The charge of Republican racism

Gerard Alexander disputes a narrative that we keep hearing:

The narrative usually begins with Barry Goldwater opposing provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and with Richard Nixon scheming to win the presidency through a “Southern strategy” — appealing to the racial prejudice of working-class whites in the South to pry them away from the Democratic coalition assembled by Franklin Roosevelt. In this telling, bigoted Southerners were the electoral mountain to which the Republican Moses had to come, the key to the GOP winning the White House. Wooing them entailed much more than shifting the party slightly away from Democrats on racial issues; in return for political power, Republicans had to move their politics and policies to where bigots wanted them to be. This alliance supposedly laid the foundation for a new American politics. . . .

First, Republicans did not decisively depend on white Southerners to create their modern presidential majorities when the race issue was at its most polarizing. The conventional wisdom is that the GOP had little choice in the 1960s but to seek out Southern white voters and tacked hard to the right on civil rights to do it. But Republican presidential candidates pried apart the New Deal coalition in the 1950s, with the performance of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Nixon in 1960. This chronology has big implications. From 1952 through the 1980s, GOP presidential candidates consistently beat or nearly matched their Democratic opponents, with the clear exceptions only of 1964 and 1976. Republicans did this mostly by crafting majority coalitions in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states, in the industrial Midwest and mid-Atlantic, and ultimately in California — and only partially by realigning several Southern states. Moreover, these were the least “Southern” states, such as Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

This means that the GOP presidential majority and much of the party’s modern policy agenda were forged not in the racial heat of the 1960s South, but first in the 1950s and across the country. . . .

The remainder of the region — the race-obsessed Deep South — repeatedly tried to be a presidential kingmaker in the 1960s but failed. Instead of reforming the GOP in its image, the Deep South’s white electorate was among the last to join an already-winning Republican presidential coalition in the early 1970s. Wallace voters ended up supporting Nixon, Reagan and other Republicans, but much more on the national GOP’s terms than their own. The Republican Party proved to be the mountain to which the Deep South had to come, not the other way around. . . .

This explains why the second assumption is also wrong. Nixon made more symbolic than substantive accommodations to white Southerners. He enforced the Civil Rights Act and extended the Voting Rights Act. On school desegregation, he had to be prodded by the courts in some ways but went further than them in others: He supervised a desegregation of Deep South schools that had eluded his predecessors and then denied tax-exempt status to many private “desegregation academies” to which white Southerners tried to flee. Nixon also institutionalized affirmative action and set-asides for minorities in federal contracting.

Not surprisingly, white Southern leaders such as Strom Thurmond grew bitterly frustrated with Nixon. This explains what Gallup polls detected in 1971-72: A large number of white Southern voters preferred Wallace to Nixon. Only when the Alabaman was shot in May 1972 did Nixon inherit Wallace’s voters — not because of Nixon’s policies on race but despite them.

via Conservatism does not equal racism. So why do many liberals assume it does?.

China is reconsidering its one-child policy

A lesson for population-control zealots from a country that put the concept into bloody practice:

An aging population and the need for more workers have prompted China’s Communist Party to consider relaxing the decades-long ban that restricts most couples to one child, a harsh policy marked by forced abortions, sterilizations and fines for those who have more than one.

In 2011, China will start pilot projects in five provinces, all of which have low birth rates, to allow a second birth if at least one spouse is an only child, says He Yafu, an independent demographer who is in close contact with policymakers.

Beijing, Shanghai and four other provinces will follow suit in 2012, with nationwide implementation by 2013 or 2014, he says.

“In the past, we only focused on slowing population growth,” says Peng Xizhe, a professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University. “It’s much more complicated than we earlier thought.”

The National Population and Family Planning Commission, which enforces the “one-child policy,” refused interview requests. The policy has prevented 400 million births in China, which has a population of 1.3 billion, according to the family planning agency. But a dramatic decline in birth rates and improved longevity over the past two decades have caused China’s population to age at one of the fastest rates ever recorded, says the Population Reference Bureau, a demographic firm.

Also, a traditional preference for boys has led to the abortion of many girls. In 2009, the ratio of newborn boys to newborn girls was 119 to 100, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

For three decades, China’s one-child policy has set family sizes in the world’s most populous nation — and symbolized the tight social controls set by its ruling Communist Party. Exceptions have been made, such as allowing rural farm families to have a second child if the first is a girl.

The need for more children to care for parents, plus a gender imbalance that will leave tens of millions of men without wives, are two arguments for a relaxation of the one-child policy, says Siu Yat-ming, who researches Chinese family planning at Hong Kong Baptist University.

via China may relax its one-child rule – USATODAY.com.

Of course, China will still control how many children its citizens are allowed to have and forced abortions will presumably still continue, both until the new policy goes into effect and to prevent any more than two children.  Still, this is some progress.

A new Lutheran church, gnosticism, and the Bible

A new Lutheran denomination is being formed, the North American Lutheran Church. It consists of ELCA congregations that are pulling out because of that body’s acceptance of homosexuality. Christianity Today did a story on a theological conference held by the organization that has started the new church body.

The story cites some annoying comments, with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod being dismissed as “fundamentalist” and criticized for following 16th century Lutheran orthodoxy rather than Luther. (Note to Christianity Today: If you want a big story about what is really happening in Lutheranism, cover the installation on Saturday of the new LCMS president Matthew Harrison, along with a whole slate of new confessional leaders. See that live at 11:00 a.m. ET here.)

At any rate, the NALC, quite properly, is realizing that it needs to come to terms with the authority of Scripture. I liked what Carl Braaten had to say:

Braaten described the ELCA approach to authority as deficient in three “Gnostic” ways, deficiencies that played a big role in the passage of last summer’s ELCA social statement on sexuality.

Deficiency 1: Like the ancient Gnostics, the ELCA is antinomian—it rejects the law of God.

Deficiency 2: Like the ancient Gnostics, the ELCA claims a higher knowledge—higher than anything available from an external Word of God. Gnostics trusted instead in enlightenment from within, which is where they locate God. So do those guiding ELCA’s decisions, said Braaten.

Deficiency 3: Like the ancient Gnostics, ELCA leaders sneer at the idea that we can look to a book as our authority—especially a book written by Jews. Antinomianism and anti-Semitism are always found together, said Braaten. . . .

Lutherans are feisty. Their founder was feisty. So it was not surprising to hear Braaten label certain proposals advanced by the ELCA as “cockamamie,” and to commend the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone as a “Lutheran crap detector.” And when he was asked from the floor whether ELCA headquarters has any idea that Gnosticism is a problem today, Braaten quipped: “It’s a polysyllabic word.”

That’s well and good. But it’s hard to imagine how the new denomination will be able to uphold Biblical authority without taking the “fundamentalist” position of, you know, believing what the Bible says.

Zone blocking & the football season

The NFL season is upon us.  I’m a Packer fan, but one can hardly be in an area with a professional sports team without getting drawn into its orbit.  The Washington Redskins have a new head coach, Mike Shanahan, who is trying to implement an interesting new approach with the offensive line:  Zone blocking.

Offensive linemen, instead of taking on the man in front of them, head to an area and hit the defender who occupies it.

“It’s the difference between a guy lined up six inches off your head that you’re blocking,” said former Broncos guard Mark Schlereth, now a commentator for ESPN, “and pulling and having a full running start at eight yards.”

The result is the beginning of what Shanahan wants: Fatiguing a defense. If, in a zone scheme, offensive linemen are getting out toward the edge, defenders must follow them there.

“It wears you down,” said Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith, whose Buffalo Bills at times battled Shanahan’s Broncos for supremacy in the AFC in the 1990s. “It’s a lot of pounding on the body, that zone blocking.”

So against the Cowboys, watch the initial first-quarter handoff to Portis, but dismiss how many yards it gains. Pay attention, instead, to how far the defenders have to run – and how many end up on the ground. Shanahan’s teams have long used a technique known as “cut blocking” in which offensive linemen take out players on the back side of a play – the side away from where the ball is headed.

Say, for instance, Portis’s initial run goes to the right. The Redskins’ offensive linemen on the left side will try to cut off defenders – legally – below the waist, essentially eliminating them from a play and allowing a running back, if he so chooses, to cut back in that direction with one firmly planted foot.

By design, if the zone blocking is carried out correctly on the front side of the play – drawing linebackers with the flow – and the cut block is executed on the back side, a giant running lane can open. The effect can be devastating – and not only on that play.

“As an offensive lineman, if I cut you and get you on the ground, I get to lie on the ground on my fat belly and watch the play,” Schlereth said. “You have to pop up and you have to chase. You’re going to spend a heck of a lot more energy. So in the fourth quarter, when it’s third down and 12 and we have to make a play in the passing game, the odds of you having a lot of pass-rushing energy is not very good.”

via Mike Shanahan brings his well-refined offensive system to the Washington Redskins.

Since local newspapers mainly cover local teams, it’s sometimes hard to get a sense of how other teams are doing. This forum can help us remedy that situation. What are the prospects of your favorite team for this year? (What changes has it put in place? Who are the players to watch? Will this be a “rebuilding”–a.k.a. “losing”–year for your team, or do you expect great things?)

A physicist on Hawking’s self-creating universe

Physicist Stephen Barr discusses Stephen Hawking’s recent book, explaining his arguments, explaining what physicists mean by multiple universes, and, finally, explaining why none of this diminishes the case for God at all.  Instead of my trying to paraphrase or quote from what was said, you can just read it yourself:

Much Ado About “Nothing”: Stephen Hawking and the Self-Creating Universe | First Things.

The Koran burning is off

The minister has cancelled plans to burn the Koran on Saturday, claiming a rather questionable quid pro quo:

The leader of a small Christian church in the U.S. state of Florida says he has canceled plans to burn Qurans on Saturday.  The minister’s intention to burn the holy book of Islam caused international outrage, including condemnation from President Barack Obama.

The Reverend Terry Jones said Thursday he has called off his planned protest because he has reached an agreement with Muslim leaders in New York to move a planned Islamic cultural center and mosque away from the area of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

“The Imam has agreed to move the mosque,” said Terry Jones. “We have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday, and on Saturday I will be flying up there to meet with him.”

However, a statement from the cleric in charge of the New York mosque project said there was no agreement to move the location.

via US Minister Cancels Burning of Qurans | USA | English.


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