Sunday, November 20, 2011


What is one to make of all these claims by right-wing pundits that the coverage of Herman Cain's alleged boorishness represents racism? On its face the charge is absurd. Senator Bob Packwood and Rep. Anthony Weiner are among  the prominent white boys who have had their careers derailed by evidence of inappropriate behavior towards women.

What I think lies behind the charges is a variant of a ploy widely practiced among elementary-school students when insulted: saying "I know you are, but what am I?" Republicans get tired of being called racists and start itching to turn the tables. Thus, after Obama's election in 2008, there was a spate of comments on right-wing websites about how blacks were racists for supporting Obama just because he was black, as if they hadn't overwhelmingly supported John Kerry and Al Gore. And let's not forget Rush Limbaugh's charge of racism against Sonia Sotomayor.

But it's even better when, instead of accusing a member of a racial minority of being racist, you can really stick it to the liberals by accusing whites. Republicans don't get such an opportunity very often, but Clarence Thomas employed this strategy with notable success.

Another favorite table-turner is sexism. Thus, if people criticize Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin, it's not because Bachmann and Palin are unqualified (in both senses) ignoramuses. It's because the people criticizing them are sexists.

The larger advantage of this ploy is that it preemptively devalues things people might say about you. A past master was Yasir Arafat, who never let an opportunity pass to accuse Israel of antisemitism (Arabs are Semites, get it?) and terrorism.

The danger to Republicans in using the IKYABWAI Ploy, of course, is that it can so easily be turned against them, and with much better reason. For example, Republicans in Congress are unanimous that there should be dramatic cuts in programs helping the poor and middle class, and that no sacrifice, no matter how slight, should be demanded of the rich. What can one call this but "Republican class warfare"? The ever-polite Democrats have not called it that, of course.

And what about accepting American decline? What better exemplifies that than the Republican attitude that we can't afford to do anything big, and so we must just hunker down and try to avoid losing ground?

I never considered myself terribly astute as a politician. But when I see how bad professional pols are at doing obvious things, I have to wonder.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding that last paragraph, Howard - I think you should RUN!