In Political Message Wars, ‘Race Card’ Has Become Salvo Fired by All Sides

Krissah Thompson, Washington Post, May 6, 2010

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Truth is, there is very little agreement about the meaning of the “race card”–a phrase that once described an attempt to unnecessarily insert the issue of race into a debate and that now sometimes seems to describe a whole lot more.

One group that finds itself engaged in the back-and-forth attacks is the “tea party” movement. Democrats level charges of racism against the movement; tea party supporters, in turn, accuse Democrats of playing the race card.

A new Washington Post/ABC News Poll illuminates some of the differences in world view that underlie those charges.

Tea party supporters are less apt to see racism as a problem today, with 43 percent saying it’s only a small problem or not one at all, more than double the percentage among all others (18 percent) and more than three times the level among opponents of the movement (12 percent).

According to the poll, some 61 percent of tea party opponents say racism has a lot to do with the movement; that’s a view held by just 7 percent of tea party supporters. In fact, for supporters, racial bias is the least frequently cited cause, with economic anxiety and a general distrust of government the most often mentioned.

For opponents, who are largely Democratic and a more diverse group, tops on the list of perceived motivations is opposition to the policy positions of Obama and the Democrats, followed by racial bias. {snip}

Republican strategist, pollster and tea party supporter Leslie Sanchez said labeling an entire group, such as the tea party, as racist is “extreme.” Racial prejudice against Obama “isn’t the genesis of this movement and to label it as that based on a few fringe elements is a false argument,” she said. That, Sanchez said, is playing the race card.

Democratic pollster and strategist Cornell Belcher said racial prejudice persists but has lessened in terms of its effect on minority candidates. Still, he said, talking about race without being accused of playing the race card is difficult.

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