Political Animal


November 27, 2012 11:30 AM White Identity Politics

By Ed Kilgore

Of all the conservative raps in circulation, the one I have the most trouble with personally is the anti-anti-racism meme: the idea that white people are being persecuted for the color of their skin by a dominant coalition of minorities and honky quislings. And invariably, the proof of that proposition is that those crying “racism” are themselves race-conscious, which makes them guilty of the original sin.

In his latest column, the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto ups the ante a bit, warning “race-card” wielding Democrats that they are being so bigoted towards white people that they may soon encourage the rise of a White Power movement:

This seems likely to weaken the taboo against white identity politics. Whites who are not old enough to remember the pre-civil-rights era—Rep. Duncan, for instance, was born in 1966—have every reason to feel aggrieved by being targeted in this way.

The “Rep. Duncan” in question is Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, who authored a letter to the president denouncing Susan Rice, which was criticized by the Washington Post. The Post in passing noted that the letter was heavily subscribed to by white males from the former Confederacy, which is what sent Taranto off on his anti-anti-racism tangent.

So poor Jeff Duncan is a victim of bigotry because he’s too young to have personally stood in the door of a schoolhouse trying to block desegregation, and probably too young to have shouted racial epithets in public and gotten away with it. According to Taranto, this man who represents a South Carolina tradition of entrenched and militant white conservative power that is one of America’s most distinctive and universally understood and historically significant (it did, after all, touch off a bit of a war once upon a time) phenomena should feel “aggrieved” for being suspected of anything other than pure motives in singling out an African-American diplomat for a rare House letter to the president on a potential cabinet nomination.

I dunno. The same people who worry about southern white Members of Congress representing 100% white voting constituencies weeping quietly in their offices at the grave injustice of having their racial good faith questioned are often capable of viewing fortune 500 CEOs as cowering, helpless victims of all-powerful, vicious Bureaucrats and Regulators; of treating smug wealthy conservative evangelical Christians as Martyrs to Their Faith; and of regarding the vast political power of Big Poor as a threat to the mild-mannered lobbyists representing such small and civic-minded interests as tobacco and banks.

Taranto is warning that “aggrieved” white folks are justifiably on the very brink of just coming right out and reclaiming their right to race-consciousness. When that happens, presumably, black and brown folks and “liberals” will be to blame. I’m a bit older than Jeff Duncan, but this sort of logic sure sounds a lot like what I heard as a southern white child during the civil rights era: white bigotry was bad, of course, but it would never have exploded into violence if it weren’t for those pestiferous civil rights protestors and “outside agitators.” Anti-anti-racism has as long and nearly as discredited a pedigree as racism itself.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • SYSPROG on November 27, 2012 11:42 AM:

    I thought the 'white power' movement was called the GOP...or the TEAPARTY.

  • CharlieM on November 27, 2012 11:42 AM:

    Shorter Taranto: "Don't make us have to lynch a few of ya'll".

  • howard on November 27, 2012 11:42 AM:

    Taranto is one if the most stupid and offensive right-wing hacks out there, which takes some doing.

  • T2 on November 27, 2012 11:43 AM:

    in our society, there are racists. If you are a racist, and you choose to align yourself with a national political party, it's very hard to align yours beliefs with the Democratic Political Party. That leaves the Republican Political Party. Pretty simple, huh?

  • martin on November 27, 2012 11:57 AM:

    Everything would be fine if them coloreds and women just knew their place.

  • c u n d gulag on November 27, 2012 11:58 AM:

    Not EVERY Republican is a racist, misogynist, xenophobe, and/or homophobe.

    But every racist, misogynist, xenophobe, and/or homophobe, IS a Republican.

    Hmm... Maybe before you incite a few more Timothy McVey's, you might want to consider your words just a bit more carefully, Mr. Taranto
    Oh, but I forgot - you're a feckin' idjit!

  • Ron Byers on November 27, 2012 12:07 PM:

    God, I hate these white whiners. They have every advantage, but can't accept responsibility when they fail when competing head to head with a member of a minority group.

    That said, I do think we progressives have a tendancy to cry "racist" too quickly. That cry is often shorthand for "I don't want to think about you or what you are saying, so I will slap my handly "racist" label on you."

    There are real reasons there are a lot of angry old white people. America is changing. A lot of old white people are not members of the elite and are facing an uncertain future. They are often afraid of living out their days cold and alone without the safety net they think they have earned. They worry about their kids. They don't have the power they used to have to protect themselves or their children. They want to think somebody is looking out for them. They have to blame somebody for the uncertainty they face.

    Since nobody (especially nobody on the Republican side) is addressing the real problems facing America, we are left with everybody, including angry old white people, feeling the need to fight over a smaller and smaller pie. Our leaders need to be working to raise everybody's standard of living. We need to be expanding opportunity for all.

  • mb on November 27, 2012 12:08 PM:

    Its hard out here on a honky.

  • FlipYrWhig on November 27, 2012 12:27 PM:

    If there isn't a ska band called Honky Quislings YET, count on it happening soon.

  • Josef K on November 27, 2012 12:40 PM:

    Words fail. Words utterly fail.

  • cmdicely on November 27, 2012 12:50 PM:

    Given how many of the Republicans in the House and Senate who have raised misgivings about Dr. Susan Rice being promoted to Secretary of State were in Congress when Dr. Condoleeza Rice was promoted to the same position and had no trouble with it, I have some trouble with the idea that the underlying motivations for their objections (whether or not the stated objections are spurious) are primarily racism or sexism.

    Simple partisanship and obstructionism are much more likely.

  • Jeff In Ohio on November 27, 2012 12:52 PM:

    The Honky Quislings...BAND NAME!!!

  • Fess on November 27, 2012 12:58 PM:

    OMG,Ed! "honky quislings," "pestiferous civil rights protestors," and pretty much everything in the second to last paragraph, just made my vocabulary deprived day! Thanks so much for enlivening my morning with evocative language and thoughts longer than 5 letter words and 5 word sentences.

  • Doug on November 27, 2012 1:01 PM:

    Judging a person based on the color of their skin is racist.

    Unless it is a Black judging a white.
    Or a Hispanic judging a white.
    Or a "self- enlightened" White liberal attacking a conservative.

    Google "senate hearings condoleesa rice" and see what kind of support for a successful Black Woman came from the Dems.

    Judging one's actions JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE WHITE is racist.

  • The Deadhead on November 27, 2012 1:16 PM:

    Doug is a racist who is too cowardly to admit it. People are not judging white people because of the color of their skin but because of the content of their character.

    I am old enough to remember "white only" Jim Crow laws. Yet, in my life, I have never heard the N-word directed at anyone more often than at Barack Obama. Never heard Condi called that. Wonder why?

  • Jill on November 27, 2012 1:19 PM:

    Perhaps poor Jeff Duncan, too young to remember the pre-civil-rights times, ought to study some history, as I have (born in 1961) so he can more easily comprehend the context.

  • essaycastle.co.uk on November 27, 2012 1:31 PM:

    Thanks for the best blog.it was very useful for me.keep sharing such ideas in the future as well.this was actually what i was looking for,and i am glad to came here! http://essaycastle.co.uk/

  • bdop4 on November 27, 2012 1:41 PM:


    One's actions speak for themselves, regardless of race. I do not criticize Rep. Duncan and James Taranto for the color of their skin. I criticize them for their poor arguments, which I guess falls under "a 'self-enlightened' white liberal attacking a conservative." Question: how exactly is that racist?

    The coincidence of my criticism and their skin color does not constitute racism. However, the racist history of the south (a fact) and the concentration of southern congressmen having "issues" with Ms. Rice (another fact) does draw a logical inference suggesting a motive beyond their piss-poor arguments against her. This inference is rebuttable, but better logic than that offered by Rep. Duncan and his colleagues.

  • Josef K on November 27, 2012 2:13 PM:

    From Doug at 1:01 PM:

    Judging one's actions JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE WHITE is racist.

    Touche. However don't expect me to tolerant of some privileged caucasian who drops the "n" bomb on my black wife within earshot.

    Its become a demographic truism: not all conservatives are racists, but most racists are conservatives. I blame their society, frankly. Its just not terribly...evolved.

  • Rick Massimo on November 27, 2012 2:23 PM:

    The use of the phrase "former Confederacy" is the most positive development in our national conversation in years.

    It drives them CRAZY. So I'm going to use it ALL the time, and encourage everyone to do so.

    Any squawks from people like James Taranto, who knows nothing and cares less about the actual history of this nation, should be met with the patented conservative response: "What's your problem? I'm just observing a curious fact ..."

  • beejeez on November 27, 2012 2:26 PM:

    From my experience, a useful generalization that white folks can use to tell whether they are racist or not:

    1. Have you ever had a close friendship or even an extended conversation with a black person?

    2. Have you ever read a book by a black person?

    Answer both questions no, and you are almost certainly a racist, even if you sincerely don't mean to be. There's just too much built-in baggage to overcome to transcend racism without making an active, engaged effort. Answering either or both questions yes doesn't absolve you, but for many and possibly most white folks it won't matter. They won't be answering yes to either question.

  • Karen on November 27, 2012 2:27 PM:

    Here is an example of white nationalism. Please note that he never wonders why so few whites vote for the Dems. Also, note that he defines the core of our country as wealthy white males and everyone else as part of what he calls the fringe. I think the pejorative meaning of "fringe" is blatant.

  • Sean Peters on November 27, 2012 3:59 PM:

    Totally naming my next band "The Honky Quislings"

  • Jacqueline on November 27, 2012 6:43 PM:

    I think you just proved Taranto's point.

  • Marlon Brando on November 27, 2012 6:50 PM:

    If you supported Condi Rice but don't support Susan Rice, then you aren't a racist. If you believe that last statement is untrue, you are an idiot.

  • Pat on November 27, 2012 7:28 PM:

    Nice echo chamber you guys have here!

  • H-Bob on November 27, 2012 8:05 PM:

    Did Duncan denounce the birthers ?

  • RK on November 27, 2012 8:18 PM:

    Did anyone writing on this page, including the columnist, actually READ the Taranto piece? I suspect this is all in response to at least second party interpretations of what someone said at an Upper West Side, whine and cheese air-kiss fest.

    No serious person denies racism still exists. Most serious people now recognize that, in politics, the charge of "racism" is a grenade leftists throw when they are afraid of losing an argument.

  • giantslor on November 27, 2012 8:40 PM:

    Taranto is projecting.

  • 14All on November 28, 2012 8:44 AM:

    Some of the commenters here assume that because these same Senators did not challenge Dr. Condaleeza Rice, this proves they are not racially motivated. Racism does not really work that way; a person rarely has the time, motivation or energy to attack or disparage every single person of color that they encounter in their lives. This is particularly true if that person is "on their team" culturally in some other way.

    However, if they identify some reason to criticize a person, and that person happens to be black, their underlying contempt magnifies the anger and outrage they feel towards that person. They suddenly start thinking of other things that are wrong with them (for example McCain's comment that Rhodes scholar Susan Rice is "not that bright"). Although the original criticism might have even been a valid one, the way they are piling it on begins to look a wee bit fishy to observers who are not racist. Observers who are racist, however, will be more easily convinced to criticize the person by their underlying prejudices, even if they did not agree with the original criticism.

    In other words, in most people racism is more of a powerful undertow of motivation than a giant, visible wave.

  • Kathleen on November 28, 2012 12:27 PM:

    Maybe he just doesn't agree with her behavior in this matter. After all four people are dead and no one in the administration will explain their actions. She has admitted telling untruths, seems to me the congressman is well within his area of responsibility, regardless what color Ms. Rice is.

  • HMDK on November 28, 2012 2:50 PM:

    "Most serious people now recognize that, in politics, the charge of "racism" is a grenade leftists throw when they are afraid of losing an argument."

    If by serious, you mean seriously deranged, then sure.

  • papersonthedot.co.uk/essay on December 04, 2012 6:45 AM:

    that's one awesomely written post!