The Politics of Scapegoating
This is a really cool article. I like that he addresses the scapegoating issue, but I don’t like that he didn’t take it to the next step.
To me, the next step would be to explore who stands to make money from this whole thing. He could’ve examined which extreme right/ neo nazi groups are financing politicians that will likely gain political favor with a portion of the electorate.
I would also have liked him to address how the racialized minorities could or should take political action and flex their political muscles as well.
The pundits’ mantra for the 2010 mid-term elections is that American voters are angry as hell and they’re intent on taking out their anger on those in power – and for most writers this means the Democrats who control the White House and Congress. Since they are perceived as a core part of the Democratic Party’s coalition, this party-in-power-about-to-take-its-lumps presumably includes the country’s racialized minorities, especially Blacks and Latinos.
Catching this current, Gregory Rodriguez in his August 2, 2010 Los Angeles Times column predicts that “white racial anxiety, not immigration, will be the most significant and potentially dangerous socio-demographic trend of the coming decade.” He, therefore, advises President Obama to seize his “Nixon moment” and offer up Affirmative Action to slake the dragon’s thirst for blood. Rodriguez thinks that this sacrifice is necessary “to avoid a destructive white backlash.”
On the same day, the lead front-page Los Angeles Times article described the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision as a rush by business (led by the Chamber of Commerce) and conservative political activists (led by Karl Rove’s “American Crossroads”) to mount the most expensive mid-term campaign in U.S. history to return power to those who will do their bidding more consistently and faithfully. Also on the same day, Paul Krugman’s New York Times column decried the trending of the country’s top leaders toward “normalizing” double-digit unemployment rates as a “structural” necessity of the new U.S. economy.
Are these three stories related? I think so.
This recession is different; it is not like previous recessions that led to relatively quick recoveries and we are likely to face long-term unemployment at levels not previously seen. Meanwhile, the recession has led state and local governments drowning in red ink to decimate their public sectors, including large-scale cuts in public workforces and benefits, with dire consequences for the public. Neither Congressional leaders nor the White House even discuss the possibility of raising the level of fiscal support to the public sector necessary to halt the blood-letting. Instead, national leaders wring their hands about the growing deficit and seriously entertain the possibility of restructuring the social security system toward greater privatization.
In this context, there are good reasons for all Americans to be feeling high levels of individual anxiety, and it is not surprising that the anxiety is translated into political anger. Our jobs are increasingly insecure, and the destruction of private-sector pensions and benefits has led not to a fight for their recovery but instead to a concerted attack on public sector pensions and benefits. In this environment, it is not surprising that the public is casting about for someone to blame. And in a country with our history of racial bigotry, violence, and oppression, Latino immigrants and the beneficiaries of Affirmative Action programs make ready-made targets for politicians (such as Senator James Webb, among Democrats) and other political opportunists seeking scapegoats on whose backs to improve their positions.
The campaign to target immigrants and racialized minorities should not be understood as a result of Barack Obama’s becoming the country’s first “non-White” president. This campaign should be understood as part of a large-scale effort by corporations and conservatives to further destroy the country’s public sector, aiming to throw all Americans into the loving arms of “the market” without public sector supports. Latinos and Blacks have been among the groups hardest-hit by the recession, and the further destruction of the public sector means that those in the least advantaged positions in American society will find it harder than ever before to climb a “ladder” to success that is missing more than a few of its previous rungs.
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