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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Racist Elephant in the Political Room

Not all Republicans are racist, there are people of color who are Republicans and there was a time when Republican leaders were in the forefront of the struggle for racial equality.
All of that said, and acknowledging that there are also racists who identify themselves as Democrats, the Republican Party has a significant — and growing — problem with racism in its ranks. GOP leaders and conservative pundits who refuse to address it are complicit, no matter how unbiased their personal views may be.
Read Sean Sullivan’s post, “Democrats are talking about race and the Republican Party an awful lot lately. Is it a smart midterm strategy?” at The Fix. Sullivan gives both Republicans and Democrats fair vent on the issue. He doesn’t support one side more than the other, nor offer much evaluation of their argument. Fair enough. Not all articles on the topic have to do that. Sullivan is mostly interested here in the midterm political ramifications of the GOP’s race problem.
Sure, there is political benefit for the Democrats in highlighting racist comments, policies and behavior among Republicans. It could help stoke turnout of voters of color, who tend to favor Democratic candidates. But Sullivan doesn’t discuss the possibility that Democrats have to speak out against racism because it has gotten so blatant that not calling it out would make Democrats part of the problem, created though it was by Republicans.
In his Daily Beast post, “You’re in Denial if You Think Steve Israel is Wrong About GOP Racism,” Michael Tomasky rolls out some of the more rancid recent examples in comment threads responding to articles about current events, and then he adds:

Beyond these, we have numerous instances of low-level (and sometimes not so low-level) Republican Party officials–Republican Party officials–making racist jokes about Obama. Here’s a little chrestomathy of some of them. If you follow the news closely, you know that hardly a…not quite a week, but let’s say hardly a fortnight goes by that some local GOPer doesn’t show up in the news explaining that he “didn’t mean any harm” in sending that email to friends showing watermelons piled up on the White House, and he’s sincerely sorry “if it offended anyone.” Often, of course, it’s something more malevolent than that.

No one will have any trouble digging up more examples, and yes, there is also some data which merits consideration. As Christopher Ingraham writes in a recent Wonkblog post,

An Associated Press poll conducted in 2012 attempted to measure implicit racism among Democrats and Republicans by asking respondents to compare black, white, Asian and Hispanic faces. It found that 55 percent of Democrats expressed implicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 64 percent of Republicans — a difference that the lead researchers called “highly significant…In 2012, 18 percent of Republicans disapproved of blacks and whites dating each other, compared with 5 percent of Democrats.”

The all-out assault on voting rights, for example, has reached a level of shamelessness not seen since before the Civil Rights Movement. The GOP is doing everything it can to obstruct the voting rights of African Americans and Latinos, even to the point of risking alienation of other voters with restrictions on early voting opportunities. That the Republicans on the Supreme Court have been eager partners in voter suppression shows that the moral rot in their party has burrowed deeply.
It’s not just voting rights Republicans oppose. Sen Rand Paul, by some estimates the Republican front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination, still gets away with mealey-mouthed waffling about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Other Republican Governors and state legislative majorities have done all they can to harass and intimidate Latino immigrants.
You would think that some of the more prudent conservative pundits would pick up the slack left by political leaders on the right and challenge their party to embrace racial justice and a higher level of interracial goodwill. But apparently they buy into the strategy that suppressing minority votes is an acceptable price to pay for holding power. It’s a sad commentary on the shrinking reservoir of conservative patriotism.

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