The scare quotes are necessary because I don’t think the Republican Party is racist now (and, historically, the GOP has a lot less to answer for than the Democratic Party does).
But that hasn’t stopped a lot of people from slandering Republicans as racist for one reason or another.
Right now, many in Washington — particularly the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus — insist that Republican attacks on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice are racist and, yawn, sexist.
The basis for this claim is that some Republicans are calling Rice unfit for the soon-to-be-vacated job of secretary of state. More specifically, they’re cross with Rice for what they contend to be her dishonest and incompetent handling of the Benghazi scandal.
And, because Rice is a black woman, well, blah, blah, blah Racism! Sexism!
Never mind that Republicans haven’t had a white secretary of state since Lawrence Eagleburger concluded his term two decades ago. Never mind that Republicans appointed the first black secretary of state ever (Colin Powell) and the first black female secretary of state ever (Condoleezza Rice, arguably the star of the GOP convention in August).
Also, never mind that Rice’s handling of Benghazi — and several other matters — can quite defensibly be dubbed incompetent.
But that doesn’t stop Democrats or liberal pundits from crying racism.
Just consider some recent examples from over the summer. When Mitt Romney visited Michigan, he joked about not needing a birth certificate to prove he was from there. Not very funny? OK, sure. Poor taste? Eh, maybe, I guess. “The basest and the most despicable bigotry we might be able to imagine”? Errr, no. And yet that’s what one respected “expert” on race, Michael Eric Dyson, called it on MSNBC. Rather than show some skepticism at the claim, MSNBC host Alex Wagner agreed that Romney was “scraping the very bottom of this sort of racist other-ist narrative.”
At the GOP convention, MSNBC host Chris Matthews explained that “Chicago” was a racially loaded code word. Fellow host Lawrence O’Donnell said Republican convention speakers were reaching “for every single possible racial double entendre they can find.” His sole proof? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a joke about Obama playing a lot of golf.
Now, the cynical motivations behind this relentless drone of slander and stupidity are too numerous to count. Such moral bullying makes white liberals feel better about themselves. It scares moderates and centrists away from the Republican Party, and it no doubt helps dissuade wavering blacks from even thinking about giving the GOP an honest look. Obviously, it helps boost black voter intensity on Election Day. It also does wonders to stifle journalists terrified of having their racial bona fides questioned in any way. And it helps a feckless left-wing black political class explain away their own failures. Racial slander is like duct tape: There’s no limit to what you can do with it.
It’s worth pointing out that such slander isn’t used to get blacks to vote Democratic in the first place. They already do that.
But can you imagine how much worse it will get if Republicans actually do reach out to black community (as they should)?
One of the points of racial slander is to signal that only liberal policies are guaranteed to be non-racist (even when such policies were forged with racist intent, like the Davis-Bacon Act). This is why the Congressional Black Caucus insists on calling itself the “conscience of the Congress.”
That’s why policies like school choice are routinely denounced as racist, even though they are largely aimed at improving the lives of inner-city blacks trapped in bad schools. Teachers unions don’t like school choice, ergo it’s racist.
Any serious attempt by the GOP to win black votes won’t involve Republicans copycatting liberal policies. It will require going over the heads of the black and white liberal slanderers to offer a sincere alternative to failed liberal policies on schools, poverty, crime, etc. The more effective that effort, the more the GOP will be called racist.
When Romney, whose father marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke to the NAACP, Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast dubbed him a “race-mongering pyromaniac,” primarily for using the term “Obamacare” — a term Barack Obama used himself.
Just imagine the desperate, pathetic attacks in store for a more effective Republican.
Jonah Goldberg is the author of the new book “The Tyranny of Clichés.”