John A. Tures: Some politicos just don't get it re white men

May 3, 2014 

Recent comments involving race and gender show a few conservatives just don't understand the average white male of today. Attempting to "rally" white males by insulting someone else just isn't a winning formula in 2014. What sad is that in each case, there's a perfectly legitimate, and even good argument that could be employed, one that doesn't involve denigrating anyone else

Take the case of New Hampshire representative Will Infantine. His state is having a debate over a paycheck equity bill (equal pay for equal work). He could have adopted a good argument, or even a mediocre one that was available. But instead, he chose another strategy.

Good Argument: "Women have made huge gains in the workforce. They are closing the gap on their own, without any government assistance. As those gains continue, they would make such legislation obsolete." And the evidence does seem to support that.

Mediocre Argument: "The Paycheck Equity Bill is too difficult to enforce." Of course, it could be enforced, but the question is whether or not it would cost too much to manage.

Bad Argument: "Women don't deserve equal pay because they're lazier."

Unfortunately, Rep. Infantine gave the rather infantile argument, which enabled supporters of the Paycheck Equity Bill to win over fence sitters. It seems poised to pass. And it will be harder for colleagues to claim the GOP isn't engaging in a war on women, as his words made national news.

It's a similar situation for another state that begins with the letter N. Out in Nevada, rancher Cliven Bundy went from local legend to conservative folk hero when he and several gun-toting patriots forced a standoff with the Bureau of Land Management because the latter impounded his cattle over the more than $1 million Bundy owes in grazing fees on federal land.

As with Infantine, there was a good argument, and even a mediocre one that should have sufficed. But Bundy went for plan C.

Good Argument: "I've been found guilty only in BLM courts, where the BLM is not a neutral player. I want my case heard in independent courts."

Mediocre Argument: "I shouldn't have to pay grazing fees. The federal government shouldn't own so much land in my state."

Bad Argument: "The Negro is lazy, aborts kids, goes to jail, and was better off with slavery when they had a good family life and got to raise gardens and chickens."

Now everyone in the country knows which option Bundy chose. Former supporters Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Dean Heller and Sean Hannity are running from his remarks as fast as they can. Whoever thought of injecting racism into a ranching and land dispute wasn't thinking. "The difference between a Democrat and a Republican today is that one knows when to shut up," one of my conservative students wrote.

What's disturbing is that such individuals not only had perfectly good arguments to employ, but somehow felt that the bad arguments would rally white males to their banners. Yet the opposite has happened; even local Nevada ranchers say that Bundy's act was wearing thin with them before his racist remarks. It's clear that some conservatives just don't understand white males.

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science, LaGrange College; jtures@lagrange.edu.

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