Stars of Iraq

And here I am going through the city and cannot say a word in shock. I cannot recognize the city. Only ten days ago it was an Iraqi town with its regular for centuries Arabic life. Boling bazaars, noisy streets. And here I am going through the empty dead city, between the ugly “pyramids” of destroyed buildings, broken streets, whole quarters wiped from the face of earth. The city is killed and dismembered by some monstrous maniac. Beelzebub – the lord of the flies. Under the flag of stars and stripes, where the stars look so alike to thick flesh flies.

–Hakim Mirzoev (newspaper “Zavtra”)

Racing the Emails

When I speak of enormous pressure to NOT talk about white folks as white folks, I mean among other things that feedback is going to be conflicted right away. And who wants to start these kinds of arguments?

A fellow Southerner writes that “it’s true that many Whites, especially down here, were manipulated and delusional on Election Day.” BUT, the writer continues: “you have no problem freely envoking the stupid, White southernor stereotype to fill the glaring holes in your utterly vacuous article.” He asks, would I sling so freely my adjectives if it were some other group in question?

A Boston correspondent gives reasons why he thinks that white voters are not the only group to favor stupid candidates. And then he adds: “Continue to look down your nose at others and you will continue to lose elections. Snobbery is bad box office. It is based upon a misapprehension of self worth in addition to a faulty evaluation of others.” He thinks Kerry and Clinton were stupid candidates, too.

“The last time I was in Tx.,” writes another, “the black central area in Dallas didn’t have paved streets (1974). The whites I talked to with blacks present…the whites treated thr blacks in such a cruel verbal way I was dumbstruck, it was chilling.” The writer wants to know, am I making things any better? Or am I just exploiting these issues for myself?

An escaped white Southerner, on the other hand, writes to say that she is ashamed of being Southern and white. She finds it “a breath of fresh air” to have the issue outed, and imagines a book about the problem bearing a title, “Dumb Like Me.”

A fellow Texan reminds me that Southerners do not all drive pick up trucks nor cling to Confederate imagery. He would have liked to see a Dean candidacy:

Much to my dismay, I saw Dean get attacked for suggesting the Democratic Party make an attempt to reach white voters in the South. Dean himself offered up the image of the white male driving the pickup truck with the Confederate sticker in the back, theeby inviting a certain amount of ire, but I’m sure they understood what Dean was suggesting and instead used his statements as an opportunity to slam him (one of these opportunists was Kerry). As I watched the other potential Demoratic nominees slam Howard Dean the image I walked away with was:

All white male voters living in the South are Confederate flag-waving narrow- minded imbeciles who do not deserve any sort of effort on our part. Let’s just ignore them.

It makes me wonder how often these people, who want to become president, have merely visited states in the South. You see plenty of Republican candidates but not too many Democrats. Despite all this, I did manage to vote for Kerry but only because Nader was not on the ballot and since Bush seems to be opposed to everything I like and hold dear; I just could not stand the thought of voting for our current president.

So election night rolls around and I watch the tallies. Knowing Texas was a safe state for Bush he would not carry my county, Denton, but he did and by wide margins. I find myself asking, “If Dean had his way and made an effort to reach white voters in the South, how wide would the margin of victory had been for Bush?’

Pity, we now have four more years of our current president. I wonder how many senators from the Northeast realize that segregation was outlawed in the South decades ago and many who reside in the South either were not born during that era or they are not from here and have no concept of the segregationist philosophy. Oh yeah, how many people of color does John Kerry and other white voters of Massachusetts live near in relation to white voters of the South? Perhaps many white males in the South, who happen to drive pickup trucks, are far more tolerant and appreciative of diversity than given credit. Perhaps they would be receptive to an alternative viewpoint if given a chance to hear one.

I thought your article was spot-on.

“Points on target,” agrees another writer. “The solution is for a real third party, a doing away with the Electoral College, and a push for run-off electioneering. Many nations use that model to have their diverse voices heard. But I won’t hold my breath on that one–even for a nanosecond.”

And “Right on target!” writes one reader. “One of my personal mantras, especially after reading Derek Bell’s At the Bottom of the Well (have I got that right? quoting from memory) is ‘never ever ever underestimate the power of racism in the US’. Yours is one of few articles I’ve read since black Tuesday to openly address the issue. I’ve calculated that if you subtract out the 11 states of the old Confederacy – even leaving in such wacko states as Utah and Idaho – Kerry would have won the election 51% to 49%, and both Senate and House would have Democratic majorities.”

Finally, one brief note asks if I’ve seen the CounterPunch Map of the Day for Nov. 24? Indeed, I have seen the map, and you’ll find it linked below.

I reply that, I was happy to see the CounterPunch map, especially since I had recently posted a few articles about “the moral equivalent of Civil War.” The day that CounterPunch posted the map, I had just finished writing an article in which I noted that the Bush movement looked to me like a cultural heir to Southern secessionism (the article is also posted below). The “White Vote” article was my attempt to “punch it up a notch” in the prose department, to make a thousand words worthy of that map.

The words stupid or white are provocative enough when used alone. Putting the two together is going to be volatile business. It scares me a little to write these words in the same sentence, but there are reasons for valuing courage. America has been stupid on questions of slavery, segregation, and Indian affairs. These cultural legacies say something about the specific personality of the American electorate as white-powered. And I think the Bush movement appropriates this legacy in palpable ways. If my “White Vote” article were the last word on these questions, it would be a shame.

So I’m thinking back to where I agree with my fellow Southerner as quoted above: “it’s true that many Whites, especially down here, were manipulated and delusional on Election Day.” And I’m arguing that if this is true, it’s only going to get worse if progressives don’t make it our business to intervene. If I were buying into the stupid white stereotype (as my correspondent alleges) why would I insist that these conditions be changed? We know that it is possible for a majority of white voters in Massachusetts to favor Kerry. My work is dedicated to the proposition that the white vote can be transformed if there is enough courage, resolve, and resource applied–yes, even in the white South.

If I’m looking down my nose, it’s at national elites who think they can be progressive and not make the white South their business, too. Why have white elites in New York, Illinois, and California, not delivered their own blocs? I think it’s because they are afraid to talk about white folks as white folks in ways that would effectively confront the problems that need to be solved. No election cycle should ever begin with calls to write off white, Southern voters.

PS: As for the allegation that I make a living in this line of work, I’ll confess that I have tried to. My correspondent will be happy to learn that it remains an elusive ambition for me.


Derek Bell. Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

It's the White Vote, Stupid!

Truth you Can’t Hide From

By Greg Moses

ILCA Online / CounterPunch

I once asked a student what percent of the American population did he think was Black. “At least sixty percent!” He said eagerly.

“Are there any other guesses?” I asked the class. How was I going to talk this young man down?

In fact, 77 percent of voters in the Bush-Kerry-Nader election were white. It is the most obvious reason why the election turned out the way it did.

For white voters and their pundits, however, the stupidity of the election would be experienced as an expectation of politics as usual. “Of course, it’s a stupid election,” they would tell you. “Aren’t all elections stupid?” OK. But every great stupidity has its personality. And not enough folks are talking about the personality of the white vote in the wake of this most recent election.

In fact, the stupidity of American elections to date has been heavily imprinted with the specific personality of white America. Imagine, for instance, any other race of a candidate acting as stupidly as George Bush, performing as poorly, and yet–among white voters–being so well liked.

But if you live in white America, George Bush’s stupidity is the very form of mind necessary and sufficient to constitute political power. That’s why white folks in America could serve up a majority for Bush, unlike Black, Latino, and Asian voters–who would not have re-elected him.

And if I’m wrong about this, why else do you think the South was considered untouchable all year long? The solid South is not solid without a big, fat, white vote. So among elites who claim their latitude to bypass the American South, it sounds like a far better idea to work around this problem. Pressures are enormous to find some other thing to talk about. Take responsibility for transforming the white vote and do it in the South, too? Do you have any idea what you’re talking about?

Only Howard Dean was willing to talk about the Confederate Flag waving white voters down in Dixie. Dean is occasionally discredited on that account (for example, see Chait’s column in today’s LA Times [Nov. 26]). Now that we are four years away from the next Presidential election (Lord willing and the creek don’t rise) it is not yet too late in the election cycle to raise the question–what are we going to do about the white vote? No white Democrat without an answer is smart enough to lead.

“But white voters will dominate the electoral process for decades,” reports Aurelio Rojas in a preview of the California vote. There, Kerry wins 47 percent of the white vote compared to Bush’s 51. In New York, Kerry gets 49 to Bush’s 50. Compare the margins of the Kerry losses among white voters in those progressive states to Texas, where Bush got 74 percent–of the white vote. In none of these states (nor in Illinois for that matter) do white voters favor Kerry, but in the blue states a significant bloc of white voters present themselves to the Democratic Party.

A Massachusetts liberal is such a dangerous spectre to raise among white voters (who are not Massachusetts liberals) because white voters in Massachusetts behave differently. They actually gave a majority to Kerry.

Tom Hayden in a recent essay encourages anti-war activists to “become more grounded in the everyday political life of their districts, organizing anti-war coalitions including clergy, labor and inner city representatives to knock loudly on congressional doors.” But I wonder if this outreach to “inner city representatives” doesn’t hide the political problem that anti-war activists actually have, that is, convincing white voters to favor less belligerent politics.

Perhaps Hayden means to say that anti-war activists should get more grounded in their existing political base. The Congressional Black Caucus, for example, does very well on the war issue already. The CBC and the NAACP were two groups who early on expressed “strong opposition to war” (writes the Associated Press in 2002, archived at So if it were up to “inner city representatives” there would be no need for an anti-war movement in the first place. And if it were up to black voters, Bush would never have been elected.

So, yes, it was a stupid American election, and many of us did stupid things along the way. Let’s not be so stupid again as to quit working on the transformation of the white vote–especially in the South–until we’ve made Massachusetts liberals of them all.

Back to my student. Obviously, he was an urban youth. For him, sixty percent of life was Black life. And God bless him for not imagining things any differently. I can still recall, after hearing several guesses from the class, that I looked back at him and gave him Perlo’s numbers on percent Black in the USA. It was a cruel moment for the same reason that the election was cruel. And white folks who scoff at Massachusetts liberals should think about the eagerness that falls out of a person’s eyes when he realizes there’s no getting around white folks in the USA.


Nice Map

CounterPunch Map of the Day visualizes a cultural geography in which today’s political divide looks a lot like 1860. A moral equivalent of civil war, but this time with the secessionists in Washington….