Gerard Alexander has an op-ed in the Washington Post wherein he tries to bat down the charges that conservatives are racists.
From an immigration law in Arizona to a planned mosque near Ground Zero to Glenn Beck emoting at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the controversies roiling American politics in recent weeks and months have featured an ugly undertone, suggesting meanness, prejudice and, in the eyes of some, outright racism. And it is conservatives — whether Republican politicians, Fox News commentators or members of the “tea party” movement — who are invariably painted with that brush.
That larger story is well-known and oft-repeated — and, I would argue, vastly oversimplified and simply wrong in its key underlying assumptions. But its endurance explains why the party of Lincoln is so easily dubbed the party of Strom Thurmond or Jefferson Davis, and why many critics believe that an identity politics of white America now tilts conservatives against not just blacks but also Hispanics, Muslims and anyone else outside a nostalgic and monochromatic description of the American way of life.
There’s a lot of whining and bitter complaining as Mr. Alexander tries to make his case that the roots of GOP alliances in the South were already there in the 1950’s and that by the time Nixon and Reagan came along, the South and the white heartland were already theirs for the taking. He doesn’t mention that it was accomplished by campaigning on the fears and prejudices by a well-crafted message that demonized the Civil Rights movement as Communist-inspired. And as if to prove that the South has recovered from their racist background, he cites Gov. Haley Barbour’s recent statement that he never “thought twice” about race while he was attending Ole Miss in the 1960’s. What more proof do you need?
There are a lot more examples Mr. Alexander’s petulant defense of conservatives against the charges of racism, but perhaps he should be reminded that no reasonable person — liberal or otherwise — has made the claim that all conservatives are racists. That’s not fair and it’s not true. However, a good deal of evidence exists that there are racist elements in a number of people who call themselves conservatives, including words and deeds, and there has not been a whole lot of distancing and repudiation on the part of leading voices in the conservative movement. Sarah Palin defended Dr. Laura’s use of the N-word, Pat Buchanan bemoans the loss of white America, and members of Congress and would-be members of the Senate call for armed insurrection against the “outsider.”
Mr. Alexander probably doesn’t think that it’s racism behind that; it’s just the clash of politics and that the liberals are reading far too much into it. But he ignores the dog whistles; the coded messages within. Only the fringers would come out and say that Barack Obama is a Muslim or a Kenyan, so they wrap it up nicely in polite ways by saying they take him at his word that he’s a Christian or was born in Hawai’i. Last week, the aforementioned Mr. Barbour said that “[t]his is a president that we know less about than any other president in history.” This despite two best-selling books by Mr. Obama about his childhood and growing up. (I guess reading was not on the curriculum at Ole Miss.) It may not be racism in the grand tradition of burning crosses and nooses, but NOKD — “Not Our Kind, Dear” — is the same thing, only with a country club veneer.
Mr. Alexander cannot get through his article without taking the requisite swipe at liberal hypocrisy by pointing to then-Sen. Joe Biden’s comment during the 2008 campaign about Barack Obama being “articulate and bright and clean.” (It’s ironic that Mr. Alexander hears a dog whistle there but can’t hear the cacophony coming from Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to the point the the 2012 GOP convention will look like the Westminster Kennel Club finals.) Yes, one inartful and stupid comment makes the entire Democratic Party a bunch of hypocrites. I’ll see your Joe Biden and raise you two Tom Tancredos.
In a larger sense, what Mr. Alexander is ignoring is that these sort of accusations don’t happen in a vacuum. If he is going to go to such great lengths to defend the conservative movement against such charges — including the rather infantile use of “the other guys do it” and “we’re just misunderstood” and the overall use of transference — he has to realize that there are legitimate grounds for people, including some within the GOP, to bring it up.
You shouldn’t have to tell people that you’re not a racist, because if you have to, you probably are.