Race, Trayvon, and knee-jerk conservatism

Drum posted this today:

Conservative Josh Barro tells his fellow conservatives why they get attacked on racial issues so often:

Why do conservatives catch such heat? It’s probably because there is still so much racism on the Right to go alongside valid arguments on issues relating to race and ethnicity. Conservatives so often get unfairly pounded on race because, so often, conservatives get fairly pounded on race.

And this is the Right’s own fault, because conservatives are not serious about draining the swamp. In recent months, both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have gotten questions at public events that referred to President Obama being a Muslim. Neither candidate corrected the questioner. Santorum later told a reporter that’s “not his job.” PPP polls in Mississippi and Alabama have found that about half of Republican voters believe Obama is a Muslim, and others aren’t sure.

….There has been a clear strategic calculation here among Republican elites. Better to leverage or at least accept the racism of much of the Republican base than try to clean it up….My challenge to conservatives who feel they get a bum rap on race is this. Stand up for yourself and your colleagues when you feel that a criticism is unfair. At the same time, criticize other conservatives who say racist things, cynically tolerate racism in the Republican base, or deny the mere existence of racial issues in America today. The conservative movement desperately needs self-policing on racial issues, if it ever hopes to have credibility on them.

This made me think of various postings by conservatives I’ve seen about the Trayvon Martin case on Facebook.  Sure, maybe the case is more complicated than it initially looks, but among things we know for sure is that an armed and clearly  racially hostile white man pursued and shot an unarmed Black teenager.  How this should not at dead minimum be adjudicated in a courtroom would seem to be something people across the political spectrum could agree upon.   Here’s what I think has happened, though.  As the case has become a liberal cause célèbre all too many conservatives have felt duty bound to try and defend Zimmerman and the Sanford police simply because liberals were attacking them.  Now that’s just stupid.  And, it certainly does not help their image with regards to race.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Race, Trayvon, and knee-jerk conservatism

  1. David says:

    Certainly the leaking of Martin’s school troubles have had a role in changing the unipolar nature of the media coverage. Racial conservatives don’t like rap, drugs, or disobedient and/or unruly kids, and suddenly Zimmerman’s (still clearly obvious despite all of that) racially profiling becomes plausible suspicion. Dave Weigel said it best: If you tweet Lil Wayne lyrics and smoke weed, is it still illegal to shoot you?

    Given what we know about the moral foundations of the conservative mindset, it’s easy to see how the case could become more about symbolic cultural identity than the law to many.

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