Today'sProgress Report gets it right and wrong about Bush's invocation of African-Americans in his Social Security privatization campaign:
President Bush has decided to focus his hard sell on African-Americans. Last month, in his pitch, he said: "African American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group. This needs to be fixed." President Bush has his priorities backwards. The issue that needs to "be fixed" isn't Social Security, it's the troubling statistic that African-American males have a shorter life expectancy than any other ethnic or racial group in America. If President Bush is serious about reaching out to the African-American community, his time would be more wisely spent addressing countless inequalities faced by African-Americans in the U.S. today.
Yes, of course this is a troubling statistic as well as typical Bush hypocrisy. But Bush isn't pandering to African-Americans, he's pandering to suburban middle class whites! Just like Collin Powell's appearance at the 2000 RNC convention, this ploy is not aimed at drawing blacks into the GOP base, but drawing in middle class whites who are tempted by the siren song of the Republican platform, but are otherwise loath to be lumped in with a bunch of racists. Quite a dilemma. Hence, Bush making overtures toward addressing racial inequalities, which appeals to soccer moms and office park dads. This is the demographic of people to whom Bush's proposal is being marketed. Everyone wants to make it rich in the stock market; no one wants to be a racist (okay, some people do want to be racists but I'm assuming here that they are an anomalous minority--please note I am distinguishing here between will and behavior--wanting to not be racist and not being racist are two different things).
Responses to Bush's invocation of the race card, a la the Progress Report, subtly decry Bush as racist. They impugn his motives. It's quite easy, I presume, for most African-Americans to believe Bush is a racist. That's why so few voted for him in 2000 and 2004. On the other hand, the label does not stick so easily for suburban middle class whites and their self-disavowed yet latent racism. It's just another partisan attack on the president who is trying to do something just: redressing racial inequality in America. Ultimately, such an "attack" is likely to yield the perverse effect of driving these people to the president's side on this issue. Not only will they be able to gamble payroll tax receipts on the latest stock fad or fraud, but they can feel good about doing it because its making them less racist. So everyone's happy, that is unless your one of those people dying prematurely or who has no money due to structural ineualities. But that's another soundbite.