-Liberal NY Magazine writer Jonathan Chait, referring to, among other things, Beck's clown show rally in 2010.
Jonathan Chait is one of my favorite writers. He does a fabulous job of illuminating complicated policy minutiae. But, and it saddens me to write this, when he ventures into the minefield that is America's racial politics his writing shrinks from great to dangerous and disappointing.
A segment of White American liberalism is offensively optimistic. Where I—a black person and a student of history— continue to see the harsh and fairly consistent hand of white supremacy, Chait et al. see heartening progress. Chait is also the same person who disagreed with the assertion that "America has rarely been our[Black America's] ally. Very often it has been our nemesis."
In a long piece in NY Magazine Chait applauds the efforts of conservative Republicans to paint themselves as the rightful heirs of the Civil Rights/Humans Rights Movement:
Glenn Beck’s “I Have a Dream” rally, the Republican habit of likening Obama and his policies either to slavery or to segregation (at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference alone, both Ralph Reed and Bobby Jindal compared the Obama administration to George Wallace)—these are expressions not of a political tactic but a genuine obsession.There is nothing remotely heartening about the cynical, Orwellian acts of Beck (he who said that Obama hates white people) and his ilk. And nor is it merely racial resentment as Chait wrote later. Instead, they are trying to deflect from their political cohorts' efforts to suppress the black/brown vote. They seek to excuse their blocking of the Medicaid expansion in states with large, poor black populations. The modern Republican Party has a vested interest in ensuring that non-white ethnic groups don't vote as often, because if they do the social welfare net will expand. That expansion is the opponent of conservative ideals. Why is that? Well, it could be that white Americans don't want the government aiding American's who aren't white. Chait himself pointed to a Rochester study that detailed the correlation the slavery and modern conservative voting patterns:
This fervent scrubbing away of the historical stain of racism represents, on one level, a genuine and heartening development, a necessary historical step in the full banishment of white supremacy from public life.
The more slave-intensive a southern county was 150 years ago, the more conservative and Republican its contemporary white residents. The authors tested their findings against every plausible control factor—for instance, whether the results could be explained simply by population density—but the correlation held. Higher levels of slave ownership in 1860 made white Southerners more opposed to affirmative action, score higher on the anti-black-affect scale, and more hostile to Democrats. . .A white conservative may vote against John Kerry and Barack Obama because both figures, in the white conservative's view, are "elitists" who may implement policies that will assist the victims of white supremacist capitalism. That would still be a form of racism rather Chait admits it or not.
The Rochester study should, among other things, settle a very old and deep argument about the roots of America’s unique hostility to the welfare state.
Chait devotes significants sections of his piece admonishing liberals for their paranoid obsession of wanting to smear conservatives as racists. Ultimately, the view Chait offers us on racial politics it quite similar to the view that Obama offers us: white supremacy is still a problem, but both sides share blame for this and that. It's a pathetic perspective and I would love for Obama and Chait to tell that to the black people who won't be able to vote this November. I would love for Chait and Obama to take their "both sides argument" to black people stopped and frisk and murdered by police officer and non-police officers. I wonder what CeCe McDonald has to say about bigotry in America. And Chait's liberalism (add in Obama) is the sort of ideology that has allowed white supremacy to fester like the stinking cancer it is. And what about our brown brothers and sisters who live in constant fear of being kidnapped from their families?
Those ideas of blaming non-white people for the lack of racial progress (as Obama didlast August) provide the space for racist violence and racial economic injustice to prosper. I was going to write in this space that Chait has a cowardly political posture. In other words, he's afraid of calling out the white conservative racism because of the backlash like that MSNBC experienced when someone tweeted about right wingers hating the interracial Cheerios commercial. No—Chait really believes the Republican party is attempting to do away with white supremacy, despite their policy agenda explicitly supporting and sustaining and expanding the white racist, capitalist state.
Ultimately, any one who thinks that Glenn Beck is making a good faith effort to bridge the racial divide and end white supremacy is naive on the issue of race in America; Chait-Obama's (see also:Andrew Sullivan) coddling of racist, white conservatives is exactly what's wrong with liberals in this country. We will never bend the arc of the universe toward true justice unless we fight the fights that need fighting. White supremacy is one such fight. And Chait and Obama have turned out be our quasi-enemies.