Monday, June 9, 2008

RACE AND THE RACE

Paul Krugman should stick to writing about economics. In today's Times he joins the "we have overcome," "America is a postracial society," there's no more need for divisive civil rights politics bandwagon.

Krugman writes: "Fervent supporters of Barack Obama like to say that putting him in the White House would transform America. With all due respect to the candidate, that gets it backward. Mr. Obama is an impressive speaker who has run a brilliant campaign — but if he wins in November, it will be because our country has already been transformed. Mr. Obama’s nomination wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago. It’s possible today only because racial division, which has driven U.S. politics rightward for more than four decades, has lost much of its sting." Wishful thinking Paul. Maybe in Princeton and New York, but spend a little time in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. It's not quite so pretty out there.

And then the predictable bouquet: "Part of the credit surely goes to Bill Clinton, who ended welfare as we knew it. I’m not saying that the end of Aid to Families With Dependent Children was an unalloyed good thing; it created a great deal of hardship." It's true that the GOP doesn't welfare bait anymore, but I don't think its good policy to sell out poor women and their children for the sake of silencing GOP critics of welfare.

More evidence for the change: "I don’t think a politician today could get away with running the infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad."

No doubt there have been significant changes in racial discourse in the United States in the last twenty years. In fact, since World War II, there has been a steady redefinition of what can and cannot be said in polite company and in print about race in American society. But racial practices, such as where you live and where you go to school, have changed much, much more slowly. Rates of black-white residential segregation declined somewhat in the 1990s throughout the U.S., but most major metropolitan areas in the country have very high rates of segregation. Rates of segregation are particularly high in big metropolitan areas in many of the key battleground states. Public education has resegregated since the 1970s. The results are reflected in the still staggeringly high gaps between blacks and whites by nearly every measure: socio-economic status, health, mortality, poverty, unemployment, and joblessness.

Quick note to Paul: Reverend Wright is the Willie Horton of 2008. The ads are already out there. Poke around a bit on the web. The worst is yet to come. And remember Harold Ford. A DLC type Democrat, in tune with his state politically, but undone (in part) by a race-baiting ad. Obama might run a brilliant campaign and he might be elected. But it's going to be despite the racial politics that run like a bitter current through American society, not because we have overcome.

My advice to Paul: Stick to economics.

PS No time for links today. But check out my previous posts on race for some of the sources that back up my arguments here.

3 comments:

Dance said...

I hate to think of how an Obama presidency would be used to support voter initiatives against affirmative action.

Tom S said...

Ward Connerly, the architect of the campaign to abolish affirmative action by referendum, has embraced Obama as proof positive that a.a. is no longer necessary.

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