Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Even Post-Donald Trump, Many White Catholic Voters Keep Denying That Racism Has Anything to Do with Republican Politics

I said yesterday that I'm finding this U.S. campaign season interesting. I'm going to use that word again today. You do realize that "interesting" is fraught with all sorts of other implications when I use it in this context? Shades of horror at the depths to which our culture is now descending; shock that we can have done this to ourselves as a nation, that we can have brought ourselves to this point; disbelief that people still want to pretend and deny as they keep trying to smear the huge writhing pig in front of our faces with pretty lipstick.

Even now. Even after Donald Trump and his wild popularity.

Yes, interesting — and by that, I mean all of the above.

I find it interesting that even though everything Donald Trump and his followers stand for should have opened the eyes of Republicans who claim that they vote Republican for fiscal reasons and don't have a racist bone in their bodies — should have opened their eyes about what they've really been doing as they cast those Republican votes — there are Republican voters who still want to try that tactic. Even now. Even after Donald. Go to any discussion of the current election at the threads of National Catholic Reporter focusing on the election, and you'll meet plenty of those voters.

They're white, Catholic, and live outside the South. They have long imagined that they can ally themselves with overtly racist white evangelical voters in the South who have stampeded to the Republican party for overtly racist reasons (and this has not been a secret for a very long time, the reason that Southern voters have flocked to the Republican party from Nixon forward), and not be complicit in racism themselves. Racism is someone else's taint, they think. 

It's not mine. I'm Catholic, after all. And I don't live in the South. 

I vote Republican for other reasons.

These same Republican-voting white Catholic voters like to express outrage that anyone would attempt to analyze Trump's appeal by referencing racism. "This is just the left blowing things out of proportion as they always do," they claim. "It's just leftists slinging around wild charges, using glib rhetoric to dismiss the real economic (and religious) concerns of Republican moderates. They just want to shut down good conversations about economic sanity and foreign policy by shouting about racism."

Not a racist bone in our bodies. Too bad if we happen to be voting cheek by jowl with all those racist white Southern evangelicals, electing the same political leaders they're choosing.

We're doing so for different reasons. If those leaders enact policies that deepen the racial wounds of our society, then far be it from us to have intended those policies.

We're better than those folks who are the real racists.

What these "moderate" "non-racist" Republican voters are really saying as they attack the use of the term "racism" as a moral term for discussing the feasibility or desirability of a given political candidate is that they want this term declared off-limits altogether for political and moral analysis by people of faith (and others). They want the term "moral" to be so restricted and so confined in meaning that it applies only to the select culture-war issues they've designated as real moral issues.

Or, as "moderate" voters who are voting Republican "only" for fiscal reasons, they want a clear, sharp line drawn between what their faith demands of them morally, and what they believe and practice in their economic and political life. "Morality" belongs on the other side of that line, from politics and economics. It has to do with abortion, same-sex marriage, promiscuity and sexual immorality.

Not with how money is gained and allocated. Certainly not with Obamacare and its handouts to people on the margins of society (mean of whom are there due to racial discrimination, among other reasons).

This is interesting, isn't it, how frighteningly jejune the moral-political discourse of people representing one of the world's major religious bodies has become in the United States, so that the term "racism" is practically devoid of meaning for many white American Catholics? It's out of sight, out of mind — as an important category of moral and political analysis.

It's not our problem, has nothing to do with us.

It just so happens that we keep voting into office the very same white Republican candidates preferred by those real racists down South. 

No, we don't want to talk about any of these matters. No, we will not have this conversation. It's absolutely beside the point.

We're Catholic, after all.

Racism is someone else's problem.

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