Really, really bad column by Bob Herbert today in The New York Times.
Let us count the ways.
1. The column begins by suggesting that the Republican Party has replaced the Democratic Party as “`the white man’s party in South Carolina.’” But mightn’t there be this important distinction?: The former excluded blacks; to the extent that the latter is mostly white, it is because most blacks exclude themselves from it.
2. There then follows a long discussion of what a bad guy former governor “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman was. Somehow the column fails to mention that he was a Democrat, though. It objects to the continued presence of his statue near the statehouse. Assuming that the statue really is more than just a pro forma acknowledgment that the man was governor (like an official portrait), is anyone now suggesting its removal and are evil Republicans blocking it? Just asking–nothing in the column about this.
3. Next, the column says there are dilapidated rural public schools in South Carolina. No doubt. Mr. Herbert doesn’t quite explain what this has to do with racist Republicans, though, or indeed with racism, period. In fact, he doesn’t explain it at all. And, gee, I seem to recall reading that sometimes the schools aren’t so hot in some Democratic jurisdictions, either. BTW, wanna bet which political party in South Carolina is more likely to give parents the right to choose to send their children to better schools?
4. Penultimately, a gratuitous insult: “In presidential elections, South Carolina is reliably Republican. A state with Pitchfork Ben standing guard at the Capitol could hardly be otherwise.” Could reliably Democratic West Virginia have a former Klansman as its senior senator?
5. The column concludes with a long lament that the “there is so little serious discussion among the [primary] candidates of the race issue”–the Democrats are singled out here — even though “racism remains alive and well in much of the country” (South Carolina in particular, albeit “on the down-low”). Well, Mr. Herbert, what exactly is the “the race issue” that you want discussed in 2008? Slavery, widespread lynching, segregation, paucity of civil rights statutes and agencies, shortage of black presidential candidates? And what exactly is your evidence that “racism remains alive and well”? It’s alive, I suppose, but hardly well — it’s dying, as any nondelusional person must see. If there is a race issue, it is not discrimination, but illegitimacy and other bad life choices made disproportionately among African Americans. Yet one suspects that, were this to be discussed, Mr. Herbert would not welcome it. Indeed, he would write another column, citing the discussion as evidence of racism.