If the left has a single favorite topic of conversation, it is race. More specifically, issues relating to racial disparities in the United States.
They do not derive pleasure from pondering the progress the nation has made in a handful of generations, nor are they consumed with pride in their country’s progressivism on racial matters. They are propelled instead to heights of ecstasy only by ruminating on the real and persistent racial injustices in America, not to mention their roles as members of a tribe that regards itself as right-thinking on racial issues.
For conservatives, the opposite is largely the case. There is no joy in dwelling on (not synonymous with acknowledging) the nation’s dubious racial history or even its imperfect racial present. This may be why so many on the left have convinced themselves that conservatives no longer believe racism is a factor in modern life. When conservatives ranging from those on editorial boards to Supreme Court justices note that the racial inequities that prevailed in the 1960s are no longer applicable, they are accused of stipulating that racism itself is a defunct phenomenon. Curiously, this nuanced assessment of the state of race relations is not lost on the left when the same contention is made by a liberal, albeit an iconoclastic one, like linguistics professor John McWhorter.
The truth of it, one which the left finds hard to accept, is that many conservatives do not regard the nation’s perennial and unending “national conversation” on race to be especially productive. In fact, after 20 prolonged years of conversing, there is a fair bit of anecdotal evidence that suggests it has only helped to elevate to prominence the most unhelpful voices on racial issues. Even as the races move closer and closer to equality, those voices on both sides of the matter that believe gaps in outcomes along racial lines have only grown worse over the decades enjoy access to ever-larger microphones.
This inverse proportionality seems to have eluded Politico. In a recent report, Politico observed that the Republican Party is likely to field its most racially diverse set of presidential aspirants in 2016; from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, to Ben Carson, to Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). In the next presidential cycle, the GOP will look a lot more like the America they are seeking to represent (to borrow a liberal admonishment) than will the Democratic Party. And yet, according to Politico‘s Katie Glueck and Tarini Parti, the party’s presidential hopefuls will decline to dwell on this fact.
They are all mulling over White House runs as the GOP continues to struggle with minority voters and as racial tensions over police conduct have captivated the nation.
But none is planning to play up his race or ethnicity in a presidential campaign, or even to stress the potentially historic nature of his candidacy. Instead, according to interviews with donors, strategists, aides and several of the possible candidates themselves, each is more likely to hit broader themes such as the American dream and the importance of hard work, which, for Jindal, Cruz and Rubio, would include nods to their parents’ immigrant experience.
Such messages would, in theory, have more universal appeal by stressing the commonalities of the American experience instead of its divisions — while also avoiding the identity politics that are toxic among GOP primary voters. It’s a tactic that may be welcomed as an expression of unity by some minorities, but it is already seen by others, especially advocates for immigrants, as dismissive of unique hardships facing their communities.
Politico’s reporters note that identity politics is “toxic” for GOP voters, but refrain from examining why that is the case. Republican primary voters are not awed by the “potentially historic nature” of any of these potential candidates, nor do they hunger for the self-validation they might derive from casting a ballot in their favor.
When a Democrat says “We need to talk” what they means is “I need to talk.” They aren’t interested in having a national conversation on race, they want to lecture and berate. Either way, there’s nothing left to talk about.
150 years ago we had a national conversation about slavery. Slavery lost. Blacks were freed, and we ratified a couple new amendments to the constitution that made slavery illegal and gave blacks citizenship and gave everybody the right to due process of law.
Then we spent the next 100 years talking about segregation and discrimination, and lynching, and the KKK and racism. We reached a consensus that all those things were bad and we shouldn’t do them anymore. That consensus is nowadays nearly unanimous.
When I was born there were places in this country where you could be openly racist and still win elections. That isn’t true anymore, and that is a good thing. So what is left to talk about? Nobody is trying to restore slavery or segregation. With the exception of a few social pariahs nobody is advocating or defending racism.
Of course “black lives matter.” Nobody is saying they don’t. That’s a slogan, not an issue. Seriously, we need to move on. We’ll never achieve a colorblind society if we keep obsessing about color.