Saturday, November 10, 2012

My advice to Republicans: the next step is listening

A lot is being made in punditry circles these days about how the Republicans will need to embrace the actual demographic face of America or wander in the wilderness of losing on a national level in the foreseeable future.

Over the last couple of days I've been thinking about this alot. What would my advice be to them? And then my cynicism kicks in and I figure that its just not worth it...assuming there won't be any real movement on this front so why bother?

But then I think about how we're at a pivotal point in this country's history when it comes to race relations. Even the bigots are going to have to figure this one out at some point. The inevitability is staring them in the face...adapt or die. Their choice won't be obvious in the time frame of a few weeks - but over years. What an amazing time it is to be alive!

And so I'm going to share my thoughts - regardless of their insignificance in the overall scheme of things.

What we know is likely to happen is that the Republicans will make some empty gestures.
They'll have mariachi bands at Lincoln Day dinners. They'll shove every Latino state legislator they have out in front of the national cameras to make it look like they have more than five Latinos in the party.

They might even find a Latino to be the next RNC chair. They're really good at that sort of thing. The new Miguel Steelio.
But they've been doing that kind of thing for awhile now. It hasn't worked before and it won't this time.

Now there's even some talk about Republicans being willing to change their position on a policy issue...immigration. But as Kevin Drum  noted - that won't be enough.
Like it or not, conservatives are going to need a much more thorough housecleaning if they want to survive in an increasingly diverse future. No more gratuitous ethnic mockery. No more pretense that reverse racism is the real racism. No more suggestions that minorities just want a handout. No more screeching about the incipient threat of Sharia law. No more saturation coverage of the pathetic New Black Panthers. No more complaining that blacks get to use the N word but whites don't. No more summers of hate on Fox News. No more tolerance for Dinesh D'Souza and his "roots of Obama's rage" schtick; or for Glenn Beck saying Obama has a "deep-seated hatred of white people"; or for Rush Limbaugh claiming that "Obama's entire economic program is reparations." No more jeering at the mere concept of "diversity." And no more too-clever-by-half attempts to say all this stuff without really saying it, and then pretending to be shocked when you're called on it. Pretending might make you feel virtuous, but it doesn't fool anyone and it won't win you any new supporters.
Yep...this stuff goes much deeper.

The way I've seen most people begin that process is to actually get close enough to some people who are different and listen to what they have to say. A good example is how having a lesbian daughter changed even Dick Cheney.

The kinds of steps these encounters tend to instigate are often painfully slow. I can look back on my journey and see small incremental steps...each one building on the last.

For example, back in the early 1980's I was pretty oblivious. I remember that I heard about something called racial profiling but didn't give it much credence. It had never happened to me or anyone I knew. At the time I was living in Southern California and one of my friends was native Hawaiian. But to an outside observer - he looked Mexican. One night I was at a party at his house and he began to tell the story of crossing the yard of his apartment building on his way home, getting stopped by the cops and brought to his front door for verification that he lived there. My friend was a comedian at heart and had us all laughing at the story when his wife interrupted stone faced with, "Maybe it was funny the first time. But not the 23rd." The laughter ended abruptly and for the first time I understood the reality of racial profiling.

That was a beginning point for me and there have been many like it in the intervening 30+ years. I am confident there are more to come.

That's the way it happens Republicans. There's no getting around it. Until you're willing to get close enough to listen, you'll keep wandering in the wilderness pissed off at your own irrelevance.

What excites my optimism is to imagine how this country changes when they finally figure that one out - even if it has to be the hard way.


  1. You're right. This is an amazing time to be alive. What we're looking at is not one of the every-few-decades realignments of the balance of power between the parties. Rather, we are seeing a major pillar of white privilege being undermined if not yet dismantled completely. Drum shows himself that he's learned stuff by being a human being, not just in school. This is about how we deal with each other.

    My feeling is that white people in general make real changes in their relationship to white privilege only very slowly and very rarely as individuals. Most of the older white voters who voted Obama in 2008 didn't do so because of how he bested H Clinton, but because they had, in the decades since 1965, gradually reevaluated who they were and how they related to people of color. Change will not come any more quickly to the GOP if at all.

    Interesting that you talk about listening, because my lesson from the anti-war work we did after 9/11 was that I had the most radical effect as a white person when I sat back and listened to people, especially the women and people of color in the group, and especially in that group the women of color. When I would give a considered response to what someone said, my white privilege normalized the idea and to an increasing extent the person who presented it, in a group with a large number of white "activists" who weren't used to sharing the stage with people of color. I didn't cease to be part of the group by listening and following others' leads most of the time. In fact, I became a very important person.

  2. SP...this racist sexist homophobic stuff is the mantra of the Republican is who they are....i do not expect it to ever change...the cover may change..they may attempt at window dressing but what's underneath is still rotten to the core....

    and we on the other side must ever be ready to beat it back when it rears its head!!

    1. I guess I see things a little differently. This racist sexist homophobic stuff is not simply the mantra of the Republican Party. It is the basis on which our culture is built. We can't JUST point to Republicans and decry it. We have all been infused with it.

      When you broaden the scope like that - it frees you up to see the incremental change that has happened and is still possible. As a matter of fact - I think its inevitable. That's why MLK talked about the arc of the universe bending towards justice.

      I'm not talking about this in any immediate sense - this is the ultimate long game.

    2. Right--we have all been raised in it and we need to look at ourselves first. I say this as a white people.