August 31 2012
Condoleezza Rice, who turned in a dazzling performance at the Republican convention that just ended, was honored as IWF’s Woman of Valor—our highest accolade—a few years ago.
Rice is a historic—and also charming—personage, and we like to feel we’ve had a brush with her. Mona Charen captured the impact of her speech at the convention:
She touched on the problem of failing schools and the challenge they represent to the American dream. “The crisis in K-12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who we are,” she said, to thumping agreement. But when she mentioned her own story, the hall erupted. “A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham. The segregated city of the South where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants, but they have convinced her that even if she cannot have a hamburger at Woolworth’s, she can be the president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state.”
The house went wild with joy. The Republicans in Tampa metaphorically lifted Rice onto their shoulders and carried her around the arena. Why? Because Americans like Rice ratify what Republicans believe about this country — that our triumph over racism and discrimination, not the history of it, is what defines us. It’s the opposite of the Democrats’ message — that racism, discrimination, and injustice are deep-dyed into the American character.
If you read this description of Rice’s speech, you can understand why the media--acting on behalf of the Obama campaign--is rife with despicable charges that Republicans are racists.
The Democrats hate it that the the government dependency they peddle for members of minorities is being challenged. In place of government programs, a vision of independence and earned success could very well prove attractive. The racist charge relies on a vision of American society as vicious and driven by racial prejudice. But that simply isn't the lived experience of most people, minority or otherwise.
I hesitate to channel Chicago’s Father Pfleger, but here goes: Mocking Hillary Clinton’s supposed reaction as she saw the nomination slipping from her in 2008, Phfleger had her saying, “This is mine! I’m Bill’s wife, I’m white, and this is mine!”
Now, I don’t for a moment suppose Pfleger’s hyperbolic portrayal of Mrs. Clinton is accurate—but I do think he captured the way Democrats think of members of minorities: they’re ours.
The media obviously fears that the alternative vision will prove so alluring that members of minorities will defect. Hence the cries of, "Racist!" But the racism charge, increasingly frenzied and running counter to perceived reality, may have jumped the shark. It's been used too often, too indiscriminately, too obviously flasely. (You might enjoy Quin Hillyer’s Jeff Foxworthy-like how-to-tell if you’re a racist parody.)
Message to Chris Matthews, Lawrence O’Donnell, et. | It’s not working anymore.