Blogger Jonathan Chait: The Right Wrongly Views Racism as ‘Outside of…the American Conservative Tradition’

If New York magazine blogger Jonathan Chait had expressed metaphorically his argument about the relationship between racism and the conservative movement, it might have gone something like this: Conservatism is a perfectly presentable, structurally sound wooden house, but a lot of conservatives are termites.

In a Thursday post, Chait himself wrote, “While conservatism has [a] perfectly non-racist basis in theory…it is simply a fact that white racial fears supply a large proportion of real-world Republican votes. Conservatives, with very few exceptions, refuse to grapple with this reality. They prefer to treat racism as lying completely outside of, or even antithetical to, the American conservative tradition.”

From Chait’s post (bolding added):

The tendencies on display in [Donald] Trump’s campaign have constituted a large and growing element of Republican politics. Figures like Strom Thurmond and George Wallace led white Southerners out of the Democratic Party and brought white populist politics into the GOP…White racism is a far greater determina[nt] of Republican loyalty than ever before. A rigorous study originally conducted in 2013 found that the most slave-intensive southern counties in 1860 have the most conservative and Republican white populations today…

…Conservatism, and the modern Republican party, is the lineal heir of a historically continuous defense of white racial hierarchy that has been written out of the American civic tradition. While conservatism has [a] perfectly non-racist basis in theory — and a great many people subscribe to it without harboring racial motives of either the open or the covert kind — it is simply a fact that white racial fears supply a large proportion of real-world Republican votes. Conservatives, with very few exceptions, refuse to grapple with this reality. They prefer to treat racism as lying completely outside of, or even antithetical to, the American conservative tradition…

…Republican leaders have…danced delicately around [birtherism] because Birthers constitute an important segment of the Republican coalition they could not afford to alienate. The same logic drove Mitt Romney to publicly solicit and accept Trump’s endorsement four years ago, an event that prompted little complaint from conservative intellectuals…

…Conservatives are right that Trump does not represent their ideas perfectly, or even very well. What he represents instead is the actual constituency for those ideas.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters