Jewish Journal

Reid, Republicans and PC

by  Joe R. Hicks

January 15, 2010 | 5:44 pm

As someone who views politics from a well-defined conservative perspective, I found it unsettling to hear Republicans engage in the same old game of

political correctness

, something they’ve accused Democrats of for decades.  A new book “Game Change,” written by John Heilman and Mark Halperin about the 2008 presidential race, reveals that Senate Leader Harry Reid made comments about President Obama that have been interpreted by some as controversial.

As most now know, in private comments about Barack Obama’s chances of winning the White House, Reid commented that he thought Obama could win because “the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama – a ‘light-skinned’ African-American with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”  Republicans wasted little time in jumping on the comments, with some prominent figures arguing that Reid should step down as the Democrat’s Senate Leader. 

Of course, this had the same chance of happening as a snowball not melting in hell.  No matter how the president actually felt about Reid’s comments, Obama desperately needs his healthcare plan to succeed, and for this he needs Reid to help usher his healthcare bill through the painful process.

Reid immediately prostrated himself before all who would listen, calling the president, as well as almost every black leader he could find, to apologize.  For what, I’m not exactly clear.  When did the word “Negro” become offensive, and to whom?  Reid’s casual reference to Obama’s “light skin” may reveal an odd and lame foray into the world of color and caste consciousness circa the 1940s, but falls significantly short of being offensive.

Leading the charge to label Reid a racist was Michael Steele, the chair of the Republican National Committee.  Steele correctly pointed out there is a prevailing double-standard in place; virtually any Republican who made comments similar to those of Reid would have been vilified as a knuckle-dragging racist by the very same groups and political figures that have rallied to Reid’s defense. 

Steele should have simply stopped at pointing out this political double standard.  Instead, he appeared on seemingly endless Sunday morning news/talk shows to accuse Reid of racism.  Other prominent conservatives, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and commentator, Liz Chaney, joined in the charges of racism against Reid. 

When did Republicans jump on the bandwagon of political correctness and racial sensitivity that essentially validates the left’s long-standing pernicious smear that virtually any comment about race or skin color can be spun into an act of racism.  The rules of the game are that anyone who violates the “conventional wisdom” of what’s appropriate is expected to prostrate themselves before the arbiters of “race legitimacy” or face punishment in the form of banishment from the public square.

This “PC” game playing is short-sighted on the part of Republicans.  If it was intended to damage Reid in his Senate re-election bid, the potential damage to an already shaky Republican Party image was hardly worth it. 

So, what was the point?  Reid was already badly trailing his Republican opponents in Nevada polling. This is “gotcha” politics at its worst.  Reid deserved to be excoriated for his angry, outrageous – and, yes, bigoted comments – when he compared Republicans who dared to oppose the Democrats healthcare bill as being like lawmakers who clung to slavery more than a century and a half ago.  Reid is clearly not a scholar of American history, or the history of his own party, regarding slavery and civil rights.

However, by engaging in this sort of gotcha, Republicans take the nasty, offensive and cynical game of identity politics and political correctness to new lows and make it truly bipartisan silliness.

All of this angst by Democrats and Republicans over the use of words makes clear that America has lurched into a post-racial world.  The kind of racism that America’s black population was forced to endure for centuries has been almost entirely eliminated. 

How can we tell?  The accusations of racism these days mostly arise from the use of certain phrases, the stating of uncomfortable truths, or legitimate policy disagreements.  This means the charges of racism have become mostly a handy political tool to be used against an opponent. 

ExhibitA”:  Harry Reid.

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