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The election of Barack Obama was widely thought to represent a dramatic advance for racial progress and reconciliation. Attitudes had clearly changed as the legal and institutional barriers to equality came down.

But less than two years after Obama left the presidency, many believe that race relations are worse than before he assumed it.

For liberals, the explanation for this depressing reversal absolves Obama and begins where it usually does, with an upsurge in white racism that culminated with the election of Donald Trump.

Implicit in such claims is the somewhat implausible proposition that lots of white voters who voted for Obama not just once but twice somehow suddenly experienced racist makeovers.

An alternative possibility, ignored in left-wing circles, perhaps because it's suggestive of certain culpability, is that it was the liberal response to criticisms of the Obama administration's policies that damaged race relations; that the liberal effort to delegitimize such criticism by attributing it to racism poisoned our political discourse by reducing healthy political disagreement to racial animus.

That there were undoubtedly Obama critics then and Trump supporters now motivated by racism made it too easy for liberals to assume the worst and attribute such motives to all Obama's critics and all Trump supporters, groups which also just happened to be overwhelmingly conservative.

The claim that opposition to Obama from conservatives and libertarians was due mostly to his left-wing policies--that is, to the ordinary vicissitudes of ideology--could thus be conveniently refuted by redefining the ideology of conservatism as a form of racism.

That liberals fiercely opposed the administration of Ronald Reagan out of ideological conviction in the 1980s and that of George W. Bush for the same reasons before Obama, and that conservatives resisted Bill Clinton in between all the way to the point of impeachment, was expediently forgotten, because it was in the liberal interest to attribute conservative opposition to a liberal black president to the black rather than the liberal part.

By smearing Obama's conservative critics as racists, liberals embraced a tactic that would lead them to eventually attribute racist motives to just about anyone who opposed the progressive agenda. The tendency in the liberal imagination to see racism in so many places merged with the simultaneous embrace of political correctness in an attempt to expel one of the two major American belief systems (conservatism, otherwise known as "classical liberalism") from public discourse.

Hence the pernicious expansion of the racism charge, all the way to the notion that conservatism as an ideology is but a deceptive façade with which to uphold "white privilege" and "supremacy" in an age of changing racial and ethnic demography; a backlash in response to the rise of the "coalition of the ascendant" that Obama was said to represent.

That more Americans continue to self-identify as "conservative" than "liberal," sometimes by margins of more than 2-1 in the annual Gallup survey, and that conservative principles such as individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise have guided the American experience from the beginning, to the point of being encoded in our political cultural DNA, was even more useful because it provided a pretext to depict the entire American project (and white America) as hopelessly racist from the start.

Since Trump's surprising election (which even more than opposition to his predecessor could only be explained by racism), this logic that incubated during the Obama years has been taken even further, to its logical extrapolation--not only is conservatism a form of racism, but so too any dissent from leftism on racial and ethnic matters more generally.

To be "woke" is to now denounce, for instance, not just freedom of speech as an instrument of racist oppression, but also those who express support for it on the grounds that they encourage the granting of platforms to conservative views and speakers (i.e., racists). After all, there can be nothing immoral about shouting down speakers spewing racism.

For the left, particularly on our college campuses, but soon elsewhere, conservative speech has thereby become "hate speech" and mainstream conservatives and even center-right moderates are smeared as "white supremacists." Anyone who defends their right to speak and be heard can consequently be accused of complicity in such "hate."

Thus, what began as a misguided effort to defend the Obama presidency from criticism has now, in all too many instances, led to a rejection by liberals of many of the time-honored principles of liberalism itself, including the concept of the marketplace of ideas lest that marketplace contain ideas critical in any way of leftist orthodoxy.

We have arrived at a dangerous point in our national conversation on race because the left won't permit one. No dissent from the leftist narrative is allowed and safety is found only by appearing to enthusiastically conform.

When legitimate ideological differences are attributed to nefarious motives, there is no stopping point before all political disagreement (the usual consequence of ideological differences) is prohibited.

Those on the left who earnestly complain about the vitriol and rancor in our public discourse can therefore take an easy step to improve things--stop calling everyone who disagrees with you a racist.

------------v------------

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

Editorial on 06/18/2018

Print Headline: The conservative evolution

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  • RBear
    June 18, 2018 at 6:42 a.m.

    Through this entire discourse, Gitz makes a lot of claims but ignores the reality of the matter. That is that in much of the conservative speech that erupted over Obama's practices there were tones of racism in them. When Trump started his campaign, he attracted the racist element of the Republican Party. When Trump even spoke about racially charged events, his speech did NOTHING to dissuade the racists.
    ...
    So, good going Gitz. You completely ignored the elephant in the room trying to whitewash the racist element of conservatism. Quite honestly, I don't call someone a racist UNTIL they use terms attributable to racism in their comments or speech. Just like I don't refer to someone as a homophobe UNTIL they cross the line themselves. Then that is the clear indicator the attitude is ingrained in their psyche.
    ...
    Let me put it this way. I'm a clownophobe. Yes, I have a hatred of clowns. It's built into me. Is there anything wrong with clowns? No, but I don't like them. But no one suspects that until they see me around a clown and then the prejudice comes out. I just don't like clowns. My point is that I hide it VERY WELL until something causes me to express my displeasure and then people know. That's the same with racists. Most people don't know who they are UNTIL they voice their prejudice.
    ...
    With regards to the "marketplace of ideas," let's be clear. When speech is designed to promote hate crimes, then that speech should be banned. When speech is designed to instill hatred between the races, that speech should not be a part of the "marketplace of ideas." When you believe it should, your purist views of free speech are really subtexts for tolerance for racism.

  • BoudinMan
    June 18, 2018 at 7:51 a.m.

    "...the pernicious expansion of the racism charge..." occurred because there was a pernicious expansion of exhibited and vocal racism on the part of the person whom the republicans chose to be their standard bearer, and his sycophantic followers. Just read some of the comments posted in this paper by his worshipers and you find racism--simian references to the Obamas, and homophobic slurs. You are who you show the world you are.

  • DoubleBlind
    June 18, 2018 at 8:45 a.m.

    At the end of the day, it comes down to human rights; racism is merely one aspect. And this administration has proven time and again - as recently as at last week’s ‘summit’ w/NK’s brutal dictator where human rights were not even broached - that human rights be damned. You can be the biggest racist in the universe but the fact that you have a POTUS who admires dictators and aspires to dictatorship should still alarm you.

  • LRCrookAttorney
    June 18, 2018 at 8:50 a.m.

    "By smearing Obama's conservative critics as racists, liberals embraced a tactic that would lead them to eventually attribute racist motives to just about anyone who opposed the progressive agenda."
    *
    Plain english is "People were tired of being called racist, just because they opposed any view from the left."
    *
    Rbear..."...speech that erupted over Obama's practices there were tones of racism in them."
    *
    With this statement proves the entire article. No one knows, until a leftist tells them, that the "tones" they are using is racist. A conservative who stated "I didn't vote for Obama, because I did not like his policies," was immediately classified as a racist. In return the liberal said (by looking behind the statement) "You didn't vote for Obama, because you are a racist."
    *
    The liberal (actually believing what they are saying) supported everything Obama stood for, and therefore no "rational" person could oppose Obama's policies without being a racist. People were tired of this, and saw it as a move back to the 70s and suppressing any speech that did not agree with the "group."

  • LRCrookAttorney
    June 18, 2018 at 8:53 a.m.

    RBear..."Quite honestly, I don't call someone a racist UNTIL they use terms attributable to racism in their comments or speech. Just like I don't refer to someone as a homophobe UNTIL they cross the line themselves."
    *
    True or not, the way that someone "crosses that line" is simply not agreeing with a so-called racial agenda or homo-sexual agenda. Some believe (about the homosexual agenda) that they deserve and should be afforded the same rights as anyone else. However, at the same time, see these rights exploited to force their views on the public at large.

  • RBear
    June 18, 2018 at 9:06 a.m.

    LRCrook that’s an easy way out of this, but ignores the actual prejudice others experience. I could say the same for the so-called religious agenda that is imposed on many of us in conservative legislatures like AR. Just this past weekend, the TX Republican Party chose to support reintroduction of the bathroom bill, not as a public safety issue which they lost on last time, but as a religious liberty issue. You can’t tell me legislation to restrict local ordinances supporting equality are not religious based. The issue swings both ways, but our Constitution swings towards equality.

  • 23cal
    June 18, 2018 at 9:08 a.m.

    About "Implicit in such claims is the somewhat implausible proposition that lots of white voters who voted for Obama not just once but twice somehow suddenly experienced racist makeovers." Bwahahahahaha! How absurd! The answer is that many of those who were never racist voted for Obama twice. The racists didn't vote for him either time.
    *
    Of course, those racists who didn't vote for Obama voted for Trump. A typical example would be David Duke. Remember what he said at Charlottesville: “We are determined to take our country back,” Duke said from the rally, calling it a “turning point.” “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”
    Remember what he tweeted to Trump? "I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists."
    *
    Glitz's claim that the David Dukes of this world voted for Obama and not Trump is beyond laughable.
    *
    About "That there were undoubtedly Obama critics then and Trump supporters now motivated by racism made it too easy for liberals to assume the worst and attribute such motives to all Obama's critics and all Trump supporters, groups which also just happened to be overwhelmingly conservative.' My experience is that liberals point out racists and incidences of racism, instead of tarring all conservatives with that brush. Glitz will claim anything to smear liberals, doing what he erroneously accuses liberals of doing in regard to conservatives. This is known as "projecting". It is also known as offering baseless assertions as facts, or "dishonesty".
    *
    In a study early this year, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified 954 groups as hate groups, up from 917 in 2016. Much of the rise took place inside the white supremacist movement. The number of neo-Nazi groups grew from 99 to 121. For those of you with math issues, that's about a 20% increase under Trump in one year. Yeah...roughly half of the increase in hate groups was White Supremacist/Nazi....you know, the ones David Duke say voted for Trump.
    *
    No more commentary from me on this due to me stopping reading here because the lies and silliness are so egregious they aren't worth any more time. Come to think of it, this article wasn't worth the time to read this far.

  • LRCrookAttorney
    June 18, 2018 at 9:21 a.m.

    RBear...In all of your arguments, you have to make assumptions. For example, "...you cannot tell me..." I really don't have a dog in the bathroom fight. As far as I am concerned, take the stalls (doors) off and let men and women use the same bathroom, then separate for children under 18. I really don't want to see neither man nor woman sitting on toilette doing their business. Twenty + years ago Europe (a lot of it) had unisex bathrooms, the last trip I took in 2015 this had changed. Basically, tourism and outcries changed the bathroom issue. Just go to the bathroom and use it. The whole argument in the article is the use of racism for any and every argument against policy during the Obama Administration. A larger percentage of the public did not like being called racist, after voting for Obama, but then disagreeing with certain policies. They also did not like seeing the racial divide growing during the Administration after voting for Obama. They voiced those concerns in the last election. They will continue to do it, if people continue to act the way they did in Berkley and around the country.

  • JakeTidmore
    June 18, 2018 at 9:26 a.m.

    LRAC has no facts or research his to back his statements (same with Gitz). Too bad he doesn't work as much as he wastes his time posting here. That speaks volumes about his legal abilities. These trolls, like LittleRockAnonymousCoward, are neither brave or free if they have to hide in the dark.

  • RBear
    June 18, 2018 at 9:36 a.m.

    LRCrook you make a general statement, upon which I came back with a general rebuttal using an example in TX, then you made it specific to you. Sorry, but we don’t review these issues based on what you like or don’t like.
    ...
    With regards to being called racist, very rarely do you hear me call a Trump supporter racist EXCEPT when the issue is truly about race. To make it general, most don’t just like most right wingers are not racist. But Gitz and now you took a few instances and labeled the entire progressive population with that assertion. Gitz loves to do that, but can rarely back his claims up with facts. You fell right into that same trap.
    ...
    As I said, until you truly cross the racist or homophobic line I will not label you as such. I don’t think I’ve ever labeled you as either because in my interaction with you I’ve not seen it. On the other hand, it’s very apparent with fake and a few others.

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