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Running the racism gauntlet

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By Jonah Goldberg
Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
 

If the GOP wants to win more black votes, it will need to get a lot more “racist.”

The scare quotes are necessary because I don't think the Republican Party is racist now.

But that hasn't stopped a lot of people from slandering Republicans as racist for one reason or another.

Many in Washington — particularly the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus — insist that Republican attacks on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice are racist and, yawn, sexist. The basis for this claim is that some Republicans are calling Rice unfit for the soon-to-be-vacated job of secretary of State. They're cross with Rice for what they contend to be her dishonest and incompetent handling of the Benghazi scandal.

And, because Rice is a black woman, well, blah, blah, blah. Racism! Sexism!

Never mind that Republicans haven't had a white secretary of State since Lawrence Eagleburger concluded his term two decades ago. Never mind that Republicans appointed the first black secretary of State ever (Colin Powell) and the first black female secretary of State ever (Condoleezza Rice).

Also, never mind that Susan Rice's handling of Benghazi — and several other matters — can quite defensibly be dubbed incompetent.

That doesn't stop Democrats or liberal pundits from crying racism.

Just consider some recent examples from over the summer. When Mitt Romney visited Michigan, he joked about not needing a birth certificate to prove he was from there. Not very funny? OK, sure. Poor taste? Eh, maybe. “The basest and the most despicable bigotry we might be able to imagine”? Errr, no. And yet that's what one respected “expert” on race, Michael Eric Dyson, called it on MSNBC. Rather than show some skepticism at the claim, MSNBC host Alex Wagner agreed that Romney was “scraping the very bottom of this sort of racist other-ist narrative.”

Such moral bullying makes white liberals feel better about themselves. It scares moderates and centrists away from the Republican Party. It no doubt helps dissuade wavering blacks from even thinking about giving the GOP an honest look. And it helps a feckless left-wing black political class explain away their own failures. Racial slander is like duct tape: There's no limit to what you can do with it.

One of the points of racial slander is to signal that only liberal policies are guaranteed to be non-racist (even when such policies were forged with racist intent, like the Davis-Bacon Act). This is why the Congressional Black Caucus insists on calling itself the “conscience of the Congress.”

That's why policies like school choice are routinely denounced as racist, even though they are largely aimed at improving the lives of inner-city blacks trapped in bad schools. Teachers unions don't like school choice; ergo it's racist.

Any serious attempt by the GOP to win black votes won't involve Republicans copycatting liberal policies. It will require going over the heads of black and white liberal slanderers to offer a sincere alternative to failed liberal policies on schools, poverty, crime, etc. The more effective that effort, the more the GOP will be called racist.

When Romney, whose father marched with Martin Luther King Jr., spoke to the NAACP, Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast dubbed him a “race-mongering pyromaniac.” Just imagine the desperate, pathetic attacks in store for a more effective Republican.

Jonah Goldberg is the author of the new book “The Tyranny of Clichés.”

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