stunned when Romney didn’t win.
Welcome to the new normal, as they say.  Or, as they say—this is not your father’s Oldsmobile.

There have been many analyses of the reasons why the 2012 presidential election turned out the way it did.  I can’t compete with all that greater wisdom, but I find it noteworthy that, as far back as 1998, someone such as Luis Urea anticipated the impact of a political party’s stance on issues would have on voting response.  He wrote: “most Mexican immigrants—both ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’—would vote Republican if given a chance, except the Republicans scare them.”
This wisdom was something that Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove seemed unable to fathom.  Karl Rove’s meltdown on Fox News was particularly embarrassing, excruciating, and delicious to watch.  Perhaps—like too many Republicans, he has ignored facts for so long that, when faced with indisputable statistical evidence, he simply couldn’t believe that the skewed polls the Romney campaign had been relying on toward the end of the campaign could have been wrong.  But wrong they were, and wrong Rove was. 

When it came to Romney’s explanation as to why he lost, he also ignored the numbers, focusing instead on a variation on his 47% theme.  Obama—according to Romney—simply gave too many gifts to too many groups of people and Romney couldn’t compete with that.  Gifts?  Oh, right—such as forgiveness of college loan interest, or health care, or amnesty for children born in the U.S. or brought here as infants by parents who were illegal immigrants.  Sounds rather like Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus.”
I found it fascinating if not troubling that Romney saw those things as gifts—with a clear implication that the recipients were not worthy to receive—but did not see his own plans as gifts.  What about more tax breaks for the rich?  What about privatizing some of the essential elements of government so investors could reap the profits?  Romney also didn’t seem to realize that he himself benefits from “gifts”—a tax structure that grants him a far lesser tax burden than it does most of the people he disparaged.

But I digress.
If you want to delve into the numbers a bit more, here’s a fascinating graphic that looks at where Obama’s strength was, and where Romney’s was. Note that the trends that have continued to move in Obama’s favor are voters of Hispanic background. 

We are now two weeks past the election—and Romney has had his say.  Amazingly, other leaders in the Republican Party are distancing themselves from the “too many gifts” approach.  And, some of these leaders are even beginning to recognize that, if the Republican Party is going to survive into the future, it has to begin to reckon with the new normal.  Whites are now becoming a minority—as Bill O’Reilly observed, with a touch of amazement—and now there are fifty shades of brown. 

P.S. Karl Rove's new job (thanks to


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Another One Bites the Dust

Well, it’s happened again. A powerful man is revealed to have been engaging in an extramarital affair. In this instance—the story of General David Petraeus—is a touch unusual. Instead of two women being involved, there are three—the wife, the “other” woman, and the “other, other” woman. So, not a triangle but a square? Rectangle?

The ingredients are so painfully predictable—the man is older, powerful, well-known.  The wife is also older, but for her age does not lend a cache of charm, but a burden of being (perhaps) past her prime.  She has been the home base while the general fought wars overseas.  True, she has her own career, and has made contributions working on alleviating the needs of military families.  Oh, how ironic. 

The other woman is younger, in need of a mentor, and—I wouldn’t be surprised—adept at charming the older man with flattery.  As the story is told, she made the initial contact with the general, and eventually got herself embedded (the irony piles up) with the military in Afghanistan while she worked to expand her doctoral dissertation into a full length book.  With the recent revelations of “the affair” sales of the book have soared. 

As for the other “other” woman, nothing is known—except that she apparently received threatening anonymous emails.  Because of their nature, it seems she contacted the FBI.  And thus began the investigation that unraveled the situation.  Of course, her presence does raise a niggling question—why was she perceived as a threat to the erstwhile mistress?  Don’t even want to go there.
Do you hear echoes of similar recent stories?  The New York Times chronicled the sad litany of some of the name of those involved in these affairs—Alexander Hamilton, Warren Harding, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon Baines Johnson.  And that doesn’t even bring us to the current transgressors—Gary Hart, William Clinton, David Vitter, John Ensign, Mark Souder, Anthony Weiner, John Edwards.  I even edited this list to shorten it!

So, what’s the lesson? That power attracts? That forbidden fruit is just too tempting? That great men fall? That we are all flawed? That in a digital age, there is no such thing as secrecy?

The truth is—I don’t know.  I do know that this particular revelation made me especially sad—sad for all involved.