The Republican Party’s “Black Friends”

Stephen Colbert with his "black friend." See? He's not racist.

By Bob Cesca:

Jonah Goldberg’s recent column, “To Appeal to Black Voters, GOP Must Run Gauntlet of Racism Accusations,” is hilariously awful. I’ll swing back around to it presently.

But first, over the weekend Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs tweeted that if you’re wondering whether the baseless Republican attacks on UN Ambassador Susan Rice were racially motivated, you should read the comment sections on any random conservative blog and your worst suspicions will be confirmed.

I’m sure with many hardline right-wingers this might be true, especially after minority voters helped to resoundingly crush their tiny shriveled souls in the election. But, frankly, I don’t think it’s the case across-the-board. Conservatives hate everything the president does, and everyone with whom he surrounds himself, including Rice. So as soon as Rice stepped onto the Sunday shows and talked about the Benghazi situation, she was the next Obama administration player in line to be consumed by the wackaloon conspiracy theorists and the conservative entertainment complex meat grinder.

Yes, if she’s nominated for Secretary of State, conservative racists will oppose her because she’s black. And yes, others will oppose her because it’s the opposite of what the president wants. And others will combine both, using flimsy attacks on Rice’s character mixed with subtle dog-whistles. All three approaches are predictable modern Republican Party strategies.


But Jonah Goldberg doesn’t believe there are any racists in the Republican Party. In his column last week, he began by explaining that the Republican Party is, in fact, not racist at all, therefore it can’t possibly be attacking Rice because she’s African American.

Apologies if you reflexively spat out your beverage, soaking your keyboard. Send the bill to Goldberg.

The Democratic Party, Golberg wrote, is totally the racist party and yet it somehow wins nearly all of the black vote. Therefore the Republicans should get more “racist” in order to win more black votes. (“Scare quotes” his.) Are you following this?

How does Goldberg figure the Democratic Party is more racist? With the hackish, historically ignorant conflation of the Democrats of 1860 with the Democrats of 2012, of course. Sure, the Democratic Party was once the conservative states’ rights, small government party of the white supremacist, secessionist, Christian South. Sound familiar?

As I’ve written here before, the Democrats-are-the-real-racists-because-of-slavery argument is a common fallacy that many conservative writers repeat — cynically counting on their readers to be too lazy to bother reading about the actual history of party platforms in America.

If Goldberg was willing to be honest about political history, he’d know that party identification hasn’t always been as cut and dried as it is today. He’d know that the parties have evolved, tossing platform planks back and forth over the decades, and essentially swapping ideological characteristics via an ongoing timeline of permutations. The more accurate measure of policy and ideology is to look at what’s constituted “liberalism” and “conservatism” over the years, but even that’s changed. In judging the platforms and ideas of various political groups, it’s simply best to stick with a window of around 30-40 years at most.

Yeah, I know. I’m expecting reason and facts from the wrong people.

What else should we expect from the author of the paradoxical Liberal Fascism book? It sounds like he might be working on a follow-up called “Liberal Racism.” (You might recall how conservatives like Glenn Beck tried to pull similar semantic tricks with “socialism” by conflating it with the “National Socialist Party” of Germany. Attention conservatives: just because it’s called a “hot dog” doesn’t mean it contains actual dogs.)

Anyway, Goldberg continued by predictably naming his “black friends” as a means of underscoring the Republican record on racial tolerance. Colin Powell, for example! And Condoleezza Rice!

In addition to conveniently overlooking the history of political parties, Goldberg ignored the Republican use of the Southern Strategy and its current Lee Atwater-style dog whistles, such as “food stamps” and “gutting welfare reform.” He doesn’t mention that unnecessary voter ID laws are unapologetically aimed squarely at disenfranchising minorities. And, as Charlie Pierce noted: John Sununu. Full stop. However, Goldberg did take note of Romney’s birth certificate remark during the campaign, and, naturally, he laughed it off as a bad joke. No mention, however, of “Obama Isn’t Working” or Romney’s repeated dog-whistle use of “foreign” to describe the president’s economic record.

Admittedly, not every accusation of racism against the Republican Party has turned out to be actual racism. But the birther thing is. The Southern Strategy is. The Voter ID crusade is. And in numerous cases, Republicans hate the president because he represents the browning of America and the slow suffocation of white supremacy. They’re willing to permit a few tokens like Marco Rubio, Allen West and Condoleezza Rice because they serve a purpose: to blunt often valid criticism of racism in the party’s rhetoric and electoral strategy. But leaders like Susan Rice and Barack Obama are the real deal, with lopsidedly massive support among all minority groups. Republicans will never fully understand how badly the Southern Strategy has poisoned their party. And no matter how many “scare quotes” are employed or how many times they desperately reach back and try to paint the modern Democratic Party with a Dixiecrat brush, they’ve created this racism problem themselves and I doubt they can dig their way out of it.

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