OK

There is quite a bit of discussion this morning about Chris Matthews accusing Romney of "playing the race card".  This is all worthy -- and not what this diary addresses, which is:  What does "Playing the Race Card" mean?  Is it helpful to use it here?

It means:  

exploitation of either racist or anti-racist attitudes by accusing others of racism
This is not what Matthews accuses Romney (and his campaign) of doing.  Matthews would be much more effective if he were more specific: Romney's campaign relies on racist demagoguery.  This is not gamesmanship -- it is inseparably close to straightforward racism.

The cited Wikipedia entry also contains this:

George Dei, Karumanchery, et alia, in their book Playing the Race Card argue that the term itself is a rhetorical device used in an effort to devalue and minimize claims of racism.
I don't think that was Matthews' intent, but it is the effect.  While I applaud Matthews efforts, his diction dulls his accusation on two counts.  First, it mis-describes the actions he is criticizing, and second it moves the discussion from the reality of racism to the meta-reality of game playing.  (NB:  I have not closely watched the actual exchange.  I am relying on reports of it posted here on DKos.)

The Republican platform is (and has been for decades) raised on planks of racist demagoguery, from which slight elevation racist demagogues promoted and promote racism.  It should be identified as such.  Here, for once, we have an opening to discuss that.  It has nothing to do with "playing the race card".

(I have no love for the word "demagoguery" -- suggestions for alternatives welcome.)

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