Friday, December 20, 2002

CSPAN Viewers Can Teach Us Too

One of the best current affairs shows available on video is CSPAN's Washington Journal. On this program, they have some of the best, albeit less well known, guests, as well as call ins from some of the better-informed callers in the talk industry. These callers are, for the most part, political news junkies, and therefore offer more informed questions and observations than most callers on other media (i.e. radio talk show callers and newspaper letter-to-the-editor writers). There are, to be sure, a few loonies who call in, but mostly this program is a place where one can get a feeling for the mood in certain (more informed) quarters of the nation. I tune in this program often, in particular to hear the liberal opinions, although conservatives are in abundance here as well.

One fellow this morning expressed astonishment that Richard Nixon received about one third of the black vote in 1960, and ascribed this result to the fact that JFK was Catholic. This statement betrays two common misconceptions, one is that Nixon was conservative, and two was that the black vote was always owned by the Democrats.

Under Nixon, central government spending rose from 20 percent of the gross domestic product to 22 percent. Military spending dropped from 9 percent of GDP to 6 percent, while spending on the entitlement programs that form the backbone of the welfare state soared. The last balanced budget this country has known until the 1990s bubble economy occurred in Nixon's first year in office. Subsequently, budget deficits began to steadily rise, creating the overwhelming portion of today's national debt. Nixon instituted wage and price controls, and presided over the formation of the EPA, BATF, and the first Earth day, while overseeing full school desegregation and signing the Endangered Species Act. This seems, in retrospect, to be rather a more liberal record than even FDR could boast. He was seen as a conservative mostly by his political opponents.

Add to this the greater truth that, historically, blacks form a more conservative voting bloc that whites generally. Until recently, the Republican party has been the party of rights for minorities, from the abolition of slavery to the Voting Rights Act. Only leftist demagoguery has cast the right in the rascist light that illumines it today. Even as, under a Republican president, three of the most powerful Americans are of African origin, this misperception continues. Even an innocent remark at a friend's one hundredth birthday is used as "proof" of the Republican rascist zeitgeist.

Sometimes I think that without misunderstanding, there would be no understanding at all. So much of our national debate is founded upon misperception and spin that it is difficult to differentiate the truth from the lies, While we have more sources on information that ever before, it is a full time job to digest it all. Luckily, you, my readers, have me as a resource, and I can help you do just a little of the zero based thinking that we, as informed mambers of the polity, need to do in order to keep abreast of the range of issues that are important to us all. Me, and maybe a hundred others, and we have a chance of making sense of it all. All of the sites on my blogroll, to the left (!?) of this post, deserve your support, or at least the time it takes to read us.