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Political Animal

Race Card

By Brian Morton | Posted 4/5/2006

I’m thinking of a cabal of radical legislators who don’t reflect the views of average Americans, or even the interests of their own constituents. They use wedge issues, play the race card, and push their party to the ideological extreme. They collude with outside activists, many of whom use religion as a Trojan horse for a radical political agenda.

These people bother me. They’ve divided America, use code words to nakedly appeal to a base that live in an era decades removed from modern times, and constantly use the specter of victimhood to claim a mantle of martyrdom that they have no business even contemplating.

Think about the two previous paragraphs. The second one—I admit I wrote it myself. The first paragraph was written by Jonah Goldberg, the editor of the conservative web site National Review Online and a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. The column was written to indict the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, claiming that they have “benefited from the soft bigotry of low expectations for decades.”

Jonah Goldberg is the son of a woman, Lucianne Goldberg, whose only claim to fame was that she aided in the impeachment of a president who strayed in his marriage and then lied about it. But here he is now, arguing, “Why pick on the blacks in Congress? Because they represent black leadership in America, and it has been on their watch that black America has descended into such a mess.” Why would black America find this man plausible, when he says, “There’s a lot of Marxist-infused nonsense about how economics are at the root of black America’s problems. But this doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Of course poverty makes social pathologies worse, but it’s the pathologies that cause poverty in the first place.”

I’m laughing.

This is rich, coming from a kid whose job came from the right-wing old-boy network and an infamous parent. The best social program in the world is a job, and the Right has argued for policies that exports jobs to Mexico and India for more than a decade now, in the name of “competition.” Blacks vote Democratic for obvious reasons—among them the fact that the economy has done better under Democrats for the last 35 years. Republicans push for black votes solely to try and undercut the legendary allegiance African-Americans have to the Democratic Party, while at the same time making almost naked appeals to the right wing’s crypto-racist base.

You think black people forget that Ronald Reagan, icon of the right wing, opened his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., with an appeal to “state’s rights”? The comments made about “Quota Queen” Lani Guinier, President Clinton’s nominee to the Justice Department? George W. Bush’s pilgrimage to the legendarily discriminatory Bob Jones University? They can talk all they want, but their deeds speak volumes, yet right-wingers still try to cajole black Americans to cross the aisle. And when they get there, they find people like Jonah Goldberg, who constantly have the effrontery to tell us that our elected leaders aren’t doing the job.

If you look at representation proportional to the population, America’s black leaders haven’t started any wars, been caught asleep at the switch during terrorist attacks, been caught taking millions of dollars in bribes from defense contractors, or been in the pocket of lobbyists like Jack Abramoff. They weren’t the ones to blow the deficit out of whack with “earmarks,” giving money to pet projects, or to allow the president to illegally spy on U.S. citizens in defiance of the courts and the Constitution.

Black conservatives such as Lt. Gov. Michael Steele know that if they are to run and win in a state like Maryland, with an educated and affluent black middle class, they can’t acknowledge the deep-seated problems within the right wing. They have to run on their charming personalities, sparkling demeanors, and inspiring personal stories. They need glowing profiles in the Weekend section of The New York Times to show us how they have “the common touch.” But we don’t vote for members of the U.S. Senate so they can go on inspirational speaking tours. We can watch Oprah for that.

Meanwhile, right-wingers like Goldberg are like the guy I knew in college in 1984 who argued that blacks in South Africa “aren’t quite ready for self-government.” It’s nice to know that he knows better, but it’s kind of insulting to think that he feels he knows better than all 36 million or so of us. People like that have been trying to tell us what’s good for us for a long time, and it’s funny that when it comes from the Right, it always seems to coincide with whatever is in their best interests, and not in ours.

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The Fix (8/4/2010)

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Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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