Monday, March 17, 2008

The Benefit of the Doubt

Political correctness is destroying a national conversation. Instead of being able to loudly and freely debate the merits of two presidential candidates, Americans - Democrats in particular - find their ability to analyze and criticize stifled by speech conventions bordering on silly.

Like sitcom characters twisting every utterance into sexual innuendo, party flaks are able to contort every criticism of Obama and Clinton into racism or sexism. The Red Phone ad is about a black man "lurking in the bushes" to prey on white and Hispanic children? Huh? Obama's rise is America's expression of latent gender bias? Huh?

Presidential campaigns have never been clean or amiable, and sometimes sharp debates about policy degenerate into personal sniping. But we are seeing something even worse: the personal sniping is degenerating into identity group bashing. The good news is, it's all fake. Bill Clinton doesn't despise black people. Obama is not a misogynist. Nor are most of the various supporters who have been repudiated, rejected, denounced, anathematized, shunned, banned, and burned at the stake.

Before the entire country descends into a politically corrected quagmire, let's set some sensible, generous-minded ground rules for debate.
  1. Before crying "race" or "gender", ask yourself, "What would the Swift Boaters do?". If the apparent insult is not worse than what John Kerry endured, assume it's not racism/sexism.
  2. Before leveling a criticism at a candidate, ask yourself, "Would this criticism make sense if Ted Kennedy or John Edwards were the nominee?"
  3. Before blaming a candidate's loss in a particular state on the race/gender of the voters, look for other explanations. Use identity only if the other explanations don't make sense.
  4. Before castigating an opponent's surrogate for being "racist" or "sexist", ask yourself whether you want the support of that person and his followers in the general election. Most people will admit to being occasionally impolite or overzealous; but is the average political operative going to forget being smeared as racist or sexist by members of his own party?
  5. Before pushing your candidate as the only choice for voters who look or pee like him, ask yourself whether you're willing to alienate those who look or pee differently. If a candidate pitches himself as the representative of a race or gender, America will probably reject him: we want a president of all Americans.
Most of these ground rules carry over to the general election. And for left-leaning analysts, there's a very important logical principle to remember when reporting poll results. If you blame Obama or Clinton's loss to McCain on race or gender, it's Democrats you're calling racist or sexist. As a conservative, I'm going to vote for McCain no matter what color and chromosome of leftist the Dems put on the ticket. But if the Democratic candidate ends up losing, it will be because a significant number of Democrats and independents switched sides. So be careful about painting America racist/sexist: those are your own people (plus swing voters) you're smearing, and chances are they'll vote for McCain for a lot of the same reasons they voted for Reagan, Bill Clinton, and two Bushes, none of whom faced a "minority" opponent.

1 comment:

Carol L. Douglas said...

What bothers me about this is that real gender or racial bias ends up being ignored when we make these trivial accusations.

I think Geraldine Ferraro's statements were worth considering, not that I think she's necessarily right, and I don't think I could vote for her for dogcatcher. Clearly we've gotten to the point where we can't discuss second-generation racial or sexual politics; we can merely repeat shibboleths.

Has this made us any less racist or sexist as a society? For the answer, we might check with the 1/3 of black males who have or will spend time in prison, or all the girls who will receive Barbies today as gifts.