The ever-earnest Nick Kristof delivers "When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 5" and calls for a national racial reconciliation board (following the South African model) to address the racial gulf in this country.
Back in reality (although only inches away in my Dead Tree edition), Ross Douthat explains that fostering racial antagonism will remain a key part of our political life:
Ultimately, being optimistic about race requires being optimistic about the ability of our political coalitions to offer colorblind visions of the American dream — the left’s vision stressing economics more heavily, the right leaning more on family and community, but both promising gains and goods and benefits that can be shared by Americans of every racial background.
In the Obama era, though, neither coalition has done a very good job selling such a vision, because neither knows how to deliver on it. (The left doesn’t know how to get wages rising again; the right doesn’t know how to shore up the two-parent family, etc.) Which has left both parties increasingly dependent on identity-politics appeals, with the left mobilizing along lines of race, ethnicity and gender and the right mobilizing around white-Christian-heartland cultural anxieties.
For a while the media has assumed that this kind of identity-based politics inevitably favors the left, because 21st-century America is getting less white every day.
But that’s too simplistic, in part because the definitions of “white” and “minority” are historically elastic. If a “white party” seems sufficiently clueless and reactionary, it will lose ground to a multicultural coalition. But as African-Americans know from bitter experience, “whiteness” has sustained itself by the inclusion of immigrants as well as by the exclusion and oppression of blacks. That history suggests that a “multicultural party” may always be at risk of being redefined as a grievance-based “party of minorities” that many minorities would prefer to leave behind.
At the state and local level plenty of politicos from both sides of the aisle will ensure their fundraising success and continued power by promoting division rather than reconciliation. At the Presidential level only one of the strategies can succeed, but if the losing side is competitive and can envision success in the next cycle, the politics of division can continue for quite a while.