Donald Sterling and the Neverending Fantasy of ‘Democrat’ Racism

   < < Go Back

by Michael Tomasky,

from The Daily Beast,

Oh, how eager the conservative press is to call Donald Sterling a Democrat! It’s all part of their larger fantasy narrative about conservatism and race.

Let’s say for the sake of this column that he is a Democrat. What would it prove? I think it’s quite clear what it would prove: There’s one racist Democrat in American public life, who doesn’t even have anything to do with politics beyond a few many-year-old contributions.

Find me another. And I mean a real, serious racist who’s said real, seriously racist things. I don’t mean Joe Biden, for calling Obama “clean and articulate.” That was a stupid racial comment; ditto Harry Reid’s statement about Obama having “no Negro dialect” unless he wanted to affect one.

Conservatives love to point to those two remarks, and I’m certainly not defending them. But here’s the contextual difference that conservatives either can’t understand or won’t concede. Biden and Reid both have long, long histories of supporting the Voting Rights Act, affirmative action, civil-rights expansions, a view of the Constitution that endorses a broad interpretation of the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment—and federal judges who back all those things. Likewise Bill Clinton, who made some dubious comments in the heat of the 2008 primaries, like telling Ted Kennedy that “a few years ago, [Obama] would be getting our coffee.” A horrible statement, but one made by an ex-president with a long record of backing civil rights (and at a time when they were under pretty stern assault from Newt Gingrich’s House of Representatives).

This is something conservatives don’t understand. Or rather, they understand it—but they can’t acknowledge it. They can’t acknowledge this larger context of Democratic support for the things that have mostly improved black people’s lives and Republicans’ almost total opposition to them since at least the 1980s. To acknowledge all that would be to acknowledge that they’ve been wrong on one of the most searing issues in American political history. They of course can’t do that. So they have to construct this alternative, fantasy narrative, under which these things the Democrats have done for the last 50 years, things Republicans and conservatives have largely opposed, have been bad for black people.

More From The Daily Beast: