This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.
Those of you unfortunate enough to watch more than 30 seconds of Hardball with Chris Matthews have likely learned that the host, and the American left-wing in general, has a peculiar obsession with racism. It is not an exaggeration to say that “Republican racism” has been a major theme (if not the major theme) of his show for the past seven years. In his latest rant, he concludes that Republican opposition to President Obama, from Day One, is largely explained by racism. In his own toxic words: “The age of Jim Crow managed to find a new habitat in the early 21st Century Republican Party.”
In 21st Century America, accusing somebody of racism is one of the most odious charges one can bring. And though Mr. Matthews clearly does not understand this, our dedicated readership knows fully well that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. So, is there extraordinary evidence to conclude that today’s Republican Party is motivated primarily by racism?
No, not at all.
In my opinion, the best way to determine what a person’s true feelings are toward another race is to ask him about interracial marriage. It is very difficult to claim that a person is racist if he believes that marrying a person of another race is perfectly acceptable. As it turns out, polling data from Gallup in 2011 exists on this very question, broken down by age, region, and political party. (See chart. Note that there is an updated Gallup poll from 2013, but this poll did not break down the data by political party.)
A few points stand out: (1) Interracial marriage is approved nearly unanimously by millennials; (2) People over 65 are sort of racist, but elderly racists are still outnumbered 2-to-1; (3) The supposedly racist South overwhelmingly approves of interracial marriage; (4) Self-identified Republicans overwhelmingly approve of interracial marriage (77%), but more self-identified Democrats approve of it (88%).
The 11-point gap between Republicans and Democrats hardly proves that the Republican Party is the new home of Jim Crow, as Mr. Matthews puts it. Though I do not have access to the original data, I would suggest that the primary predictor of whether a person is racist is age, not political affiliation.
This notion is further supported by two facts: First, the elderly are more likely to vote Republican than Democrat. (Importantly, many of those elderly Republican voters once voted Democrat. The Gallup article notes, “Seniors move from a reliably Democratic to a reliably Republican group.”) Second, racism is practically non-existent among millennials. (Notably, apre-election poll by Harvard in 2014 showed that among “definite” voters, 51% of millennials preferred a Republican Congress.)
Thus, the data strongly suggests that racism is NOT an ideological phenomenon, but an old person phenomenon.
Instead of poisoning our public dialogue with baseless accusations, it would be nice if more talking heads spoke responsibly and backed up their opinions with facts. Sadly, that simply may be asking too much of them.