Overall, though, the accusation of racism gets thrown around too often and too casually. One regular tosser is 2nd District Rep. Bennie Thompson.
Over the weekend on a black-oriented radio program, the Democratic congressman accused Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of being racist. Thompson claimed that the Republicans’ opposition to President Obama and Obamacare are because the president is black.
Thompson’s comments are in keeping with an apparent Democratic strategy this year of painting the opposition as bigots. Attorney General Eric Holder, also African-American, tried the same approach recently — though more subtly than Thompson — when he suggested to a civil rights group that Obama and he had gotten the roughest treatment of any persons in their position in U.S. history.
Are there some racists in the Republican Party? Certainly. Are there whites who judge Obama unfairly because of his skin color? Of course. But there are also racists in the Democratic Party and blacks who judge white politicians unfairly as well.
Thompson, in fact, is a prime example of doing just that. He assumes, without any evidence to support the conclusion, that it must be race for why Bryant and McConnell so stubbornly oppose anything associated with the president. A less inflammatory explanation would be that it’s just politics as usual.
Bryant has made the calculation — a narrow-minded one, in our opinion — that opposing Obamacare on all fronts appeals to his conservative political base. He knows, to stay in office, he doesn’t need support from those who would most benefit from Obamacare’s offer to expand Medicaid.
Thompson has made a similar calculation at the other end of the political spectrum. He knows he can pop off about whites — and conservative blacks such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — and get away with it because that kind of talk appeals to his base in his predominantly black and liberal congressional district.
What both Bryant and Thompson are doing for their own political advantage, though, is harmful to Mississippi. The governor is leaving the working poor one medical calamity from bankruptcy, while depriving the state of a multibillion-dollar economic boost. The congressman is irresponsibly fueling racial animosity and contributing to the incivility that makes bipartisan cooperation difficult.
Although race may be the card Thompson wants to play, nobody but he really wins in that game.