That’s the theory that is being put forward by the Nation’s Melissa Harris-Perry.
It’s an interesting argument for its ignorance. I’m sorry, that’s not very kind, but frankly it’s true. Harris-Perry gives a few paragraphs at the beginning of her piece to explaining this “most insidious” of forms of racism – electoral racism. You see, it shows up, apparently, when voters refuse to vote for someone just because of his or her skin color. And she goes to the trouble of talking about Barack Obama’s last two elections and what is called “roll off”:
One way to determine how many people felt this way is to measure the “roll-off.” In presidential election years, a small percentage vote for the president, but then “roll off” by not casting ballots for state and local offices. A substantial increase in roll-off—larger than usual numbers of voters who picked John Kerry or George Bush but declined to choose between Obama and Keyes—would have been a measure of the unwillingness of some to vote for any black candidate. I tested this in 2004 and found no increase, statistical or substantive, in roll-off in Illinois. Faced with two black candidates, white voters were willing to choose one of them.
The 2008 general election was another referendum on old-fashioned electoral racism—this time among Democratic voters. The long primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Obama had the important effect of registering hundreds of thousands of Democrats. By October 2008, it was clear that Obama could lose the general election only if a substantial portion of registered Democrats in key states failed to turn out or chose to cross party lines. For Democrats to abandon their nominee after eight years of Bush could be interpreted only as an act of electoral racism.
Not only did white Democratic voters prove willing to support a black candidate; they overperformed in their repudiation of naked electoral racism, electing Obama with a higher percentage of white votes than either Kerry or Gore earned. No amount of birther backlash can diminish the importance of these two election results. We have not landed on the shores of postracial utopia, but we have solid empirical evidence of a profound and important shift in America’s electoral politics.
Got that? In both of the elections, no “roll off” was detected. So it is usually safe to say that if none happened in the elections, racism was probably not a factor, given her theory.
But … and you knew there had to be a “but”, now Harris-Perry is very concerned that there will be a form of roll off in the 2012 presidential election. And if Barack Obama doesn’t get his due in votes, it is most likely the fact that white liberals have abandoned him that will be the reason.
The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.
Really … that’s the reason? A “tendency” of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts? Well there’s news. It’s also news that he, Obama, is “just as competent as his white predecessors”. Yeah, Jimmy Carter – maybe.
This is the the old tried and true race baiter’s tactic of whipping the base into line by throwing out the race card. Pure and simple, she’s trying to use race as the basis of scaring white liberals, who would rather be called child molesters than racists, back into supporting a black president.
Harris-Perry attempts to use Bill Clinton in her comparison/justification of her claim (hey, wasn’t he the first black president?) saying that Clinton was much less impressive in his achievements yet managed to see his support increase in the days before he was re-elected:
In 1996 President Clinton was re-elected with a coalition more robust and a general election result more favorable than his first win. His vote share among women increased from 46 to 53 percent, among blacks from 83 to 84 percent, among independents from 38 to 42 percent, and among whites from 39 to 43 percent.
President Obama has experienced a swift and steep decline in support among white Americans—from 61 percent in 2009 to 33 percent now. I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation. His record is, at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton, who was enthusiastically re-elected. The 2012 election is a test of whether Obama will be held to standards never before imposed on an incumbent. If he is, it may be possible to read that result as the triumph of a more subtle form of racism.
Anyone, is Barack Obama’s tenure in office “at the least, comparable to that of President Clinton?” Well he is beginning to catch up in the scandal department. But no one really ever considered Clinton a “failed” president. Flawed, certainly. But the word “failed” is what is beginning to be whispered about Barack Obama, even in liberal circles.
I was one of Bill Clinton’s harshest critics and frankly I see no comparison between the two. Clinton, despite all of his vices and problems was at least a competent leader. Obama has never once shown comparable leadership skills. And Clinton was a vastly better politician than is Barack Obama.
Instead of racism, could it just be something as simple as all Americans, including white Americans, are disappointed in his performance and are much more likely to compare his performance to Carter’s rather than Clinton’s? Does it really have more to do with the economy, horribly high unemployment and the failure of this president to do anything meaningful to change that (see Carter)? Clinton had the good fortune of having an up economy in his second run and he was credited with that. Where Harris-Perry would find racism, most Americans see economic misery and the ineffectiveness of the man in the Oval Office to do anything about it.
Whether you believe that the president can significantly effect the economic tides, the president is the one who gets credit or blame depending on the condition of the economy (and they have no problem claiming credit on the positive side, do they?). Oh, and don’t forget, Obama promised that if he was given his stimulus package he actually would change the economic tides and hold unemployment under 8%. Three years later, we remain in an economic morass, and the man is trying to get another chance to finally do something?
Is it really racism to drop your support for some politician who promises the moon and then delivers nothing? That’s Obama’s problem, not his race. I remember very well when the meme or talking point for Democratic politicians as applied to George W. Bush was “incompetent”. Barack Obama, in the minds of a number of voters, has redefined the word. Is it really racism to drop your support for an incompetent black politician, or is it a rational decision based on performance or lack thereof.
The key to Harris-Perry’s claim is her unsupported conjecture that Obama has been at least as competent as Bill Clinton, and if you disagree with that assessment (and aren’t going to support Obama this time) you’re a racist.
Same old song, different verse, and just as tired. This time, though, it’s being deployed to keep white liberals in line. A nice little twist.
In fact, the most insidious and subtle form of racism is claiming it exists in the face of any number of factors that weigh very heavily against such a presumption. And that’s precisely what Harris-Perry engages in here.
Seriously if he’s not bright enough to know the difference or pretends not to, why pay attention to him?
The Rev. Walter Fauntroy, the non-voting delegate who represented the District of Columbia from 1971 to 1991, called on African-Americans to organize a "new coalition of conscience" to rebut the rally scheduled for Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial featuring Fox News pundit Glenn Beck and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"We are going to take on the barbarism of war, the decadence of racism, and the scourge of poverty, that the Ku Klux — I meant to say the Tea Party," Fauntroy told a news conference today at the National Press Club. "You all forgive me, but I — you have to use them interchangeably."
Well, Rev. Fauntroy, if you do, you’re intellectually dishonest or just not very bright and, frankly, a run of the mill race baiter.
Here’s the diff, Rev. You’d be welcome at Saturday’s rally as a concerned American regardless of the color of your skin. The same can’t be said about any KKK rally, can it?
The fact that he feels compelled to say ignorant and inflammatory things like that says a lot more about the Rev. than those attending the rally.
"I don’t want you to think I’m angry," Fauntroy said. "[But] when this right-wing conservative exclusionary group comes to highjack our movement, we have got to respond. And I’m looking forward to that Coalition of Conscience, in defense of jobs and freedom for women."
Yeah, because none of those in DC on Saturday would defend jobs and freedom for women, would they? Especially the females and unemployed among them.
Hey, Rev — the race card is dead. You and those like you who have played it at every turn and make outrageous claims like comparing a rally of concerned Americans to the KKK have killed any cache it had left.
It doesn’t work anymore.
Instead, things like I’m writing now – ridicule – are the standard response. You deserve it. It should be heaped on you. Along with a huge helping of scorn. You’re like a little kid who holds his breath and stomps his feet and says the most hateful thing he can because things aren’t going his way.
And I’ll bet, after tarring all those Americans at the rally with your wide racist brush, that you’ll claim to be a Christian too, won’t you? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
So much for "post-racial".
I’m sure you’ve been watching the goings on for the last few months – the race baiting, the Black Panther case – or lack thereof – the NAACP calling the Tea Party "racist" with little or no proof, the "journolist" appeal to call those on the right "racist" in order to blunt criticism of Obama and finally, the Shirley Sherrod case.
Essentially, both sides need to take a breath. But even with a breath, it is clear that there is nothing "post-racial" about the climate in this country. Ben Smith’s take:
The America of 2010 is dominated by racial images out of farce and parody, caricatures not seen since the glory days of Shaft. Fox News often stars a leather-clad New Black Panther, while MSNBC scours the tea party movement for racist elements, which one could probably find in any mass organization in America. Obama’s own, sole foray into the issue of race involved calling a police officer “stupid,” and regretting his own words. Conservative leaders and the NAACP, the venerable civil-rights group, recently engaged in a round of bitter name-calling that left both groups wounded and crying foul. Political correctness continues to reign in parts of the left, and now has a match in the belligerent grievance of conservatives demanding that hair-trigger allegations of racism be proven.
Yeah, heaven forbid that proof be demanded – in the past all it’s taken is yelling “racist” and the deed is done. Now suddenly, proof of the word is demanded? Outrageous.
But to the bigger point – if this is a ‘national conversation’ about race, I’d sure see it when we’re yelling at each other. The absurdity of all of this has gotten beyond amusing. It’s now destructive.
“I thought we were going to move beyond this,” said Abigail Thernstrom, a conservative historian of race and a Bush appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who called the current racial climate “a catastrophe.”
“There’s a kind of heightened racial consciousness that’s very worrisome. It’s not good for us, it’s not good for the very fabric of American society,” she said, objecting in particular to the claims of racism against the tea party movement.
Yup – I think there were a lot of us who hoped we were beyond this. But for some, racism and race is big business. Take Jesse Jackson. In fact take Jesse Jackson recently on the LeBron James kerfuffle. It was he who made the comparison to plantation owners and slaves. Nothing the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers had said that remotely reminded anyone of someone talking about a “runaway slave” as Jackson portrayed it. But Jackson’s mind is focused on one area and one area only – everything is racial to him, even a business disagreement.
While there may be plenty to criticize in the way Dan Gilbert handled the situation and what he said about James, but to an impartial observer, it had nothing to do with race. It was a tantrum by an owner who felt this particular players hadn’t played up to his potential in the playoffs and blasted him. But “plantation owner” and “runaway slave”? Give me a freakin’ break.
One of the things I said would help sooth racial tensions was the passing of my parent’s generation – they may have been the “greatest generation” because of WWII, but there was a lot of bigotry within that generation as well (my parents being a very interesting exception). Now I’m of the opinion that a lot of this will begin to cool when the generation of race hustlers, like Jackson, and race baiters, like Al Sharpton, meet their reward.
It’s a pity really – this should be old news. We should be watching documentaries about this and shaking our heads sadly.
Instead, we have a new 21st century race war going on. And I believe much of the blame falls on the Obama administration and Holder’s DoJ.
Regardless though, it’s pitiful.
he NAACP and a certain Democrat have, this week, alleged the Tea Party (in whole) is racist.
In the case of the NAACP, it is a story much like private unions – an organization that was once very relevant trying to maintain its relevance and becoming more marginal and hysterical as a result.
In the case of Representative Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-TX), it’s the usual – pure, unadulterated and stultifying historical ignorance. In Jackson-Lee’s case, she addressed the NAACP saying:
And I thank you professor very much. I’m going to be engaging you with those very powerful numbers that you have offered on what the tea party recognizes, uh, or is recognized as. Might I add my own P.S.? All those who wore sheets a long time ago have now lifted them off and started wearing [applause], uh, clothing, uh, with a name, say, I am part of the tea party. Don’t you be fooled. [voices: "That’s right.", applause] Those who used to wear sheets are now being able to walk down the aisle and speak as a patriot because you will not speak loudly about the lack of integrity of this movement. Don’t let anybody tell you that those who spit on us as we were walking to vote on a health care bill for all of America or those who said Congresswoman Jackson-Lee’s braids were too tight in her hair had anything to do with justice and equality and empowerment of the American people. Don’t let them fool you on that [applause]….
A history channel documentary about the period puts it very succinctly:
As Meredith Jessup points out at Townhall:
Yes, the Klan removed their "sheets" and Sheila Jackson-Lee was SO outraged, she decided to run for public office… on their party’s ticket.
It’s time to stop allowing the revisionist history that has been so much a part of the Democrats attempt to disassociate themselves (with, unbelievably the NAACP’s help) from their sordid, racist past. Just remember, Bull Conner, Orville Faubus, Lester Maddox and George Wallace weren’t Republicans – and the last member of the US Congress who wore the sheets Jackson-Lee denounces was the Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd.
The only racists I see out there are those who falsely accuse others of it out of malicious desire to silence their political opponents by again playing the race card where it doesn’t belong. And that would include the NAACP and Ms. Jackson-Lee.