Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

Join the discussion: What is the relationship between race and political party?

Compiled by Bethan Owen, For the Deseret News

Published: Fri, May 23 9:45 a.m. MDT

 President Barack Obama and White House counselor John Podesta, left, walk across the ellipse in Washington as they head towards the Dept. of Interior, Wednesday, May 21, 2014.

President Barack Obama and White House counselor John Podesta, left, walk across the ellipse in Washington as they head towards the Dept. of Interior, Wednesday, May 21, 2014.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press)

The recent controversy over remarks made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has pushed the issue of racism onto front pages everywhere, inspiring some to investigate the political party lines of racism.

Measuring racism is difficult, and so there is an element of uncertainty in any result. Often, “social desirability bias” — the desire to give socially acceptable, if dishonest, answers — may play a role in answering survey questions, according to Nate Silver and Allison McCann of Five Thirty-Eight.

“If the partisan gap in racial attitudes toward blacks has widened slightly in the past few years, it may be because white racists have become more likely to identify themselves as Republican, and not because those Americans who already identified themselves as Republican have become any more racist,” Silver and McCann wrote. “Our focus was only on racial attitudes as expressed by white Americans toward black Americans (of course, racism can also exist between and among other racial groups).”

That being said, the results of Five Thirty-Eight’s polls suggest that white Republicans score higher on the “index of negative racial attitudes” than white Democrats by about 8 percent, with 19 percent of white Democrats holding negative racial attitudes and 27 percent of white Republicans.

“There are white racists in both parties,” Silver and McCann conclude. “By most questions, they represent a minority of white voters in both parties. They probably represent a slightly larger minority of white Republicans than white Democrats.”

Conservative writer Rachel Lu of The Federalist, though, is tired of what she sees as constant, unfounded accusations of racism from the left.

“Liberals need racist foes to vanquish,” she wrote. “Most of the time they have to resort to finding them where they obviously aren’t there.”

Lu went on to outline the mentality she believes leads liberals to accuse conservatives of racism.

“To conservatives, it seems crazy and wildly uncharitable to dismiss their (well-grounded) views as manifestations of an irrational animus against ethnic minorities,” she said. “But to liberals, this seems reasonable, because embedded deep within the liberal worldview is the idea that at the end of the day all political activity can be seen as part of a story about warring classes.”

That idea that all politics are about class warfare is far from the truth, said Lu. One element of our racially charged political dialogue that is true, however, is that it escalated when Obama took office.

In Silver and McCann’s study, they wrote that “If there’s a discouraging trend, it’s not so much that negative racial attitudes toward blacks have increased in these polls, but that they’ve failed to decrease under Obama, as they did so clearly for most of the past three decades.”

According to Ezra Klein of Vox, Obama is the reason that “Republicans and Democrats are more divided on race today than in 1985.”

Klein cited a graph comparing Republican and Democrat views on current events involving race, specifically Donald Sterling’s remarks, whether “12 Years a Slave” should win an Oscar, and the results of the Zimmerman verdict.

“There's a 42-point partisan gap on whether some racist oaf should be forced to sell the Clippers,” said Klein. “There's a 38-point partisan gap on whether a searing film about slavery should win an Oscar. There's a 48-point gap on a Florida murder trial.”

Racial attitudes have changed post-Obama, Klein argued, noting that in 1985 Democrats and Republicans were much more united on issues of race — even the O.J. Simpson verdict only saw a difference in opinions of 9 percent.

The 2008 election was the most racially charged election in modern America, according to Klein.

“There's been no recent campaign in which racial attitudes did as much to drive political behavior. And that's continued after the election,” he said, “[and] far from ushering in a post-racial period in American life, Obama's presidency has led to both political issues becoming more racialized and racial issues becoming more politicized.”

Others believe that we are addressing the wrong type of racism entirely. Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic argues that the real dangers are not the Donald Sterlings of the world or an increase in negative racial attitudes since Obama was elected, but the much more subtle and less immediately offensive “elegant racism.”

“Elegant racism is invisible, supple, and enduring,” he wrote. “It disguises itself in the national vocabulary, avoids epithets and didacticism. Grace is the singular marker of elegant racism.”

Coates believes that this elegant racism is much more deeply embedded in our culture and more dangerous than Sterling’s brand of blatant racism. Blatant racism is conveniently easy to condemn and combat, he wrote, but “meanwhile racism, elegant, lovely, monstrous, carries on."

Bethan Owen is a writer for the Deseret News Moneywise and Opinion sections. Twitter: BethanO2

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1. 2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
May 23, 2014

Yes... it's a problem.

But not because they are racist. It's because Democrats have been so successful in using the media to propagate this myth that Republicans are engaged in a war on women, war on blacks, war on Hispanics, war on gays, war on every minority group you can define...

It doesn't have to be true... it just has to be repeated often enough, and by trusted media sources... often enough that most people start to BELIEVE that it's true.

Then it might as well BE true...


This has been a great campaign the Democrats have been putting on. It has worked. It has gotten them elected many times. But these groups never seem to look into what those Democrats are doing for them. And I think that's the problem... that these groups expect their politicians to do something for them.

If Democrats don't deliver... this campaign will eventually begin to be less and less effective.

You can't pit Americans-against-Americans forever... without tearing America apart.

But they seem to think it's worth it...

2. Happy Valley Heretic
Orem, UT,
May 23, 2014

@2bits, Those democrats, fooling Americans into thinking that republicans say racist things, by playing back media of republicans saying racist things. Perhaps if the republican's didn't make it so easy for the democrats.

Most racism and bigotry are taught and are not a natural state among children.
Looking forward, as more and more racists and bigots die off, they aren't passing on this bad behavior to their children.

What is surprising, was how quickly the conservative posters on the comment boards defended Donald Sterling, as being tricked, or it was OK cause it was in private. While I would defend his right to say these things, I would never defend what he said. It isn't about PC it's about what's right, saying it in private doesn't make it "OK" either.

3. samhill
Salt Lake City, UT,
May 23, 2014

“Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic argues that the real dangers are ... the much more subtle and less immediately offensive 'elegant racism.' .... 'Elegant racism is invisible, supple, and enduring,....'”

As I got to the and of this article, with most of which I agreed, I and was struck by the fact that nowhere was mentioned one of the most glaring examples of racism we've seen in our country in decades.

Despite a brief reference to it with the single sentence, "The 2008 election was the most racially charged election in modern America...", it doesn't include the crucial fact that the vote among African-American citizens in favor of Obama in the last two elections was an average of around 95%! He also garnered a majority of votes by people of other races, but by much slimmer and typical margins. How much more obviously lopsided, racially speaking, can a statistic get than this!?

Ironically, to what do I attribute this amazing omission of an example fairly shouting of racism in this article on racism? Yes, you guessed it, racism. Perhaps of Mr. Coates' "elegant" sort

4. Hutterite
American Fork, UT,
May 23, 2014

Yes. And it's not the democrats' fault.

5. Sven
Morgan, UT,
May 23, 2014

Is this article for real?

Let's deal with some facts and history, shall we?

First, Donald Sterling is a big time Democrat donor. Like other things, the media has desperately tried to ignore that little factoid.


* Jim Crow segregation laws were enacted by Democrats

* The 1924 Democrat National Convention was host to one of the largest Klan gatherings in American history

* The 1964 Civil Rights Act: Democrat support 61%; Republican support 80%. Interestingly, former Democrat Senator Robert K Byrd (former Exalted Cyclops in the KKK) filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as did Democrat Al Gore Sr.

* Democrat President Franklin Roosevelt gave us the disgraceful Japanese Internment Camps

* Democrat Senator Ernest Hollings and his history of racial slurs towards blacks

* Margaret Sanger, Liberal Icon and founder of Planned Parenthood, in her 1939 "Negro Project" had as her goal, the desire to greatly reduce the Black population, or as she referred to them, "human weeds." Ever wonder why so many Planned Parenthood Centers are in the inner-city? 13 million black babies aborted since 1973.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. It is the Democrat Party who has the documented history of reprehensible acts of bigotry and racism.