Political Hay

Iraq and the Party of Race

Democrats as children of trauma.

By 2.15.07

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What do ex-New York Times editor Howell Raines, ex-Duke rape case prosecutor Mike Nifong, former Edwards for President blogger Amanda Marcotte, Delaware Senator Joe Biden and the call by Democrats to get out of Iraq have in common?

Raines, of course, made a mess of things at the New York Times because of his insistence on judging reporter Jason Blair not by his journalistic skills but his race. District Attorney Nifong now faces the possibility of losing his license to practice law because of his assumption that a charge of rape put forth by a black stripper against three white guys simply had to be true because they were white and she black. Ditto with blogger Marcotte, who now famously phrased her own assumptions of the Duke case in a particularly memorable fashion: "Can't a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it?" Biden casually assessed the candidacy of Illinois Senator and African-American Barack Obama by suddenly burbling that the first serious black presidential candidate was "clean." And, of course, lots of leading Democrats, including many of those who demanded the US quit Vietnam, are loudly demanding that we now quit Iraq, where, they assert, we never should have been in the first place.

What links each and every one of these incidents? What could possibly connect Raines and the Blair saga to the travails of DA Nifong and former John Edwards blogger Marcotte, and the ever garrulous Biden? What about the War in Iraq with the War in Vietnam?

In a word, a sad word: race.

If one were to look at the history of the Democratic Party as one would that of an individual (and any political party is, of course, composed of real people who represent a way of thinking handed down person-to-person through that party's history) it is hard not to escape a troubling conclusion: just as individual adults can manifest disturbing behavioral patterns developed in childhood, so too can a "mature" political party manifest its own political version of what one well-known mental health expert calls "cumulative trauma."

Dr. Jane Middleton-Moz, Phd. is a therapist who studies and speaks internationally on "topics of multi-generational grief and trauma, and cultural and ethnic self-hate." In this capacity she has authored a book called "Children of Trauma," in which she explores how "lingering emotional trauma from our childhood blocks the normal developmental process." When this happens, says Middleton-Moz, "we get stuck."

While it is understandably pushed under the rug at all those Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners, not to mention seemingly ignored altogether at party gatherings, the hard, inescapable fact of life for Democrats is that the Party's "childhood" or formative years was brutally traumatized by the support of slavery. Just as an individual child could be traumatized for life by growing up in a home where a pattern of alcoholism or drug addiction later created an adult incapable of maintaining healthy relationships, one looks at the seemingly instinctive if not unconscious reactions by Democrats -- almost any Democrat -- to any issue involving race and sees a very distinctive pattern.

They are stuck on race.

What, after all, do the varied situations cited at the beginning of this article have in common? If the subject is journalism at the Times, the problem was editor Raines's obsessive determination about Blair's color. According to Blair's immediate superior, Jonathan Landman, race was "the decisive factor" in the young reporter's promotion by Raines. Raines, of course, was famously a well-known liberal from Birmingham, Alabama who made much of his supposedly "progressive" views on race, admitting freely that he had in fact promoted Blair twice for racial reasons.

If the subject is crime in Durham, North Carolina, it is hard to summarize Democrat Nifong's point of view better then the way Nifong did himself: "The circumstances of the rape indicated a deep racial motivation" was his almost immediate response to a "crime" that certainly now seems to be considerably in doubt. Yet whether it was Nifong's bizarre prosecution that may now end his own legal career, or the sarcastic ruminations of Edwards's former blogger Marcotte it is all too clear that here, too, race was the obsessive center of a Democratic partisan's mind at work.

Look again at Marcotte's unintentionally revealing statement: "Can't a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it?" The key word in this thought is "anymore". Clearly it signifies that there was once a time in America when "a few white boys" sexually assaulting a black woman was no big deal. That is correct. There was just such a time and such a psychology. And who, exactly, was responsible for that? What political party fought ferociously to defend and keep slavery, to build and insist on a social system of segregation, with both slavery and segregation giving a social, moral and legal thumbs up or wink-and-a-nod to "a few white boys" sexually assaulting black women?

The Democratic Party.

Is it any wonder why there is ground to view this party as a party of race, its political childhood so cumulatively traumatized that it is incapable of seeing almost any subject foreign or domestic without seeing race?

Biden's verbal gaffe is particularly illustrative of the problem that the Democratic trauma with race produces. A child of the sixties, a Northerner, like journalist Raines, prosecutor Nifong and blogger Marcotte the Senator from Delaware fancies himself a "progressive" on issues of race. Yet out of the blue surfaced an unconscious tribute to Senator Obama as being "clean." Clean? Physically, which is to say Biden has a subconscious that thinks most blacks are not? Or did he mean "clean" as in not corrupt? In either instance, it is decidedly unlikely that one or the other image sprang to Biden's mind unformed by quiet conversations over the years with his fellow Democrats, be they the elites of Delaware or his peers in the Senate. One of those latter peers, just to remind, is now President Pro Tempore of the Senate Robert Byrd, the former member of the Ku Klux Klan that Biden has agreed to install as the fourth heartbeat away from the presidency.

The Iraq connection? As President Bush ever so delicately touched on the subject in a press conference with then-Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin: ""There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may or may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that stronglly...I believe that people whose skins are a different color than white can self-govern."

Left unsaid by Bush is the very, very long record of the Democratic Party in believing precisely that "people whose skins are a different color than white" cannot govern. It was, after all, Abraham Lincoln's famous Democratic opponent for both the Senate and the presidency, Stephen A. Douglas, who said: "I believe this government was made on the white basis. I believe it was made by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity for ever, and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men, men of European birth and descent, instead of conferring it upon Negroes, Indians and other inferior races."

Is it any wonder that a political party that has such sentiments as its founding principles moved seamlessly from slavery to segregation to racial quotas, whose prominent adherents promote a journalist because of race, prosecute athletes because of race or rate a presidential candidate because of race, would unsurprisingly craft their foreign policy because of race? The "cumulative trauma" of their political party's childhood would not allow anything else.

Are critics of the Democrats insistence that Iraq is another Vietnam-style quagmire missing an all too obvious sign of the party traumatized by race? What, after all, do Vietnamese and Iraqi's have in common? They are people of...color. It is striking that Democratic Party history shows a repeated pattern of wanting to declare failure and come home in the Civil War, Vietnam and Iraq or opposed involvement in Grenada, the first Gulf War over Kuwait or stopping the genocide in Rwanda - all wars that involved liberating non-whites.

How in the world does a political party that once had white Southerners voting for it as a block (the so-called "solid South") reach the point where they continually get 90% of the vote opposite race? Is it not a learned ability that is at once insidious, skillful and persistent to play out the politics of race, the very heart of the trauma that has been at its cumulative center from the beginning of its history?

Quite literally, the history of the Republican Party is based on its original premise of ending slavery and supporting the equality of the races. The mindset between the two parties is radically different, especially today. There is no sense of racial trauma in a Republican Party that is responsible for the 1865 Thirteenth Amendment that ended the nightmare that was the Democrat's formative experience -- slavery. It is the Republican Party that provided the black man the right to vote in 1870 with the Fifteenth Amendment -- and the Democrats who fought that right viciously until 1964, doing everything they could to abort, suppress or eradicate that vote. Doing this all the while they elected presidents from Cleveland to Kennedy and thousands of lesser federal, state and local officials as well. Is it any wonder that a party so racially traumatized produces black candidates (would Joe Biden call them "unclean"?) like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? Candidates who have mysteriously learned from somewhere that the key to their power is -race? The Jackson-Sharpton era roughly coincides during the same period of modern history that the GOP has produced public officials who universally view their race as a genetic reality rather than a qualification for office. Is there any wonder why Democrats are so manic over the appearance at long last of a serious political figure in their midst who is taken as seriously as Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas or Michael Steele?

The problem for Americans who believe, as Democrat Robert Kennedy used to say, that America should be "color blind," is that the Democratic Party itself demonstrates repeatedly a pathological inability to judge anything without seeing color.

Because of this cumulative trauma, the party of race followed its support for subjugating millions of black Americans to slavery with support for a hundred years of segregation. After abandoning millions of people of color in their struggle against Communism, it now seeks to do the same as Iraqis struggle against Islamic fascists.

Is it any wonder that after watching events unfold from the New York Times newsroom to a North Carolina court room, from a blogger affiliated with John Edwards and a Senatorial musing to Democratic foreign policy proscriptions from Vietnam to Rwanda -- that the question of exactly what place race has in the Democratic view of American foreign policy in Iraq should -- finally -- be asked?

If the Democratic Party were a child raised with the trauma of drug addiction or alcoholism, questions would be asked. The problem that seems increasingly obvious is that it is a political party raised with a cumulative trauma over race, a trauma that it seeks continually to inflict on both America and the world.

Isn't it time to "just say no?"

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.