Urbin Report

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The Myth of the Racist Republicans

A myth about conservatism is circulating in academia and journalism and has spread to the 2004 presidential campaign. It goes something like this: the Republican Party assembled a national majority by winning over Southern white voters; Southern white voters are racist; therefore, the GOP is racist. Sometimes the conclusion is softened, and Republicans are convicted merely of base opportunism: the GOP is the party that became willing to pander to racists. Either way, today's Republican Party—and by extension the conservative movement at its heart—supposedly has revealed something terrible about itself.

The problem comes when we try to extend this forward. Black and Black try to do this by showing that Nixon and Reagan crafted positions on busing, affirmative action, and welfare reform in a political climate in which many white voters doubted the virtues of preferential hiring, valued individual responsibility, and opposed busing as intrusive. To be condemned as racist "code," the GOP's positions would have to come across as proxies for these views -and in turn these views would have to be racist. The problem is that these views are not self-evidently racist. Many scholars simply treat them as if they were. Adding insult to injury, usually they don't even pause to identify when views like opposition to affirmative action would not be racist.

In effect, these critics want to have it both ways: they acknowledge that these views could in principle be non-racist (otherwise they wouldn't be a "code" for racism) but suggest they never are in practice (and so can be reliably treated as proxies for racism). The result is that their claims are non-falsifiable because they are tautological: these views are deemed racist because they are defined as racist. This amounts to saying that opposition to the policies favored by today's civil rights establishment is a valid indicator of racism. One suspects these theorists would, quite correctly, insist that people can disagree with the Israeli government without being in any way anti-Semitic. But they do not extend the same distinction to this issue. This is partisanship posturing as social science.

Read the whole thing
A tip of the hat to Oh, That Liberal Media for the link.