Post-election season is a time for healing, for putting aside the rancor of a long campaign and rediscovering what unites us. It has not been that way this year.
Prudence, one would think, if not generosity of spirit, should impel Democrats to be magnanimous in victory. Romney did receive about 48 percent of the vote. A little modesty among the winners would seem to be in order.
Instead, the gloating has been extravagant. Worse, liberals have gorged themselves on the same junk food they enjoyed during the campaign and cannot seem to resist under any circumstances – slandering their opponents. The smears are so casual and commonplace that we become weary of responding. But we must protest, or someone new to politics may assume that we concede the point.
Appearing on “Meet the Press,” documentary filmmaker Ken Burns attributed conservative unhappiness with the election to racism. “Race is always there in America,” Burns opined. “It’s always something we don’t want to talk about. Do you think we’d have a secession movement – a faddish movement – if this president wasn’t [sic] African-American? Do you think the vitriol that came out of some elements of the tea party would have been at the same level had this president not been African-American?”
Ken Burns is a fine filmmaker. I met him once, and I found him to be engaging and amiable. It’s painful to see him descend to this kind of defamation. Some disappointed Republicans are talking secession in Texas and elsewhere. This is proof of racism? Is this the standard of evidence Burns employs for his films?
Secession talk is the overheated emotional venting of the disappointed. It is not the exclusive province of Republicans. In 2004, Jonathan Gurwitz of the Houston Chronicle reminds us, Democratic talking head Lawrence O’Donnell suggested that George W. Bush’s re-election would provoke “a serious discussion of secession over the next 20 years.” When a fellow panelist on the TV show in question asked, “Are you calling for civil war?” O’Donnell replied, “You can secede without firing a shot.” Bob Beckel was for kicking the southern United States out of the union that year. “Really, I think they ought to have their own confederacy.” Alec Baldwin, among others, had threatened to leave the country if Bush were re-elected.
Burns’ flippant reference to the “vitriol” emanating from “some elements” in the tea party is nothing but an oft-repeated slur. The late Andrew Breitbart famously offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could produce audio or video proof that the “n” word was hurled at black members of Congress as they moved through a tea party protest on Capitol Hill. The accusation of racism was broadcast far and wide. The lack of proof – though hundreds of people had video cameras recording every moment – is the untold story. Someone as sophisticated as Ken Burns should know that the tea party protests were multiracial, multiethnic affairs, featuring speakers of every background. What united them was concern that the government should stop spending money it does not collect.
False accusations of racism are an attempt to delegitimize those who disagree with you. Promiscuous use of the word also defangs it for actual instances of racial bias. Honest liberals should further consider that flinging the charge protects them from having to defend their ideas. It’s simultaneously ugly and lazy.
Kathleen Geier of the Washington Monthly writes that conservatives use abstractions because they are attempting to conceal positions that “a hefty chunk of the population” finds “icky.” That’s the reason, she explains, that they talk of “small government, right to life, states’ rights, free markets, right to work, judicial restraint, family values.”
I can’t recall the last time a mainstream American politician referred to “states’ rights,” but I’m pretty sure that whoever it was, he was a Democrat. It was the code term Southern Democrats used to defend Jim Crow laws. Three-quarters of the nay votes on the 1964 Civil Rights Act came from Democrats. Conservatives, as Ms. Geier would know if she actually read them rather than relying on cartoon depictions, do talk of federalism. If Geier thinks the constitutional order providing for state and federal governments is “icky,” she should say so.
As for the “right to life,” isn’t that a great deal more honest than the liberals’ habit of disguising a policy of unrestricted abortion up to and including birth as “women’s reproductive health”?
Geier further confuses her readers by explaining that “judicial restraint” means “no rights for women, gays, or nonwhites.”
On reflection, I take it back. What liberals like Geier need is not humility or magnanimity. It’s basic information.
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