Monday, January 11, 2010

Some thoughts on Harry Reid 'controversy'

Posted By on Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 1:20 PM

1. Sen. Harry Reid’s statement — a nearly two-year-old statement, remember — that two reasons Obama would be very electable were that the candidate was “light-skinned” and didn’t use “Negro dialect” is an embarrassment for Democrats, but shouldn’t be more than that.

2. For RNC Chair Michael Steele and other Republicans to claim any similarity between Reid’s statement and the 2002 resignation of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott is ridiculous. Lott resigned under pressure after he said that America would have been better off if it had elected super-segregationist Strom Thurmond president in 1948, when the S.C. politician ran on the Dixiecrat ticket. As Salon’s Joan Walsh points out, one guy is speaking, albeit in a backward fashion, about how he strongly supports the country's first black president, while the other is wishing the country had elected a racist demagogue as president. Sorry, but that's not even close to being the same thing, or even similar.

3. Bad news for Republicans: Your campaign against Reid is so transparently political — Reid is in a tight re-election race this year — it begs the question of how a major party could become so cynical, silly and self-oblivious at the same time.

4.  Bad news for progressives: Reid’s statement hardly makes him a racist. What Reid said doesn’t fit into our mindset about racial progress and relations, but, frankly, that’s how old white liberal politicians often speak; and, considering how cloistered their powerful positions keep them from changing mores and language, it’s not even a big surprise. Reid’s no racist, he’s just a classic, out of touch D.C. dweeb. Yes, it’s disheartening, but it's politics, people, not a purity contest (leave that to the right wing): The guy who’s basically on your side on many issues doesn’t have to be your ideological and linguistic twin.

5. Michael Steele’s statement that there isn’t any kind of black dialect borders on insanity. America is absolutely riddled with ethnic and area-specific dialects — in fact, this country is a recognized treasure trove for sociolinguists.

6. Don’t we have enough really serious problems to figure out without wasting time on this kind of triviality? Why does the press jump on this kind of imbecilic story? For a good look at how the U.S. press’ idea of political reporting has gone down the crapper and turned into “royal court gossip,” read this piece by Glenn Greenwald, also from Salon.

Harry Reid. Dweeb? Yes. Racist? Doubtful
  • Harry Reid. Dweeb? Yes. Racist? Doubtful

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