The new year is only two weeks old, and it appears the Democrats
have already released a new book of talking points. At least, that's
impression one gets if one looks at the prevailing attitude toward
both at the national level and in California
herself. Now that the old method of calling Republican tax and
budget policy "heartless", "soulless", "callous",
"cruel" and cut from the same cloth of Ebenezer Scrooge no longer has
the same kick, the Left and its fellow travelers are trotting out a new
small government individualism is racist.
This trope was blatantly legitimized in a New York Times article, when Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugman decided to blame the Democrats' failure to perpetuate their era of dominance from the sixties up until today on Republican exploitation of southern racism.
Well, so be it, one might say. A few irrational bits of paranoia will always show up, even in the brightest minds, but unfortunately, Krugman's thesis has spread all the way to the California blogosphere. In a recent post on Politicker CA, blogger Robert In Monterey traces the rise of suburban resistance to taxation in California by arguing that the whole pro-Proposition 13 movement was actually the offspring of a desire of predominately white property owners to stop their money from going to undeserving minorities. Principle? Self-interest? Desire for equity? Totally irrelevant. It's all racism.
Now, ordinarily the rantings of left-wing columnists and left-wing bloggers are nothing worth writing home about, but this particular phenomenon is worth noting if only because of how quickly it spread. Not everything your average progressive pundit writes spreads like wildfire this way, but the speed with which this one was picked up is nothing less than shocking. As such, it may be worth exploring the charge, and also assessing why it has such attraction to the Left as a means of attacking those who want to stand against overreaching statism, especially here in California.
It is indisputable that George Wallace's segment of the Democratic party played a much larger role than it should have in the crafting of the modern Republican party's infamous "Southern Strategy." Moreover, many grassroots conservatives were far too friendly toward the idea of a Wallace and Reagan combination becoming the standard bearers of conservative governance. However, "conservative" does not necessarily equal "Republican" or "small government" and if there were some exponents of conservatism who loved Wallace, there were just as many who despised him and what he brought to the movement. When Bill Buckley devoted an episode of "Firing Line" to cross-examining a member of the Wallace movement, for instance, he was unusually sharp and indeed, based on Buckley's conscientious policy of weeding out the "kooks" from conservative thought, his legacy seems to be the one that survives.
So the charge is dubious at best, but why does the Left want to use it? Well, the answer is that it tars the one branch of the Republican party that mounts a credible challenge to the Left among those it usually considers reliable voters. For instance, when small government is put front and center as the message of Republicans, younger voters have been shown to gravitate towards it much more frequently. But racism? Nobody likes that.
And why so popular in California, especially now? Well, because this "small government" message is exactly what California's Republicans are sticking to, sometimes to the detriment of not just the Democrats, but the governor himself, and any excuse the Left can get to undermine this sort of opposition is a welcome one. Let's hope it doesn't work, not because the Republicans are necessarily right but because these sorts of smear tactics are terrible for political debate, and the Krugman strategy is no better than the Southern Strategy.