Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Identity politics, GOP style

Michael Barone says that opposing an Italian-American on his words and deeds would be an affront to Italian-Americans everywhere:

Italian-Americans are less defensive today and probably less ethnically conscious. The political risks of opposing an Italian-American are therefore probably less than in 1983. But they're not zero. I wonder whether Tom Carper of Delaware (where 7 percent of the population in the 2000 census said they were of Italian ancestry), Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey (14 percent), Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York (11 percent), Christopher Dodd and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (14 percent), and Jack Reed of Rhode Island (14 percent) really want to go to the length of supporting a filibuster against an Italian-American judge with sterling credentials and majority support in the Senate. I'm pretty sure that Lincoln Chafee, facing a conservative opponent in the Republican primary in Rhode Island, the state with the nation's highest percentage of Italian-Americans, doesn't want to oppose Alito. If I were giving him political advice, I would certainly advise him not to do so. As much as one quarter of Republican primary voters there will have Italian names or Italian ancestors. And what about Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who is of Italian descent (on his mother's side) as well? He's often been given a place of honor at NIAF dinners. I'm not sure he'd want to attend if he opposed Alito. The audience there is, to judge from responses at the dinners I've attended, about half Republican and half Democratic. But I'll bet they'll be close to 100 percent for Alito.

Interesting. And what did Michael Barone think of playing the race-ethnicity card in 1999?

MR. BARONE: It's cheap-shot politics, John, if we were to make voting against a black nominee a indicator of racism. The fact is, most senators would be guilty of racism because most of the Republicans voted against this judicial nominee [Carol Moseley-Braun] last week; most of the Democrats voted against Clarence Thomas in 1991. So by his own criteria, Mr. Daschle, I suppose, would have to call himself some kind of a racist or something. And this is cheap politics. There are serious arguments for and against these different nominations that reasonable people can believe, and to drag racism in is really a smear.

Oh, I totally get it now! It's wrong to oppose an Italian-American in 2005 because he's Italian-American, but it's right to oppose a black on the basis of "serious arguments."

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 9:06 AM

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