Ever since Newt Gingrich first made his "Food Stamp President" statement, I've been wanting to blog about it. A lot. But the news cycle has been FAST. I just have not been able to keep up with everything. I mean -- D'angelo is BACK and performing! That's important. He's been gone for a long time. It's a HUGE story; at least to me. So, I have kept on my laptop screen all the articles I have seen that have dealt with this issue; for weeks. It's quite an impressive list... you should see it. I might even blog about one of them in a bit.
But what I have come to concerning Gingrich's statements, is that this is just politics. Politicians will always use whatever advantage they think they have to reach the constituency they want to reach. I think Peter Beinhart makes a very important point about why Newt Gingrich's bomb throwing rhetoric just doesn't work in the long run. Thus far it has been effective in helping keep his campaign alive far longer than most could have ever imagined. But his use of such divisive language will have consequences far beyond this presidential race.
Gingrich’s problem isn’t racism; it’s ignorance. Only someone profoundly ignorant of African-American politics would suggest that black Americans have spent the past few decades seeking food stamps, not jobs. We celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, after all, in part because of the speech King gave at an event called the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. If you look at the budgets proposed by the Congressional Black Caucus over the years, you’ll see that they often include huge, FDR-style government jobs programs. Gingrich may not think that’s the best way to go about providing jobs, but to suggest that African-Americans and their leaders don’t consider jobs important just reveals how shut off from Africa-American politics he actually is.
The type of rhetoric Gingrich has been using just makes the vast majority of people of color mad. People are tired of having to prove that they want to work hard just like everybody else. Perhaps the more significant fall out, though, is that people outside Gingrich's base feel like there is no place for them within the republican party. That someone who is considered the conservative frontrunner for the republican presidential nomination can call the first african-american president a "food stamp president", a transparently loaded, blatant mischaracterization, suggests there is little to no room within the republican party for minorities whose political views lean conservative. Those non-whites who actually vote republican or are leaders in the republican party are often looked at less as idiots than turncoats by fellow minorities. "If they can say something like this, how can you possibly trust these people?" is what the many of the minority electorate would seem to think.
Newsone.com, a black news source, begins a recent article by noting that factcheck.org has disproved the original food stamp statement and then goes on to compare, negatively, Bush's economic inheritance with Obama's economic inheritance.
FactCheck.org has looked into Newt Gingrich’s claim that Barack Obama had put more people on Food Stamps than any President in American history and has found that it was false. More people were put on the EBT debit card program that replaced Food Stamps under George W. Bush than Obama.
Gingrich also failed to take into account that during Bush’s last year the amount of people receiving EBT tripled and the fact that while Bush inherited a $236 billion surplus from Bill Clinton, Obama inherited a $5 trillion deficit and a recession from Bush.
The Root.com has run headlines such as this:
Given this context, black conservatives like Shelby Steele just seem blind, even though Steele, in particular, raises some valid points.
The problem with all these liberal good works is that they associate blackness with permanent inferiority. They don’t really believe in the fundamental human equality of the people they claim to help. They want to be valued for their good intentions, never for their effectiveness in uplift. I grew to hate these programs and policies because they not only believed in my inferiority more than my capacity for excellence but also encouraged me to use black weakness — the inferiority imposed by four centuries of brutal oppression — as leverage and entitlement in the larger society.
There is a place for the conservative platform in our political discourse. I myself don't lean that way, quite obviously, but I acknowledge it's an actual set of philosophies that has validity. The two predominant political ideologies in american thought, progressivism and conservatism, need to duke it out in the public square from time to time because such debate allows the electorate to best consider how policy shapes American daily life. I personally know, for example, plenty of people who think that welfare is a horrible institution which leads to inter-generational addiction to government handouts. Many of these people have dashikis on with LONG dread-locks.
Newt, Romney, and the rest of the republican party leaders need to have a long talk with God, because Jesus didn't talk to the money changers, he hung out with the pimps, hos, and lepers…not that I'm saying that poor and disenfranchised people necessarily are pimps and…oh well…you know what I mean..;-)