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February 13, 2006

Confused Republicans and Condi Rice

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Polls consistently show that you can get double-digit percentages of Republicans to endorse Condi Rice for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.  However, she usually does worse than other Republicans in head-to-head matchups against Democrats.  It's an interesting phenomenon, not so much for 2008 primary reasons (Condi's chances of getting the nomination would be very low even if she were running) but because it lets you analyze some Republicans' attitudes towards race, gender, and politics. 

Suppose you -- like a number of white Republicans today -- think that racism and sexism pretty much ended in the 1960s.  Any remaining racism and sexism holding back blacks and women, you think, are outweighed by the benefits of racial/gender solidarity within supposedly oppressed groups and the diversity-babble of white liberals.  You'll probably end up thinking that a black female Republican would be the most electable candidate ever.  You'll fantasize about how you could win the identity-politics obsessed black vote, and a lot of women, for the next couple decades, by having the first black and female president carry the GOP flag.

As it turns out, there is plenty of racism and sexism out there.  I don't think it's quite enough to prevent any possible black candidate from winning a Republican primary.  You get examples on lower levels like Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania, Michael Steele in Maryland, and JC Watts a while ago in Oklahoma.  In particular, if Republicans see a highly placed black candidate who blames poor black people for their own poverty and has no real interest in helping them, most of them will respond favorably, and the electability crowd will cancel out the most intense racists.  But making white Republicans more comfortable in their racism is very important.  A black person who is willing to express negative opinions about blacks makes Republicans more comfortable with holding those negative opinions.  It's comforting be able to say, "I think blacks are mostly lazy and violent and stupid, but that doesn't make me racist -- a black person thinks so too!"  Not being stupid, black people will line up to vote against black candidates who spend their time doing this.  But Republican electability theorists don't count on that. 

While I'm on the Condi topic, there's another big blind spot here.  The major Bush Administration policy initiative that she's most associated with is the Iraq War.  If you think that things are eventually going to turn out well in Iraq, and that the only people who deeply oppose it are hippie peaceniks and their media allies, you'll probably imagine Condi the Conqueror parlaying her foreign policy fame into electoral victory.  As it turns out, things aren't going well, most Americans (blacks being no exception) are aware of it, and that's why they don't like Condi.

February 13, 2006 in Republicans | Permalink

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Comments

I think it's simpler and more complicated than that - a lot of Republican strategizing that's presented as "inspired" is really very cynical. This is really as simple as "Democrats win by giving minority groups one of their own to vote for; we can succeed doing the same thing". The reasoning is stupid and lazy, but the Republicans who do it honestly - and cynically - believe that race and gender identification trumps all. An even better example of this is Bobby Jindal, who lost because rural white Louisiana wouldn't turn out to vote for a person of color; that's where the cynicism really comes back to bite them, when the base does exactly what it's been trained to do.

The more complicated part is that the Republicans who sincerely like Rice stubbornly refuse to see her flaws - that her handling of the NSA and now of State are really a very mixed bag, never mind the larger queston of the war in Iraq and the "War on Terror". They also tend to gloss past the fact that as a child of the Civil Rights era (more than a JC Watts or a Michael Steele, her connection to "Four Little Girls" gives the current GOP what little cred they can claim that someone in a position of authority gets it), Rice isn't quite the poster child of black conservatism they'd liike her to be.

The net-net of it is that Rice, who does get it, and isn't interested, won't run. If she did run, she'd never make it out of the Primaries; because, despite their brave talk, the base of the GOP really is that racist and sexist. And that's why I'd love to see them test it out.

Posted by: weboy | Feb 13, 2006 6:18:07 AM

Suppose you -- like a number of white Republicans today -- think that racism and sexism pretty much ended in the 1960s.

---I'm not aware of anybody on the Right who thinks that. What we do think is that legal racism -- i.e., racially prejudiced laws -- ended in the 60s.

The current racism -- and there is plenty of it -- is a social problem, not a legal one.

Posted by: Jon Henke | Feb 13, 2006 6:59:32 AM

Neil, I just don't see the big whoop here.Rice comes third (behind Guliani and McCain) in the Republican nomination question, which I think at this point is mostly a name recognition game, and she comes third behind, guess who, Guliani and McCain in the most of the other polls.

Posted by: Battlepanda | Feb 13, 2006 9:48:28 AM

Oh, and may I add, she's not even behind by all that much -- as little as 5 points behind McCain in a head-to-head against hilary matchup.

Oh, and John Henke, Democrats also think that Legal recism ended in the 60s. We're all talking about how best to remedy a social problem now, and the extent and importance of the problem.

Posted by: battlepanda | Feb 13, 2006 9:57:23 AM

All this is very interesting. You know, though, when I see her in all her public appearances, I just don't see a level of confidence in public speaking that would propel her to the top in a primary. She has a difficult time enough explaining away some of the screwups of the administration. When the pressure comes down on her, and her character, I see her buckling under pressure and looking really, really bad while doing it.

Posted by: Adrock | Feb 13, 2006 10:12:55 AM

We're all talking about how best to remedy a social problem now, and the extent and importance of the problem.

---Ok. I just objected to the way the Right (white Republicans) was portrayed -- i.e., that "white republicans" don't believe racism exists.

If you talk to most people on the right who think about such things, I think you'd find broad agreement that racism is still a very real social problem. But you'd also find a fundamental belief that social problems are best addressed by society, instead of by government, whose solutions tend to be as delicate as a hammer and whose interventions, as Paul Krugman has previously said, frequently don't help and often actually hurt.

Our dispute is not of the fact of racism, but of the proper realm in which it should be addressed.

Posted by: Jon Henke | Feb 13, 2006 10:32:50 AM

If you talk to most people on the right who think about such things, I think you'd find broad agreement that racism is still a very real social problem.

If we are going on the conversations we have with people, then I categorically disagree with this statement. The overwhelming majority of conservative whites that I have ever spoken to about this believe that racism, as a potent force, ended with civil rights legislation. One year after the "Rodney King" riots, a coworker of mine (I lived in San Diego) expounded, at length, upon the "fact" that racism and racial tensions in Southern California had pretty much ended by the mid 1980's. Many other conservative whites that I know believe that blacks have no reason to complain even if they do face some (minor) racism, because all of them get free money from the government and then have jobs handed to them even if they're not qualified. These are actual statements from actual people, in different parts of the country.

Posted by: Stephen | Feb 13, 2006 10:57:24 AM

Battlepanda, I think there's still something to be explained when no person in the executive branch is getting any love as a 2008 presidential candidate, and Condi is hovering around 20% depending on the poll.

Jon, my analysis only needs a large minority of white Republicans to have the "racism is pretty much gone" view in order to go through. And if most Republicans had your scruples about avoiding legal remedies for social problems, I doubt that we'd be seeing successful ballot initiatives to "defend the family" by denying domestic partnership benefits to gay people.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Feb 13, 2006 11:15:17 AM

Neil,
Please go find the "large minority" that you profess is present and present it. I don't recall Condi or Colin Powell saying that they hated blacks (or, in your world, "not Democrats") and yet the GOP still managed to not throw Bush out of power even though he let the people that you say they hate, in in the highest positions of power.

Of course, there were people of color in Clinton's admin, as well. Betty Curry was a secretary and Vernon Jordan was chief-job pimp for the president's whores, but be that as it may, if there's such a large minority of closeted racists out there (and lefties always find a way to use their x-ray vision to see them), one wonders why they were unable to keep Condi & Colin from power, unable to keep Trent Lott in power and unable to keep their guy - Bush - from extending the executive branch policies on affirmative action.

"And if most Republicans had your scruples about avoiding legal remedies for social problems, I doubt that we'd be seeing successful ballot initiatives to "defend the family" by denying domestic partnership benefits to gay people."

Partner, the biggest constiuency in favor of denying domestic bennies is the group you're saying that Republicans hate and the mainstay of the Democratic party: blacks.

Sweeping generalities are easy, but can become problematic....especially when decrying bigotry while displaying definition of the act itself.

Posted by: RW | Feb 13, 2006 11:32:31 AM

The current racism -- and there is plenty of it -- is a social problem, not a legal one.

That Reds see this - social vs. legal - as clear and easy distinction is one of the things that irritates me most. Gawd, they're morons.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Feb 13, 2006 12:14:37 PM

And you know what, RW? Condi isn't actually going to run, and Colin never ran. They aren't actually taking positions on any domestic issues, since they don't have to, and they can just sit back while primary voters project their favorite black-republican fantasies onto them.

These Republicans are people I've talked with at my highschool and in college. Stephen knows who they are too.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Feb 13, 2006 12:26:32 PM

I don't recall Condi or Colin Powell saying that they hated blacks

Ok RW, I'll give you that. I haven't heard them "say" that either. But consider this: when someone uses the color of their skin to lend legitimacy to a movement - and its policies - that actively seeks to disadvantage others with the same skin color, it ain't love in their hearts.

Rice, Powell, Steele, Lynn Swann, etc. all know that they are paraded around in GOP ads, talking points and conventions to show how "diverse" the Republican party is, how "tolerant" they are. At times they also parrot those talking points themselves, assuring nervous whites that yes, it's true, what's needed is more police and stronger penalties for crimes generally committed by blacks, and don't worry, you didn't get successful because of years of institutionalized discrimination, it was just hard work! You're a good person, and all those black welfare queens are just lazy and promiscuous. And the whisper campaign about John McCain having a black baby wasn't about racism, no sir. The fact that Willie Horton was black had nothing to do with his appearance in all those attack ads!

Oh, but Condi Rice has never given a speech where she says that she hates black people. So you're right and we're wrong I guess. Oh wait! Is this another round of Word Games?

Posted by: Stephen | Feb 13, 2006 12:44:53 PM

I think that Dinesh D'Souza is pretty clearly an advocate of the view that racism is basically over.

I will say this about Condi Rice: given a choice of picking any prominent member of the Bush administration cabinet to be POTUS, I would pick Rice.

No, that was not a ringing endorsement.

Posted by: Julian Elson | Feb 13, 2006 12:51:28 PM

"Condi's chances of getting the nomination would be very low even if she were running"

All of this chatter about Rice as a viable GOP candidate is just smoke, designed to waste Dems time and energy. She won't make it out of the first primary - black, female, unmarried; not to mention questionable on abortion and affirmative action.
Does anyone think the reichwingnuts would allow another Harriet Miers to slip through?

Posted by: CParis | Feb 13, 2006 1:26:29 PM

@SomeCallMeTim
"That Reds see this - social vs. legal - as clear and easy distinction is one of the things that irritates me most. Gawd, they're morons."

No one said it was an easy distinction. So are you saying that there is no distinction? Is there any aspect of "social" behavior that should not be legislated?

Personally, I'd rather err on the side of less legislation.

Posted by: Tito | Feb 13, 2006 1:30:01 PM

"And you know what, RW? Condi isn't actually going to run, and Colin never ran."

You know that & most other people know that, but when people take that into account and then rank her third on the current percentages of a group of polls (the same site didn't even feel the need to poll for black Dems, btw, which says something about their chances), it amounts to wink-wink/nudge-nudge "confused Republicans" (read: closet racists) who really don't want to vote for her. Any reason you didn't put that OBVIOUS omission into your analysis? Or was the answer already established and you went seeking something to back it up?

Stephen, Condi (and Powell) are for affirmative-action. I'm not a dailykos troll and thus I'm not looking for dailykos talking points. If you think Republicans are really racists and Condi/Powell/Steele are really step n' fetchit figures too stupid to know that they're really being used (once more, only lefties can see these things.....just ask 'em), then fine. Great. Have a nice life.

BUt please leave me out of any further discussions (pretend I don't exist, IOW).

Posted by: RW | Feb 13, 2006 1:59:51 PM

Who exactly are the Republican polling here? Seriously.

I sent 4 years at the University of Alabama, grew up in Louisiana, and spent more time in Mississippi than was good for me - all three of these are fairly Republican leaning - and let me just say that some of these Repubublicans would never in a million years vote for a African-American woman. Many of them barely recognize that the south lost and Lee signed the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse about 140 years ago.

And as for women - please - we are most hard on other women. I am female and I wouldn't vote for her (though not because she is female) just because "she is a woman and shouldn't we stick together because a female president would rock." Yes I would love to vote for a woman (just not Hillary please) but I would rather the first female president to be someone to admire.

Posted by: ET | Feb 13, 2006 4:39:42 PM

What about the other elephant in the room?

Posted by: C.J.Colucci | Feb 13, 2006 6:48:17 PM

For all of you claiming that Democrats have worked to help blacks and women and that Republicans just want to keep the black man down:

A) Affirmative action is reverse discrimination, plain and simple. Giving someone a position over a more qualified candidate, simply because of the color of their skin is wrong. It may have been useful at one time when there was institutionalized racism but it has long outlived it's usefulness. If anything, the 'affirmative action' mentality has become institutionalized in business and gov't. In todays world, it is an insult to a black person to tell them they need help getting a job or into college, because they are not as capable as a white person.

B) The "Great Society", which is the Democrat's solution to poverty, has destroyed the black family. In the sixties, black families were roughly equivalent to whites as far as illegitimate birth rate, abortion rate, percentage with STDs, etc. Today,

60 percent of black children grow up in fatherless homes

800,000 black men are in jail or prison

70 percent of black babies are born to unwed mothers

Over 300,000 black babies are aborted annually

50 percent of new AIDS cases are in the black community

Almost half of young black men in America's cities are neither working nor in school

I don't know why blacks would support a party that has done that to their people.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Feb 13, 2006 8:09:16 PM

Captain Toke:
Then why not ask some?

Posted by: C.J.Colucci | Feb 13, 2006 10:10:44 PM

RW, what the hell are you talking about? I spend about 10 minutes a week reading dailykos. I couldn't tell you what their "talking points" are to save my life. I never mentioned affirmative action. I never said they were to stupid to understand what is happening; rather I think I implied that they are cynically allowing themselves to be paraded around because it means greater advancement, money and power for them personally.

If you don't want to discuss anything with me, fine. I don't see how anything I've said is worse than others, but then you apparently don't have a fucking clue as to what I actually wrote. Anyway, call me out I what I wrote, tell me to back off, that's great. Otherwise, fuck off, dipshit.

Why are there so many dipshit trolls showing up here?

Posted by: Stephen | Feb 14, 2006 12:00:39 AM

Jon Henke: The current racism -- and there is plenty of it -- is a social problem, not a legal one.

That's a comfortable position to take, I'm sure. Of course when you change "racism" to "bigotry," it's quite clear that there still is a problem along those lines. There may not be legal discrimination along racial lines, but there clearly where sexual orientation is concerned. And no, this is not limited to the issue of gay marriage, it goes far beyond that.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 14, 2006 2:23:48 AM

"There may not be legal discrimination along racial lines, but there clearly where sexual orientation is concerned."

And don't forget the midgets! With all this height discrimination going on in the world, how do Republicans sleep at night?!?

When there is a booster step in front of every urinal and comode in every public restroom in this country, then the midgets will feel like Americans. Until then, every time a midget has to use a public restroom with no booster step or midget grab bar to keep him from falling in the toilet, it will be a civil rights violation.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Feb 14, 2006 2:46:10 AM

Um, okay, Captain Toke. Midgets, urinals, whatever.

In most states it's legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation. In Maine, a supposedly liberal state, only this year a bill passed which would prevent gay people from being fired at work or kicked out of their apartments simply because they're gay. Before this fall, that was a perfectly legal thing to do.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 14, 2006 2:58:18 AM

Joe,

This is about black Republicans, not gays or transexuals or polygamists or carnival freaks.....

Posted by: Captain Toke | Feb 14, 2006 3:05:17 AM

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