If the left has a single favorite topic of conversation, it is race. More specifically, issues relating to racial disparities in the United States.
They do not derive pleasure from pondering the progress the nation has made in a handful of generations, nor are they consumed with pride in their country’s progressivism on racial matters. They are propelled instead to heights of ecstasy only by ruminating on the real and persistent racial injustices in America, not to mention their roles as members of a tribe that regards itself as right-thinking on racial issues.
For conservatives, the opposite is largely the case. There is no joy in dwelling on (not synonymous with acknowledging) the nation’s dubious racial history or even its imperfect racial present. This may be why so many on the left have convinced themselves that conservatives no longer believe racism is a factor in modern life. When conservatives ranging from those on editorial boards to Supreme Court justices note that the racial inequities that prevailed in the 1960s are no longer applicable, they are accused of stipulating that racism itself is a defunct phenomenon. Curiously, this nuanced assessment of the state of race relations is not lost on the left when the same contention is made by a liberal, albeit an iconoclastic one, like linguistics professor John McWhorter.
The truth of it, one which the left finds hard to accept, is that many conservatives do not regard the nation’s perennial and unending “national conversation” on race to be especially productive. In fact, after 20 prolonged years of conversing, there is a fair bit of anecdotal evidence that suggests it has only helped to elevate to prominence the most unhelpful voices on racial issues. Even as the races move closer and closer to equality, those voices on both sides of the matter that believe gaps in outcomes along racial lines have only grown worse over the decades enjoy access to ever-larger microphones.
This inverse proportionality seems to have eluded Politico. In a recent report, Politico observed that the Republican Party is likely to field its most racially diverse set of presidential aspirants in 2016; from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, to Ben Carson, to Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). In the next presidential cycle, the GOP will look a lot more like the America they are seeking to represent (to borrow a liberal admonishment) than will the Democratic Party. And yet, according to Politico‘s Katie Glueck and Tarini Parti, the party’s presidential hopefuls will decline to dwell on this fact.
They are all mulling over White House runs as the GOP continues to struggle with minority voters and as racial tensions over police conduct have captivated the nation.
But none is planning to play up his race or ethnicity in a presidential campaign, or even to stress the potentially historic nature of his candidacy. Instead, according to interviews with donors, strategists, aides and several of the possible candidates themselves, each is more likely to hit broader themes such as the American dream and the importance of hard work, which, for Jindal, Cruz and Rubio, would include nods to their parents’ immigrant experience.
Such messages would, in theory, have more universal appeal by stressing the commonalities of the American experience instead of its divisions — while also avoiding the identity politics that are toxic among GOP primary voters. It’s a tactic that may be welcomed as an expression of unity by some minorities, but it is already seen by others, especially advocates for immigrants, as dismissive of unique hardships facing their communities.
Politico’s reporters note that identity politics is “toxic” for GOP voters, but refrain from examining why that is the case. Republican primary voters are not awed by the “potentially historic nature” of any of these potential candidates, nor do they hunger for the self-validation they might derive from casting a ballot in their favor.
The curiosity with which Politico approached the issue of the GOP’s aversion to circular, self-reinforcing dialogues on race is perhaps best explained by an analogy crafted by Deroy Murdock in his National Review column on the phenomenon of “liberal raceaholics.”
“Americans have not stopped talking about race for at least 227 years. Yet the raceaholics consider Americans too weak and self-doubting to address the topic,” Murdock wrote. “Absurd!”
Raceaholics include the liberal activists who published fliers implying that the defeat of Senator Kay Hagan (D., N.C.) would bring back lynching. New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, a black Democrat who won 83 percent of the vote in 2013, said this October that GOP gubernatorial nominee Rob Astorino “reminds me of Bull Connor in the 1960s.” As the Democratic commissioner of public safety in Birmingham, Ala., Connor used snarling German Shepherds and fire hoses to terrorize peaceful civil-rights protesters. Astorino, in contrast, campaigned with his black running mate.
Such communications seek political advantage at the expense of racial healing and reconciliation. This is as immoral as walking up to a recovering alcoholic, opening a bottle of tequila, pouring two shots, and saying, “Join me in a swig?”
This is no way to treat a loved one who is trying hard to do better after years of not doing well. And this is no way to treat a country that one purports to love.
Murdock is correct to characterize the left’s perpetual conversation about race as a product of compulsion. It is one in which they cannot stop engaging, myriad evidence that it is counterproductive notwithstanding. This is an addictive impulse leading to destructive behaviors, the proof of which is presently exploding all around us.
Maybe it is time to have a conversation about the conversation on race. Because Republicans don’t homogenously indulge in linguistic tics the left has routinized in order to identify those who share fealty to their preferred shibboleths does not mean the GOP does not regard race as an issue of significant importance. It does, however, indicate that they view this issue in ways distinct from their liberal counterparts. Particularly given their objective failure to advance racial comity, maybe it is time the left see if those whom they have excluded from the conversation have a point or two of their own to make.