Jul 12, 2020

The GOP is not racist

Tony Petersen

“The issue of race and American politics,” Glenn Thrush and Donovan Slack wrote in a recent Politico article, “never far beneath the surface during Barack Obama’s historic 2008 campaign, is making a loud, overt and surprisingly early appearance in the 2012 presidential race.”

What evidence do Thrush and Slack present to make their case?

Apparently, Newt Gingrich speaks racial “code words” when he calls Obama a “food stamp president” and when he says students should make money as school janitors.

“But,” they write, “ nothing has illustrated the potentially explosive political impact of race — an issue that Obama has downplayed throughout his career — like the firestorm around the image of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wagging her finger at the first black president of the United States.”

The problem isn’t that Brewer wagged her finger — it’s that she wagged her finger at the first black president of the United States.

To burnish their credibility, they quote Jesse Jackson, saying that the words and expressions of Republican Party members “need to be decoded because they are becoming voluminous and dangerous.”

This is the same Jesse Jackson who, during the 2008 campaign, wanted to “cut [Obama’s] nuts off,” accusing the then-senator of “talking down to black folks.”

I wonder, what is that code for?

“You aren’t likely to hear racially charged language this year from Obama,” the writers gush, “a one-of-a-kind politician whose crossover appeal to white independents has always been rooted in a color-blind appeal to fairness.”

Good thing he’s so different from the other politicians whose appeal has always been rooted in a color-coded appeal to unfairness.

And people wonder why conservatives think the mainstream media are biased.

This is a fundamental conceit of Obama and his acolytes, that the president is so obviously right, and his opponents so obviously wrong, that any criticism of him and his policies must be racist.

We must be precise with our language. A racist is someone with feelings of hatred and bigotry for another person solely because of their race. To call innocuous political phrases like “food stamp president” and policy disagreements between the governor of a state and the president racist is to make silly a word which should be treated with great gravity.

Racism has played a despicable role in the history of America. It is disheartening to read the racist writings of past American leaders and think that our heroes could have held such views.  It is painful to read accounts of lynchings of black men.

This is racism. Refusing to allow black men from drinking out of a certain drinking fountain because they are black is racism.

To equate these things with the actions of political party members opposed to the first black president is to devalue the word. It lets real racists off easy.

Republicans — at least the vast majority of them — do not disagree with Obama because he’s black; they disagree with him because they have different policy prescriptions.

If Hillary Clinton was president, and the number of people on food stamps was the same, you can bet Newt would have still offered the same critique.

Bottom line: the Republican opposition is not racist.

The issue of race and American politics is never far beneath the surface because writers like Glenn Thrush and Donovan Slack never let it sink too far.


Tony Petersen is the opinion editor of The Collegian. Follow him on Twitter @tonypetersen4.

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