There's an episode of Futurama where acoholic kleptomaniac robot Bender Bending Rodriguez attempts to buy a pack of gum and is denied an armed forces discount on the grounds that he's not, you know, in the armed forces. Bender exclaims, "This is the worst kind of discrimination: The kind against ME!"
Bender's remarks accurately describe conservatives' approach to social bias of any kind. Rush Limbaugh compares Republicans to black folks during segregation. Several Republican lawmakers have compared their party's minority status to the circumstance of protesters in Iran. Matthew Yglesias has been blogging for months about how conservatives seem only to be interested in "reverse racism," or what they see as entrenched institutional bias against white men. This clearly has something to do with the fact that the party is made up mostly of white men. But when a conservative figure who is not a white man runs into difficulty--say Clarence Thomas or Sarah Palin--conservatives suddenly become deeply concerned about racism and sexism. For conservatives, social bias is a partisan matter.
It would be one thing if this persecution complex were restrained to the GOP's loonier voices. But today Ross Douthat takes to the Times to argue that Sarah Palin's troubles are due entirely to elitism. Douthat writes, that Palin's troule "had something to do with ordinary partisan politics. But it had everything to do with Palin’s gender and her social class," as though having an Ivy League degree insulates one from incessant media ridicule. As Steve M. writes, this would come as a shock to say, Bill Clinton or Michael Dukakis, not to mention Hillary Clinton. Remember her? I suppose what's really frustrating is that the GOP has spent the last few months attacking Sonia Sotomayor as "stupid" despite her impeccable Ivy League qualifications and poor background--few of them have shown any interest in the possibility of class or gender bias. Sotomayor, after all, is not a Republican.
Douthat's differences from Limbaugh and company here are mostly of degree. Douthat makes a better argument, but ultimately he's unconcerned with how the biases he's describing affect anyone outside his own party. Republicans are still the only victims of social bias worth addressing.
One last thing--there's no question that sexism played a part in the way Palin was covered. That doesn't mean that she was qualified or made a good candidate--ignorance of policy is not something to be proud of. Palin failed as a candidate because she simply isn't that interested in issues. I'd welcome a Republican Party more concerned about social bias and how it affects opportunity--but that would mean actually being concerned about social bias and how it affects opportunity, not only how it affects Republicans.
-- A. Serwer
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