How debased has America’s discussion of race become?
Liberal and media elites salivate over the opportunity to ascribe racism to things that have nothing to do with race — from President Obama’s dwindling poll numbers to the Tea Party protests to popular opposition to Obamacare.
And when Republicans utter what is perceived to be a racially insensitive remark, the response is swift and severe. They are fired, forced to resign or slandered as a closet racist until they lose an election.
But that doesn’t mean Republicans should stop talking about race. They should continue to highlight the glaring double standard on race between Republicans and Democrats, while underscoring the necessity of emphasizing sometimes uncomfortable truths so that real understanding is not stifled by political correctness.
The double standard on race was again highlighted with the recent revelation of racially insensitive remarks by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) about then Sen. Obama.
Reid said he felt that Obama could win the presidency because the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate like Obama, whom he referred to as being a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
Predictably, most liberals saw little to be offended by in Reid’s remarks. Reid issued an apology, which was readily accepted by the president and the self-declared leaders of Black America like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Henry Louis Gates.
The double standard is appalling. No one can doubt that had, say, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made the same remark, Jackson et al., not to mention most of the news media and the left, would have called for his head.
Reid’s comments were racially insensitive, but it was the hypocrisy of the left’s response that prompted many conservatives to call for Reid to step down as majority leader. They no doubt recalled that when former Sen. George Allen used the term “macaca,” the Left made such a big deal about it that it cost him an election.
When then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party that the country would be better off had Thurmond won the 1948 presidential election, (Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat on a segregationist platform), Lott was pilloried by the media and forced to step down as leader. This even though most fair observers understood Lott was trying to make an old man feel good at what was probably his last his birthday party — not endorse a segregated America.
Still, Republicans should resist the urge to embrace the liberal standard that any politically incorrect, offensive or racially insensitive comment is beyond the pale and makes the offender unfit for office.
One reason why is because the Left has used it to condition conservatives never to address issues that even remotely touch on race out of fear of appearing racist or racially insensitive, and strangled national conversations on tough issues has been the result.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, the McCain campaign was paralyzed into silence on Barack Obama’s relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Obama had spent two decades in Wright’s church, absorbing his constant anti-American screeds, wild conspiracy theories and toxic anti-Semitism. Wright was Obama’s mentor, his spiritual guide and the pastor who performed his marriage and baptized his two daughters.
Obama’s affiliation with Wright was certainly a legitimate question for debate, but the decision was made that no one in the McCain campaign would be allowed to talk about Wright out of concern for being seen as racist.
Not that I can totally blame McCain, whose concern, it turned out, was well founded. He had to fend off criticism that a campaign ad referring to Obama as a “risky” choice stoked racial tension. And when McCain mentioned Obama’s past as a community organizer, liberals like New York Governor David Paterson accused him of racism.
There are other examples. Some Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee refused to grill Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor for fear of being labeled racists. That notion was reinforced by the media, which suggested even before the hearings that the GOP risked alienating Hispanics if they pressed her too hard.
This even though during the Bush administration, Democrats regularly blocked Hispanics judges from moving up the ranks so as not to let Bush appoint the first Hispanic justice.
If Republicans continue to be intimidated into not engaging minorities out of fear of being called racists, it is unlikely they will ever compete for the votes of racial minorities. Democrats can take blacks for granted because they know Republicans rarely engage them, even though conservative values are much more in line with those of many racial minorities on issues ranging from crime prevention to abortion and same-sex marriage.
Obama dismissed Reid’s comments this week, excusing them because of the “passionate leadership [Reid’s] shown on issues of social justice.” The GOP should fight that myth. Big Government socialism isn’t good for any Americans, including minorities.
Republicans are justifiably tired of the Left’s constant race-baiting. It is tempting to engage in a tit-for-tat exchange using the Left’s standard of unflinchingly taking offense at every errant remark.
But Republicans should remain focused on highlighting the double standard on race. And, crucially, they should underscore the virtues of a standard that rejects faux outrage, political correctness and over-sensitivity in the service of a more honest and meaningful discussion of race. And they should tirelessly discuss the kinds of policies that are good for all Americans, no matter their race, creed or color.
Sen. Reid should be retired from the Senate because he is a Big Government liberal helping Barack Obama raise taxes and destroy our economy. They are much more important reasons than his shallow ponderings on Obama’s skin tone and dialect.
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