Ordinarily we might expect to hear talk of a "war on whites" from those on the radical fringes of American society. When the phrase comes from a sitting member of Congress, the rhetoric is far more alarming. Sam Levine reported yesterday:
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) doesn't think that the hardline stance Republicans have taken on immigration could hurt the party's standing with Hispanic voters. Instead, he thinks Democrats are hurting their prospects with white voters."This is a part of the war on whites that's being launched by the Democratic Party. And the way in which they're launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else," he said during an interview Monday with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. "It's part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, greed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things. Well that's not true."
On its face, the notion that President Obama ran a deliberately divisive campaign seems bizarre, since Obama's entire raison d'etre has always been the exact opposite. ("There's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.... We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.") It's almost as if the congressman hasn't actually been paying close enough attention for the last decade.
But even putting that aside, a "war on whites"? In the eyes of the Alabama Republican, white people are somehow the victim of Democratic aggression?
Laura Ingraham gave the congressman a chance to walk it back, explaining to Brooks that characterizing Democrats as having launched a "war on whites" seemed "a little out there." The GOP lawmaker didn't care, responding, "That's what they are doing though.... They're playing the race card."
Actually, no, that's not even close to what they're doing.
For Brooks, there's a root grievance: the Republican Party is going to often-ridiculous lengths to alienate minority communities, making the GOP smaller, more homogeneous, and less diverse. If Democrats notice, the argument goes, then they're waging a "war on whites," by "claiming that whites hate everybody else."
Can Brooks point to a single example of a Democratic official saying white people hate non-white people? So far, he's offered no such evidence.
For that matter, given that white people represent over 77% of the American population, and represent the majority in 46 out of 50 states, it's not at all clear why, exactly, Democrats would be eager to launch such a "war." Brooks' on-air comments never got around to exploring motivations; maybe he thinks Dems started this "war" by mistake. (There were rumors whites had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction....)
Or maybe it's like the "war on Christmas" -- a hidden conflict one needs a conservative decoder ring to see.
Pressed for an explanation, Brooks stuck to his guns, insisting he's not the racist; he's simply calling out others who are racists.
"I'm one of those who does not believe in racism and I believe everyone should be treated equally as American citizens," he told local press. "It's high time folks started calling out the Democrats for their racial appeals. Certainly if you were to flip the coin and a white person were to say vote for me because I'm white, it would be an uproar and deservedly so. So why do we allow blacks to say vote for me because I'm black or Hispanics vote for me because I'm Hispanic? Race is immaterial, and everybody ought to be treated the same."
Apparently, if Republicans pursue a racially divisive policy agenda -- imposing severe voting restrictions on minority communities, for example, while demanding mass deportations -- Democrats are allowed to take the opposite side, but they're not allowed to mention the racial aspect of the GOP proposals.
And if they do, they're waging a "war on whites."
In theory, these are the kind of remarks that would tarnish, if not irreparably harm, a politician's career, but Brooks has very little to worry about -- his Alabama district is ruby red, and this fall, Democrats won't bother to run a candidate against him.
That said, I suspect we haven't heard the last of this quote. Indeed, I wonder if other congressional Republicans might be willing to answer a simple question: do you agree with Rep. Mo Brooks that there's a war against white people being launched by Democrats?