Michael Barone

Have the Republicans become the white man's party? Are the depth and bitterness of Republicans' opposition to Barack Obama and his administration the product of racism?

Those are questions you hear in the clash of political argument, and you will hear plenty of answers in the affirmative if you click onto MSNBC or salon.com with any regularity.

You can find a more nuanced and thoughtful analysis in Jonathan Chait's recent New York magazine article, "The Color of His Presidency."

Chait, a liberal, starts off by noting that the post-racial America that Obama seemed to promise in his 2004 national convention speech and his 2008 campaign has not come into being.

On the contrary, "Race, always the deepest and most volatile fault line in American history," he writes, "has now become the primal grievance in our politics, the source of a narrative of persecution each side uses to make sense of the world."

Many liberals see racism in every criticism of the Obama presidency, even though, as Chait points out, Bill Clinton met with similar and in some cases more strident opposition.

Conservatives, he argues, "dwell in a paranoia of their own, in which racism is used as a cudgel to delegitimize their core beliefs." Understandably so, given his description of liberals' "paranoia of a white racism."

Chait defends liberals by arguing that the debates on big government were inevitably produced by the Obama agenda and "there is no separating this discussion from one's sympathies or prejudices toward, and identification with, black America."

But he also admits that "advocating tax cuts is not in any meaningful sense racist." And he seems to ignore the argument that policies that directed large sums of money disproportionately at blacks -- like the welfare programs from the 1970s to the 1990s, which the Obama administration is trying to partially resurrect -- harm more than benefit their intended beneficiaries.

This is, after all, what House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan was getting at when he lamented "a culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working." The fact that Obama has made similar arguments didn't prevent Ryan from being excoriated as racist by some liberals.

On balance, Chait absolves Republicans (and Democrats) of the charge of racism. But he is one of many analysts, including some conservatives, who have warned Republicans of the danger of becoming a party made up almost exclusively of white people.

That puts them at risk, the argument goes, of becoming a permanent minority in a nation with increasing percentages of Hispanics and Asians and with blacks voting almost unanimously for Democrats.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM