In a post on his blog yesterday, Paul Krugman took a break from economics to offer a little political commentary:
In his speech, Obama invoked the history of struggles for equality with a remarkable triptych: Seneca (women’s rights), Selma (black rights), and Stonewall (gay rights). And there has been remarkably little blowback — a sign of how much the country has changed.
What many people may not realize is how recent those changes are. Gay rights may be relatively obvious — it’s just 8 years since opposition to gay marriage arguably played a significant role in Bush’s victory. But the big changes on the racial front are also more recent than widely imagined (obligatory disclaimer — yes, there’s a lot of racism remaining, and it can be truly ugly; we’re just talking about relative changes). Here’s a poll trend that seems meaningful to me:
That seems meaningful to me too, but I really didn’t know just how important it’s been: “Republicans pine for the glory days of Ronald Reagan — but that was a different country, a county with a lot more raw racism, a country in which only a minority of Americans found interracial marriage acceptable. And yes, that had a lot to do with GOP political strength.”
That’s clearly correct: The GOP’s success in the 1980s “had a lot to do with” the fact that half the country disapproved of interracial marriage at the time. Jimmy Carter, of course, was defeated in the 1980 election for daring to dream, like a good Democrat, of a world where blacks could marry whites, at a time when just 36 percent of Americans approved of such a thing. If you don’t remember the part of Reagan’s platform that called for the overturn of Loving v. Virginia, you’re just not paying attention.
In all seriousness, Krugman is obviously appealing to the assumption that the contemporary Republican party has a monopoly on racist whites, and that explains “a lot” of “GOP political strength.” Or, as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes put it last summer, “It is undeniably the case that racist Americans are almost entirely in one political coalition and not the other.” Too bad the data say otherwise.