12 January 2010

Reid and Lott

I don't get why this is a scandal. It sounds like, when you read the quote in context and in full rather than in parsed for effect soundbyte form, that he's saying that a substantial fraction of Americans are racist enough to make such determinations. Which sounds about right. The difficulty in comparison appears to be the distinction between "racist" and "racial", in which the second identifies someone as cynically (and accurately) portraying a portion of the public as using racial identity in their political determinations, while the former identifies someone as being supportive of state sponsored segregation.

These are not the same thing.

It does appear that there is a substantial fraction of the Republican party that isn't aware of this distinction. They're not the only ones of course. Saying something that is "racially" charged or makes awareness of racial variations is not likely to be always indicative of racist sentiments on the part of the person making that statement. What it does often indicate is stupidity on the part of both the audience interpreting it as racist and the person speaking on the subject. I'm not sure that Reid's statements were stupid, mostly because they seem accurate in this case, but it's of course highly possible that he has made other stupid remarks on this and other subjects. This latter explanation seems to be why he is trailing in polls for re-election and not because he is somehow a closet racist, as Republicans seem to want to tar him as (as though they have a party which is more productive on the topics of race and its continuing effects in society today?)

Similarly, it appears clear that there's a substantive fraction of opposition to Obama/Obama politics on the basis of race or because public monies may go to support people of some other race than white folks. This is not and should not be interpreted to mean that ANY opposition to such policies and politics is racist or even racially motivated. It may still mean that some of that opposition is misguided, misinformed, or stupid and where such opposition is clearly racially motivated, one should be inclined to fairly point that out. But it does not give an automatic pass to dismiss all of it as somehow emerging from the John Birch society, the KKK, or the Aryan Nation. Of course it does not help the Republicans to embrace any of these (as they appear to be doing with the Birchers and to a lesser extent, the Birthers, a group which I have little evidence to suggest isn't a racially motivated one) and then to go forward and criticize policies.

One other note. The new book that is blasting all sorts of major political figures from the Clintons to Palin to Edwards: I don't care. It looks like, from the tidbits emerging publicly, that it's a gossip rag with a large dose of "he told me that a guy told him" sort of reporting in it. That doesn't mean that the characteristics of the people involved will be incorrect or any other form of false representations, but it does mean that the details could be wrong and therefore unimportant to establishing those character sketches. In any case, pretending that politicians are not hyper competitive and also annoying people in reality isn't something I grew up with doing. A treatise validating my cynicism is not something I need to devote time toward. I much prefer reading people arguing over comparisons in EU/USA growth rates and why that might be or the free rider problem of American military might as it applies to global defence spending. Actual policies are more important to ponder than the people who we have the misfortune to implement them.
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