Food-Stamp President?

So it turns out that I can still be shocked by public discourse. Yes, South Carolina is famous for primaries with dirty tricks and low blows; one almost looks forward to it, wondering what they'll do this time around. But my jaw dropped when Newt Gingrich called Barack Obama the "food-stamp president." Wait—is that a dog whistle I hear? I'm not always fond of Chris Matthews, but he sure did nail it: Everyone can hear the whistle now, not just the Southern racists of yore. We know the connections being made about race, laziness, welfare queens, and all the rest. And it's shocking to hear it out loud.   

Over the weekend, Lee Siegel published an essay in The New York Times positing that Romney is, essentially, running as white—whiter than white, really, as white as you can get, free of Catholicism, cosmopolitanism, zealotry, adultery, or any other pollutant:

Of course, I’m not talking about a strict count of melanin density. I’m referring to the countless subtle and not-so-subtle ways he telegraphs to a certain type of voter that he is the cultural alternative to America’s first black president. It is a whiteness grounded in a retro vision of the country, one of white picket fences and stay-at-home moms and fathers unashamed of working hard for corporate America....

Contrast that with Mr. Romney’s meticulously cultivated whiteness. He is nearly always in immaculate white shirt sleeves. He is implacably polite, tossing off phrases like “oh gosh” with Stepford bonhomie. He has mastered Benjamin Franklin’s honesty as the “best policy”: a practiced insincerity, an instant sunniness that, though evidently inauthentic, provides a bland bass note that keeps everyone calm. This is the bygone world of Babbitt, of small-town Rotarians.

I'm not sure I agree with Siegel that that's culturally coded as "white"; it strikes me as retro rather than racial, although of course in that retro world, "the races" knew their separate places. But hers is an interesting thesis. 

There's really no escaping race in this country, as I've discussed here several times before. I've long been interested in how Obama has presented himself as both black and not-black, culturally fluent in Kansas neighborliness but with an African American wife. Knowing that he couldn't escape race, he used it to signal change. That confused many progressives during the 2008 election, leading many to overlook his moderate campaign positions and to imagine that he offered something further left than he was saying out loud. The progressive dream of inspiration and change was a mirror image of how his blackness outraged many on the far right, who imagined him as more culturally foreign than he actually was, insisting that he was literally foreign-born and (sin of sins) Muslim. 

What gives me hope is the overwhelming revulsion that Gingrich's comment has garnered. We all heard what he was saying. And it's not going to be enough to let him win. 

 

Comments

Here is the thing that confuses me, why is anyone surprised about Newt's statement in SC? He made this statement before (about Obama being the food stamp president...I think his explanation is that more American's are receiving food stamps under President Obama than _______ ?). From my perspective, this has been a part of his politics as far back as I can recall (I am 41 and have not lived in his Congressional District, so my knowledge may be a bit limited)...Does any not recall Newt's statement to the effect that President Obama was expressing "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior" (imagine that, being anti-colonial! how dare he! how dare anyone! and, exactly, what in the h3ll does that mean anyway?). No, I am not surprised...In fact, Newt is keeping with his chracater as I understand it.

Obama's " ...moderate campaign positions"????

Expand hate-crimes statutes
Raise the minimum wage
Reduce taxes further for the "poor" (already nearly half of American's pay no income tax)
Close Guantanamo.
Fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act
Pass the Dream Act
End Don't ask Don't Tell
Special tax on oil companies

These are all LEFT positions. In what kind of world view are these "Moderate"?

Congrats, Ms. Graff - you wrung every single possible molecule of hysterical pseudo-racial drama out of that line - and then some.

Attributing racism to every mention of "food stamps" by anyone not a democrat amounts to the pot calling the kettle black - (if you'll overlook the word "black" and not call me a racist for using it.)

Really, it reminds me of the time the NAACP started jumping up and down not too long ago because Hallmark put out a Birthday Card for juveniles depicting outer-space on the cover, complete with a space artifact labeled a "Black Hole." Either the members of the NAACP thought it was a reference to a "black hoe" or they objected to the word "black", I'm not sure which.

The food stamp comment was obviously a reference to the economy. The Victimology Theme is way overused in your columns, in my opinion. Calling something what it is not is only helpful to those who already want to believe that type of thing, or to those who benefit somehow from people (voters) believing that legitimate criticism is racism. Why not address the issue, instead of dismissing it as racism?

We do indeed have an admin that is oriented to advancing the Food Stamp Presidency. NOT for the Race baiters, code words, orientation that the article implies, indeed, outright states, but instead, for the DEPENDENCY of the food stamp money distributions. Newt referred to the INCOME RE DISTRIBUTION of the Food Stamp Presidency actions via his statement.
RACE has absolutely nada to do with this. The Welfare Dependency state does.
Money distribution to enhance dependency covers all tones of skin, all aspects of culture, all levels of money deprivation, in effect buying an entire voter bloc.
Progressives love to shift the true meaning of anyone decring the injustice of Money Re Distribution to race baiting. It is a convienent means to continue to the process while denigrating the observors statements.
Let us come to grips with all of this. EVERY PERSON IN THE US has the opportunity to become RE educated, to fine NEW work, to bootstrap if you will to a better future. Progressives would categorically deny this, yet we watch the OWS Moms Basement grunts continue to live off Parental Food stamps...
Semper Fi

Given Newt's past actions, behaviors and statements, I think that it is reasonable to conclude that there were racially tinged overtones in his words. To act as though race doesn't matter in a country like ours is just as bad (if not worse) than finding racial overtones in everything that another person says or does. I am not calling Newt a racist (because I don't personally know him and quite frankly, its almost an insulting the way the word is used so loosely in contemporary discourse), but the fact of the matter is that Newt plays to a certain resentful, regressive, fearful segment of American society. For me, its fine if you believe otherwise, but the facts are the facts (not to mention that Newt is a hypocrite and petty a liar, but whatever). Furthermore, your belief in the "rugged individualism" mythology is just that-a myth. Again, you are certainly welcome to your own beliefs, but not your own facts. No one...not one single person in this country accomplished a single thing on his/her own. The notion that everyone, irrespective of background, race, gender, socio-economic status has the same opportunity if they are industrious, hard-working, intelligent, etc. is a falsehood (and quite frankly, always has been). Its a myth that's used to justify the inequities in our society among the haves and its a myth that convinces the have-nots that if they "just try harder", one day, they too may acquire untold riches (no matter how implausible). Again, its fine if that's what you want to believe, but it is not reality.

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