Juan Williams has been a victim of political correctness himself, but that apparently doesn’t stop him from wanting to victimize others. Perhaps sensing that the fifteen minutes of fame stemming from his testy exchange with Newt Gingrich were almost up, Williams came out with a column that comes close to equating conservatism with racial code words.
Some of the code Williams cracks is patently absurd. Wanting the federal government to adhere to the Constitution is a racist dog whistle. So is criticizing the growth of federal entitlements.
The language of GOP racial politics is heavy on euphemisms that allow the speaker to deny any responsibility for the racial content of his message. The code words in this game are “entitlement society” – as used by Mitt Romney – and “poor work ethic” and “food stamp president” – as used by Newt Gingrich. References to a lack of respect for the “Founding Fathers” and the “Constitution” also make certain ears perk up by demonizing anyone supposedly threatening core “old-fashioned American values.”
Obviously, any talk of immigration is racist (even though the people most hurt by economic competition from low-skilled immigrants are themselves disproportionately black and Hispanic): “The code also extends to attacks on legal immigrants, always carefully lumped in with illegal immigrants, as people seeking ‘amnesty’ and taking jobs from Americans.”
The above statement isn’t even true. The Republican candidates have tripped all over themselves to emphasize their support for legal immigration. And amnesty for legal immigrants makes no sense.
Nothing apparently is more of a racial code word than standing up for yourself when a liberal smears you as a racist. Here Williams relives the glory of his confrontation with Gingrich (which probably helped the former House speaker win his first primary):
Gingrich did not answer my question but rather threw red meat to Republicans in South Carolina, a state with a long history of racial politics.
He used the same rhetorical technique of the segregationist politicians of the past: rejecting the premise of the question, attacking the media and playing to the American people’s resentment of liberal elites, minorities and poor people.
This is disgusting. Newt Gingrich is many things, but he’s not a segregationist. He supported the civil rights movment in the 1960s. He has been a staunch supporter of GOP minority outreach. If anything, Gingrich has erred in the opposite direction by being afraid to take positions on affirmative action and immigration that would offend Juan Williams.
South Carolina, incidentally, is a state that recently elected a woman of Indian descent to the governorship and chose a black man for Congress over Strom Thurmond’s son. Both candidates enjoyed the support of Tea Party conservatives.
There is genuine racism and race-bating in American politics, and Williams does supply legitimate examples. But rejecting the premise of a debate moderator’s question is hardly a defense of racial segregation and it should be beneath any commentator to argue that it is. Williams is defining racist in such a way as to include anyone winning an argument with a liberal.