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Making nice

BY BEAU ELLIOT | JANUARY 25, 2011 7:10 AM

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So here we all are, ensconced in civility nouveau, living in the Age of the New Nice.

I can live with that; I have no problem with nice. If Republicans and Democrats want to sit with each other for the State of the Union address, that’s cool ? maybe they can exchange salsa recipes or something.

And with civility in mind, I won’t mention new Gov. Terry Branstad, who is actually rather difficult to describe as “new.” I mean, given that he’s now in his fifth term as governor.

Someone ? most likely legendary newspaper columnist Donald Kaul ? back in the late-80s or so described Branstad as governor for life. Little did he know.

So in the spirit of the Age of New Nice, we’ll wish Branstad good luck in his fifth term. Maybe he could call off some of his Republican compatriots who seem to have the state Board of Regents in their … um … surveyors’ sights.

Which brings us to Glenn Beck and his obsession with Frances Fox Pivan and her leftist plot to take over America.

Who? you say.

Frances Fox Pivan is a 78-year-old academic in New York who, in 1966, had a rather intelligent, if different, view of how to deal with poverty. She also, as far as I can tell, does not advocate using violence.

So where does Glenn Beck get off contending she advocates a violent leftist takeover of the America?

Well, OK, Beck might have got off the train of reason a few stops ago.

So where do Glenn Beck’s acolytes get off advocating killing her?

Because she wrote (with Richard A. Cloward) on May 2, 1966, an article in The Nation about empowering the poor and ending the welfare system as it existed then. And that enrages Beck, who believes the article is a leftist plot to take over America.

Well, Beck has obviously never met any real leftists. Otherwise (take it from one who has been there), he’d realize that real leftists will never take over America ? or even the Tobacco Bowl ? because 90 percent of them fall asleep during the interminable committee meetings that take place to discover who is a real leftist and who is a sleeper.

(Well, OK, in all fairness, sometimes meetings try to determine who is a real Maoist/Leninist versus a real Trotskyite or who is a real Ethiopian almond-mocha supporter versus a true Bolivian deep-dark-chocolate backer. America, you’ve been warned.)

Pivan and her coauthor simply argued that all the poor in America didn’t receive the benefits that they could have, and they should get those from federal government through organizing. At the time, for various reasons, a good 15 to 20 percent of the poor were not receiving the benefits they were due, whether they were white or black. Pavin contended that through organizing the poor, a more equitable system would result; she argued that a national guaranteed-income system would be preferable and save the country money while delivering more money to the poor, with better outcomes for their lives.

(That’s a rather abbreviated summation of what Pivan wrote; her article was far more nuanced, far more intelligent, and far more definitive than a paragraph can cover.)

Did you actually read the 1966 Nation article? you ask. Yes, unlike Glenn Beck, I read the 1966 article in The Nation. It’s somewhat dry, in that academic sort of way (no offense, professors ? my father is one), and she has little, if any, idea where to place a comma and none whatsoever when it comes to semicolons.

But outside of using the word “impact” around 14 or 15 too many times, I couldn’t find any leftist plot.

So, America, in the Age of the New Nice, could we just stop using the word “impact” for a while?

Yeah, I know; it’s tough being nice. You should see me at home, trying to be nice when I think of our governor for life.


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