February 11, 2008

Estrich: Who'd Have Thought The Party Of Identity Politics Has Racists?

Susan Estrich either wants to build credibility as a satirist, or her latest column provides a long-overdue look in the mirror for Democrats. Detecting more a whiff of the so-called Bradley Effect in primaries where Barack Obama holds solid polling leads only to mysteriously fall short of Hillary Clinton, Estrich diagnoses a latent racism in her party.

No kidding!

But, the fact is that there is a long pattern of what we in California call the "Bradley problem" in polling, after the former Los Angeles mayor who was elected governor in every poll, including the exits, except that he lost at the ballot box. Did I mention that he was African-American?

That was, according to the pollsters, the problem: about 10 percent of the electorate claimed that they were going to vote for him, and in many cases even told pollsters that they did, but they lied. ...

Doug Wilder, who wasn't elected to the Senate from Virginia, faced the same problem. We who are Democrats would like to believe that race is not a factor in the polling of our party members, but maybe we're wrong.

No one doubts, or at least no one who is honest does, that both racism and sexism come into play as people decide between Clinton and Obama, but could it be that people are more willing to admit that they won't vote for the woman than that they won't vote for the black?

If this is happening even among us good Democrats, what does that say about Obama's strength in a general election? Not pretty questions. Not a fair world.

I'm not sure why this comes as such a surprise. This is the party, after all, that routinely creates new victim classes along ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, and income lines. Their candidates spend entire campaigns talking about "two Americas" -- heck, on bad days, it could be fourteen or fifteen Americas.

Republicans argue for equality of treatment rather than creation of victim classes. The GOP's factions may be pulling it apart, but the factions exist along policy lines, not ethnic divisions. While Republicans could and should do a lot more to reach out to black and Latino voters, their correct impulse is to explain why Republican policies do more to break down barriers -- such as school vouchers and local control of education, tax reform and simplification, and the like -- rather than an extension of government handouts that have failed our inner cities for decades.

Now, after playing racial and ethnic politics for decades, Susan Estrich is shocked, shocked! to find out that some Democrats have racist and sexist impulses. I'll award her the Captain Louis Renault award for discovering that identity politics has its foundation in just such impulses, and in the end, the best remedy for eliminating them is to quit pandering on the basis of ethnicity and gender.


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