TPM Cafe: Opinion

In this space a couple of weeks ago I made the argument that partisan and ideological gridlock was feeding on itself by creating an insatiable craving for the occasional Big Election with big consequences. What didn’t fully occur to me is that the next Big Election might be the one just ahead, in 2016.

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“I reject that completely because we can’t leave this to someone else.”

That was Howard Schultz’s response to internal naysayers of Starbucks’ #RaceTogether initiative as he unrolled a plan for Starbucks’ “191,000 employees to talk about race relations with customers.” Using material written by Starbucks and USA TODAY, Starbucks stores plan to have supplementary reading material including race “conversation starters,” asking customers about how many times they broke bread with a member of a different race in the last year.

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A great deal has already been said and written about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address during her time as Secretary of State, and I’m sure there will be more such conversation over the 19 months leading up to the 2016 election. But little has been made of what I consider one of the more significant stories in response to this controversy/scandal/tempest in a teapot: Colin Powell’s statement that he also used a private email address during his time as Secretary of State, and that many of the messages he sent in that role have thus likely been lost.

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I made my son cry last week.

I made my brilliant, beautiful, cheerful, three-year-old son cry because he was goofing around instead of napping. I snapped at him. I took the book away. I lay on the bedroom floor and intoned flat litanies about how much we both needed to sleep. And he bawled.

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A growing contingent of privileged, white guys—the kinds that wear suits and have MBAs—has been standing on various high-profile soapboxes and arguing that gender and racial equality are good for business. You would think that I, a feminist and a pragmatist, would be thrilled to see arguments about the benefits of diversity popping up in the most unlikely of places, out of the most unlikely of mouths. But such discussions are intrinsically flawed.

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Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike, often believe that anti-Semitism in this country is largely a thing of the past. While stories of mounting anti-Semitism in Europe pepper the news, in the United States the age of quotas for Jews at universities, restrictive housing covenants for them and job ads that explicitly prohibit them from applying are simply a part of history.

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There’s a tendency in conservative circles to argue that racism basically ended in 1964 and that any ongoing racial tensions or racial disparities must therefore be the result of some failure on the part of black people to act right. Bill Kristol, Mika Brzezinski, and Joe Scarborough decided to use their time on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" yesterday to cast around some reason to blame black people for the choice of a bunch of white OU frat boys to yell blatantly racist things. The problem, they decided, could not be that some white people continue to be racist. No, the problem is rap music and its dirty words.

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Last week the student government at the University of California-Irvine passed a misguided resolution banning the display of all flags, including the American flag, from some public areas on the campus. The resolution said that "[t[he American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism," adding that flags "construct paradigms of conformity and sets homogenized standards."

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The first time I saw it, I got chills and my eyes watered. Maybe it was the rose-colored quality of most Disney movies, or the musical score that swelled dramatically during each touching moment. More likely, the two-minute trailer for McFarland, USA, which hit theaters last month, affected me on such a visceral level because of the Mexican characters.

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One of the regular features of our contemporary political life is conservative complaints about being victims of “government oppression.” You know what I mean: having to pay taxes to help “losers” is an outrage. Having to buy health insurance is tyranny. Not being allowed to discriminate against gay people is a denial of religious liberty. Letting employees enrolled in government-subsidized health care plans choose types of contraceptives you don’t approve of is complicity in murder. Not being able to expect the IRS to rubber-stamp your application for tax-exempt status for your political group so you can hide your donors is living under fascism, making one fear jackboots kicking down doors in the night. No wonder the most terrifying fear harbored by many of these folk is that Big Government will take away the guns they keep under their pillows!

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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