Part 4—A surprising response: At the new devolving Salon, we liberals are studying war.

More specifically, we’re being told that the other party is a gang of snarling racists—that this is the obvious explanation for the other tribe’s crazy beliefs. We're being trained in the joy of hate at this devolving site.

Race has played a giant, disastrous role in our brutal American history. That said, is the tea party a gang of racists? And how can a person tell?

Consider a recent post by Kevin Drum. Drum is one of our favorite writers. He’s a very intelligent person. And not only that—he’s sane!

The post appeared beneath this headline: “Conservatives' Biggest Fear: Being Called Racist.” From some of Drum’s more war-like readers, this produced the obvious, simple-minded comments about the way the truth hurts.

Drum was more thoughtful than that. In his post, he discussed a study of the way conservatives feel about being hit with the R-bomb.

“This is still something I struggle with,” Drum wrote. But uh-oh! In the passage below, he accepted a rather slippery academic construct—the concept of “racial resentment.” He also referred to his own previous writings about the “racial obsessions” displayed by Fox and “the self-described racial attitudes of tea partiers:”
DRUM (10/3/13): [T]his is still something I struggle with. It's obvious that race infuses a tremendous amount of American discourse. It affects our politics, our culture, and our history. Racial resentment is at the core of many common attitudes toward social welfare programs; our levels of taxation; and the current occupant of the White House. There's no way to write honestly about politics in America without acknowledging all this on a regular basis.

At the same time, it's also obvious that, in many ways, a liberal focus on race and racism is just flatly counterproductive. When I write about, say, the racial obsessions displayed by Fox News (or Drudge or Rush Limbaugh), it's little more than a plain recitation of obvious facts, and liberals applaud. Ditto for posts about the self-described racial attitudes of tea partiers. But conservatives see it as an attack. And why wouldn't they? I'm basically saying that these outlets are engaged in various levels of race-mongering, and by implication, that anyone who listens to them is condoning racism. That's such a uniquely toxic accusation that it makes any real conversation hopeless...
To which “self-described racial attitudes of tea partiers” was Drum referring? When we clicked one of his links, we were taken back to this intriguing post from September 2011.

In real time, and then again last week, we found much of that post frustrating, disappointing, unhelpful.

In the way it has been diagnosed and defined, we tend to think the academic concept of “racial resentment” is an embarrassing con. Drum uncritically accepted the concept in that post, along with the way it has been diagnosed.

Is the tea party full of racial resentment? Consider the way we liberals, including the sanest among us, diagnose the racial attitudes of those in the other tribe:

In his post from 2011, Drum referred to a new Brookings/PRRI survey of attitudes and reactions toward a number of topics. He listed five questions respondents had been asked. This was the first question he listed:

“Is discrimination against whites now as big a problem as discrimination against minority groups?”

In the survey, 63 percent of tea party members answered that question by saying yes.

Four other questions were asked and answered. Drum wasn’t discussing that one question alone, although he featured that question by posting a chart which showed the answers various groups had given.

Sixty-three percent of tea party members said that discrimination about whites is now as big a problem as discrimination against minority members! This is what Drum wrote about the tea party's answers in general:
DRUM (9/7/11): 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.
At Salon, surveys like this are taken to show that the tea party is a gang of racists. To Drum, the survey showed that “tea partiers clearly harbor a pretty strong set of racial resentments.”

Drum said that “doesn't make them all racists, but it is a simple descriptive fact” that they harbor that racial resentment.

Plainly, responses to that question don’t show that all tea partiers are racist. After all, 37 percent of the tea party members gave the “correct” answer.

That said, do those responses show that any such people are racist? Do those responses mean that anyone harbors racial resentment? We would be inclined to say no. Here’s why:

For starters, we ourselves wouldn’t answer that question if we took that survey. We think the question is hopelessly vague, as is true of many questions on surveys of this type.

We don’t know why someone would answer that question by saying yes. But we wouldn’t answer the question at all, absent a more precise description of the type of discrimination the survey had in mind.

We wouldn’t answer that question at all. But then, we wouldn’t be inclined to drop R-bombs on tea party people who answered that question yes. Our reason?

When we look at Drum’s chart, we note a surprising fact:

It wasn't just tea party members who answered that question yes. Thirty percent of Hispanics answered that question the same darn way; 29 percent of blacks said the same thing.

These people all said that discrimination against whites is now as bad as discrimination against minority groups. For whatever reason, they answered that question the same way those tea party members did.

Why did black respondents answer that way? We have no idea. We don’t know what they had in mind, and the survey didn’t seem to record any explanations. But if 30 percent of blacks and Hispanics thought the answer to that question was yes, why would we say that tea party people who give the same answer must be racist, or must be harboring something called racial resentment?

In truth, many people answered that question the way the tea party people did. Overall, 51 percent of white respondents gave the answer we know to be vile. So did 36 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of independents.

Also, 29 percent of blacks! They answered that question the same darn way the bulk of the tea party did!

Why did people give that answer? We can’t tell you that; we wish the survey had asked. Just a guess—if asked, some people might have referred to various “affirmative action” practices in college admission and hiring.

Other respondents may have said something else. You really don't know until you ask. But as our liberal culture devolves, we rarely bother doing that. Instead, we form sweeping, negative characterizations of The Others, ten million at a time.

There is one question we feel we can answer. Why do people like Walsh and O’Hehir scatter so many R-bombs around? Simple—because such people are haters! Down through the annals of time, the haters have always found ways to hate.

Walsh and O’Hehir have been studying war. They’ve been urging young liberals to follow them down. We think that’s a lousy idea.

So did Dr. King.

Tomorrow: Dr. King—and Joan Baez. We swear!


  1. The answer is because a) We're lazy and b) It makes us feel better than them.

    The problem is that it isn't that much harder to pillar the right on matters of actual substance, and trying to point out we are "better" than another group of people who at the end of the day we need a percentage of on our side is just bad politics.

    But there are people on kos who will go to their grave saying that Obama is the most attacked president in history, the most victimized by the right, has had to stand up against the worst attacks ever - and all because he's black. I can only assume these people didn't begin following politics until some point after the new millennium, and have no interest in history.

  2. Some academics also define racism as a trait of only whites because only they benefit from institutionalized privilege in our culture. That means that no matter what their responses to these questions, Hispanic, African American and Asian American respondents cannot be racist, by definition. ALL groups tend to prefer members of their own group, hold negative attitudes toward outgroup members, and act upon those feelings to a greater or lesser extent. According to such theorists, that isn't racism, even if the mechanisms are identical, because those groups have less power in our society. I was stunned the first time an academic colleague told me I was a racist simply by virtue of being white. Confusing academic theory with everyday speech is going to lead to confusion, but that is increasingly happening on the left, in my opinion. This is the way concepts about racism are taught in some sociology courses and textbooks. I think that is unhelpful to our discourse about race, because as Drum notes, it puts anyone white immediately on the defensive over things unrelated to their own choices and behavior, something many people are unwilling to take responsibility for. I know that I stop listening when someone wants to explain that everything and everyone is inherently racist and I am far from a conservative, politically.

    1. Those academics have obviously never met an asian american over 40 lol...

  3. Goddamn it - have your frothing-at-the-mouth breakdown already, go into rehab and when you come out either join the Tea Party, or Fox or some such thing.

    It is totally puke-making that this blogger claims to be a "librul".

    1. Well, you know, Anonymous loves to be sarcastic...

    2. On the other hand, ....

  4. I'm not better than conservatives because they're the R-word, racists.

    I'm just smarter than them because of the M, S, and E-words. I understand Math, Science, and Economics. Pass as many olive branches as you want, Bob, there is no fucking way in the world you can make it look like they do.

  5. I agree with Somerby that people shouldn't answer that question. Its asking them to have an opinion off the top of their heads. They didn't bring it up; the survey did.

    Talk about "racial resentment," though. White people got an eye opener with the Zimmerman case. At all levels including the President and the Attorney General, blacks thought the white (white enough) guy was obligated to let the black teenage delinquent murder him or beat him until he was a vegetable.

    1. So it was only blacks who thought there was something not quite right with a white guy shooting an unarmed black teen.

      After all, the white guy came up with a really good story, didn't he?

    2. And it was only whites who thought Zimmerman had a right to defend himself? Not true either.

    3. If by "defending yourself" you mean grabbing your gun to chase down a kid who, according to your own words, was running away, then yes. Pretty much only white people thought that.

      But I remain puzzled by the statement: "White people got an eye opener with the Zimmerman case."

      Tell me, 3:41. At what point in the Zimmerman case did your eyes spring open?

    4. Anonymous 4:34,
      Of course, this is futile as you did not bother to pay attantion to anything but photos of Trayvon Martin at age 11 and the word "Skittles."

      Else you would know this as it was brought out very dramatically at the trial:

      Zimmerman told the dispatcher that Martin ran and then 4 minutes later - per the cell phone logs and testimony of the prosecution witness Jeantel - Martin reappeared.

      Martin doubled back. It was then that he attacked Zimmerman.

      Thankfully Zimmerman had the gun and was able to save his life.

    5. And we know all this because George hisself told us.

      You know, I hope good ol' George doesn't approach you with the deed to a bridge he's selling, cheap.

    6. We know all this because the police dispatcher call where Zimmerman said Martin was running was recorded and has a time attached to it. Four minutes later, per telephone company records, Martin is on the phone with Jeantel and the phone disconnects.

    7. Lieonel

      There is no evidence Martin doubled back, no evidence Martin attacked Zimmerman. Zimmerman suffered extremely mild injuries, maybe from one or two punches, and instead of fighting back, defending himself, or escaping, he shot Martin to death. If it is ok everytime someone gets a punch or two to go ahead and murder, you can forget about civilized society.

    8. 8:31 --- You're not going to bother yourself to know any facts of the case. You will just stew in your own prejudices forever.

    9. So you won't be stewing in your own prejudices forever, too?
      Great news. I'm looking forward to the day you stop.

  6. “Is discrimination against whites now as big a problem as discrimination against minority groups?”

    "In the survey, 63 percent of tea party members answered that question by saying yes.
    When we look at Drum’s chart, we note a surprising fact:

    It wasn't just tea party members who answered that question yes. Thirty percent of Hispanics answered that question the same darn way; 29 percent of blacks said the same thing".

    i.e. Black HR managers refuse to hire white employees because of their race.
    Black college admissions officers refuse to admit white applicants because of their race.
    Black store clerks follow white shoppers through establishments because of their race.
    Black police officers stop and frisk white pedestrians because of their race.
    Surely (Shirley) you jest!?

    (Roughly) 30% of blacks and Hispanics equal 63% of tea party members?



  7. LG, are you suggesting that African American people do not discriminate against other people on the basis of race when in a position to do so? I have seen it happen from my own experience, on a variety of occasions.

    Your percents (30%, 63%) are the number of people willing to endorse a particular statement worded a particular way. Those numbers do not prove that tea party members are more likely to be racist than Hispanics. Wouldn't it make sense that white people would be more concerned about possible discrimination against white people than members of another racial/ethnic group would be? Is it really racist to be concerned about discrimination aimed at your own group?

    What seems so clear to you is not. ALL people discriminate against other groups and all hold stereotypes about members of other groups.

    Capiche is spelled capisce (he understands) or capisci (you understand). Comprende is spelled comprendez.

    1. I am stating the fact that African-Americans are (very) rarely in positions to discriminate against anyone..
      They may be resentful against white people. But resentment is not discrimination.



    2. The future holds far more discrimination for blacks as it is already clear that employers prefer to hire immigrants, even immigrants who don't speak English well.

    3. LG, African Americans are frequently in positions to discriminate these days because they are no longer relegated to relatively powerless positions, as should be evident from Obama's election.

    4. "The future holds far more discrimination for blacks as it is already clear that employers prefer to hire immigrants, even immigrants who don't speak English well".

      Thanks Lionel. I know that makes you happy.


  8. We wait three extra days for a Drum hit and all we get is a discussion of how badly Drum interpreted one badly drafted question on a two year old poll? And all it seems to be doing is serving as the TDH version of Butch Otter...filling space in the middle of a post aimed at bashing bad old Joan Walsh and her nefariously dangerous film critic.

  9. A couple of quibbles.

    1. Drum wrote, "I think it's safe to say that Fox considers tea partiers to be its core audience." Is that really the case? I don't know and Drum doesn't know.

    2. Omission of Asians. Polls like this pretend that America has only two races. In fact, Asian combined with at least one other race make up 5.6% of the population. I wonder how they would answer this question.

    1. 1. ??? The sentence is about what Fox "considers", not whether tea partiers are its core audience. And given that that's pretty much the demographic they've been chasing since they signed on, and certainly served as the mouthpiece of the national tea party "movement" when it sprang up from the artificial turf, I also "think it's safe to say."

      2. Only you can think not only of putting all "Asians" in one category, then combining them with "at least one other race" (whatever that means).