Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 30, 2011

The year moves on inexorably and Herman Cain (“Herb Cain” on the Planet Palin) has boldly declared that black Americans are “brainwashed” and should consider joining the Republican Tea Party. One has to wonder, what is in that tea he’s drinking? Meanwhile, one G.O.Tea Party candidate after another makes the pilgrimage to New York to meet with Donald Trump – what’s up with that? Didn’t he leave the national stage accompanied by hoots and catcalls several months ago? And somewhere in the news there’s a continuing story of over a dozen Americans dying of the food borne illness Listeria with no end in sight. Yet it is the G.O.Tea Party that has proposed cutting the budget of the Food and Drug Administration. Bon appétit!

Herman Cain’s Dirty Laundry

You have to hand it to the G.O.Tea Party when it comes to comedy. I don’t know which was funnier this week, Sarah Palin referring to “Herb Cain” as the flavor of the week or Herman Cain claiming that black Americans are brainwashed into not considering the Republican Party.

I must confess that I was not aware that Mr. Cain, in addition to parlaying an ongoing ethnic slur into a corporate pizza empire had a flair for comedy. Or perhaps he is suffering from brain shrinkage after going through the right wing of the right wing washing machine.

Of course there is nothing funny about the confederate flags and racially offensive posters that flourished during the early days of the Tea Party (please keep in mind that the “early days” were last year). The fact that some of the leadership of the Tea Party is sufficiently media savvy to dissuade their followers from such overtly racist expressions has not persuaded most black Americans that the hearts of the Tea Partiers have changed.

Aside from many black Americans being a bit touchy when it comes to overwhelmingly white crowds carrying nooses, confederate flags and pictures of the black President of the United States photo shopped with a bone through his nose, the hallmark of the G.O.Tea Party is to reduce the role of government in the lives of Americans.
Clearly one of the prerequisites for Tea Party membership is amnesia as there are very few Americans alive who have not benefited from the role of government in their lives – fathers and grandfathers who went to college via the G.I. Bill is just one example – and are willing to believe that the economy, infrastructure and institutions of this country the result of plain, old hard work.

Black Americans by and large have not indulged in this amnesiac fantasy. The federal government has established and safeguarded rights and opportunities that would simply not exist if it were left up the states and individual communities.
The benefits from government are not limited to welfare and food stamps – federal housing programs have transformed urban areas, federal support for historically black colleges and universities has changes the lives of hundreds of thousands of men and women and the list goes on.

Herman Cain must be kidding if he thinks that the aversion of black voters to the Tea Party is based on “brainwashing”. It is based on seeing the G.O.Tea Party for what it is. Perhaps it is Herman Cain who has come through the wash cycle.

The Trump Pilgrimage

Incredibly, one Republican presidential candidate after another flies to New York City in order to have an audience with………..Donald Trump? One day it’s Rodeo Rick Perry, then Sarah “Mama Grizzly” Palin and Herman (or is it Herb?) Cain is due early next week.

Would they be asking Mr. Trump about his solutions for the economy? His multiple business bankruptcies don’t seem to be useful strategies for the federal government. Certainly his ability to degrade the public discourse through his hurling “birther” mud at President Obama doesn’t seem like much of a reason to warrant these pilgrimages.

If these G.O.Tea Party candidates believe that being seen with a living, breathing punch line boosts their electoral prospects, they are making a very clear statement about their judgment. They have bypassed sublime and gone straight to ridiculous.

Tea and Listeria?

Sadly, during the past week over a dozen Americans have died from listeria, a food-borne illness. This time the culprit seems to be cantaloupes, but despite the best efforts of the Food and Drug Administration, thousands of Americans die from the food that they consume.

Amazingly, the G.O.Tea Party members of Congress have proposed to reduce the funding for the Food and Drug Administration. In the universe of the right wing of the right wing, the FDA represents the kind of government interference in the private sector that should be reduced, until it can be eliminated.

Over 105 years ago Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle”, detailing abuses in the food industry. Those details so horrified the nation that the regulation of food began on a national scale, culminating in the FDA, along with local and state initiatives.

Perhaps “The Jungle” should be required reading for the G.O.Tea Party.

Have a great weekend!