Wednesday, November 03, 2021

When They Go Low, We Must Go Lower

Democrats had a bad day on Tuesday.  Republicans exploited critical race theory, a tactic deplorable not because critical race theory needs to be taught to youngsters, because it doesn't. but instead because the ginned-up hysteria convinced many voters (contrary to evidence) that CRT is coming to a school near them.

The strategy recommended by two pundits, one (RB) a political strategist, the other (AJ) a chief of staff for then-Senator Harry Reid, differ from another.

Republicans will force race into the conversation, though 8-9 months from now it probably will be something other than critical race theory. Moreover, blaming progressives is not only unhelpful, but unjustified.

Republicans do win by weaponizing racism and Democrats oblige them on the issue. However, while Jentleson advised Democrats to ignore race, Bitecofer recommends they launch their own culture war.

It might seem to the culturally leftist, racially tolerant that Democratic politicians and pundits are ignoring race. But be assured that white people, of whom I have been one for several decades, do not believe that Democrats have been ignoring race.

They heard Democrats, recognizing and emphasizing racial bias in policing, loud and clear in the summer and fall of 2020. Polls then indicated that voters were responding to George Floyd protests and acknowledging discrimination throughout American society.

Or at least that's what it seemed.  Pew found in June, 2020 that the vast majority of voters supported the "Black Lives Matter movement." A few months later, support dropped to a small majority, where it remains.

Many whites no doubt interpreted the question as inquiring about support or opposition to the notion that black lives matter. Respondents were not asked whether they supported the Black Lives Matter protest but whether they agreed that black lives matter. You should not be surprised that a great many whites will not admit to a stranger or even an automated caller that they oppose black lives.

In a dirty little secret of American politics, most voters do not look wistfully upon the days of the George Floyd protests. They remember violence as greater than it was. And they hear Democratic heavyweights (such as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn) scold Democrats for supporting "defunding the police." Few do, of course; but Clyburn and others inadvertently identify members of their own party with that unpopular position.

Bitecofer calls it "racism"; others may call it "fear" or simple opposition to protests which turned violent, not always instigated by the protestors themselves. This response is not going to come as in the old days, in a white sheet or with a governor denying an African-American admission to an institution.  It will come disguised (as it has already)- as discouragement about education or another high-minded issue.

Jentleson appears unaware that Democrats have been engaging on race. They have not been ignoring it, and it's clear to the American people (blacks and whites (and possibly others), which side they come down on. 

They come down on the side of- take your pick- racial justice or racial preferences. Black Americans, who constitute the base of the Democratic Party, know this. So do white Americans and, as Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey have discovered this week, they are not amused.

It's unsurprising that poor and working-class whites are especially displeased when they learn from unsympathetic, even condescending, liberals and progressives that they have benefitted unfairly from "white privilege." Opportunistic right-wing politicians have raised the specter of the spread of critical race theory, which examines American history not through the lens of class or truth but through race. And Democrats are amazed that they have lost so many white working-class voters.

One of the dirty little secrets of American politics is that most voters, whatever they tell pollsters, do not look wistfully upon the days of the George Floyd protests. Rather, they recall the violence surrounding them and respond emotionally when told by opportunistic right-wing politicians that their children will be subjected to critical race theory. Struggling economically, perhaps with health problems that they are economically ill-equipped to handle, they hear- or believe they hear- from some politicians, academics, and activists that they stand in the way of progress for blacks. 

When you're explaining, you're losing. Democrats will lose by emphasizing that critical race theory is taught only in college. They will lose worse if they take the advice of this comedian, who argues Democrats are "paying a price for looking the other way at the subtle (and not so subtle) racism of white suburban life for too long."

They have not been looking the other way. They have been harping on it. Engage voters even more on race, and the electoral problem Democrats face will only grow. Their best option is the one advocated by Rachel Bitecofer, who realizes Democrats must begin "launching their own culture war offenses on issues they can win via fear & emotion. Only fear can offset fear."

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