Are Democrats Using the Race Card In An Attempt to Energize the Democratic Base?

Attorney General Eric Holder (right) recently expressed outrage at the treatment President Obama and he have received from conservatives. He stopped just short of saying it was race-related, leaving that for the African-American audience at the recent National Action Network convention to decide. Seth Wenig/AP
Attorney General Eric Holder (right) recently expressed outrage at the treatment President Obama and he have received from conservatives. He stopped just short of saying it was race-related, leaving that for the African-American audience at the recent National Action Network convention to decide. Seth Wenig/AP

Few mixtures in American life are more emotionally combustible than the one formed by the combination of politics and race.

That helps explain why Democrats, in general, and President Obama, in particular, have tended to steer clear of overtly raising race as an issue to explain some of the opposition to Obama’s presidency and agenda.

There seems to be a shift in recent days, however.

Top Democratic party officials have either directly or indirectly blamed race for some of the hostility to Obama, his policies, or both.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader from California, and New York Rep. Steve Israel, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, both cited racism, pure and simple, among some Republicans as explanations for the House GOP’s resistance to legislation that would comprehensively overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder took a slightly subtler approach. Speaking to the National Action Network, the largely African-American civil rights group founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton, Holder suggested some Republicans had a racial animus toward the president and himself.

“The last five years have been defined by significant strides and by lasting reforms even in the face, even in the face of unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity,” Holder said.

“If you don’t believe that, you look at the way — forget about me, forget about me — you look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House committee. It had nothing to do with me, forget about that. What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”

All of this has led to accusations that Holder, Pelosi and Israel are themselves guilty of playing the race card.

The attorney general later pointedly stated that he never explicitly said race explained the political right’s treatment of him or the president. Instead, he said his complaint was about Washington’s growing incivility.

What Holder demonstrated is that just as those on the right can use dog whistle politics to motivate their base, those on the left can also send messages that are heard a certain way by theirs.

It’s a safe bet, for instance, that many African-Americans who heard or read Holder’s words didn’t doubt he was talking about race. And he did it without ever uttering the R-word like Pelosi and Israel.

Is this partly about activating minority voters during a midterm election year in which Democrats stand a good chance of losing the Senate if their voters don’t go to the polls in numbers? Could be.

When Obama has been on the ballot, minority voters, especially African-Americans, didn’t need much more motivation than that to vote. But a midterm election when he’s not on the ballot is different.

Social scientists who have studied voters have found that voter participation rises when voters are emotionally engaged.

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Source: NPR | 

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