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Hullabaloo


Friday, May 02, 2014

 
Taking what's mine and giving it to "those people"

by digby

Kevin Drum:
[U]sing questions from the General Social Survey, Nate Silver tries to quantify the effect of Barack Obama's election on the racial attitudes of white Republicans and Democrats. On several of the most overtly racist questions ("blacks are lazy," "blacks are unintelligent") there's little evidence of change. But on two of the questions with more political salience, there's evidence of a pretty substantial effect.
This one in particular:


Both Silver and Drum discuss this in terms of Barack Obama's election and it's obviously relevant. The sharp change isn't a coincidence.

But I think it's important to look at the question itself and recognize that this is the essence of American conservative ideology --- it's as clear as it's ever been. There aren't very many Cliven Bundy's out there who openly admit to racist beliefs (and even his toxic comments were couched in ridiculous terms about how they'd been "enslaved" by Big Government.) Hardly anyone will cop to believing that "blacks are lazy" or "unintelligent" even if they clearly think so.

But they just can't hide their fundamental belief that the government takes from them and gives to African Americans. It's the main reason they hate the government. I'll just link to this stale old post from a long time ago discussing studies which show that America's history of slavery is what hindered the development of a welfare state like the rest of the developed world. Unlike other immigrant groups which had social and religious institutions to help their own impoverished, African Americans had to rely on the government to fill that gap. They had no money available for philanthropic purposes. There were government welfare programs that were noticeably used by African Americans in the north before the Civil War and more throughout the country afterwards. And the civil war itself could be seen in this light --- a great undertaking by the US Government to take the "property" of white men on behalf of blacks. What this did was merge the racist loathing for African Americans with the federal government.

Chris Hayes hosted an interesting segment last night with David Frum and Sam Seder in which Frum made the point that conservatives (who are almost all white) are hostile to Obamacare because they are older and see the money for it coming out of the programs that favor them. Again, taking from the deserving white people and giving it to the undeserving people of color.

This is fundamental to American conservatism going way back and I wonder if the shift in that graph above isn't just because an African American was elected president since it also coincides with the worst economic downturn since the 30s. When white people start to suffer and see the government take action, many of them assume that the help is going to the undeserving African Americans at their expense. The fact that an African American president was at the helm was surely a factor in raising their indignation and anger, but in truth it only reinforced a distorted view that was already there --- when the going gets tough the government mainly helps "the blacks."

There was an exception, of course. During the depression, the Democratic government was exceedingly active and was also supported by white people, especially the working class. Of course, the economic situation was even more desperate so there was good reason for whites to set aside their prejudices. But they didn't have to do too much to get beyond it: the government assiduously avoided helping African Americans in any specific way or confronting Jim Crow.

Of course the election of Barack Obama exacerbated existing racism. But I think the great economic crisis exacerbated it as well.

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