PEEK

Racism In The Ranks

The results of the Pennsylvania primary show that racism is a problem that still plagues the Democrats.
One of the right's favorite ways of characterizing the state of racial relations in recent years has been to proclaim that for the most part, racism is a dead letter, an anachronism, a quaint artifact of dusty history mostly relegated to a few dark fringish corners. Dinesh D'Souza even wrote a wingnut-welfare book about it titled The End of Racism.And then there was the time Tony Snow proclaimed: "Here's the unmentionable secret: Racism isn't that big a deal any more. No sensible person supports it. Nobody of importance preaches it. It's rapidly becoming an ugly memory."



Liberals, of course, have snorted at such nonsense, with good cause: You only need to have tuned in to any of the past couple years' worth of Republican fulminations about immigration to know what a load of crap that is. Of course, they deny with vigorous red faces that racism has any part of it, but then we listen to their spokesmen -- from Pat Buchanan to Douglas Bruce -- and it's not hard to figure out that this is just so much hot air. For that matter, we only need to turn to some of their dog-whistle fulminations about Obama and their post-Katrina speculations about black people and in general, the way they talk about race, to figure out that the GOP is the main refuge of the lingering racist element in American society. But then, we've known that since the advent of the Southern Strategy.



But before Democrats start feeling smug about that -- and the fact that one of their two major candidates is African American -- they better take a hard look within their ranks as well. Because, as Greg Mitchell reports, the election results from Pennsylvania indicate that there's a problem with race for many Democrats, too:

Long before that, I had suggested that many understate the number of older Democrats who are (still) racist and who would tip many contests to Clinton. But I closed yesterday's post by saying that if Obama won or came close in Pennsylvania that might put the issue to rest.


Didn't happen. And the exit polls show, again, that one in four Clinton voters claim they would not vote for Obama in November -- for whatever reason. And she got 70% of the white, blue-collar vote in most regions, including the area of central Pennsylvania where I spent a lot of time growing up and heard many a racist remark.


Here's the money quote from a New York Times analysis of the exit polls: "Sixteen percent of white voters said race mattered in deciding who they voted for, and just 54 percent of those voters said they would support Mr. Obama in a general election; 27 percent of them said they would vote for Mr. McCain if Mr. Obama was the Democratic nominee, and 16 percent said they would not vote at all."

David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle, and the assistant editor of Crosscut.
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