Is the GOP Prone to Racist Dog Whistling?

Debate rages around Paul Ryan's comments
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2014 1:19 PM CDT
Is the GOP Prone to Racist Dog Whistling?
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md., March 6, 2014.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Paul Ryan knew exactly what he was doing in a radio interview last week when he said that the US had a "tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular of men not working, and just generations of men not even thinking about working," Paul Krugman argues in the New York Times today, in the most prominent of several pieces debating the comments. Several Democrats have denounced the comments as racist. Ryan says he was simply being "inarticulate." Here's what people are saying:

  • Ryan was simply "speaking of a true thing that must never be said," write the editors of the National Review. And who's more racist, Ryan "for criticizing those conditions," or "the people who run New York City’s public schools or those who govern Detroit—the people who help create those conditions?"
  • "Paul Ryan was just telling the truth," agrees John Hinderaker at Power Line, pointing out that labor force participation among African Americans is at a record low. "It is impossible to overstate not just how dishonest, but how vicious" these attacks are, he writes. Ryan just expressed concern about "very real human problems" and urged action to fix them.
  • "There's a history here that the Republican Party can't ignore," argues Ian Haney Lopez on Bill Moyers' site. The GOP has used coded racial language for years—two different RNC chairs have even apologized for it. Ryan either "uncritically adopted the charged rhetoric of his party without understanding its racial undertones," or deployed that rhetoric tactically to stoke racial tensions.
  • Krugman agrees, and takes it further, using Ryan's comments as an example of racism he sees baked into GOP rhetoric. "Race is the Rosetta Stone that makes sense of many otherwise incomprehensible aspects of US politics," he writes. Why does the GOP block spending on Medicaid while opposing cuts to Medicare? "Well, what do many Medicaid recipients look like … and how does that compare with the typical Medicare beneficiary? Mystery solved."
  • Many have denounced Ryan for citing Charles Murray, author of the controversial book, The Bell Curve, which argued that black people have lower average IQs than white people, and that the difference was partially genetic. But Andrew Sullivan calls that, and the attacks on Ryan, a "smear." Murray, he argues, is an unfairly maligned "intellectual adventurer," willing to "speak things we only talk about in our own heads."
Ryan, for his part, seems eager to smooth the incident over; he's promised to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus soon to discuss it, a spokesman told Reuters on Friday. (More Paul Ryan stories.)

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