Economist: Grand Racist Party? W. W. Houston
CHRIS HAYES, host of MSNBC's "Up with Chris Hayes", said on air this past weekend, "It is undeniably the case that racist Americans are almost entirely in one political coalition and not the other", by which he means most American racists lean right, not left. This has since been proven false by Alex Tabarrok, an economist at George Mason University, and John Sides, a political scientist at George Washington University, both of whom have denied Mr Hayes' contention, persuasively.
Mr Tabarrok dips into the General Social Survey and fishes out some data difficult to square with the idea that most racists, much less almost all, are Republicans, or Republican-ish. Mr Tabarrok concludes, "It is undeniable that some Americans are racist but racists split about evenly across the parties." Mr Sides takes a look at the 2008 American National Election Study and finds that assessments of the intelligence and industry of blacks, when broken down by party, suggest that
identification with the Democratic Party tends to decline, and identification with the Republican party tends to increase, as attitudes toward black become less favorable—at least when attitudes are measured with two different racial stereotypes. However, the relationship is far from deterministic: substantial minorities of those with unfavorable attitudes toward blacks identify as Democrats.
So Mr Hayes is quite wrong. At best, Republicans on the whole are slightly more likely to have opinions commonly believed to be racist, and that is far from undeniable.
Reviewing all this, Reihan Salam observes that looking at the question, as do Messrs Tabarrok and Sides, solely in terms of the attitudes of non-blacks toward blacks makes sense, given America's history. However,
[T]he changing demographic composition of the U.S. population, and the changing cultural landscape, has given rise to other intercultural frictions, e.g., between non-Latino black Americans and Latinos, between non-Asians and Asians, etc. As we take into account these other forms of prejudice, one assumes that a very complex picture would emerge.
I should say so. Mr Salam goes on to say:
[F]or many of the people “in my world”—that is, professionals who attended selective colleges and universities in the English-speaking world—the notion that racist Americans are almost entirely in one coalition (the center-right coalition) is an article of faith that is really central to center-left political identity. Those of us who do not share this view thus find ourselves arguing from a position that is seen as intrinsically morally suspect.
I think he's right about this. Within the elite class Mr Salam mentions, standard liberals are presumed non-racist, while non-liberals are suspected of distasteful views on questions relating to race, unless this suspicion is put to rest by conspicuous signals of right-thinking racial egalitarianism. Still, the demonstrated willingness to fraternise with other, unproven non-liberals leaves even the enlightened non-liberal under a lingering shadow of suspicion. ...