This morning I saw that Jonathan Chait had a new feature in New York Magazine. Normally, that is something to celebrate. He’s an excellent writer with a lot of great insights. But this article was, The Color of His Presidency. It is about race in politics—an issue that Chait hasn’t exactly distinguished himself on recently. And more than anything, it is an example of his own special genre of articles, “See how liberal I am? I’m beating up on liberals!”
It is kind of hard to get to the bottom of the article. It’s something like this. The very basis of the Republican Party is racism. Pretty much everything they do has racist motivations to one extent or another. But talking about this just makes the Republicans claim that all accusations of racism are invalid. So we shouldn’t criticize them for their racism or the criticisms we don’t level against them won’t be effective. Or something. It’s hard to say.
Not surprisingly, the article is being eaten alive by liberals. Ed Kilgore wrote, Conservatives, Race, and “Winners” and “Losers.” His basic argument is that conservatives are determined to be resentful of liberals, so trying to make them less resentful is a ridiculous goal. Jamelle Bouie goes after the whole white-liberal-elite focus of the article, Color Blind. He doesn’t say this explicitly, but his argument is that pretending that these racial issues are nothing more than ideological battles just cedes the battle to the white power elite.
The most vicious attack against Chait comes from Joan Walsh, Jonathan Chait’s Epic Race Fail: How a Story About Racism and Obama Goes Horribly Wrong. She meets him on his own terms and, frankly, tears him apart. She summarizes his argument, “If only MSNBC would stop crying racism, then…” To which she responds:
I agree with everything written by these three writers. And I am so tired of Chait’s efforts to claim the liberal high ground by attacking other liberals. It’s just his own personal way of being a Serious Centrist. But what’s especially horrible is that tomorrow (assuming he’s working), he will post an article in which he defends himself against all his attackers. And if Ta-Nehisi Coates decides to weigh in, it’s going to get bloody, and I’m not going to enjoy watching Chait flailing around impotently.
Update (9 April 2014 8:56 am)
Chait is back with this obligatory defense, Obama, Racism, and the Presumption of Innocence. There’s not much to it except that he attacks everyone I quoted in this article. Poor Jonathan.