The Recurring Politics of Race Exploitation

February 3, 2006

When conservatives criticize liberals for being soft on national security, the latter recoil in indignation and deny being unpatriotic — though they weren’t accused of it. To hear liberals tell it, such stereotypical characterizations are about as low as it gets. Yet, many among their ranks routinely and unapologetically cast conservatives as racists.

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, during a speech at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, likened Republicans to Nazis. “The Republican Party would have the American flag and the swastika flying side by side,” he said. “We now find ourselves refighting old battles we thought we had already won. We have to fight discrimination whenever it raises its ugly head.”

Columnist Les Payne, in the Long Island newspaper Newsday, wrote, “The conviction of the 80-year-old Mississippi racist for a 41-year-old murder reminds us that the new Republican Party, the GOP that gave us Nixon, Ford and Reagan, Bush 41 and his unspeakable son, rode into power on the backs of the Ku Klux Klan.”

Lest you think these are just atypical outbursts from an extremist fringe that do not represent mainstream liberal thinking or the Democratic Party leadership, consider a few other prominent examples.

Several years ago, no less an organization than the Missouri Democratic Party aired radio ads saying, “When you don’t vote, you let another church explode. When you don’t vote, you allow another cross to burn. When you don’t vote, you let another assault wound a brother or sister.” You may also recall the NAACP ads likening President Bush’s opposition to a hate crimes bill, to killing black dragging victim James Byrd “all over again.”

Then virtually the entire liberal establishment embraced the perverse notion that inadequacies in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina were attributable to an underlying racism infecting the Bush administration. The allegedly disproportionate impact of the disaster on blacks, they argued, could be chalked up to Republican racism.

And if all that escapes your memory, you’ll surely remember the rash of generalized, unsubstantiated charges Democrats leveled against Republicans concerning black voter intimidation in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Their failure to offer a shred of credible evidence in support of their incendiary allegations caused them no shame or embarrassment because specific proof is unnecessary when your mind is made up in advance, irrespective of the facts.

These indictments aren’t just coming from party hacks. Bill Clinton himself has been known to take not-so-subtle digs at Republicans and their attitude toward “people of color.” Likewise, John Kerry demagogues the issue whenever it suits him.

Sen. Ted Kennedy hysterically predicted on the Senate floor that with the confirmation of such judicial ogres as John Roberts and Sam Alito, the Supreme Court would roll back the clock on civil rights. Many of Kennedy’s colleagues preposterously agreed that Alito has a bias against minorities and the little guy.

The Washington Post went so far as to report on a social psychology study finding, among other things, “that supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did.” Aha! Now science confirms conservative racism. It was only a matter of time.

Though some play the race card purely for political gain, what is perhaps more disturbing is that there are far too many people, in their ideological confusion, who believe conservatism is inherently racist. That’s presumably why they don’t feel they’re required to produce evidence to prove their claims. They’ve already tried and convicted conservatives of racism; the particular infractions they cite are merely symptomatic of their prejudice.

They apparently think the conservatives’ general opposition to affirmative action, quotas or the welfare state spring from an innate racism, when precisely the reverse is true. Conservatism stands for the equal dignity of all races and strives toward colorblindness and genuinely equal protection under the law.

It’s regrettable that so many on the political scene today insist on exploiting race and that we view everything through a racial prism. This opportunistic and patronizing approach does incalculable harm to blacks and race relations, all in the name of helping them.

Someday, the left may receive a startling wake-up call, when the minority constituencies they’ve so long taken for granted come to the belated realization that their collective trust in the Democratic Party has been woefully misplaced and decide to align themselves with the party that doesn’t condescend to them, but offers them equal respect.