As you know, we like Kevin Drum’s work a lot. But we think he fumbled in the post which carries this headline: “Racial Resentment and the Tea Party.”
Drum says he doesn’t want to talk about “racism.” That said, is the tea party full of “racial resentment,” one of the three hundred substitute terms we liberals have now devised? Early on, Drum lists responses from tea party folk concerning five of the survey’s questions. One example:
“63% [of tea party followers] believe that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against minority groups.”
From that, and from four other responses, we’re invited to judge thusly:
DRUM (9/7/11): [T]here's been a wee bit of discussion lately about whether tea partiers are a bunch of stone racists hiding behind the Constitution, or whether that's just another offensive "race card" canard dreamed up by the usual suspects on the left. This survey probably won't change any minds, and I happen to think the term "racist" conceals more than it explains anyway. Still, what this survey does show is that tea partiers clearly harbor a pretty strong set of racial resentments. That doesn't make them all racists, but it is a simple descriptive fact, and it's something that's perfectly kosher to discuss openly as it relates to public policy.The survey “doesn't make them all racists,” Drum says, displaying the kind of generosity in which we liberals now specialize. (Presumably, the 37 percent who answered that question the “right” way can be excluded from that designation.) But can the answers to those questions make anyone a racist? Can they show that anyone is harboring something called “racial resentment?”
Presumably, some people are harboring something like “racial resentment.” But how well can we judge such things from the answers to those survey questions?
Uh-oh! As you can see from a chart which Drum posts, 29 percent of blacks also “believe that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against minority groups.” And so do 30 percent of Hispanics! We don’t know why those people answered that question that way; we wouldn’t have answered the question at all (too fuzzy—see below). But here’s our question: If thirty percent of blacks and Hispanics answered that question that way, why does that same answer signal “racial resentment” when a tea party member provides it?
Can we talk? Modern “liberals” simply love to call the other tribe racist. We’ve even come up with all kinds of whistles—nuanced phrases which we employ to mean the same darn thing. Some people are racist, of course—and some people do have something like “racial resentment.” But our tribe has very low standards concerning surveys which are taken to measure these traits.
Part of the problem is the way we lump all The Others together; inevitably, Drum does that in his post, even as he generously says that he doesn’t want to. A second part of the problem is the oafish inability of academic elites to construct meaningful surveys.
Consider the question which Drum has featured—the question concerning “discrimination against whites.” Apparently, the survey used the oafish phrase “reverse discrimination” in its actual question, although we couldn’t find the precise wording of the various questions in a quick glance at the survey’s site. At any rate, can we not see that the question, as presented, is baldly ambiguous? Here’s the question, as Drum paraphrased it, complete with two possible meanings:
“Do you believe that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against minority groups?”Did some people respond to that second meaning? Like the folk who conducted the survey, we have no idea.
First possible meaning: Do you believe that whites get discriminated against as frequently as minorities do?
Second possible meaning: Do you believe that discrimination against whites is just as wrong as discrimination against minorities?
For ourselves, we wouldn’t answer a survey question like that; it’s just too full of air. If someone asked you that question in normal conversation—and no one ever would—would you go ahead and answer, or would you ask them to explain what they meant in a bit more detail? There are all kinds of ways in which people can be “discriminated against;” what kinds of discrimination do we have in mind? Are we talking about college admissions? Bank loans? Are we talking about personal interactions? Are we talking about the way our brutal American history has tilted the field for and against many children right from the day of their birth?
We have no idea why 30 percent of blacks and Hispanics answered that question the way they did. But the question is so poorly worded it doesn’t really get us anywhere.
Are there racists in the tea party movement? Are there people who “harbor a pretty strong set of racial resentments?” Presumably, yes and yes. But “liberals” love to play this card, in the way Drum describes in his post. The bad faith surrounding our work on this topic stinks to the end of the earth.
It also serves the plutocrats. Tribal hatred helps them keep control. People! Divide and conquer! When we throw our R-bombs around, are we doing the Koch brothers’ work?