Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) said in a recent interview with The Daily Beast that the tea party movement comprises the same “white crackers” who opposed the civil rights movement. Setting aside his use of a racist epithet, Rangel’s comment is too outlandish to merit a rebuttal, but it does merit analysis.
What impels left wing politicians like Rangel to make statements about the tea party that would sound bizarre even to people who wear tinfoil hats in hopes of picking up signals from inhabitants of the Andromeda Galaxy?
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY (AP/Charles Dharapak)
The first option – that Rangel actually believes his accusation – would seem to be an insult to Rangel. By now, conservative commentators and bloggers will have demolished Rangel’s accusation with the usual rebuttals: That there has never been any evidence of racism at tea party rallies, that many in the tea party supported Allen West and Herman Cain, that Deneen Borelli is a popular speaker with the tea party, and so on.
Let us give Rangel the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is smart enough to know that his statement is, to put it mildly, at odds with reality.
That leaves us with the second option as more likely, that Rangel and other leftists don’t believe their own bizarre accusations, and that those accusations are nothing but political tactics intended to lure conservatives into a defensive position. Unfortunately, too many conservatives take the bait and respond to accusations from the left as if the left actually believes their accusations, and in so doing conservatives make a tactical blunder.
A popular sign at tea party rallies reminds us that “you can’t fix stupid,” but conservatives need to realize that liberal tactics – such as making false accusations in order to promote division and mistrust – may be morally reprehensible, but they are not stupid. Leftists use those tactics because they work, and they work in two ways.
First, those tactics sucker conservatives into wasting valuable time responding to the accusations and debating the left on terms chosen by the left. It doesn’t matter how well the right responds to the accusations or how reasonable and rational the right’s rebuttals might be. As long as conservatives are defending themselves against accusations of racism, of waging a “war on women,” or of not caring about the poor, conservatives are not challenging liberals to defend the damage done by left wing policies. Even worse, conservatives are not making the case for conservative values and solutions.
If conservatives take Rangel’s bait this time, they will spend several days proving something that is obvious to anyone willing to admit the truth, namely that mainstream America – and that includes the tea party – long ago accepted Dr. King’s vision of a society in which people are judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. The more conservatives are distracted by Rangel’s bizarre sideshow, the more the left will be able to avoid talking about ObamaCare, the nation’s economic malaise, Benghazi, the IRS scandal, the national debt, and a host of other disasters and scandals caused by liberal policies and politicians.
Second, liberal tactics such as that used by Rangel promote alienation and anger among targeted groups, and those groups respond by keeping liberal politicians in positions of power and wealth. Though the hardcore Alinskyites running the show are politically savvy enough to know that their accusations are nothing more than diversions, the targeted groups are far more likely to absorb the accusations without thinking critically about them. The more these groups see themselves as victims of oppression by the American system, the more those groups show up at the polls to keep liberal politicians in power, regardless of the long-term damage done by those liberal politicians.
Of course, a political attack must be answered, but conservatives should give serious thought to the nature of their answer. By responding with evidence and reason to attacks that have nothing to do with evidence and reason, conservatives give credence to the left’s incredible assertions. When conservatives respond to hateful attacks from the left by offering evidence that the right does not hate minorities, women, children, the poor, and the environment, conservatives have ceded control the terms of the debate to the opposition.
Instead of answering liberal attacks with a solid defense, conservatives should answer by focusing the debate where it belongs, on the damage done to America by liberal policies. In this case, we should ask what Charlie Rangel has done to draw attention to the epidemic of out-of-wedlock births in the black community, an epidemic that is driven by liberal welfare policies and that is at the root of institutional poverty. How does the left justify their war on fatherhood? What has the black community got in return for the loyalty to the left?
The biggest problem facing the black community isn’t white crackers, Mr. Rangel; it is liberal crackpots.
Dr. Tim Daughtry is a conservative speaker and co-author of Waking the Sleeping Giant: How Mainstream Americans Can Beat Liberals at Their Own Game.