Monday, December 16, 2002

Well, this MSN Newsweek article shows we have gone beyond digging out new evidence of Trent Lott's racism and into studying the past that made him and his state what they are. Naturally, the New Democratic Leadership Council's Online community is eager to talk about the part this plays in Republican politics via Talking Points Memo. Another blog showing keen awareness of the relationship of the past to the present is Electrolite. I think they make some good points, but I think both Republican voters and Democratic voters should think about a harder question - what those who do not live in the old south can learn about their own political triggers and emotions.

Forget racism for now. Does the idea of your hard earned money being taken away from you and given to someone who didn't work for it make you angry? You probably support some help for the deserving poor, but what about those receiving money who don't deserve it? There are many of those, and you would be surprised how rich some of them are. Do you know which states sometimes allow multi millionaires to have medicaid pay for nursing home care for their spouses?

If the image of someone from a different ethnic group getting your tax dollars spurs a deeper anger than the image of someone from your own ethnic group, does that make you a racist? If so, few indeed are innocent. Yet there is a danger here for those who support cuts in aid to the poor because they believe it will give people more incentive to work and create more prosperity for us all. It is all too easy for politicans to find programs which will win the support of both those who believe small government is good for capitalism, and those who harbor racial anger, and this would be so even if nobody had deep emotional hooks they did not always think about. For those who want to encourage economic growth by cutting support for the poor, the dangers are twofold. First, your program will be distorted if only the elements which might appeal to racists as well as fiscal conservatives win support while other elements are ignored. Secondly, beware the politicans learn more about you than you learn about them - they are good at that - and lead you by the emotional vulnerabilities locked deep inside you.

It would be interesting to graph nations by both their racial diversity and the amount of aid they give their poorest citizens. It is rare indeed for a nation to have racial divisions but no leaders who will rise to exploit them.

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