Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Racist is as racist does: How the Republicans show they don't really want more black voters

Earlier this year, I posted that there was one thing Republicans could do if they really meant what they’ve been saying about attracting more black voters: denounce the use of the Confederate battle flag on southern state flags. That symbolic gesture would be a start at proving to blacks (and whites) that they were willing to alienate part of their base in order to reach out to blacks.

Turns out there’s another thing they could do, far more than merely symbolic, to begin persuading blacks that they really want their votes: stop trying to suppress the black vote! This year, in Milwaukee, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and doubtless elsewhere, Republican operatives, whether with or without official GOP sanction, have been playing games trying to discourage or even scare blacks from voting. Flyers and billboards have presented hideously false information about voting dates, voting places, and supposedly dire consequences for fictitious voter fraud (e.g., if you voted in any other election this year, you can’t vote on Nov. 2; if any member of your family has even an unpaid parking ticket, you yourself can’t vote; and depressingly etc.)

I’m not accusing George Bush, or indeed any senior Republican, of having a hand in any of this. I am accusing them of letting it continue. If George W. Bush truly wanted to get more black votes, he would have gone on national television and denounced such actions and demanded that they stop immediately. He would have ordered the Republican Party to investigate and, if necessary, fire anyone caught doing these awful things. He would have had them permanently banned from ever working for the party again. He would have insisted that the party not hire thousands of challengers in Democratic areas, that they not attempt to invalidate the thousands of new registrations in many states, and that they basically not fight attempts to increase turnout.

Yes, it might have marginally affected his reelection, but it would have been the strongest possible indication that he really meant what he said. Seeing him take such a stand, even risking his office, would have done more than anything else to really bring at least some black voters to his side.

Of course, he hasn’t done anything of the sort. Under the guise of averting “voter fraud” the Republicans are playing their old game of trying to suppress the vote in expected Democratic areas – regardless of how racist it seems, or of how racist it is. They can protest all they want about how they aren’t racist at all, but no one is going to believe them. Whether it’s racist in intent is immaterial, since it is manifestly racist in effect. Going along with it because it is essential to victory may be good short-term politics, but where’s the leadership, Mr. Bush? Where’s the conscience? Where’s the conviction? Where’s the sincerity?

This is George W. Bush writ large: propose something nice, get all the credit for proposing it – and then do nothing to actually implement it. No Child Left Behind – good idea, never fully funded. More AIDs spending abroad – the press loved it for a day, then forgot about it and ignored the fact that Bush never asked Congress for all the money he promised. Attract more black voters – sounds good, but he has never done a damn thing to show he means it. And he never will, because that would require some actual effort, plus risk upsetting the rednecks who make up a big part of his base.

Is George W. Bush personally racist? Probably not. But when he approves patently racist acts by not disapproving them, who cares what he is? His party acts racist, which, in the only way that really matters, makes it racist. Him too.

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