Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Issue Maureen Dowd Won't Talk About: Race

Maureen Dowd has decided that while she is a product of the white working class, Barack Obama, a man who grew up as a mixed race child in America is part of the Ivy League elite. This is from her column in the New York Times that appeared today, April 16, 2008:

I’m not bitter.

I’m not writing this just because I grew up in a house with a gun, a strong Catholic faith, an immigrant father, brothers with anti-illegal immigrant sentiments and a passion for bowling. (My bowling trophy was one of my most cherished possessions.)

My family morphed from Kennedy Democrats into Reagan Republicans not because they were angry, but because they felt more comfortable with conservative values. Members of my clan sometimes were overly cloistered. But they weren’t bitter; they were bonding.

They went to church every Sunday because it was part of their identity, not because they needed a security blanket.

So what are those conservative values that prompted your family to switch from Kennedy Democrats to Reagan Republicans, Maureen? Could one of them possibly have anything to do with race? Could the transition from being a Kennedy Democrat to a Reagan Republican have anything to do with the fact that your family didn't like the fact that the Democratic Party helped pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act?

Or how about the fact that John F. Kennedy was, like yourself, an Irish-American Roman Catholic. Could your family's support for such a candidate have been the good old fashioned conservative value of tribalism?

Whites get tired of hearing from African-Americans about race. I bet, though, that they don't get as tired of hearing about race as African-Americans do about living with the results of white racism. One reason why Reagan and his fellow Republicans got elected was because they knew how to appeal to white racism without using overt racist langauge.

They talked about crime, which a lot of whites believe is an inner-city problem, even though a majority of felonies are committed by whites. They talked about welfare and made up stories about so-called "welfare queens", even though many more white families are below the poverty line than African-American families.

These appeals were based on tribalism, on the fact that people tend to identify with others who are like them. They also tend to be suspicious of those that are not like them. People who look different from them because of their race.

Partly as a result of these successful appeals to tribalism, Republicans have managed to win most of the presidential elections since the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. During the 44 years since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Republicans have won seven presidential elections and Democrats have won four presidential elections. During the 44 years previous to 1964, Democrats won seven presidential elections while Republicans won four. Gee, Maureen, do you think that maybe the passage of that Act started the trend of Republicans winning presidential elections?

Of course commentators like Dowd don't want to closelyexamine why their family members went from being "Kennedy Democrats" to "Reagan Republicans". That examination might strike too close to home. Far, far easier to blame it on Democratic candidates since the sainted JFK being "elitists."

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