For as long as I’ve been alive I’ve heard allegations that the Republicans are racists. The same accusations are leveled at the Democrats.
Typically, the Republicans are portrayed as being Caucasian bigots who reflexively attack anyone who doesn’t look like them. The Democrats, on the other hand, are said to be anti-white to an extreme of wanting the death and destruction of anyone of European ancestry.
There have always been racists. They naturally gravitate toward the party which is purported to be tolerant of them, and thus there is always some level of truth to the charges of party racism.
Cognizant of this reality, I ask two questions whenever politicians or pundits are condemned for racist language and “dog whistles”.
- Is it a commonly used phrase?
- Is its use appropriate in the context?
If the answer is “yes” to both questions, I give the speaker or writer the benefit of the doubt. There are too many ways to misinterpret a statement and too many words with shifting secondary or tertiary meanings. It places far too much power in the hands of the accuser if I assume guilt; it also runs counter to the American system of law.
If the answer is “no” to at least one of them, I believe that the speaker either is a racist or, far more likely, is attempting to curry favor from racists. There are many of them, after all, and they form strong voting blocs. There are comparatively few who are openly separatist, but thousands who agree that “white women are taking all the good black men” or “the brown people are taking our jobs and forcing “Press 2 for English.””
Applying the standard of my questions, I have to ask myself about the term “monkey up”. Have I used it? Have I heard others use it? Have I seen it commonly – or even uncommonly – used in print? Have I, in my travels, heard others use it?
The answer is “no” every time, and for that reason I believe Ron DeSantis was playing to the racists regarding his black opponent. I believe that he did so intentionally, and that he could reasonably do so even if he himself is not prejudiced.
In prior election years, a mistake like that would be national news with constant coverage. Media bias is real, and for many of the channels it is slanted against the Republicans. A slip like this would be a chance to tar the entire Republican field with the racism label and cost them a point or two in elections throughout the nation.
This year it’s getting coverage, but comparatively little of it. An argument could be made for other events overshadowing it, but in prior years that hasn’t mattered. One of the complaints of the Republicans, in fact, has been that the press harped on small gaffes for days or even weeks as momentous news items should reasonably have diverted their attention.
What has changed is that the press doesn’t need to push the narrative. The notion that the Republicans are the party of white racists doesn’t need to be pushed particularly hard; it’s already accepted fact for large swaths of independent voters. The question instead becomes whether they vote for the Republicans despite the racism, because of the economy or petty but omnipresent annoyances like a straw ban; or whether factors such as the foreign policy blunders, the coal promotion and the loss of decorum push them away.