What the Left ... and Especially the Catholic Left ... Hope to Accomplish With the "Racism" Charge [UPDATED]
Look, I don't blame the left for playing the "race card". While it is detestable and immoral to calumniate one's opponents in such a fashion, I also recognize that it is the best card they have and that they're going to play it. It's worked as a trump so many times before that the left would be absolutely foolish, politically, not to continue playing it.
But I expect a little more from Catholics on the left. Perhaps naively on my part, I hope for Catholics of whatever political stripe to put the tenets of their Faith ahead of the platform of their party. Surely Catholics who take their Faith seriously wouldn't stoop to calumniating those with whom they disagree politically as "racists", would they?
First up was America Magazine and National Catholic Reporter blogger Michael Sean Winters, whose race-baiting was ably dissected by The Curt Jester in "A deck full of race cards".
Following suit was Winters' fellow parishioner and partisan hack extraordinaire, Tony A, who Michael D eviscerated with a nifty fisk. It seems that the offensive, bigoted ***** Tony, not satisfied with calumniating people with opposing political views, decided to calumniate an entire group of people as "racists" based on what region of the country they live in. Michael D. is exactly right in his assessment: Tony's commentary - as usual - is "unsupported by facts and buoyed by his prejudiced assertions". But WE'RE the bigots.
So what's going on here (apart from the usual asshackery we've come to expect from uber-partisan Catholics like Winters and Tony A)? Two things that are inter-related. This is an effort at both (1) delegitimization and (2) intimidation.
First off, this is an attempt to delegitimize the opposition by ascribing to them motives that are detestible. The opposition is not simply wrong, or mistaken, or misguided. They are illegitimate. They are contemptible. They are miscreants. They are evil. There can be no good faith or common ground with these folks because they are racists who oppose the President for no other reason than that they hate him on the basis of his skin color.
Closely correlated with this delegitimization effort is the attempt at intimidation. The Catholic left knows that there are a group of Catholics who are uneasy with the American right, but who have formed political coalitions with the right over social, cultural, and moral issues. These Catholics, who might otherwise be politically closer to Democrats, feel like the Democrat Party has abandoned them because of its secularist anti-life, anti-marriage agenda that is hostile to the place of faith in the public square. Chief among these Catholics are the U.S. Bishops.
Now, as we've learned over the past few weeks, the Bishops are much more comfortable rubbing elbows with the political elites on the left than they are associating with the riff-raff who take the Bishops at their word regarding the seriousness of abortion. And the Bishops certainly don't want to be associated with the broader aspects of the right-wing agenda. So, if the effort to paint those opposing the President as "racists" were to be successful, the Bishops (and many Catholics who have opposed the President on life issues) would feel compelled to sever ties with their pro-life allies on the right. I mean, what Catholic - especially a Catholic Bishop - wants to be seen as associating with "racists"?
That's what's going on here: this is, pure and simple, an effort to delegitimize the opposition as evil and irrational, and thereby intimidate the Bishops and other Catholics into abandoning their "racist" pro-life allies on the right and supporting the President's agenda.
UPDATE (17 September)
Deal Hudson has some thoughts on this topic today: "Playing the Race Card and the Sin of Slander"
... The same questions should be asked of the growing chorus of Obama supporters who are playing the race card. Calling someone a racist is a serious matter, and anyone making the accusation should have substantial evidence to back it up. Otherwise, they are merely slandering an opponent for political purposes and should be ashamed of themselves.(emphasis added)
One Catholic commentator making this accusation is Michael Sean Winters, who wrote at the America magazine blog about the demonstration in Washington, D.C., last Saturday:But, watching and listening, it is difficult not to conclude that the strong sense of grievance, the idea that "Nobody's standing up for us!" as one man from Tennessee put it, was not only to restore certain constitutional principles, but the social hierarchy that prevailed in earlier times, a hierarchy that kept blacks on the lowest rungs of society.Just how is it "difficult not to conclude" these people are racists, simply because they don't feel represented by either the Obama White House or the Democratic majority in Congress? Applying Occam's razor, the most obvious explanation is this: These are conservative Americans who are disgusted with an administration spending their tax dollars to assume control of one industry after another, with the nation's medical care hanging in the balance.
Were there some racists among the masses of people on the National Mall last Saturday? Almost certainly. But to claim racial discontent was integral to the overall complaint about a lack of political representation is pure speculation, damaging to the reputation of the accuser and the accused.
Winters revisited the question of racism today, acknowledging, "Obviously, not all opposition to Obama is racist." This means, of course, some of it is, but that was not the accusation he originally made. He adds, "Most of those who oppose the President are not racists," which leads me to ask, "What does Winters mean by most?" If 49 percent of the population oppose Obama -- and that's a lot of people -- are they racists?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Slander is an offense against the truth" (2475). The Catechism also reminds Catholics that we should respect the "reputation of persons" and avoid "every attitude or word likely to cause them unjust injury" (2477).
These charges of racism against critics of the Obama administration by the Democrats in Congress and others are slanderous. Why? Because Jimmy Carter and Michael Sean Winters have no knowledge of the people they have labeled, beyond what they have seen on television.
Need I repeat that such a serious charge as racism should be based upon presentable evidence, or what the Catechism calls an "objectively valid reason"? In fact, the Catechism goes even further and counsels Catholics that, "to avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way" (2478)...