Friday, September 02, 2011

Referendum On Racism & Sense of Fairness

To me and I believe confirmed by studies, “fairness” is a central American value. That belief has been tested since 2008.

It may be sleazy but marketers for the Republican Party have been extremely effective in framing negative messages and behaviors that tap into racism, without being overtly racist.

Being overtly racist runs counter to current American norms but substituting other types of condescension and intolerance is apparently acceptable and just as effective.

Studies have shown that negative framing is much more powerful than positive but also that negative framing results in less cooperation such as bipartisanship.

Because President Obama is African-American, condescension about his birthplace, his education, his faith and sudden disregard for long-standing protocols of respect, e.g. calling him a liar, rebuffing requests for speeches, suddenly becoming hawks after sitting quietly while Republicans ran up 7 of every 10 dollars of deficit is a way to play a “coded” race card.

Republicans in denial about their party’s behavior toward the President over the last three years must remember that one of the definitions of racism is “a belief that there are inherent differences in people’s traits and capabilities used to justify treating those people differently.”

But how can this be tolerated in a party now dominated by the 20% of Americans who score highest on the “religiosity index” and who researchers Drs. David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam describe as having “an ideological commitment that values authoritativeness and obedience,” otherwise termed “authority-mindedness.”

As noted in their incredible book American Grace, which details scores of studies including their own, Campbell and Putnam note that when asked the question, “what is more important for a child to be taught: obedience or self-reliance?” …religious people emphasize ‘obedience’ and secular people emphasize ‘self-reliance’.”

The answer, noted below is that the:

“…fundamental correlation between religiosity and intolerance has been confirmed in dozens of studies over the last half century. It is true even with many other background factors held constant – age, race, religion, education, income, gender, political ideology, homeownership, marital and parental status and general civic engagement.”

“Unchurched conservatives are more tolerant of difference and dissent than devout conservatives, churchgoing liberals are less tolerant than secular liberals.”

…”Religious tradition or denomination seems to play a very small role…frequent church attendance is associated with less tolerance across the board…

In an op-ed piece last month the book’s authors went further based on new research to be included in a paperback edition of the book next winter, noting:

“So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.”

Well I guess we’re about to find out just how dear a sense of fairness and a revulsion to racism are with American voters.

Nationwide, there are now as many self-proclaimed Independent voters (34%) as Democrats and far more than the 28% who are Republicans, which remains flat since 2008.

Independent is good. I’m a moderate Independent although many conservatives would say I'm “progressive-leaning.” Today's Republican orthodoxy appears to have moved the center so far to the right that many conservative friends will often now deny that even famed-conservative columnist and "thinker" David Brooks is really a conservative.

But the percentage of Republican-leaning Independents has increased since 2008 from 11% to 16%, pulling that party within four points of Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents.

Troubling though and possibly another reflection of the effectiveness of Republican strategists in “coding” racism in the framing of messages is that the 2 point lead that party held with white voters in 2008 has now swelled to 52% compared to 39% who affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic.

American Grace makes a compelling case about "…what has changed in American religion over the past half century…the most noticeable shift is how Americans have polarized along religious lines….the highly religious at one pole, and the avowedly secular at the other. The moderate religious middle is shrinking.”

Unfortunately, while more vast in numbers, moderates and Independents are also less likely to vote.

The election of 2012 may be setting up to be a referendum on race in America and a test of our vaunted sense of fairness and treating people of different ethnicities as equals. As usual, it may all come down to turnout.

1 comment:

dianesowo said...

Excellent post!!! Thank you for formulating such thoughful and cogent points.