Why I’m Tired of the Racist Argument from Democratic Politicians

Let’s say that it’s true. Just for this post, let’s say that the vast majority of Tennesseans are such huge racist fucks that anyone down ticket from a black man is going to suffer for it. Let’s say that I buy that.

You still want to run for office, right?


There must be some reasons why you think a bunch of racist fucks still need your leadership and things you think you can do better than the other guy.

What are they?

13 thoughts on “Why I’m Tired of the Racist Argument from Democratic Politicians

  1. I know we’re supposed to assume…for the sake of argument…that all Tennesseans are racist, but I just can’t do it.

    I know it’s part wishful thinking to believe most people in this state are basically good — but part of my feeling is based on 57 years of experience. There are people all over this state who live, daily and purposefully, by the Golden Rule. I’m almost certain that the bigoted jerks are simply the vocal minority who get all the attention.

    Take last week in Murfreesboro as an example: the vast majority of the people who turned out to harangue the Commission about the new mosque were spouting prejudiced drivel. The media accounts make Rutherford County look like a hotbed of bigotry. We lose sight of the fact that the hundred people who showed up to spew filth are a tiny minority of the folks who live and work in Rutherford County, and that they don’t represent the majority.

    I know you’re going to ask, “If the majority are so tolerant, why do they allow the loud jerks to dominate public policy and politics?” I don’t have the answer, but I think it has something to do with this: from Nixon’s Southern Strategy, through Lee Atwater, to Rovian maneuverings, appealing to people’s worst instincts has been shown throughout most of my adult lifetime to be a successful political strategy. The question, it seems to me, is this: is that strategy successful because it appeals to the majority, or does it simply move enough people on the fringes to win elections?

    Given the very close split of the American electorate for the past thirty years, I think the second possibility is the most likely.

    If that’s true, overt bigotry will die a natural death as the bigots die off, to be replaced by younger generations who don’t share their prejudices. That has already happened, to a large extent, with anti-black prejudice – witness the election of Obama and the demographics of the people who voted for him. It is happening now with anti-gay prejudice: just look at how different the polling numbers are when broken down by age. It will inevitably happen with Hispanics and Muslims, as our kids grow up alongside folks from other cultures and find that they are not scary monsters.

    I choose to believe that bigots in our culture today are fighting a hopeless rear-guard action against the march of history, and that they are doomed to lose in the normal course of events.

  2. your pants are too tight
    [Don’t expect to be able to insult me AND link to your blog.—B.]

  3. I don’t think most local Democrats think “the vast majority” of Tennesseans are racists. In fact the only time I hear that sort of talk is from the staff of very progressive national groups.

    I think it is true that there are some racists in Tennessee and that it can effect down ticket races, primarily because strong racism is a motivating factor for voting. See the recent ruckus in M’boro for evidence on how a minority of bigots will usually make the majority of the noise.

    Whether or not either statement is true has no bearing on why someone should want to serve as a politician. Whether as a leader for rightousness(in the first case), or as a voice of the quieter, tolerant majority(in the second), it is important that we have good representation in state government.

  4. Wait, are we talking about Willie Herenton? I’m behind the curve on racist political posturing in my new home, so I’m still thinking I’m in Memphis.

    Also, hi.

  5. The Democrats don’t believe all Repubs are racist, but there is a large part of our Society that is. The Republican Campaign strategist have for some time now tried to tap in to this group for their votes and in Tennessee the GOP has more openly courted the racist element in our State than the National GOP has.
    Examples of this is their support for The Birthers, the Black Bird mailers and trying to make every Democratic Politician from the City Council to the State House the Best Friend and advisor to President Obama ( Honestly I have never met the Man ). Their Leadership has made several racist remarks, like what Jason Mumpower said about Nathan Vaughn ( a Black Candidate ). Jason said that “Nathan had the value’s of inter-city Memphis and not the Rolling Hills of East Tennessee”.
    The Tennessee GOP has had a tradition of producing many Leaders at the National level such as Howard Baker, Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander just to name a few, and I know that they are embarrassed by this racist
    rhetoric. Let us not forget that John McCain and Lamar told the state GOP to back off in 2008.
    When the Democrats point out this bigoted rhetoric the Republicans tend to get offended. I expect someone in the GOP will read this and get upset with me. To quote a better man than me, ” If the Republicans will stop telling lies on us, then we will stop telling the truth on them.

  6. Ha, Mike, as always I love your willingness to tell it like it is!

    And don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with what you’re saying here.

    My point is this: there’s a difference between analysis and excuses. I am all for cogent analysis of where we stand and why. But when I read Woods’s piece last week, I felt like I was hearing excuses.

    Like I said, even if everyone in this whole state is racist, except the Democrats, I think our ideas about how to be a state are still better than the Republicans’ and still more appealing to folks if we can get our message out.

    As you know, because I say it all the time, I think we do a lousy job of getting our message out.

    My fear is that that’s because we don’t actually have a message.

    This country is full of racists and Obama still got elected. Clearly, some of those racists voted for him. Why? Because his message resounded more strongly than their racism did.

    So, even if we know Republicans play to racism, if our message were strong and simple and clear enough, I believe it could cut through the bullshit.

    I know I get branded as a radical, leftist trouble-causer, but, really, the overlap between the things I want for the world and the things most Tennesseans want for the world is pretty substantial.

    I know I have a tough row to hoe trying to convince most Tennesseans that gay marriage, for instance, isn’t going to kill them.

    But convincing Tennesseans that we have to address infant mortality? Not very difficult.

    That we need to focus on bringing jobs to Tennessee? Again, folks already know this.

    That we need a workforce that is educated and prepared to do those jobs? Sure.

    That you shouldn’t have to worry about bankrupting your family if you have a health issue? Yep.

    And so on and so on.

  7. Ooo, and here’s something I’m wondering.

    Why aren’t we pointing out that when Republicans talk about governmental belt tightening, what they’re saying is that jobs aren’t coming?

    After all, our government works when it’s funded and it’s funded when people have money to spend.

    Do we really want to elect folks who’s solution to our job crisis is just to wait it out?

  8. Pingback: Having A Discussion About Politics In The Comments | Speak to Power

  9. “My fear is that that’s because we don’t actually have a message.”

    My fear is that our only message is that, if we can retake the state House, then rural Democrats won’t feel compelled to vote against the national party’s platform because wedge issue bills won’t make it to the floor. I’ve heard that straight from the mouth of one of Rep. Turner’s colleagues and, when I asked what we as Democrats offer other than not being Republicans, I did not receive an answer.

    I mean, that’s true and it’s nice, but that is just too inside baseball to run a campaign on.

  10. Our friends at the GOP have decided to set it out, I like where you are going on this. They have been the party of NO for sometime now. The Democrats in this state working closely with the Democratic Bredesen Administration have been able to bring in a lot of new jobs the last few years with more on the way ( announcement to come soon ), and that is the message we will try to get out in the 2010 election cycle. Our message of Hope and Progress vs. their message of fear and failure. I think the people of this Country and State are tired of all this Division and are ready to move forward. We shall see.

  11. Aunt B,

    “This country is full of racists and Obama still got elected. Clearly, some of those racists voted for him. Why? Because his message resounded more strongly than their racism did.”

    This may be true, but probably is not. I think that it is likely all racists voted against him, but that it wasn’t enough in enough states to stop him.

    I think that racism is perhaps the purest of wedge issues. I don’t think anyone who uses the n-word in casual conversation voted for Obama. I also that racism’s power as a wedge is directly related to the distance a person feels from a candidate.

    I think that part of what got Nathan Vaugn elected, for example, was that people didn’t view him in the context of race. But once Obama, a man who seemed a world away from East Tennessee, got on the ticket all the racist tendencies carried down ballot. So saying racism plays a role in the troubles of the Democrats is true, but only as long as the GOP can tie Obama to local candidates.

    There was a great article in the NY Times magazine several months back that talked about this issue.

  12. Ah, Mike Turner is here? Good.

    Greets, Mr. Turner.

    Just a question:

    What exactly is the excuse for legislation like HB2762?
    Why would a man, who seems so much more in tune with regular people than the average politician, author legislation that bans a product that protects the privacy of the individual and keeps Tennesseans working?


    Drugs – As enacted, creates offense of selling synthetic urine; exempts sales for bona fide educational, medical, and scientific purposes; violation punishable as Class C misdemeanor. – Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 4.

    Synthetic urine products protect our privacy at work and prevent Insurance Companies from discriminating against people due to genetic history.

    Now, the Insurance industry is tied with finance and real estate for #4 on your donor list, but rather than assume the worst, I’d like to read your rationalization for this legislation in your own words.

    Thanx much. :)

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