Why the Left Needs Racism

James Taranto, Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2010

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The political left claims to love racial diversity, but it bitterly opposes such diversity on the political right. This is an obvious matter of political self-interest: Since 1964, blacks have voted overwhelmingly Democratic. If Republicans were able to attract black votes, the result would be catastrophic for the Democratic Party. Even in 2008, the Democrats’ best presidential year since ’64, if the black vote had been evenly split between the parties (and holding the nonblack vote constant), Barack Obama would have gotten about 48% of the vote and John McCain would be president.

To keep blacks voting Democratic, it is necessary for the party and its supporters to keep alive the idea that racism is prevalent in America and to portray the Republican Party (as well as independent challengers to the Democrats, such as the tea-party movement) as racist. The election of Barack Obama made nonsense of the idea that America remains a racist country and thereby necessitated an intensifying of attacks on the opposition as racist.

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Yet to posit racism as an explanation is to ignore far more obvious and less invidious causes for the disparity. The tea-party movement’s racial composition reflects a pre-existing partisan alignment: The movement arose in opposition to the policies of a Democratic government, and the vast majority of blacks are Democrats, or at least vote for Democrats. Pride in the first black president, a normal and wholesome attitude, reinforces this partisan allegiance.

There’s another factor that might keep blacks away from tea parties: the perception, whether true or not, that the movement is racist–a perception that liberal politicians and commentators have worked tirelessly (and tiresomely) to propagate. Add to this the risk of race-based opprobrium from fellow blacks and even from white liberals for deviating from the way blacks are “supposed” to think.

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