Stop Catering to Teh Crazy

E.J. Dionne is talking about the angry white men again. It seems every few years we find ourselves acknowledging the angry white men and analyzing what they’re angry about. He says,

No doubt some who despise Obama will see the judges in Norway as part of that latte-sipping crowd and will hold their esteem for the president against him. He can’t do much about this. What he can do — and perhaps then deserve the domestic equivalent of a peace prize — is reach out to the angry white men with policies that address their grievances, and do so with an understanding that what matters to them is not status but simply a chance to make a decent living again.

To which I say, nuts. I think if E.J. were paying closer attention, he’d notice the white people (of both genders) who are really, really angry and who are so vocally opposing everything Barack Obama is trying to do are not, for the most part, the same people who are out of work and facing foreclosures. They’re people who still have jobs and homes and health insurance (or Medicare), and who somehow have been persuaded that Somebody — minorities, liberal elites, the government, whatever — wants to take those things away from them.

And it’s about time we acnowledged that the angry white men have always been with us. The seething resentments, the well-nurtured victimhood, the paranoia, the absolute intolerance for any point of view but theirs were also the hallmark of the antebellum southerners who drove us into the Civil War.

I mean, who else but a proto-wingnut could talk about the “War of Northern Aggression” when it was the South’s aggression that started the war? As Digby pointed out about mid-way through the Bush Administration, the last half of Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech could almost have been addressed to Bush supporters, especially if you substitute “opposition to slavery” with “liberalism.” For example, “The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery liberalism, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.”

Dionne suggests that we must acknowledge the angry white men have real grievances. Oh, please. What grievances do they have that the rest of us don’t have also? And, more to the point, what problems beset them that they didn’t help bring upon themselves?

The fact is, there’s been a big, fat stain of irrational paranoia that runs through American history and which has tripped us up over and over. And there is no placating it. You can give the irrational paranoids everything they want, cater to their every whim, and they will still hate you and blame you for every cloud in the sky. Why? Because it’s part of our culture. And ignorance and stupidity are factors, also.

I’m not sure what’s to be done about it, but I do know that you don’t make crazy go away by catering to it.

28 thoughts on “Stop Catering to Teh Crazy

  1. It seems that the whole point of the batshit crazies is to get back in power. That is their only point. Since they can’t really get an eye on the prize of ‘doing what is good for the country’ the only prize they see is election wins. They are mad because liberals took THAT away, more than any specific policy. They will remain furious as long at there is one liberal in elected office.

  2. From my vantage point here in Canada, it seems like Obama has bent over backwards to reach out to the “other side”. All he’s gotten in return is a sore back (if not worse).

    I think Grayson said it all in his speech recently:
    “If the President has a BLT tomorrow, the Republicans will try to ban bacon.”

    I disagree somewhat with you when you say that most of the crazies (and that is exactly what they are) have not suffered. There are lots of people on both sides of the sanity divide who have been “displaced” in the current economy, but I don’t want to quibble. Basically your rant is well-reasoned and justified. Bravo!

  3. Nobody isunhappy the way white men are unhappy! Nobody is unemployed the way white men are unemployed. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen was written for white men! The narcissism of this version of reality is just staggering. But Broder is always just this stupid.


  4. I’m sorry, I thought it was the other white male idiot, Broder. Well, better luck next week. Bet he’s kicking himself he didn’t get this column date stamped a few minutes before E.J. Or maybe they have a time share on the white male whining beat.

  5. The seething white man needs to grow up and realize that the free lunch is over. They are the true heirs to George W, entitlment thinking neandrethals. Believing that they are somehow owed, something. I’m sorry, I look at what Obama has done in his life, and put George W in that same situation and believe he comes nowhere near the White House, not even on Pennsylvania Ave. Being a whitemale myself I see a lot of my ‘peers’ who believe that they have actually earned what society so easily has given them. They just don’t realize how much easier of a time they had than many others, including women and people of color.

  6. “is reach out to the angry white men with policies that address their grievances, and do so with an understanding that what matters to them is not status but simply a chance to make a decent living again”

    Isn’t that what matters to everyone in the end, what a ridiculous statement, it is racist and sexist at it’s core, like white men are the only ones worrying about what really matters. What are women and people of color worrying about? What an ignorant premise. Speaking of ignorant, I saw Michael Moore’s new movie this weekend, I thought it was good (a little preachy, not as good a Roger and Me), but what really struck me mid-movie was how the right wing really outflanked the left in this country when they combined all the anger of the financial collapse with ready made racism into the dimwitted teabagger movement. I couldn’t help but imagine the family that lost their farm in the movie as newly minted teabaggers. I guess that is what happens when your side loses an election, you get to own all the discontent and anger that your side helped to create and use for your own purpose. What a country!

  7. EJ Dione talks about ‘authentic rage’ as opposed to racism, and unemployment statistics and a falling standard of living for ‘middle class’ white men support the premise of the piece. But EJ missed the boat and so did you Barbara.

    The fall of the white middle class is not because of the rise of black men or other minorities, or illegal aliens due to affirmative action or reverse discrimination. The jobs that aren’t there for the white man aren’t in America. Wall Street dismantled and exported our industrial base to China, a communist country that rules the worker with an iron fist. In the 70’s – China, with an endless supply of cheap labor and a desperate need for cash partnered with American Capitalism who was just as desperate to break the unions in the USA. The geopolitical marriage from hell was born – and who was the matchmaker in the deal? Conservative Republicans. (And more than a few bought-and-paid-for ‘free trade’ Democrats)

    But Richard Nixon opened China, and shortly thereafter Wall Street started the exodus that lasted 2 decades. Administrations of both parties joined in the rape of the American worker as industry after industry laid off the union worker and locked the door. Textiles, steel, electronics, shipbuilding – the list goes on. The manufacturing base of the USA is gone. As Badtux says, we can’t make our own underwear in this country. The technical jobs that were supposed to be the replacement – call America Online tech support and you are talking to India. Likewise your bank – the last time I scheduled a repairman to fix my washing machine, the appointment was scheduled through some foreign call center.

    The ‘Angry White Man’ has every reason to be pissed. But the problem is, he’s never figured out who tripped him up. It’s not the liberals – it’s not the ‘uppity black man’ – it’s not Mexicans. The ‘Angry White Man’ was weaned on Randian theory whether he read the books or not and he still puts his faith in business and despises government. But Wall Street and Capitalism SOLD YOU OUT.

    That’s the message Obama needs to send in historical context without being politically correct. He needs to name Wall Street and Capitalism. The American Worker has been mugged and the amazing thing is that the mugger has his victims working as his advocates.

  8. “The ‘Angry White Man’ has every reason to be pissed. ”

    And the rest of us don’t? For exactly the same reasons? Why do white men get to copyright anger?

  9. “And the rest of us don’t? For exactly the same reasons? Why do white men get to copyright anger?”

    The ‘Angry White Man’ Dionne and I were speaking of HAVE figured out that they are victims – as are women and people of color also victims. But as a group (they aren’t a class, because they have none), they have NOT figured out what happened to them or who did it.

    Limbaugh and Beck have successfully convinced them that ‘THEY’ (meaning minorities, women and foreigners) did it to them despite the damn obvious evidence that big business is the culprit.

    I was not trying to elevate those people above women or minorities. They have to get the message – they aren’t reading Mahablog – and short of a mass labotomy, I don’t know how to get them to focus on the obvious fact.

  10. Doug, you understand that women, people of color, and white men who are low on the economic ladder are all in the same boat. The so-called “angry white men” don’t; they blame their situation on women and people of color. Frankly, I’m sick of their bellyaching. I’d like to pitch them overboard and let the sharks have ’em.

    So the question remains: if we’re all in the same boat, suffering the same symptoms that arise from the same cause, why is it necessary to separate out white men’s anger from everyone else’s?

    Simple answer: it isn’t necessary. Maha got it right. “White men’s anger” is a fraudulent notion, a euphemism for the whining of bigots, and a complete waste of everyone’s precious energy.

    Now, if you want to talk about the anger of the working classes, that’s a different post entirely.

  11. Oh, but the crazy white men do have real grievances. Simply put, they know that the best chance for some substantial change to a system that completely favors them and theirs is occurring, now. They don’t want that, and they will fight tooth and nail, with everything they’ve got, to keep hold of it all. You really can’t blame them; the deck’s been stacked in their favor for so many years, that even the slightest alteration to the status quo must appear like the sans-culottes hauling off aristocrats to the guillotine.

    What I don’t get is why so many progressives (including Dionne, usually) fail to understand just how serious and determined the monied corporate interests are to give up not an iota of the power they have over private purse and public government. It is as though we haven’t lived through the Clinton and Dubya administrations, seeing just how serious those in control were about removing every possible obstruction to their wringing the neck of the golden goose that’s our nation. What do we need to produce, a signed, notarized letter of intent from crazy white giants of industry telling the world that this is their country, and they don’t welcome the peons speaking up about such things as rights?

  12. Good comment, Doug.. As I interpret your description of the “Angry White Male” it would seem to me that one doesn’t have to be white or male to fit into that category. White males might be predominant in the numbers of people who have been adversely affected by an economic system that is severely out of kilter but you are describing a much broader condition that can be satisfactorily described as angry white males.

    I agree 100% with your overall assessment that capitalism has sold us out. Over the past two years I’ve come to understand just how completely my ass is “owned.” I remember learning in school about the feudal system and what a serf was in relation to that system, and I thought that if I lived in those times I wouldn’t tolerate being a serf, but as I view my situation in this economy, I realize basically except for conditional changes that that’s essentially what I’ve become in America today.

  13. White males might be predominant in the numbers of people who have been adversely affected by an economic system that is severely out of kilter…. [Y]ou are describing a much broader condition that can be satisfactorily described as angry white males.

    OK, where is this coming from? Swami, with respect, there is so much wrong with those two sentences.

    People of color, and white women and children, have been adversely affected by our economic system for much longer, and to a far greater degree, than white males. (Come on, guys; you know this.) People of color and white women and children still predominate as the first, most and worst to suffer.

    Therefore, it is extremely unsatisfactory to describe the much broader condition as “angry white males.” The rest of us are in the broader condition too.

    I’ve been in the workforce 34 years, paying my taxes, watching them go into corporate pockets, struggling to pay rent and buy shoes and socks and bread and milk. Last I checked… not male.

    Getting angry, though.

  14. I left a post to Dionne’s column the equivalent of Maha’s 2nd-to-last paragraph, though not nearly as eloquent. Of course, the real problem is these Angry White Guys are blaming the wrong perp, with a vested interest in never knowing better. That’s where Dionne fails in his logic – the more Obama kisses up to this contingent, the more they will kick his a## in return. Insidious example of Games People Play.

  15. Maha,

    You know enough about me by my comments to realize I am progressive or liberal or whatever you want to call it. And i think that when you use a sentence like this, “And, more to the point, what problems beset them that they didn’t help bring upon themselves?” you sound just like the whackos on the rabid right.

    Those right-wingers believe that 15% of the population is lazy, want the gov’t to take care of them and are responsible for their own troubles.

    I know far too many people who played by the rules and made decisions that were generally approved by society, only to find that somebody was cutting the branch off behind them.

    Permit me one example, I could give several. Al is 76. He spent four years after high school in the Air Force. After the Air Force, he got a job with Fruehauf Trailers. He worked maybe twenty years there, and then Fruehauf went belly up and his retirement was gone from that company. So he got a job at International Harvester. They’re gone now, also. Al did what every young person was expected to do in the 1950s. Go to work in a factory and retire 40 years later.

    I am curious. What is it that you think they brought upon themselves?

    • Chief, read Dionne’s column. The angry white men Dionne is writing about are Obama-haters, racists and Richard Hofstadter’s “pseudo-conservatives.” They brought their problems on themselves by supporting the Right.

  16. Maha,

    I just finished reading E.J.s column. First, I think it is shallow, maybe superficial.
    Second, I take exception to this of his, “In fact, many who now feel rage have legitimate reasons for it”

    I am retired. And I did see great changes in the workforce between 1956 and 2003. But I anticipated or expected change and was always preparing myself for the next move. I have been mistreated, but I’ve never been bitter or angry.

    Now back to my original comment. I repeat, “What is it that you think they brought upon themselves?”

  17. Joanr16, I was trying to say what you said…except it didn’t come as clearly. What I meant as far as the white male predominance is concerned is that if the entire work force was to be broken down into groups of gender and race… I would venture to guess that white males would compose the largest group. I wasn’t attempting to convey the idea that white males somehow bear a greater burden.

    And with my other stupid sentence…I was trying to express an idea of inclusiveness for women and the racial minorities of both genders. I just did a piss poor job of wording it

    The way I view the term “Angry White Males” means it only applies to guys like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and a host of other pampered white males who never tasted hardship but are screaming about how financially hard pressed they are just to secure their bounty.

    Again, Joan..please don’t be angry with me for being insensitive to women, that wasn’t my intention..writing is not my forte, so have pity on me…I’ll try to do better..

  18. My response to E.J.:

    I generally think that you do a decent job of analysis, but this column misses the mark badly.

    I am one of those latte-sipping liberals, still have a decent job and yet I’m full of anger. But not at Obama. I’m angry because neither my wife nor sons can get a decent job. I’m angry because my health care sucks even with two insurance policies. I’m angry because we are still fighting two wars that should never have been fought and hundreds of thousands of innocents have died because 19 men destroyed two towers and 3,000 innocents here. I am angry because the Constitution of the United States of America has been used as toilet paper by people sworn to defend it.

    Given that, what makes these people different from me? From what I’ve seen at Town Hall meetings, they are angry at a perceived loss of power. They are angry at an “illegitimate” black man having usurped their hold on the White House. They are angry at the perceived threat against their entitlements. They are angry because for the last 30 years or so the talk show folks, the Religious Right, the Republicans in Congress and the White House have all fomented their anger.

    More generally, what makes the “angry white man” different from the angry Latinos, the angry Blacks, and all the angry women of any race?

    This is the biggest problem with the piece:
    “Middle-income men, especially those who are not college graduates, have borne the brunt of economic change bred by globalization and technological transformation. Even before the recession, the decline in the number of well-paid jobs in manufacturing hit the incomes of this group of Americans hard. The trouble in the construction industry since the downturn began has compounded the problem.”
    You jumped from the “angry white man” to the “middle-income men” without any evidence that the group protesting is in anyway limited to, or comprised of men of any specified income range. You offered nothing to suggest that these are more hard-hit than poor people who have absolutely no resources to fall back on. You offer nothing to show that middle-income people are more angry than the poor or the rich, nor that middle-income men are more angry than women of the same bracket. Moreover, you offer nothing to indicate that their anger is targeted at Obama.
    Finally, how condescending of you to suggest that Obama might not be aware that men need jobs. Certainly Obama’s policies should be targeted to help the middle-income males, but not to address their grievances. Those policies should help get all of the unemployed work. They should give everyone a lift.

  19. Yesterday, on a break, I went outside to smoke (yes, a bad and now unaffordable habit, but necessary due to the stress), and a woman I work with was talking about how she’s a Republican and didn’t vote for Obama because he wants to give money to the poor.
    I looked at her and said, “We’re the poor. WE are the poor!” She have me a nasty look.
    We both have jobs that pay $10 to $11 and hour for 35 hours, if you have a good week. $8.50 if you have a bad one. Too many bad ones in a row, and “Goodbye!” She has a second job a few times a week for $8 an hour. I’m trying to do the same to help make ends meet.
    We’re both white. She seems to think that if you’re white, you’re not poor. It’s that mentality that is hard to overcome. I’ll keep working on her. But she’s a typical example of upstate NY Republicanism. It’s been ingrained in their blood since FDR.

  20. Swami, Doug, and Chief– I think the situation is you guys are for some reason identifying with the “angry white males.” Don’t. These males identify themselves specifically as white, specifically as male, because that’s the core of their grievance. Wah wah wah, the coloreds and the chicks and the immigrants took our jobs… want to take away our guns and our flavored chewin’ tobacco… been stealin’ our freedoms since the Sixties….

    None of you are speaking about those grievances; you are all speaking of the condition of the working classes. To identify it as a “white male” situation is to give credence to the racist and sexist blame-a-thon of the “angry white males.” See also c u n d gulag’s comment: An “angry white male” can, in fact, be a woman. It’s a mindset more than a demographic; it’s anyone who feels their “natural” entitlement has been stripped from them by other types of people whom they always believed were not entitled.

    And to answer Chief’s question: what the “angry white males” have done to create their own problems: they’ve voted Republican for generations; they listen to and obey the Right-wing hate machine; and they’ve coasted for most of their lives, thinking they are first in line for economic well-being and the right to define our society.

    Now, you all may happen to be angry, white and male, but not one of you has ever said anything in agreement with the “angry white males.” Your anger is on behalf of working people, disenfranchised people, oppressed people. You guys are the IWW; the self-identified “angry white males” are the GOP (and sometimes the KKK). Remember that self-identified part. If you share their race and gender, they’d like to create false solidarity with you all, but for gosh sakes don’t give them even a glimmer of hope. Instead, maybe you ought to sue them for copyright infringement or slander or something.

  21. I’ve taken to referring to these angry white males of this mindset as C.R.O.W.D.s, as in “Crazy Racist Old White Dudes”. Or perhaps we should trademark it as Angry White Male(TM) to make more clear the difference between being angry, white and male and being an Angry White Male.

  22. Wonderful thread of comments. I’ve come here to this blog for the first time, so I read read the entire thread, agreeing with various points all down the page. My hat’s off, particularly, to “joanr16” for identifying the definitional problem with aplomb.

    I’m white, and male, and much on the political landscape makes me angry, but it never occurs to me that my sex or ethnicity has anything to do with why I’m angry.

    And yet, I confess, when I looked at Obama speaking to the joint session of congress, it did occur to me–with disgust–that the Republican side of the isle was all wealthy, mostly male, and all white. So perhaps joanr16 can help me make sense of that sort of double standard in my thinking.

  23. BadKitty, good idea. 🙂

    Alternately, Mad Old Bigots (MOBs)… for when they are more unruly than a CROWD.

  24. So he should reach out to the “angry white men”, represented as they are by E.J. Dionne, who is apparently oblivious to the fact that the Nobel prizes are awarded in SWEDEN, not Norway.

    Stellar job of researching your subject there, E.J.

    Which begs the question, why should ANYONE pay attention to someone who doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about?

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