The higher a monkey climbs …

I have to respectfully disagree with D.R. Tucker about the Berkshire Eagle’s decision to open its op-ed column to the local Republican party, leading to the publication of this stunning bit of racist rant.

There remains a widespread belief – supported by journalistic convention – that the country currently has two mainstream political parties, holding different views but equally able to govern. That belief is false. Of course there are lots of decent Republican voters, and lots of responsible Republican elected officials. But the party as a whole is now dominated by its lunatic fringe, well represented by Mr. Nikitas. The failure of the Republicans who are actually running for President to denounce Donald Trump’s nativism is the best recent illustration of that point.

So I want to thank the Berkshire Eagle for doing a public service by helping to reveal the truth. The content of the Nikitas column deserves forthright denunciation. But the decision to print it was fully jusified. The sooner the country comes to understand that the Republican Party has become an extremist organization, the better the prospect for the sort of electoral disaster that might shock it back into respectability.

This country needs two serious parties contesting for power. But pretending that it currently has them is counterproductive.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

10 thoughts on “The higher a monkey climbs …”

  1. The failure of the Republicans who are actually running for President to denounce Donald Trump’s nativism is the best recent illustration of that point.

    So you are claiming that make Republican Gov. Paul LePage's recent behavior is merely the "second best illustration"? Surely, when a Governor decides that he is above the traditional and simple constitutional rules that have run Main's State Houses for decades, surely, sirens should blowing at hurricane power.

    1. They probably should, but no one is paying attention to Maine. As illustrations go, it's not even in the top ten, because a good illustration gets noticed.

  2. History appears to repeat itself.

    In 1968, there were riots in Baltimore City following the assassination of Martin Luther King. On April 11, 1968, Gov. Spiro Agnew called together African-American leaders and gave them what the African-American leaders referred to as a "tongue lashing." He accused them of "breaking and running" when criticized by Black militants. (BTW, I checked my facts with a story in the April 12, 1968, edition of the NYT.)

    And, of course, his actions were rewarded by his being named as Nixon's Veep nominee.

    The Nikitas column follows the same meme.

    A quick quiz for RBC readers: How many Republican candidates for president this year called outright for the removal of the Stars and Bars in South Carolina. (Saying, "I think that it should go but it's up to the citizens of SC" doesn't count.)

  3. I dunno. I used to be something of a First Amendment absolutist – believing not just in the law itself, but in the principle behind the law. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Give light and the people will find their own way.

    Canada, however, seems to maintain a perfectly reasonable democracy while restricting hate speech. I think we have to consider the possibility that printing this sort of thing legitimizes it, rather than exposing it. Certainly the commenters on the newspaper web site seem to be largely of the opinion that the columnist speaks the truth. They, too, are celebrating the newspaper's decision to print that vile piece of nonsense. I'm not convinced they are wrong to do so.

  4. I agree with you that a newspaper ought to be a forum for debate, so long as that debate is clearly marked as such and is on the ed/opinion page. I think the error that little paper made, if any, is not framing the debate — make this local joker face an actual challenge.

    But if you think that editorial is going to lead to a great awakening, don't hold your breath. I know someone who thinks exactly that same way and is not at all embarrassed about it. He thinks he's right. And he doesn't think he's a Republican either (you guessed it! he's libbie…) and wouldn't respond at all to your larger point about the GOP.

    And that far at least, I agree with him. The GOP leadership *is* dysfunctional, intellectually bankrupt, and at a minimum, racist facilitators. But they aren't the root of the problem. If only it were so easy to change! No. Frankly I'm not sure what it will take — though I think all the enlightened debate we can get is a place to start — but I also think people like my friend don't really listen to people like me when we talk to him. Change is going to have to come from within their own caucus, *if* ever. (Same with the whole IS thing – that is a mess for other Muslims to clean up.)

    Perhaps ironically in terms of timing?, I just unfollowed my friend on FB yesterday. In person, he is perfectly lovely and I think he treats minority humans just fine in real life (which is why I stay friends with him). So for now I will just avoid virtual him. He's not listening anyway.

  5. And again, as to newspapers, I think we do need more debate, not less. The mistake they made was in not challenging this guy. Just because it's an opinion piece should not relieve him of responsibility to have factual cites and a logically consistent argument. Otherwise he's being lazy and it's a waste of everyone's time since there is then no basis for a debate.

    But what he said is what I fear a lot of whitish men think. So, we may as well deal with it as best we can.

  6. The rant sure is racist, but it's far from stunning. I read this sort of crap on a daily basis. Heck, half the white people at work would probably agree with every word, and I live and work very near San Francisco.

    1. It's possibly even more ignorant than racist. To get to the bottom of it, one would pretty much be looking at the equivalent of intensive psychotherapy, which is hard to do on the fly. Especially when the person has no interest in learning how wrong they are.

  7. The saddest thing about this to me is that I know at least one black person who would probably agree with this op-ed writer. Stockholm Syndrome?

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