— Resistance to the vast expansion of government power, intrusiveness and debt, as represented by the Tea Party movement? Why, racist resentment toward a black president.
— Disgust and alarm with the federal government’s unwillingness to curb illegal immigration, as crystallized in the Arizona law? Nativism.
— Opposition to the most radical redefinition of marriage in human history, as expressed in Proposition 8 in California? Homophobia.
— Opposition to a 15-story Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero? Islamophobia….
Note what connects these issues. In every one, liberals have lost the argument in the court of public opinion. Majorities — often lopsided majorities — oppose President Obama’s social-democratic agenda (e.g., the stimulus, Obamacare), support the Arizona law, oppose gay marriage and reject a mosque near Ground Zero.
What’s a liberal to do? Pull out the bigotry charge, the trump that preempts debate and gives no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument.
— Charles Krauthammer
Has it really been so long since World War II that a Jewish person could use “the majority believes it” as a defense against the claim of bigotry?
Let’s consider each of these issues.
–Anger about increasing government power, intrusiveness and debt? Not while George W. Bush is president; only after Barack Obama becomes president. White guy does it, no problem. Black guy does it, crisis. A double-standard at the very least. And it’s not as though conservatives haven’t exhibited some fairly overt racism. Here’s a tip, Mr. Krauthammer: If you don’t want people to think you’re a bigot, don’t hang out with bigots and support the same causes they do.
–Getting all worked up about Latino illegal immigrants, while ignoring the sizable number of illegal Irish and Filipino immigrants in the U.S.? Selective targeting of a vulnerable group sounds a lot like bigotry to me.
–Insisting that homosexuals not have equal rights? Just how often have the opponents of equality not been motivated by bigotry? The opponents of Irish immigration a century ago (the Irish have come a long way, baby!)? The supporters of interment camps for Japanese-Americans? The backers of Chinese exclusion laws? The opponents of women’s suffrage? The defenders of Jim Crow? Hmm, no, no, no, no, and no. Sorry, Mr. Krauthammer, you’re going to need a more substantive argument than, “we can’t redefine marriage” to avoid the charge of bigotry. Especially as my marriage has somehow managed to avoid being redefined in any way since homosexuals started getting married, as, I would guess, has yours.
–Calling a mosque somewhere in the general vicinity of Ground Zero a “sacrilege”? Claiming it will not be a place of religion, but a “a terrorist recruitment, indoctrination and training center“? Does that sound like reasoned, serious and substantive, debate? Or does it sound like wild hyperbole designed to inflame people and play on their fears? And who engages in fear-mongering about the terrible thing an unpopular minority is planning to do? Yeah, bigots.
It’s fairly easy to see what Krauthammer is upset about. He knows that a charge of bigotry puts conservatives on the defensive, and he knows that they can’t persuasively defend themselves against the charge as long as they are targeting unpopular minorities. So he attacks the use of the bigot claim, trying to delegitimize it so that critics can’t effectively point it out. It’s not bigotry that bothers him–it’s the gall of pointing it out that he finds offensive.
More and more it seems as if conservatism has declined into nothing more than a vulgar embodiment of every bigoted impulse felt by the American public. But no matter how many people share the impulse, it’s still vulgar, and still wrong.