WSJ: “The Racializing of American Politics”
Even the exit polls now force people to put themselves in a racial category.
By DANIEL HENNINGER
… It may be over four decades since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, but whenever America votes today, the exit polls can`t move fast enough to divide voters by the color of their skin. Mere moments after the 2012 exit polls were released, a conventional wisdom congealed across the media that the Republican Party was “too white.”
Let us posit that this subject wouldn`t have been raised if the bottom hadn`t fallen out of the GOP`s share of the Hispanic vote. When George W. Bush attracted 40% of the Hispanic vote in 2004, there was no cry that the Republican Party was “too white.” The GOP`s problem with Hispanics today is a tangle of issues involving the law, labor and assimilation that is hardly reducible to the accusation that the party is too white.
The mainstream media has been assiduously trying for years to racialize Hispanics. Maybe they`re succeeding?
In virtually every instance, the idea that the Republican Party is “too white” is dropped with almost no discussion of what exactly that means. The phrase is being pinned like a scarlet “W” on anyone who didn`t vote for the Democrats` nominee. It`s a you-know-what-we-mean denunciation. Its only meaning is racial.
… During the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton wrestled over race, first in January when Bill Clinton was accused of racial signaling during the South Carolina primary, and in March when Mrs. Clinton repudiated the late Geraldine Ferraro for referencing Mr. Obama`s color. A New York Times report then said Mr. Obama was “puzzled” at this preoccupation with race and sex. It quoted Mr. Obama as saying: “I don`t want to deny the role of race and gender in our society. They`re there, and they`re powerful. But I don`t think it`s productive.”
Race has been damn productive for the career of B. Obama, President of the United States.
A welcome thought. The truth is that no prominent Democrat since Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan has been willing to sustain opposition to this constant racializing of American politics and culture.
In the famous 2003 Supreme Court decision upholding the University of Michigan`s race-based admission policies, Justice Sandra Day O`Connor wrote in support: “The Court takes the Law School at its word that it would like nothing better than to find a race-neutral admissions formula and will terminate its use of racial preferences as soon as practicable. The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary.”
In 2008`s election, many Republicans and independents voted for Mr. Obama to put a final nail in the coffin of Justice O`Connor`s racial anxieties. The millions of them who then cast votes against Mr. Obama in 2012 did so almost wholly because of the status of the economy after four years of his presidency. No matter. They lost in 2012 because they`re “too white.”
The Democrats` insistence on pandering to political categories is a dead end for the country.
But, not apparently, for the Democrats.
… No one can beat the Democrats at the politics of social division. Instead, the GOP should tell prospective voters that no matter what their country of origin or happenstance of birth, their success in the U.S. will depend less on celebrating their assigned category than on supporting political policies that expand economic opportunity. A Republican Party that fails to tell that story in a way anyone can grasp is a party that will never escape the box the other side dropped it into on Nov. 7.
Maybe, just maybe, the GOP should, on the rare occasions when it has power, do something about, say, affirmative action. Of maybe it should mention during the Presidential campaign that it will nominate judges skeptical of racial preferences. Who knows? The GOP might even go all crazy and run a TV commercial showing your job application being crumpled up because you are the wrong race? An insane idea, I know, but it did work 22 years ago, so maybe the GOP could try it again?
But, fundamentally, the point is that if you don`t want increasingly racialized politics, then you don`t want an increasingly racialized electorate. As Nate Silver noted, New Hampshire still has pretty good politics — “elastic,” as he calls them, where people care about the issues more than just the identity of the candidates. But that`s because, as Silver more or less admits, the New Hampshire electorate still looks pretty much like it did in Norman Rockwell`s Freedom of Speechpainting of a New England town meeting, where the main division is by class (the working man is surprising the suit-and-tie crowd with the cogency of his argument), not race.