Roger L. Simon Gets Racism Backwards

The quest for power can open up old wounds.

I think The Field Negro is actually a little too polite about Roger L. Simon’s essay blaming Democrats for the deterioration in race relations in this country during the Obama Era.

I just wonder if Mr. Simon is aware of the psychological projection involved in his conclusion.

Just a few years later, the scab appeared very much healed with the inauguration of America’s first African-American president, a man who would be elected twice. I didn’t vote for him for policy reasons, but his election brought tears to my eyes as a former civil rights worker. America’s long nightmare, as Dr. King might have put it, was over, at least as over as things could be in this imperfect world.

But it wasn’t – not by a long shot. It went the other way. Driven by what I call in my book “nostalgia for racism,” racial enmity was brought back as surely as Michael Corleone was pulled back in in Godfather III.

Why?

Power, of course. The Democratic Party relies on the perceived reality of racism for the identity politics on which it feeds. Racism is the lifeline of the Democrats. Votes lie there.

I agree that the explanation for our curdled race relations lies in the quest for power, but not in the way that Simon says.

It was certainly possible to treat President Obama the way that Morgan Freeman asked to be treated by 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace, as a person rather than as a black person. But that’s not the way he was treated. From at least the time of the Beer Summit with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the right chose to attack the president on racial grounds. No white president would have felt compelled to produce their birth certificate just to quell the cacophony of nonsense he was encountering that threatened to drown out everything he wanted to prioritize.

This wasn’t necessary. John McCain showed some actual restraint during his campaign in refusing to make a major issue out of Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and in making the decision to dispute accusations by his supporters that Obama is an Arab or a Muslim. After McCain’s loss, however, no one of similar stature stood up to quiet down those same racially charged accusations.

The Republicans were fully supportive of the Tea Party revolt, and the result was the end of Eric Cantor, John Boehner, and 18 Republican candidates for president (not named Trump)’s careers. They were all shortsighted, but they made their mistake because they put their quest for power over their responsibility to show real moral leadership.

I can’t identify a single thing that President Obama has gained by being subjected to this racism, and he certainly didn’t encourage it. I doubt very much that he got any votes out of it, although the Republicans certainly lost a few. On the whole, though, ramping up racial polarization helps the Republicans keep control of the House of Representatives because a racially divided country divvies up the districts in a way that is advantageous for the white party. Racial minorities are much more regionally concentrated.

The truth is, most Republican officeholders probably aren’t all that racist, but “votes lie there” and it takes actual moral fiber to make the decision that some power isn’t worth having on some terms.

Racism made a comeback because it worked politically for the out-party. But it quickly devoured them, and now they’re left with a nominee who all decent people cannot support.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.