Rep. Paul Ryan has been taking some fire for telling a talk radio host that lazy “inner city” men are responsible for poverty in America and for accepting the writings of racist author Charles Murray as evidence of the claim. All of this skirts the dividing line between dog whistle racism and blatant racism, which means the criticism Ryan has been receiving is well deserved. It’s starting to haunt him at townhalls — as it should.
The way Ryan and the rest of the GOP have been dealing with this controversy has been entirely dismissive; Ryan continuously denies that “inner city” is code for “black” and throws around victim cards whenever confronted with his racism. Someone needs to sit him down and force him to describe these inner city whites he wants us to believe he’s talking about. The energy generated by all the squirming would be enough to power a small village.
Meanwhile, National Review’s Rich Lowry has a piece up at Politico defending Ryan by arguing, as Ryan does, that the clearly racist things he says aren’t racist in the least. But people who’ve grown up hearing the dogwhistles know better and Lowry and Ryan aren’t fooling anyone other than those who want to be fooled. This makes the whole exercise much worse that pointless, since it only makes matters worse. They aren’t winning any new voters with this stuff and they’re continuing to push minority voters away. In the end, the numbers are a loss for Republicans.
If Republicans really want voters to believe they aren’t racist — and I don’t mean just Republican voters, I mean all voters — then they’re going to have to stop being so goddam racist. Offending people, then trying to convince them they aren’t really offended, is ridiculously dumb. They know racism is a loser, so why don’t they just knock it off?
The answer seems to be that they can’t. The racist tropes of lazy “inner city” types waiting for a handout, the “urban” welfare queens soaking up the welfare, is too deeply ingrained in the GOP psyche. For them, racism is merely bad manners — you don’t say these things aloud in public, you wait until you’re alone with the enlightened elites before you start talking about the lazy and shiftless ways of the lesser races.
Until they somehow manage to exorcize the racism from their souls, Republicans will keep getting this sort of entirely deserved flack. Their answer to “I’m offended” will continue to be “No you’re not!” until they actually learn to give a damn about the racism not only in their ranks, but in the blood vessels of their entire ideology.
[photo by Gage Skidmore]