Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Message is Lost in All That Tinfoil

Shorter Walter Myers: Black people are so blinded by race-loyalty that they won't even listen to my sober and well-reasoned arguments that Barack Obama is turning us into socialist Cuba!
I can certainly see why my black Christian friends would be protective of Obama as the first black President, but what has alarmed me is the unusually high percentage of these well-educated and successful people who simply won’t listen when you try to make them understand that they have fallen for a socialist-leaning President with little respect for the Constitution.....

Where the Democrats have succeeded is to use Obama as a Trojan horse to import class envy, government dependence, and the notion of an all-encompassing federal government into the psyche of the American people, and especially so in the psyche of black America. Instead of accepting the conservative ideals of limited government, self-reliance, and economic opportunity, which best accord with the Christian worldview, blacks have been convinced that more government control, government entitlements, and redistribution of wealth are the keys to a better tomorrow. And they accept this view of America with virtually no objection, to everyone’s peril. What they don’t understand is that the socialist philosophy they have accepted is like a steely hand in a velvet glove. Until it’s too late, you won’t know what it is made of. Just ask the people of Cuba and Venezuela. The dire warnings of Italy, Greece, and Spain hold little influence over them as to what America will become if it continues in this direction. As long as they have Obama, their charismatic leader, they will continue in their faith in him, come what may.

Now, we can't actually evaluate this argument on its "merits", for a variety of reasons, the most salient of which is that Mr. Myers doesn't actually make it. He just takes it as axiomatic that Obama is a socialist and that he is behaving with reckless disregard for the Constitution. As they say on wikipedia, "citation needed". One could presumably also quibble with whether free market capitalism really is the most Christian of all economic systems, but since one of my pet peeves is Christians explaining to me what Judaism means, I'll refrain from doing the same back at them. I could also query how we know that the U.S. new "socialist" slant will turn is into Cuba, as opposed to, say, Sweden (where does Sweden lie on this continuum anyway -- and how did they manage to arrest their descent into totalitarianism? Maybe we can ask them for tips!).

Okay, no. I need to focus. Is there any "there" there at all? That is, is there anything about the Obama presidency in particular that makes Blacks particularly resistant to contemporary conservative alternatives?

Well, the first thing we need to do is check the numbers. In 2004, John Kerry got 88% of the Black vote. That number jumped to 96% for Obama in 2008. So basically, Black voters went from overwhelmingly supporting the Democratic nominee to slightly-more-overwhelmingly supporting the Democratic nominee. That suggest that Black voting patterns have less to do with the race of the candidate and more a general, substantive, political ideology that is more in accord with Democrats than Republicans.

That being said, I do think that the Obama presidency is solidifying the ties between the Democratic Party and the Black electorate (well, as much as those ties can be said to have been at all pliable in the first place). Why is that? Well, one answer is the immediate resort of the Republican Party to crude racist dog-whistles. But I think the deeper issue is that Obama reveals how a significant swath of the country will respond to a talented and successful Black man. Specifically, they'll deny it: they'll deny that he is in fact talented, that he succeeded on his own merits. Everything about him, from his place of birth to his supposed personal strengths (like oratorical skills), will be dismissed as a fraud. All his successes will be considered just a manifestation of affirmative action; the stealing of a spot rightfully reserved for "one of us".

The message, in other words, is that even if you do everything right and follow the dotted lines, you'll still be counted as a liar, a cheat, and ultimately, an enemy. And that's arguably the most disheartening message of all, because it breaks the implied promise that post-Jim Crow American made as the covenant of its reform, to wit: that from here on out, if you work hard and play by the rules, your race won't be held against you in public or private life. To many Blacks, that promise is simply unsustainable given the manner in which Republican opposition to Obama has manifested.

New research has demonstrated that Whites seem to view racial progress as zero-sum [link fixed -- DS], that is, as Blacks start to do better in America, they interpret that as indicating a worsening of their own position (and an unjust one at that). The very fact of Black success is interpreted as evidence of "reverse racism" against White. This sort of mentality is of no recent vintage, and it fundamentally can't allow for Black progress. It's not even restricted to Black liberals: look at Michael Steele.

The upshot is that for the Black electorate, there really is only one effective option. The primary conservative alternative -- do-it-yourself, don't make demands out of White America -- is a dead letter, because the very fact of Black success automatically breeds resentment and envy, no matter how it is generated. It's the old double-bind between Du Bois and Washington:
[W]hen [Du Bois] is the primary voice of the Black community, people criticize them for being insufficiently Washingtonian (why are you always demanding stuff out of the White community? Why don't you get your own house in order first -- try doing something for yourself rather than getting stuck in this dependency loop!). What we see now is a classic double bind: if Blacks are Du Boisian (trumpeting the moral case for equality), they need to be Washingtonian (solve your own problems -- stop asking so much out of Whites!); when they're Washingtonian (fine -- we'll stop looking to Whites and concentrate on self-improvement), they need to be more Du Boisian (what, you won't talk to White people anymore? Racists!).

No matter which way the turn or which tactic they try, some people are going to be angry that somewhere, sometime, a Black person is getting away with something. There's no way to simple duck that problem, so they have to meet it head-on. And while Democrats aren't exactly crusaders for overcoming racism, they at least have space in their coalition for it. That's more than one can say about the GOP.


sonicfrog said...


PG said...

At least Myers, unlike his white brethren in the GOP, thinks that the Democrats needed Obama before they could "import class envy, government dependence, and the notion of an all-encompassing federal government into ... the psyche of black America." Evidently he disagrees with all those Reagan remarks about welfare queens in Cadillacs, or Gingrich's speeches on getting black people to stop demanding food stamps.