Burns' flippant reference to the "vitriol" emanating from "some elements" in the Tea Party is nothing but an oft-repeated slur. The late Andrew Breitbart famously offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could produce audio or video proof that the "n" word was hurled at black members of congress as they moved through a Tea Party protest on Capitol Hill. The accusation of racism was broadcast far and wide. The lack of proof -- though hundreds of people had video cameras recording every moment -- is the untold story. Someone as sophisticated as Ken Burns should know that the Tea Party protests were multiracial, multiethnic affairs, featuring speakers of every background. What united them was concern that the government should stop spending money it does not collect.
False accusations of racism are an attempt to delegitimize those who disagree with you. Promiscuous use of the word also defangs it for actual instances of racial bias. Honest liberals should further consider that flinging the charge protects them from having to defend their ideas. It's simultaneously ugly and lazy.
Kathleen Geier of the Washington Monthly writes that conservatives use abstractions because they are attempting to conceal positions that "a hefty chunk of the population" finds "icky." That's the reason, she explains, that they talk of "small government, right to life, states' rights, free markets, right to work, judicial restraint, family values."
I can't recall the last time a mainstream American politician referred to "state's rights," but I'm pretty sure that whoever it was, he was a Democrat. It was the code term southern Democrats used to defend Jim Crow laws. Three quarters of the nay votes on the 1964 Civil Rights Act came from Democrats. Conservatives, as Ms. Geier would know if she actually read them rather than relying on cartoon depictions, do talk of federalism. If Geier thinks the constitutional order providing for state and federal governments is "icky," she should say so.
As for the "right to life," isn't that a great deal more honest than the liberals' habit of disguising a policy of unrestricted abortion up to and including birth as "women's reproductive health"?
Geier further confuses her readers by explaining that "judicial restraint" means "no rights for women, gays, or nonwhites."
On reflection, I take it back. What liberals like Geier need is not humility or magnanimity. It's basic information.