Yes, American Politics Is Racial

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By Francis Wilkinson

At some point, the Republican Party will pull out of its various funks and win again. There is a crop of smart young conservatives waiting in the wings, ready to lead Republicans and conservatism in new directions. But first, they will have to overcome the mindset on display in Daniel Henninger's Wall Street Journal column entitled "The Racializing of American Politics."

The usual suspects -- Barack Obama, Democrats, the liberal media -- are responsible for the racializing, of course. Henninger reserves special opprobrium for exit polls, which used nefarious racial designations to reveal that blacks, Hispanics and Asians voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

I wasn't around at the time, but I suspect the racializing of American politics may have even earlier roots, perhaps around the time African slaves were brought ashore or maybe when the Founders put that awkward 3/5 provision in the Constitution. Both events sound pretty "racial."

Henninger, however, is focused on the indignities endured by the Republican Party in the year 2012.

In virtually every instance, the idea that the Republican Party is "too white" is dropped with almost no discussion of what exactly that means. The phrase is being pinned like a scarlet "W" on anyone who didn't vote for the Democrats' nominee. It's a you-know-what-we-mean denunciation. Its only meaning is racial.

You can't argue with that. When people say the Republican Party is "too white" they are indeed making a sly racial reference to the whiteness of the white people who lead, finance and vote for this nearly all-white party. Sure, you can use neutral, nonracial terms -- Henninger clearly thinks "white" is one -- but beneath the all-American guise, the discussion of the racial composition of the Republican Party is very, very racial.

Henninger goes on to warn that Republicans certainly shouldn't ape the Democrats on the racializing front.

The Democrats' insistence on pandering to political categories is a dead end for the country.

We can be pretty certain here that blacks, Asians, Hispanics and women are the "political categories" that Henninger has in mind. White men, he implies, are not a category; they are merely Americans. The type of Americans, Henninger maintains, who are now being told they're "too white."

The solution, he says, is for newcomers to assimilate more and for the Republicans to do a better job talking up economic opportunity. "No one can beat the Democrats at the politics of social division," he warns.

Yes, the Democrats' 2012 coalition, consisting of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and whites all pulling for the same candidate, is the very picture of "social division." Certainly no good can possibly come of it, other than a multi-racial electoral majority every four years or so. Henninger seems determined to keep Republicans safe from that.

(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow him on Twitter.)

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-0- Nov/29/2012 16:29 GMT