April 16, 2014

JAMES TARANTO: Race Against Time: Is there a high-minded justification for Dems’ divisive rhetoric?

This column probably isn’t the first to notice a recent intensification of liberal and Democratic rhetoric about race. Last month Paul Ryan was the object of a Two Minutes Hate for some comments on the culture of poverty “in our inner cities,” which, as The Wall Street Journal noted in an editorial, were no different in substance from things President Obama had recently said.

This Sunday, as Politico notes, Rep. Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told CNN’s Candy Crowley that “to a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism.” He did allow that “not all” House Republicans are racist, though he didn’t specify how many or which ones he thinks are.

Last Wednesday Eric Holder, in a speech to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, complained that he had faced “unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity,” ABC News reports. “Look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House committee. What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”

Although Holder didn’t specifically accuse his adversaries of racial motives, others, including Crowley, assumed that was what he meant. Politico reports that in her interview with Israel, “Crowley said that Holder believes ‘the treatment he has received in the House . . . would not have happened if he were not African-American.”

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, appearing on Sharpton’s MSNBC show, went so far as to suggest that Republicans had been soft on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius because she’s white, as the Daily Caller reports incredulously.

For this rise in the racial temperature we blame not global warming but political cooling. As November approaches, Democrats face not only an unfavorable election map but an increasingly chilly electorate. From last month’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza pulled presidential approval numbers for four key Democratic constituencies. Obama was below 50% among three of those groups: single women (48%, to 45% disapproval), Hispanics (49% to 46%), and voters under 30 (45% to 48%). Only among blacks was approval still strong, 78% to 12% disapproval.

By way of comparison, in 2012 Obama won the votes of 67% of single women, 71% of Hispanics, 60% of under-30 voters and 93% of blacks. It’s reasonable to surmise that the racial appeals are a reaction to this desperate political situation, an effort to minimize Democratic losses by motivating the party’s base to turn out.

My advice to Republicans is to target the Dem base with ads showing how they’ve been betrayed. The truth should be enough to get them to stay home.

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