Sunday, April 20, 2014

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2014, April 20: The white victimization whine

In what is currently known as the Chait-Coates controversy, Jonathan Chait's critics generally seem to think he jumped the shark with his article The Color of His Presidency New York 04/06/2014. He opens by talking about an on-air argument between Bill Mayer and neocon bigwig and incorrigible warmonger Bill Kristol, sparked when Mayer said that the rise of the Tea Party "was about a black president." Chait writes

"I totally believe that," Maher responded, which is no doubt true, because every Obama supporter believes deep down, or sometimes right on the surface, that the furious opposition marshaled against the first black president is a reaction to his race. Likewise, every Obama opponent believes with equal fervor that this is not only false but a smear concocted willfully to silence them. [my emphasis]
Chait adopts the perspective of the Republican white-victimization whiners, who have developed a ritual of making some explicit or heavily implied statement about race, then responding to criticism of their comment by some form of, "Those mean libruls are pickin' on me, bwaa-aaah!"

The silliness and shallowness of Chait's perspective here is that you have to concentrate to pretend that the Republican Party hasn't been working hard since Barry Goldwater's anti-civil-rights Presidential campaign of 1964 to establish itself as the anti-black party. And they've succeeded.

Mayer's comment as Chait reports it is too big a generalization. But not because race isn't a major issue that increases emotional intensity among Republicans. Anti-black racism is a major factor in Republican hostility toward Obama. It was also a major factor in Republican hostility toward Bill Clinton. And for that matter, in Republican hostility toward Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry.

A big problem of this article by Chait is that he lays out substantial reasons to believe that white racism is deeply embedded in Republican politics. He then proceeds to argue that its' really wicked for Democrats to point this out:

One of the greatest triumphs of liberal politics over the past 50 years has been to completely stigmatize open racial discrimination in public life, a lesson that has been driven home over decades by everybody from Jimmy the Greek to Paula Deen. This achievement has run headlong into an increasing liberal tendency to define conservatism as a form of covert racial discrimination. If conservatism is inextricably entangled with racism, and racism must be extinguished, then the scope for legitimate opposition to Obama shrinks to an uncomfortably small space. [my emphasis]
This is a airy construct that validates the Republicans' white-victimization framework. But it has all kinds of problems. For one, even during Segregation 1.0, white candidates generally claimed to not be motivated by racism, though some like Mississippi Sen. Theodore Bilbo were more comfortable being explicit about it than others.

This is almost John Birch Society time reasoning: libruls want racism to be extinguished, libruls make racism equal to conservatism, therefore libruls want to extinguish conservatism.

Here in the real world, Democratic Party liberals seem to find it a major effort to insist on getting liberal policies enacted. Which of course is a far cry from wanting to see conservative ideas or their advocates "extinguished." For that matter, I'm sure liberals would prefer to see racism go away. But their main focus has been keeping racial discrimination out of public policy and to take affirmative action (in the larger sense of the phrase) to prevent racial discrimination in public policy.

Chait's version is clearly a polemical, absurdly distorted version of that reality.

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