James Taranto, the editor for the Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial page, lays out his theory for why the tea party movement has come under fire for accusations of racism:
The political left claims to love racial diversity, but it bitterly opposes such diversity on the political right. This is an obvious matter of political self-interest: Since 1964, blacks have voted overwhelmingly Democratic. If Republicans were able to attract black votes, the result would be catastrophic for the Democratic Party. Even in 2008, the Democrats' best presidential year since '64, if the black vote had been evenly split between the parties (and holding the nonblack vote constant), Barack Obama would have gotten about 48% of the vote and John McCain would be president.The title of his piece is "Why the Left Needs Racism" but it seems to me that the entire premise for his article is somewhat based on a racist assumption, or is at the very least intellectually insulting if you're a black American. That premise is that black people vote overwhelmingly Democratic because they've somehow been tricked into thinking that the Republican party and its affiliate members are racist. That's it: black people were tricked a long time ago and that's why they vote the way they do. It couldn't possibly be because of Johnson's Great Society or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act or the expansion of entitlement programs for those lower on the socio-economic scale or affirmative action laws or hate crime legislation or gun control laws or reformation of drug laws because everyone knows that black folks don't care about any of that stuff, right? And the added fact that the current incarnation of the Republican party is older, whiter and more Southern than it has been in generations isn't exactly sweetening the deal either.
To keep blacks voting Democratic, it is necessary for the party and its supporters to keep alive the idea that racism is prevalent in America and to portray the Republican Party (as well as independent challengers to the Democrats, such as the tea-party movement) as racist. The election of Barack Obama made nonsense of the idea that America remains a racist country and thereby necessitated an intensifying of attacks on the opposition as racist.
So if there are a myriad of reasons for blacks to vote for the Democrats and very few for them to vote for (as well as several for them to vote against) the Republicans, how exactly does Taranto think that Democrats are going to lose or Republicans are going to attract black voters? Positing a fictional scenario in which McCain split the black vote with Obama is convenient in that it helps him make the point that McCain would have won had it happened but it's also fairly useless to Republicans because it's extraordinarily unlikely to happen anytime soon in real life. And if there is no credible threat of any impending exodus of black votes from the Democratic party then his theory of an organized and institutional racial smear campaign against Republicans on behalf of the Democratic party holds little water as a debatable point. Democrats don't need to lie about race because the political racial reality already works out mostly in their favor.
I can however point to one more reason why blacks might be more inclined to vote Democratic rather than Republican: white conservatives like James Taranto writing ridiculously shortsighted things like "The election of Barack Obama made nonsense of the idea that America remains a racist country..." in publications like the Wall Street Journal. Or as I wrote last year:
...according to these same people the day we elected a black man as president all the racism in this country just magically dried up and blew away. We made one of them president, what more do black people want!?Stating that there is no longer any more racism in America is insulting enough to minorities who still have to deal with it on a consistent basis but when those claims are coming from a well-fed, middle-aged white man who writes mostly about money and Wall Street (a bastion of whiteness in itself) while he carries water for the Republican party (a similar bastion of whiteness) it's little wonder the black vote goes overwhelmingly to the Democrats. The tea party movement isn't entirely racist of course but by dint of its demographic makeup it does have a racial undertone that nobody within it's ranks is willing to publicly decry and that coupled with the Republican party's persistent obtuseness when it comes to race relations in this country has insured that Democrats won't have to worry about losing the black vote to them anytime soon. Rather than being easily conned dupes black folks are entirely capable of surveying the political landscape just fine for themselves and when it comes to the tea party movement the vast majority of them have obviously decided that they just don't like what they see out there.
[Update: Apparently RNC Chair and moustache aficionado Michael Steele agrees with my analysis:
Appearing Tuesday at DePaul University in Chicago, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said that the Republican Party has not given African-Americans a reason to vote for them.And tubby neocons will defend this bankrupt agenda to no end, despite contrary evidence from real folks on the ground.]
"You really don't have a reason to, to be honest -- we haven't done a very good job of really giving you one. True? True," said Steele, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Steele said how the Republican party had been founded as a pro-civil rights party, with Frederick Douglass among its early members. However, Steele explained, the Republican Party has alienated those voters: "For the last 40-plus years we had a 'Southern Strategy' that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South. Well, guess what happened in 1992, folks, 'Bubba' went back home to the Democratic Party and voted for Bill Clinton."