More Reaction To Harry Reid’s Comments From “Game Change”

The comments from Harry Reid quoted in Game Change continue to receive far more attention than they deserve. There have been numerous other selections from the book which are far more interesting. The Congressional Black Caucus has issued a statement backing Reid:

Today Rep. Barbara Lee, Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus issued the following statement in response to Republican demands that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid step down:

“I have had an opportunity to speak with Senator Reid and he apologized for his unfortunate remarks concerning the President and he understands the gravity of such remarks. There are too many issues like the economy, job creation and energy for these regrettable comments to distract us from the work that must be done on behalf of the American people.

“Over the years, I have had an opportunity to work with Majority Leader Reid.  Senator Reid’s record provides a stark contrast to actions of Republicans to block legislation that would benefit poor and minority communities – most recently reflected in Republican opposition to the Health Bill now under consideration.  I look forward to Senator Reid continuing to serve as Majority Leader to guide this important agenda through the Senate.

“The Congressional Black Caucus believes that thoughtful engagement and civil discourse on race is needed, as our first “Dialogue on Race” in November 2009 demonstrated.  There is a deep unease about race which cannot be swept under the rug.  I appreciate Senator Reid’s apology and look forward to our continuing work.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates see the attempts to compare Reid’s statement to the statement which forced Trent Lott out of office as an example of how the Republicans do not understand why they are seen as “a haven for racists.”

I think you can grant that, in this era, the term “Negro dialect” is racially insensitive and embarrassing. That said, the fair-mind listener understands the argument–Barack Obama’s complexion and his ability to code-switch is an asset. You can quibble about the “light skin” part, but forget running for president, code-switching is the standard M.O. for any African American with middle class aspirations.

But there’s no such defense for Trent Lott. Lott celebrated apartheid Mississippi’s support of Strom Thurmond, and then said that had Thurmond won, “we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years.” Strom Thurmond run for president, specifically because he opposed Harry Truman’s efforts at integration. This is not mere conjecture–nearly half of Thurmond’s platform was dedicated to preserving segregation. The Dixiecrat slogan was “Segregation Forever!” (Exclamation point, theirs.) Trent Lott’s wasn’t forced to resign because he said something “racially insensitive.” He was forced to resign because he offered tacit endorsement of white supremacy–frequently.

Claiming that Harry Reid’s comments are the same, is like claiming that referring to Jews as “Hebrews” is the same as endorsing Nazism. Whereas a reputable portion of black people still use the term Negro without a hint of irony, no black person thinks the guy yelling “Segregation Forever!” would have cured us of “all these problems.”

Leaving aside political cynicism, this entire affair proves that the GOP is not simply still infected with the vestiges of white supremacy and racism, but is neither aware of the infection, nor understands the disease. Listening to Liz Cheney explain why Harry Reid’s comments were racist, was like listening to me give lessons on the finer points of the comma splice. This a party, rightly or wrongly, regarded by significant portions of the country as a haven for racists. They aren’t simply having a hard time re-branding, they don’t actually understand how and why they got the tag.

Some Republicans to realize that it is not politically wise to continue with this line of attack, regardless of whether they have any qualms about engaging in unfair attacks if it would be to their benefit. From National Review:

Republicans need to be somewhat careful in their glee to pillory Reid over this — both from a “lowering the bar” perspective (It will be a Republican who next gets “caught” so why build a bigger case in advance) and also from a voter backlash in Nevada perspective.  Reid will take a polling hit from this — initially — but a significant number of average voters are probably rolling their eyes over the hype and probably sympathize with him.

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    Daniel Arlt says:

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    Daniel Arlt says:

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