The Truth about Race and the Republican Party


The following “emperor has no clothes” moment of truth-telling comes from a white Republican, Laurence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief-of-staff:

“My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those people — not all of them, but most of them — who are still basing their positions on race. Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists, and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin, and that’s despicable, . . .”

Crisp and clean and no caffeine. It’s so refreshing when someone speaks the truth. Here’s some more truth: in a recent AP poll,

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism […]

And what percentage of Republicans expressed explicit racism to AP pollsters? 79 percent.

Seventy. Nine. Percent.

Here’s Ray Teixeira, who does a good deal of his writing for The Democratic Strategist website:

[E]very cycle it becomes more difficult [for Republicans] to depend on getting an increasing share of the white vote to win. In this economy that may be feasible. I think they’ll ultimately fall short, but they’ll get close.

Responding to Teixeira, John Avlon of Newsweek writes this:

In the largest sense, it’s unhealthy for our 21st Century democracy to be this divided along racial lines. This is a problem that President Obama inherited—after signing the Voting Rights Act, LBJ famously said to his press secretary, Bill Moyers, “We just delivered the South to the Republicans for your generation and mine”—and it has been compounded by the fever pitch of polarization.

To heal this divide, both parties need to do a better job appealing to voters beyond their base. For Republicans, it could eventually become an existential problem driven by the bitter irony that the Party of Lincoln is on the wrong side of history when it comes to diversity.

For Democrats, the cost could be more devastating in the short term—the reelection loss of the first African-American president.

I actually think Avlon, in the interest of “balance,” overstates the problem on Obama’s side. Actually, it was Obama’s determination, against the strong advice of academic economists, to save General Motors (a white blue-collar issue) that has him leading in polls in the Midwest. The race issue, truth be told, is a Republican problem: where it once benefited Republicans to play the race card, it’s now starting to seriously cost them.


Above image of a racist at a Romney rally comes from here.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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8 Responses to The Truth about Race and the Republican Party

  1. I’m sure you’ll call me naive, Santi, but I didn’t think … or wouldn’t believe … that opposition to Obama in 2008 was driven to any significant degree by racism. But the Obama is a secret Muslim thing and especially the birth certificate issue changed my mind. The persistence of these claims, In the face of absolutely no evidence as well as the contempt of some very conservative publications (the WSJ on the birth certificate question was delightful) changed my mind. I could see no other explanation other than these were ways to turn racism into something a little more socially acceptable. It sure does look like the Reps are on the path to destroying themselves as a national party for generation. Unfortunately, from my perspective, they aren’t there yet and may do quite a bit of damage before they are.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Well, if the electorate rewards Romney with a win, there will be no change. Change will only come if, like a Pavlovian dog, the Republican Party no longer gets a treat when it tricks.

      I have a theory about the white vote: it simply isn’t true (as Teixeira’s quote above implies), that white resentment has no ceiling. I think that at least 40% of whites will not vote Republican no matter what–no matter how bad the economy is–precisely because they do not approve of racists and racism and fundamentalism. In fact, I would wager that one reason Romney seems stalled in battleground states at just under fifty percent is that he has maxed out his base vote and there are simply few whites left who will vote for him. We are probably seeing a ceiling, and that is likely to be a big story after election day. If Republicans want to get more of the white vote, they’ll have to be less racially provocative, not more so.

      Not even Ronald Reagan or George Bush ever won 60% of the white vote, and Romney seems to be betting on it.


      • We’ll know in a couple weeks. Fasten your seat belts.

      • Luke says:

        Santi- I believe you are totally wrong. If a white Republican with strong and consistent values came out in favor of deportation of all illegal immigrants, he would win going away. I am the first one to admit that blogs are anecdotal but even on the NY Times, probably 70% of respondents do not favor illegal immigration.

  2. Staffan says:

    Read the whole article. Implicit racism is 63 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats. And it doesn’t say anything about the race of the participants. There are a lot more Blacks and Hispanics voting for the Democrats, so minorities not disliking themselves isn’t exactly strong evidence of Republican racism.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      If minorities “dislike themselves,” maybe part of the reason is that the larger white culture radiates messages of inferiority and resentment at them.

      And two wrongs don’t make a right. If the Republican Party loses, will you at least concede that it needs to do something different on the race front?

      If so, what do you suggest?


      • Staffan says:

        I said minorities don’t dislike themselves. The usual pattern is that ethnic or racial groups have a positive image of themselves. So to compare Republican racism with the Liberal dito you need to adjust for this effect, otherwise you overestimate the Republican racism while underestimate the Democratic racism.

        A good poll would have identified the race of the participants and looked at their attitude towards all other groups. That way they would have identified the large anti-semitism among Blacks and also Hispanics. Less “refreshing” from a liberal viewpoint but closer to the truth about racism in America.

        I don’t even like the Republican party. I’m an economical leftist and socially conservative in the classical sense. Burke would never have asked, “were you better off four years ago?”. I hope they crash and burn so that other parties can emerge instead.

  3. Pingback: What Everybody Missed About the AP Poll: Democrats Have More Implicit Nonblack Racists Than the Republicans « Staffan's Personality Blog

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