A must-read piece: Luckily, it never ends!


Egregious gives way to insidious, subtle: We won’t have time today to give this piece the care it deserves. But Melissa Harris-Perry’s piece at The Nation is a true must-read. To read it, just click here.

According to Harris-Perry, “electoral racism in its most naked, egregious and aggressive form” seems to be “no longer operative.” (We don’t quite know why she says that.) Luckily, though, it has been replaced by new forms of electoral racism—by forms of electoral racism which are more insidious, more baffling, more subtle!

Harris-Perry can see these new forms of electoral racism in the way President Obama’s approval ratings have fallen among white liberals—indeed, among white voters in general. This follows Charles Blow’s recent piece, in which he managed to spot the same problem among Hispanics.

At some point, we’ll discuss Harris-Perry’s piece in more detail. At Salon, Joan Walsh has offered this lengthy response. David Sirota has offered this.

Harris-Perry is a professor at Tulane. For that reason, she believes that much of Obama’s decline among whites can be attributed to disappointment that he hasn’t been more “salvific.” In an earlier piece, she noted this: “Those of us who attempt to talk about racial bias encounter a few common discursive strategies that are meant to discredit our perspectives.”

We liberals just can’t help ourselves. It’s one of the ways we practice to lose. But we strongly recommend Harris-Perry’s piece. It’s that rarest of birds—a genuine must-read column.


  1. I heard about that piece. Speaking as a liberal, Democratic activist, I would say that I am disenchanted with the president, except I wasn't all that enchanted with him to begin with. I don't enchant easily. But the president is hardly the only leading figure of the Democratic Party I grouse about. You should hear me go on about Harry Reid, quite possibly the whitest person in America.

    The reasons people are upset with President Obama are real, legitimate, have nothing at all to do with race, and as Mr. Somerby has suggested on rare occasions, may be applicable to the overwhelmingly white Liberal-Democratic establishment as well. And the alienation of the establishment may have a real and frightening impact on the next election. We don't just need the votes of the base, we need the base to be fired up. Very fired up.

  2. I will be very interested in seeing the Daily Howler's response to this much talked about article. To me, this is merely a retread of a lot of stuff the Nation printed in primary 2008, when the race card was played with reckless abandon against Hillary Clinton. When called out for this, they simply played it against Bill Clinton. In the end, Rachel Maddow decided Hillary Clinton was trying to have Obama assassinated. Why? Because they said so....

  3. I don't agree with Melissa Harris-Perry that "[Obama's] record is, at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton." Here are some key differences:

    1. Faced with widespread opposition to a federal health plan, Clinton backed off. In the same situation, Obama bulled ahead. He passed the law, not by convincing the country, but by giving special breaks to various Senators.

    2. The economy under Clinton boomed. Under Obama, the economy has been a bust.

    3. Clinton had low budget deficits and even ran a surplus some years. Obama has run historically large deficits.

    4. Faced with opposition to big government, Clinton declared, "The era of big government is over." Obama has already grown the government by 1/3 and continues to seek further expansion.

    5. Inflation was low during Clinton's terms. Inflation this year has risen to a 5% annual rate.

  4. Paul Rosenberg also has written a couple of detailed responses to Harris-Perry:



  5. This is what I posted to Harris-Perry's column. I think it is appropriate here as well:

    I voted for Cynthia McKinney in 2008 because of Obama's record indicating he was no more than a centrist (FISA Amendments lie, supporting Joe Lieberman in the 2006 CT primary, refusal to propose universal health care).

    I voted for Nader in 1996 because Clinton was a corporatist who only supported such things as NAFTA, while caving on real progressive issues (DADT, DOMA, firing Joycelyn Elders, etc.).

    The idea that white liberals are deserting Obama because of race is not only deeply inaccurate on the facts, it is disgusting as a theory when the facts refute it.

    Obama is a repeat of W Bush, sometimes with a vengeance: due-process-free kidnapping, imprisonment and assassination; unconstitutional and illegal wars; adopting Republican lies about the budget and the debt (the US budget is like a family's?!). And you are calling people racist for their abhorrence of his action?

    What excuse do you have for Cornell West? Self-hating black?

    If this premise weren't so ugly, it would just be pathetic.

  6. I was only 10 years old when Clinton entered office, so I have no reasonable means to compare my feelings about him vs. Obama. I do notice that the unemployment rate was consistently moving lower under Clinton, right from the start of his first term, while Obama came in just as it shot up and has remained high.

    The only person I can compare Obama to is Bush, and he's doing just as badly imo. He's continued many of Bush's policies, sometimes making them worse. His healthcare reform was a giveaway to the insurance companies. His proposed jobs program, if it makes it through Congress, will at best let the economy glide in neutral for a few months but will not help with a long-term recovery. And he's intent on massively cutting the federal deficit, which will plunge the country even further into depression if he gets his way--$4 trillion is a lot of money to remove from the economy.

  7. It's the economy, stupid. Always has been, always will be. If the unemployment rate in Sept. 1996 was 9.1%, we would have had President Kemp in charge when 9/11 happened (Dole wouldn't have lasted 3 years).

    The bottom line is that Obama has not delivered on what he promised. What MHP is suggesting is insulting.

  8. Wow. Based on a couple of comments above, I think I've found the reason for Obama's dropping in the polls, and it has nothing to do with racism, but rather another quality among liberals that DH routinely decries: rank stupidity.

  9. Thank you so very much, Anonymous, for such a cogent and detailed analysis. (pfui)

  10. Ted Raymond:

    Bob Dole is still alive. Jack Kemp is dead.