As Andrew Johnson noted below, the New York Times today published an op-ed by Penn professor Adolph L. Reed Jr. disparaging black Republicans, including newly appointed South Carolina senator Tim Scott, as mere “tokens.” Over at Commentary, John Steele Gordon has a superb takedown, commenting on the range of absurdities the piece puts forth.
For instance, he points out the following:
Professor Brooks writes, “Redistricting and gerrymandering have produced ‘safe’ seats for black politicians across the South but have also concentrated black votes in black districts, giving white Republicans a lock.” Well, whose idea was that? It’s a liberal one and not a very bright one at that, as concentrating black votes in certain districts necessarily drains them away from the other districts, making those districts more conservative. And it is based on the thoroughly racist idea that only black districts will elect blacks to Congress. Frank, Watts, West, and Scott prove that idea wrong.
That’s right, majority-minority districts, and the Voting Rights Act which liberals use as legal justification for them, are actually a creation of white supremacists. That’s a neat trick.
Gordon hits on another particularly embarrassing assumption the Times author makes:
Scott, in Reed’s view, is essentially an Uncle Tom because he does not agree with the politics of most black Americans:
. . . his politics, like those of the archconservative Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, are utterly at odds with the preferences of most black Americans. Mr. Scott has been staunchly anti-tax, anti-union and anti-abortion.
Of course, Tim Scott will not be representing black Americans in the Senate, he will be representing South Carolinians, who are, overwhelmingly, staunchly anti-tax, anti-union and anti-abortion.
Gordon is completely correct in his argument, but I’d go further: While it is undeniable that black Americans overwhelmingly support the Democratic party, Reed is wrong to suggest this means they hold monolithic views contrary to Scott’s. His presumption that being anti-tax, “anti-union,” and anti-abortion is “utterly at odds with the preferences of most black Americans” simply is not true. In fact, when polled, black Americans report similar feelings on taxes and abortion as white Americans; while they are more supportive of unions than whites, they are hardly of one mind on this issue either.
Take taxes. As I pointed out last week, when Salon’s David Sirota suggested that the anti-tax coalition is “almost all” “white people,” black Americans hold almost exactly the same views on increasing taxes on higher incomes that whites do (see this Politico poll, or this ABC/WaPo poll).
On abortion, blacks again hold similar views to whites, if they’re not less supportive: A study of attitudes on abortion by race over the past four decades found that black men and women hold consistently less favorable attitudes toward abortion than do whites. In terms of recent data, the 2012 American Values Survey found that 64 percent of blacks supported legal abortion in “all or most cases,” while 57 percent of whites did. Pew has found similarly close numbers.
Finally, on unions, it is probably true that blacks are more supportive of labor unions than whites. Taking right-to-work, a key union issue, as a measure of what Reed presumably thinks is “anti-union” sentiment, blacks and whites, according to a Mitchell poll of the state before the law passed, found similar levels of support for the law among whites and blacks, with 52 and 50 percent supporting it, respectively. A post-passage poll by Democratic and labor-leaning pollster PPP found much more divergent levels of support, though blacks are hardly monolithic on the question: 43 percent of whites said they would vote for the bill in a referendum, while only 31 percent of blacks said they would. Sixty-five percent of black Michiganders hold favorable views of unions, while just 49 percent of whites do. (Governor Rick Snyder is actually less popular among blacks than the controversial law he just pushed through.) Though it’s unlike abortion or taxes, where American blacks overall hold clearly similar views to whites, Reed’s point still doesn’t seem to stand here either: Scott, a staunch supporter of the right-to-work status quo in South Carolina, is hardly at odds with all blacks on the issue. Of course, as Gordon points out, the important point is that he is in line with the views of South Carolinians on the issue (I could not find racial cross-tabs on right-to-work polling in South Carolina — I’d be interested if there is any).
Professor Reed bases his contempt for black Republicans on the idea that almost no blacks share Republican views on key issues and thus those blacks who do join the GOP constitute some kind of race traitors. But the initial premise is emphatically not based in reality, even if it is the case that blacks do pretty much wholly reside in one political party and not the other; the following conclusion, of course, is lazy noxious racialism. This is the New York Times opinion page, after all.