This morning the hosts of Fox & Friends took some time to investigate whether “Democrats have used as a tool, racism,” taking off on Wall Street Journal editorialist James Taranto's argument from yesterday that to “keep blacks voting Democratic, it is necessary for the party and its supporters to keep alive the idea that racism is prevalent in America and to portray the Republican Party ... as racist.”
They were impressed with Taranto's “provocative presentation” on The O'Reilly Factor last night, during which he argued that Democrats use accusations of racism to, in Bill O'Reilly's words, “keep African Americans in the fold,” and that the urgency with which they do so has only increased with the election of President Obama because “it's much harder to say that America is a racist country now that we've elected a black man president.” As Taranto put it, it makes it “all the more necessary to keep alive this idea that the Republican Party is a racist party.” Steve Doocy felt Taranto made a “great case” on this: “The fact that we have elected a black, African-American guy as president of the United States proves that we are not a racist nation.”
So this is what constitutes a discussion of race on Fox News? There are several problems here, so let's unpack them, one at a time.
First and foremost, it's remarkably insulting. The implication of Taranto's theory is that African-Americans aren't sophisticated or observant or intelligent enough to know real racism when they see it, and are thus continuously duped en masse into voting for Democrats. It couldn't be the case that black voters actually care about issues and have real reasons for voting Democratic, they're just puppets who are motivated by racial sentiments that Democrats prey upon. Taranto and his pals at Fox & Friends might think they're attacking the Democrats, but they're actually demeaning black voters.
Also, the Republican Party really hasn't needed a whole lot of help from the Democrats to “keep alive this idea that the Republican Party is a racist party.” It's almost comical that Taranto would pick this moment to elucidate his theory on Democratic racial trickery, coming so soon after Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell conspicuously and determinedly elided the issue of slavery in proclaiming April as Confederate History Month. Asked why he omitted slavery from the proclamation, McDonnell said: "[T]here were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia." As Adam Serwer wrote: “McDonnell's statement is telling, if only because it reveals which Virginians he feels are 'significant.' ”
And let's not forget that one of the few people who came to McDonnell's defense on this was Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, head of the Republican Governors Association, who said it wasn't a mistake for McDonnell to omit slavery from the proclamation and said the whole thing “doesn't matter for diddly.” Barbour is rumored to be mulling a 2012 presidential run and has his own issues with race -- he's chummy with the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and once reportedly told an aide that if he “persisted in racist remarks, he would be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks.”
Democrats pounced on these statements and they did so with good reason -- they're offensive to a lot of people and they're coming from the mouths of very high-profile Republicans. But to hear Taranto and the Fox & Friends crew tell it, if you're offended by this then you're just falling for the Democrats' racial trickery.
Video of the Fox & Friends segment below: