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Issue #5 - the Civil Rights model of politics

The modern Democratic Party is primarily the party of the Civil Rights movement and of the "Rainbow Coalition" that came afterwards. It is the party of opposition to a society perceived to be dominated by white people, straight people, and males who discriminate against other kinds of people. Some day whites will cease to be a majority of the U.S. population, and it will be payback time - payback for slavery, the "Jim Crow" system, patriarchal domination, homophobia, and all the other bad things that the majority population of America has done in the past. Therefore, get on the right side of history. Don't be a racist. Vote Democratic.

The Republican Party has not known what to make of this. Subliminally, it has appealed to white voters who know something is wrong but who are afraid to say so for fear of being considered bigoted. Some have addressed race in code language. The alternative, not yet tried, is to discuss such matters openly. Challenge the disparaging histories and political points of view. Even if you are white, be proud of yourself and your forbearers.

Progressive Republicans should no longer support the Civil Rights model of politics as it has developed into an intolerant orthodoxy imposed by political, economic, social, and cultural elites. It was not wrong to have dismantled the white-dominated segregationist system that existed in the southern states a half century ago. It is also not to deny that many whites individually believe that they are superior to blacks or that they treat blacks in abusive or condescending ways. It is to say, however, that the Civil Rights view of race relations, openly disdainful of white people, has outlived its usefulness. Under the surface, race hatred yet festers on both sides. Americans are too intimidated to talk honestly about race. The Civil Rights model of politics itself needs to be challenged.

At the root of this model is a scheme of moral dualism that considers some groups of people inherently good and other groups bad. It is the idea of Moses confronting the evil Egyptian Pharaoh, or David slaying Goliath. With respect to U.S. race relations, the cooperative approach to black people’s advancement taken by Booker T. Washington was replaced by the racially contentious campaigns of W.E.B. DuBois and the NAACP. White people as a group were made the enemy of blacks; and they remain so today in the eyes of media commentators and others who control public opinion in America.

There is a higher way. If all men and women are truly brothers and sisters, we need to tell a different kind of story - one which does not require my rise to mean your decline. I should not be so concerned about your “hate” but the hate which may exist in my own heart. And those who hate me for no particular reason (except for my demographic identity) are the true haters even if they do it in the name of tolerance and love. We all deserve some measure of self-esteem. With respect to race, Americans may have to break into small groups to find this unless there is a change in the general culture.

Progressive Republicans can help develop an identity politics of the future that does not pit so-called “majority” populations against “minority” populations in morally contentious ways. Accepting that all persons have the right to determine their own identity and to shape it in positive ways, we can create a new model of identity, allowing self-defined communities to be formed on several levels. America can then redeem itself from the political and social divisiveness that gnaws at our community.

Whites need to take the lead on this one. Stand up for yourself. Stop being racial cowards. It's time to move on.

(This is an area where we have differences with Democrats.)


See also:

a statement on identity

the dilemma of today's progressives in the Democratic party

email wars - how the subject of race leads to contentious, hateful discussions

history of moral dualism


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