In my latest column for the American Prospect, I explore the relationship between so-called “social movement non-profit organizations” and the on-the-ground social movements they seek to spark and/or support. Here’s an excerpt:
The problem with social-movement organizations is that they can ossify, moving away from their original dynamic energy and settling into a routine that can be risk averse and stagnant. Sadly, many organizations that once grew out of and served movements become little more than mausoleums to those movements, the very existence of the institution a symbolic triumph to the victories of the past rather than an active participant in fights for the future.
What is needed is dynamic, adaptive growth. Doctors tell us that embryonic stem cells are especially valuable because they can morph into other varieties of cells. Put them next to a lung, they become lung cells. Put them next to skin, they become skin cells. They’re classically opportunistic, but not in a bad way—a political consultant might call them “strategic.” And keen strategy is just what is needed at this crucial time for social-movement organizations.
Read the whole essay here — and especially if you are in this mix of organizations and movements, tell me what you think.
The always incredibly un-credible Ann Coulter has a new column out and it’s a doozy. Coulter argues that Democrats have historically been anti-gun rights because they have wanted to keep guns out of the hands of blacks who wished to defend themselves from the KKK (which, Coulter argues, began as part of the Democratic establishment). In her concoction column even claims that the National Rifle Association is “America’s oldest and most august civil rights organization.” That statement right there would give most reasonable people pause, but knowing how these sorts of crazy Right wing arguments tend to corrupt and corrode our public discourse, I thought a few facts would be in order:
1. Coulter’s celebrated Republicans are now called Democrats!
This has got to be a big face palm for anyone with even a lick of historical knowledge reading Coulter’s piece. Until the Civil War, the Democratic Party was the major political party in America. But in the mid 19th Century, anti-slavery Democrats fled the party and the Republican Party emerged. Abraham Lincoln, he of the Emancipation Proclamation and social liberal attitudes of the time with respect to abolishing slavery, was a Republican. White Southerners burning with racial resentment indeed backed the Democratic Party in Reconstruction. But then, as any eighth grader can tell you, as the 20th Century emerged, Republicans shifted to become the party of big business, white industrialists while Democrats became the party of the New Deal and Civil Rights legislation.
2. One can’t ascribe the attitudes of the 1800s racist Democratic Party to today’s Democratic Party
Yes, the so-called Democrats of the mid-1800s were rabidly racist and tied to the Ku Klux Klan. But given the profound ideological flip-flop between the two parties over the last two centuries, it’s about as absurd to attribute 1800s Democratic Party attitudes to today’s Democrats as it is to suggest that the Republican Party is “the Party of Lincoln”. If people like Ann Coulter are so damned proud of what anti-slavery Republicans stood for back then, why aren’t they standing up for those same values now?
3. The “civil rights hero” Coulter hangs her argument on exiled himself to Cuba and China and inspired the Black Panthers
This is the best part. Coulter writes about Robert F. Williams, author of the book “Negroes With Guns” (from which Coulter takes the title of her piece), who apparently formed the Black Armed Guard in Monroe, NC, with a charter from the NRA. In other words, ignoring about a hundred year gap in her narrative, Coulter tries to portray Williams as a Republican joining forces with the NRA to fight against the Democrats’ KKK. Ms. Coulter must not have known that one of Williams formative experiences was, at age 11, witnessing a black woman being dragged and beaten by a police officer named Jesse Helms, Sr. (father to future Republican Senator Jesse Helms, Jr.). And she must have missed the part where Williams delivered a speech at the 1965 International Conference for Solidarity with the People of Vietnam Against U.S. Imperialist Aggression for the Defense of Peace. Doesn’t sound like a Republican, eh Ann?
4. The “Negroes With Guns” premise assumes a persistent racism in America that Ms. Coulter and Republicans are otherwise quick to deny.
Let me see if I get this straight: The existence of persistent, implicit racial bias in America is a sufficient argument to exploit when making the case for the NRA and 2nd Amendment rights but when making the case for everything from equal funding for public schools to ending racial profiling to affirmative action, suddenly racism is a thing of the past that liberals are inventing?
5. And lastly, does Ann Coulter really want to arm black folks now?
It seems to me, the leading argument that conservatives make for lax gun laws is that “criminals” (read: black people) have guns and, therefore, law-abiding citizens (read: white people) need guns to protect themselves. By seemingly embracing Robert F. Williams’ arguments, is Ms. Coulter seriously suggesting she wants to see more black folks take up arms today? Apart from being refreshing if true, is she aware that a resurgence of Mr. Williams’ Black Armed Guard-type movement today would likely go after not the Democratic establishment but Republicans — the party that repeatedly suggests problems in the black community are the fault of “black culture” and not deep-seated history and public policy, the party that wants to cut food stamps to give more tax breaks to the rich, the party that won’t even pass the Violence Against Women Act because it might help immigrants and gay people? Oh, yeah, and the party that is constantly blowing its dog whistle about the “New Black Panther Party”?
Perhaps Ann Coulter thinks she can pick and choose from history and biography and tell only the parts of political party history and Robert F. Williams’ life that fit her narrative. And perhaps Ann Coulter also thinks that unicorns poop glitter.
Just in time for Tax Day, I wrote a piece for Time Magazine online about why conservatives are absolutely nuts to say Warren Buffett should voluntarily pay higher taxes — instead of passing the Buffett Rule to raise taxes on all millionaires and billionaires. I write:
If we relied on voluntary taxes, donors would begin insisting that they could earmark their donations—say, to the military or to Medicaid and food stamps. But the reality is that national defense helps all of us, so those not contributing to the military would become “free riders” in economic terms. Voluntary taxation is also a slippery slope—if, instead of raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires we just decided to make it optional for them to give more, then why would we ever raise taxes or close corporate loopholes?
I also explore the core America values and founder’s philosophy around taxation — and why even Adam Smith supported redistribution.
Read the essay here and please share it around!
One of the most successful corporations in America is extorting tax breaks from Texas to relocate part of its business to Austin. In exchange, the government wants Apple to agree to employ some “economically disadvantaged” folks from the community — in other words, the folks footing the tax break! Seems like a simple return on investment!
On the dust up between Ann Romney and Hilary Rosen, I wrote for Politico’s Arena:
Hilary Rosen chose her words very poorly, but her point was spot on: Mitt Romney’s millionaire wife makes a lousy “economic adviser”.
And why, in the same piece, did I also go after Tim Geithner? Read it here.
My second time on and, yet again, a really fun and thoughtful conversation:
In the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, several commentators wrote artful letters to their black sons, warning of the reality of racial profiling and discrimination that still haunt us today. Subsequently, an either insanely ignorant or willfully obnoxious National Review columnist (now fired) named John Derbyshire wrote a letter to his two white children, spewing the sort of hateful stereotypes about black people that conservatives often hasten to argue are a part of America’s past, not present. As such, Mr. Derbyshire’s letter has nothing to do with actual black folks, but is a revealing warning about a certain subset of mostly white, mostly male conservatives who like to believe that racism and related injustices are merely myths concocted to disadvantage white people. I’d like to explain to my daughter, who is white, why this is a load of bullshit.
Read my full response at Colorlines and please, spread it around.
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