Saturday, March 22, 2008

Those darn black people

-- by Dave

It's one of those things that seems perpetually to mystify Republicans: Why the heck don't black people vote for them more often?

After all, about 90 percent of the black vote in most presidential elections since the 1960s has favored Democrats, and the prospects of changing that this year are dim to none.

A lot of this, of course, has to do with the paucity of black Republican candidates to begin with. Periodically, the GOP makes a weak stab at changing that, as they did in 2006, when three black Republicans ran for prominent positions in Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

All three, of course, got creamed.

That has a lot to do with the larger underlying reasons: Conservatives have, since the 1870s, demonstrated a palpable animus toward black voters -- in the South, they passed Jim Crow laws to keep them from the polls -- and with the complete takeover of the Republican Party by conservatives in the 1970s, that has translated into a lopsided Democratic black vote.

Still, Republicans seem perplexed by this. Witness, for instance, Bridget Johnson's recent piece bemoaning the "lost opportunities" to gain the black vote in the current election:
This is the profile of America’s minority communities: not politically or ideologically homogenous, willing to consider new solutions, and willing to listen to new ideas and voices — if those voices would bother to make the effort to show up.

However, this election season is shaping up to be yet another year when the Republican Party quickly kisses off the black vote, and halfheartedly reaches for at least a decent portion of the Latino vote. It’s a mistake with the same script every time, like a political “Groundhog Day.”

And it could particularly be a colossal failing to ignore minority communities this election season, when the flap over Barack Obama’s questionable associations has seen the racial debate taken in a disturbing direction that strays from the colorblind, hand-in-hand path of brotherhood envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As always, these concerns come from someone who is somewhat melanin-challenged herself. But you know, she's deeply sympathetic to black issues. Really.

Now, you could call the conservative response to the Obama "pastor problem" controversy "veering off the path", I suppose, if you envision the path as situated along a sheer high cliff. Because it's clear that Republicans are just writing off blacks altogether and leaping anew into the abyss of good ole fashioned right-wing bigotry.

Take, for example, Pat Buchanan's column on the Obama flap, titled "A Brief for Whitey":
It is the same old con, the same old shakedown that black hustlers have been running since the Kerner Commission blamed the riots in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and a hundred other cities on, as Nixon put it, "everybody but the rioters themselves."

Was "white racism" really responsible for those black men looting auto dealerships and liquor stories, and burning down their own communities, as Otto Kerner said -- that liberal icon until the feds put him away for bribery.

Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.

Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.

Ah yes. Anyone who's been around racial politics for any length has heard all about how black civil-rights advocates are in fact "race hustlers." And it isn't just Buchanan making this kind of remark about Obama: So, for that matter, have those sensitive folks at Powerline. A Townhall blogger even called Michelle Obama a "race pimp."

But really, the richest line in Buchanan's column -- the one that no doubt resonates most with black voters -- was this one:
We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?

Damn, I'm sure most black people forgot to be grateful for segregation, the lynching era, sundown towns, and the continuing discrimination they face both in employment and in residence. Because the institutional conditions created by those decades of bigotry have in fact gone largely unchanged, though to white guys like Buchanan, that simply isn't a factor:
Is white America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of white America? Is it really white America's fault that illegitimacy in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent?

Is that the fault of white America or, first and foremost, a failure of the black community itself?

Well, I'm sure black voters are convinced by that argument. After all, it's obvious that the matter of continuing discrimination is just an illusion in their heads.

Meanwhile, another conservative icon, Rush Limbaugh, is following a similar line:
LIMBAUGH: "Typical white person"? What does this reveal finally about Obama? He is not transcendent on race. Obama is telling us he is a black American first and an American second. Typical white -- his grandmother, who raised him, is a typical white woman? And that these kinds of inordinate fears are bred? I have a question: I wonder how white college students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, are feeling these days.

I wonder if they are nervous walking down the street, and they see a couple of black boys dressed in baggy clothes with their hats on backwards swaggering toward them. I wonder how they feel. I wonder if it makes them fear that they're going to be shot in the face for their ATM cards and their PIN numbers. Obama, do you think there might be reasons here rather than this being inbred?

... And so, Obama, in dealing with this, has thrown his white grandmother under the bus, and then, yesterday, drove the bus backwards and ran over her, where he threw her under the bus, by calling her a typical white woman.

So, all -- typical white what? Typical white -- no? Typical white woman -- typical white person. Whatever. Typical white person. And now, it is clear -- now, this is the stuff, this is the part that might bother some of you. It is clear that Senator Obama has disowned his white half, that he's decided he's got to go all in on the black side ...

What you'll notice in all this, of course, is that all these folks really aren't concerned about black people at all. They're talking to white people, and basically reinforcing the stereotypical view that there's just something wrong with those black people. Why else can't they see that conservatism is really about their greater good?

Folks like Limbaugh and Buchanan and Bridget Johnson like to complain that when blacks vote for liberals en masse, they're engaging in "identity politics". As always, they forget that "identity politics" in America was in fact created, and deeply institutionalized, by white people.

And there's no small irony when the efforts of the historical victims of identity politics to break down those institutions are denounced as merely members of a racial identity group defending their own narrow interests. That's what we call the "projection strategy."

As always, this means that Republicans are giving us a warning about their own upcoming strategy. So when they begin accusing Democrats of indulging racism, we can be quite certain that the forthcoming election season will be nothing less than a full-on onslaught of Republican racism -- excused, of course, by the claim that "they do it too."

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