Skip to main content

The Context of Chris Hayes' Racism Quote

Last Saturday, Chris Hayes had Richard Belzer, the actor and comedian on the show, and during and exchange with him, said "It is undeniably the case that racist Americans are almost entirely in one political coalition and not the other." Alex Tabarrok attacked criticized him for that, citing survey data showing equal racist representation in each party, while John Sides added some nuance showing racial resentment weighted more towards Republicans. Kevin Drum has the best case for Chris, I think, saying that while there are surely racists in every party...
[Republicans] tolerate racism in their ranks far more than Democrats do. Bernie Goldberg, a liberal turned conservative, admitted this on air earlier this year when he told Bill O'Reilly, "I am immensely uncomfortable with the bigotry on the right, and I don't care how many people don't like it. I am sick of it." Republicans are also more willing to make political appeals with an anti-minority racial subtext, as Fox News did during its Summer of Hate in 2010, or as Mitt Romney is doing now with his claims that Obama is gutting work requirements for welfare.
For the past 40 years, Republicans have opposed virtually every effort to address racism in the legislative sphere. Politically, this has been suicidal for their standing in the nonwhite community, and it's safe to say that they wouldn't have done this unless there was a corresponding benefit for them among whites. Quite clearly, appealing to white resentment of minorities is an important part of the Republican brand in a way it's not for Democrats, even if plenty of racists still inhabit the Democratic Party.
I agree. What's missing here is the context of the quote. Belzer was not a great fit on the panel, which as usual was talking wonky policy stuff, while he is more of a comedian and polemicist. Belzer changed the subject from Romney's and Ryan's tax returns to start talking about how maybe Romney was bullied into choosing Ryan by the base, and:
Belzer: ...the base, the word is disgusting, they are base—
Hayes: Well, they're human beings.
B: They are human beings, but—
H: They're our fellow citizens, we're just trying to understand them.
B: I mean, but what are the family values? Misogyny, racism, homophobia, warmongering...
H: Well, look, I don't know...
B: That's not hyperbole, Chris, but go ahead.
H: I don't want to get in an argument over the base, but I try to give people the charity that they—
B: Well most people are basically decent, but there's this core of racist elements within that party that is rearing its ugly head and unashamedly race-baiting, and it's disgusting.
H: I will say this: it is undeniably the case that racist Americans are almost entirely in one political coalition and not the other, and that the nature of American politics of the moment.
(Emphasis mine, of course. Find the video here, about 3:30 or so.) Hayes then immediately changed the subject back to Paul Ryan's tax returns.

It was an awkward exchange, and clearly driven by the fact that Belzer (a celebrity entertainer) did not have the policy chops to add anything substantial to the tax discussion, and so waded in and wandered off into the more friendly territory of a random diatribe against the Republican base. Hayes kept trying to head him off, and finally just ended the conversation with the line in question.

It is the case that appealing to white racial resentment has been part of Republican political strategy for more than a generation. It's tapered off somewhat in the last 15-20 years, but it used to be front and center. But regardless of which party the racists are in, we should acknowledge that this line came out of an exchange where Hayes was defending the Republican base's basic humanity against Belzer's broad stereotyping.


  1. In 1976, Ronald Reagan described the "welfare queen" who drove to the welfare office in her Cadillac and collected $150,000 a year in public aid. And even though she was never identified, we all know what race she was.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept , which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito ), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects. Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017 , where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually b

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard , a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here ). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment. When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves tha

Caffeine Is Not a Bioweapon

I got into a discussion with Yves Smith about caffeine here , and somehow my comment got eaten, so I'd like to finish it up here. She said about this Raw Story piece about a girl who allegedly died from drinking two Monster drinks in two days, "The FDA lapse here is terrible. Caffeine is extremely toxic. We just happen to get highly diluted doses in coffee and tea." I commented: Yves, your implication about caffeine is incorrect on several levels. Most Monster drinks have about 10 mg of caffeine per fluid ounce, which is much less than even drip coffee (18 mg/oz) and WAY less than espresso (51 mg/oz). ( Source ) The whole idea of dilution is misguided in any case. The relevant measurement for caffeine intoxication (and most poisoning generally) is the total amount taken, not the concentration. Concentration is something to worry about, as it can make a lethal dose easier to take on, but the main concern there is pure caffeine pills, not energy drinks which are mostl