Thursday, January 19, 2012

Newt's race-hustling campaign

Ben and I talk about Newt Gingrich's food stamp comments in this week's Scripps Howard column. Is he running a racist campaign? My take:
Here's a little rule of thumb: If a politician offends someone but doesn't immediately "clarify" his remarks after the backlash, he meant to give offense. The fact that Gingrich doubled down on his remarks with smirking, sneering, patronizing comments to Fox News' Juan Williams -- an African-American journalist -- leaves little doubt: He is counting on the racism of South Carolina's Republican voters to keep him alive in the GOP nominating contest.

There's a long, storied and relatively recent history of racist appeals to the South Carolina electorate. In 2000, John McCain appeared to be a threat to George W. Bush's march to the GOP nomination -- until someone circulated fliers accusing McCain of fathering a black daughter. McCain lost South Carolina, and with it his chance to be president.

So Gingrich's recent comments are par for the course. What's particularly frustrating about them is how wrong-headed they are. It's true that the number of food-stamp recipients has grown under President Barack Obama. But that growth started under Bush -- fueled both by the recession and Bush's changes to food stamp eligibility.

The truth is this: Whites, not blacks, are the leading recipients of food stamps. A fifth of food-stamp recipients are employed, but not making enough money to stay out of the program. And the use of the food stamp program has most notably grown -- in recent years -- in white, middle-class suburbs.

If Gingrich really wanted to deliver a stern message in favor of work and shunning food stamps, he wouldn't go to the NAACP. He'd drive down to the nearest Ikea.

The problem isn't food stamps or race, however. It's that Americans lack sufficient opportunity to get paid work that keeps them out of the safety net. Gingrich should focus on that; instead he's choosing to be a race hustler.
Ben says only liberals can hear racist "dog whistles."


Noble Rot said...

From the page you linked:

“The fact is if I become your nominee we will make the key test very simple – food stamps versus paychecks. Obama is the best food stamp president in American history. More people are on food stamps today because of Obama’s policies than ever in history,” Gingrich said. “I would like to be the best paycheck president in American history.”

So, what is the racist part?

Joel said...

I think it's possible to talk about the welfare state, and criticize it, and not be racist. What Newt said—“And so I’m prepared if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps."—seems to me designed to appeal to racist sentiments, at least. Why go to the NAACP? Why not go to white suburban churches and Lions Clubs, where you're likely to reach the group that takes most advantage of food stamps? Why not later clarify your remarks about that if that's your intent? Newt's trying to portray poverty and the safety net as a minority pathology. It's not.

namefromthepast said...

A much higher portion of the minority community is taking assistance.

However, 46% of food stamps go to whites and 37% to blacks so spin it however it benefits politically.

I would suggest that after 100 years of social intervention at the hands of the federal government it should be clear that nearly all long term government assistance programs lead to a culture of dependence. A culture that develops predictably and completely independent of genetic background.

Frankly there will never be a thoughtful discussion on this culture because someone will yell racism. So we stare at the floor and talk about some dumb sporting event.

I've no idea what Newt was trying to do but does anyone really care or do we just try to get that one last vote any way possible?