Appealing To The Dark Side

Credit where credit is due: Today’s Republican strategists are absolute masters of appealing to the fears, resentments and outright hatreds of their base. A current example is the GOP’s unremitting and very strategic attack on an imaginary critical race theory, or CRT.

There is, of course, an actual scholarly sub-field called Critical Race Theory. It’s a research area pursued almost exclusively by law professors, and it examines the various ways in which racial stereotyping has infected the nation’s legal systems. (Redlining is one example–negative beliefs about Black people were incorporated in housing policies that were discriminatory.) But the target of GOP’s anti-CRT campaign bears little or no resemblance to the real thing.

As the Brookings Institution recently confirmed, the GOP’s war on “divisive topics” has little or no relationship to the study of how racism distorted American legal systems. The bans on teaching “CRT” that have been passed in Red States, ironically, are intended to serve a clearly “divisive” purpose.

Many of these laws were embedded in broader initiatives to address sometimes legitimate parental concerns about public schools’ capabilities to deliver quality educational experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the specific focus on banning the teaching of racial history smacks of political motivation by a party that is trying to ignore this nation’s rising diversity and appeal to its largely white, culturally conservative voter base. In fact, the term “critical race theory”—a much narrower academic framework than what is commonly taught in K-12 courses on American racial history—is intentionally used as a scare tactic to appeal to that base.

Survey research shows that actual parents–as opposed to the GOP’s elderly base–are relatively unconcerned about this manufactured version of CRT.

Surveys taken in Virginia, Florida, and Texas show underwhelming support for banning the teaching of racial history and diversity in public schools among most respondents, including parents. Moreover, a February nationwide CBS poll found that more than eight in 10 Americans oppose banning books that discuss race or slavery from schools, and more than six in 10 believe that teaching about race in America makes students understand what others went through.

This is noteworthy because the demography of the nation’s school children and their parents is distinct from nonparent voters of the traditional Republican base—older white voters, especially those without college educations. Therefore, it is fair to say that the political strategy behind these laws, particularly in rapidly diversifying Republican states, is really intended to appeal to nonparent voters who are fearful of the nation’s changing demography.

Raise your hand if you are shocked by this conclusion…

If demographics are destiny, America’s diversity will eventually prevail: the data shows that children of color are already more than a majority of the nation’s K-12 students. That reality would seem to dictate the need for both white and nonwhite children to become familiar with “all elements—both good and bad—of the nation’s racial and ethnic history.”

Of course, what is reasonable–what a democratic polity requires–is irrelevant to the Republican strategists who are desperately working to delay the inevitable. As the Brookings article puts it,

The recent Republican-initiated state bans on teaching racial history or diversity in schools seem to be targeted to voters who are not parents of school-aged children.

This divide between older white populations on the one hand and younger minorities on the other is emblematic of what I have called the “cultural generation gap.” Older white Americans—especially those fearful of the nation’s changing demography—respond to political messages that favor curtailing immigration, suppressing minority votes, and providing less government support for education or other social service programs targeted to younger, more diverse generations, who they do not see as “their” children.

These voting blocs were on the frontlines of the Trump administration’s “war on demography,” which persists today. A July 2021 Pew Research Center survey showed that 35% of white residents age 65 and older feel that a declining share of white people in the U.S. is either “somewhat” or “very” bad for society, compared with just 5% who think it is either somewhat or very good. Among all residents age 18 to 29, the comparable figures are 13% versus 29%. Moreover, among Republicans age 65 and older, just 18% see increased public attention to slavery and racism in the history of America as somewhat or very good, compared with 54% who believe it to be somewhat or very bad. Among respondents age 18 to 29, the responses are 66% and 16%, respectively.

As I used to tell my students, my generation is leaving them a profoundly messed up country. (I may have used a stronger word than “messed up” to describe the situation…). When my age cohort dies off, I promised them, things will improve.

I just hope we can hang on that long….


  1. Lets hope the government is still working properly when the angry oldsters die off. Now we have the R’s proclaiming that when they next run the senate, NO democratic nominee will be placed on the Supreme Court. They are not even hiding their malice any longer. Bolder and bolder.

  2. It may be so, but the question that remains is what will be left of our democracy, and our natural environment, after we have left the building? That is what I am working for, to leave something of value behind, and to help repair the world from the damage that I and my generation have done.

    I often find comfort in the thought that 10,000 years after the extinction of the human race, it will be as if we were never here. Except for the layer of plastic trash we leave behind…

  3. Here is the problem with wedge topics like race or racism, and abortion. They are social issues used to divide us up in economic matters. They use the women’s and POC’s fears that if they don’t vote for the “preferred Democratic candidate,” they will lose out to the Republicans.

    The oligarchy uses abortion and racism to prevent policies that benefit the people economically. There are many more issues as well. It’s not just the GOP brand using fear, but the DNC also uses it.

    As RussiaGate has fallen apart and Hunter’s laptop is relevant again, it’s pronounced how propaganda is used by both political parties and their media, which means Fox and MSNBC.

    The only truth-tellers now are on Substack, or they are getting censored by publicly-traded media companies. The most gifted truth-teller is in the maximum-security Belmarsh Prison, London, England.

  4. CRT isnt just teaching about race, slavery and history it is a philosophical critical look at those in society that are made rich of the demise of others. The real demise according to many black pastors whether conservative or progressive is the way the government has since the sixties used the black vote. Its destroyed the black family. Also, In 1994 a crime bill was written that put young black men in prison and other politicians that purchased stock in privatized jails . These were the Biden and Clinton families that talked about racial inequality yet wrote laws that used them. Critical theory of any sort according to a UC Berkeley article states it is a look at capitalism itself and the need to restructure society as a whole. The alternative may be more than or equal to democratic socialism that Eastern Europeans not Republicans warn us about.
    Critical Race theory should only be used at the college level to discuss differences in society. While 90% want the true history to be taught they may be against philosophical arguments introduced by politicians for political gain.

  5. “When my age cohort dies off, I promised them, things will improve.”

    Sheila; those words brought to mind the scene in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” when Sidney Pointier was arguing with his father over his marriage to a white girl. He listened to his father’s words and responded, “Not until the weight of you is off our backs will we be free!” Racism is a two-edge sword; like any war, and racism is a form of war, it takes both sides to keep it active. Look at the Academy Awards situation between Chris Rock and Will Smith; Rock has been given a “pass” on his insulting comment about Jada and Will is bearing the brunt of the two-sided attack. Had they both been well known white celebrities; this would have died down quickly. Two wrongs do not make a right; the instigating wrong during the Academy Awards program has gotten lost and Rock is getting wealthier by the day. CRT in the entertainment world on the world stage.

    Looking back I recognize the “white flight” leading to the “creative financing” which put people in homes they couldn’t afford to maintain and the deterioration of entire neighborhoods. Busing played a great part in this action as families moved to where they children had been bused, unaware that the change was temporary and would change again. Cities, including Indianapolis, continue to ignore crumbling infrastructure in declining areas and the “rural right” is now comprised of higher income housing developments (cookie-cutter variety) are maintaining the Republican hold on this state. Miles and miles of now empty acres of once farmland producing crops providing the livelihood for farmers. CRT in action in this 21st Century version of “white flight”.

    Critical Race Theory is only argued as imaginary by the White Nationalist Trump Republicans; CRT is alive and well and continues controlling the government over our slim Democratic hold on the Legislative branch of government. We have our own oligarchs supporting them; primarily Senator Manchin whose strangle hold on the Senate keeps McConnell in power.

  6. Partisan politics cannot control everyone’s access to media. Children are smart. They know when they are being hoodwinked by members of the school board. When they come of age and complete their education away from home, they will make decisions where to settle and best opportunities to provide 21st Century education to prepare for success in a global economy. When I graduated from high school, I left town and never looked back. My hometown has three colleges but the population growth has been most unremarkable. Not surprising.

  7. Let’s see, we have critical race theory, parental rights in education, and the newest item on the agenda is the patient’s rights to have family with them, even if it creates a danger for the patient, the family, or the general public.

    The first says we cannot let little white kids feel bad that the ancestors of their black classmates were owned and abused by their great grandfathers. The second says that we can’t allow teachers to groom kids to be their little sex slaves. The third is basically an “up yours” to Tony Fauci and to the CDC.

    Meanwhile Republicans accuse Democrats of being pedophiles who sacrifice babies, want to set all the murderers free, and bring in notorious gang members from Central and South America and turn them loose on our cities to terrorize old white ladies.

    Find a neutral talking point to start our Kumbaya moment with the right?

  8. I agree, Norris. I met with a very bright Ball State student who realizes he receives a very slanted perception of the world because the school is highly conservative and corrupt.

    He was educating me and filling in the blanks. If the USA doesn’t snap out of it quickly, we will go through some tough years.

    And don’t think death will spare you; it will happen quickly.

  9. As a boomer on the younger side, I really really really resent being classified as a boomer. I didn’t have children and didn’t get a college degree until I was 45. It took that long to find a job that would help me finance the degree as long as I passed the classes. I didn’t have proper health care until I was over 30 and there were gaps of uninsured status after that. And since I am a woman, I had pre-existing conditions and paid higher premiums. I blame all of our current problems on the Reagan administration and Newt Gringrich. They raised taxes, emptied out mental hospitals and fired Union labor. Most of it due to racism and conservatism. I watched everything my parents fought for dissolved in 40 years. Thank goodness covid came around to give the little guy a step up. The minority rule needs to end before it destroys our democracy.

  10. Good posts from Todd.

    Let’s be honest,the Republican Private Apparatus doesn’t have an exclusive provenance on framing a narrative based on fear,resentments and hatreds. The Democratic Party Private Apparatus has its market share as well.

    We’re going to see $7 dollar a gallon fuel and $8 loaves of bread. The US cannot handle what has been done to Venezuela and others. Some could make a cogent argument the US just might get its well deserved comeuppance. It’s amazing the US government looks upon its citizens as subjects,yet speaks great of the peoples of a far away country. The U.S. government will quickly bring MediCare for All to the Ukraine decades before it arrives in the US…And will do so incrementally in the US.

    Things are heating up between Azerbaijan and Armenia. We will have a WWIII. It’s coming. The US will be the pariah for the majority of the world–along with our usual toadies.

    Perhaps this is a necessary period for America’s evolution? Perhaps the US must have a serious and forceful fall from grace for the world to breathe more easily? We are a combative nation and the divisions within the US are widening. What will be the conclusion to such animus? A more eagerness for authoritarianism? We’re seeing this embrace for such from both Republicans and Democrats. Before it all implodes within, a comeuppance upon the world’s most pugilistic haven for millionaires and billionaires and their courtiers from the outside world would be a welcome.

    All empires fall eventually. It is the way of things.

  11. My concern is that the “wackiest” GOP talking points — CRT, pedophilia & Democrats all being in a “cabal” — are becoming more prominent and widely talked about. I watched a very interesting program on PBS the other night, “Stories of Survival: The Holocaust Stories of Magda and George.” Both survivors talked about the gradual demonization of Jews as a group by the Nazis, so that by the time that they started to move people into ghettos and onto cattle cars, the average German was convinced that Jews were indeed evil and needed to be gotten rid of. There was little protest against what was being done by the Nazis. And, hence, the Holocaust. What’s to prevent the same demonization of Democrats who are being lumped together as pedophiles who want to destroy the country through socialism? It seems more and more likely that folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Tucker Carlson and Ron DeSantis will be able to recreate the mass delusion and hatred that leads to atrocities. And since Democrats, as a group, don’t engage in using outrageous lies to garner attention and support, what is our defense? We need more people like the Senator from Hawaii, Brian Schatz, to passionately denounce these GOP “talking points” at every opportunity. Neither Biden or Harris is providing much leadership in that direction. And so continues the “gradual demonization” . . . . . .

  12. Here’s a worry though. There will always be old folks longing for their youth physically and culturally, and it’s pretty easy to come up with brand names like CRT to distort what it is or was to whistle them home with. Nostalgia is pervasive over time even if the details rotate as generations come and go.

  13. Kathy M – I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m at a loss to understand why our Democratic leaders don’t refute some of the insane allegations made against them.

  14. This country really has no moral high ground!

    How many times have we heard, “Never Again?”

    Or, even more hypocritical, “Thoughts and Prayers?”

    Politicians stand around and sling out their self-righteous indignation, or, whatever it may be concerning inhuman treatment of the weak, don’t they?

    Critical race theory might have been a great idea, but all it has been used for is a boogieman that was discovered by wealthy miscreants when they went to law school!

    Recently there’s been some attempted blowback, but why wait till the horse is gone before you attempt to secure the barn door? So, who are really the stupid ones here?

    Christians always love to claim how empathetic they are, how compassionate they are, because they are involved in charity work and such.

    The only reason that works for them, is, it alleviates the conscience! It worked during slavery, it worked during the holocaust, it worked during the Rwanda genocide, it worked in Chechnya, it worked in Eastern European Georgia, it worked in the middle east, and it’s working in the Ukraine!

    Grandiose speeches never accomplish anything! They might make someone feel good for a minute, but, people can’t eat words, words cannot provide shelter, words cannot prevent wholesale slaughter of civilians, words cannot prevent grift and graft.

    But, words do enhance a certain narcissistic quality, a trait of self-righteousness. But, also a trait of con artistry and inaction. This country has a long history of that very thing, that very conduct! This country in which we live is nothing but a Bully in a world full of Bullies! Oil matters much more than human life, oil greases the wheels of the wealthy. In concert with the grandiose speech, we can see how it really is directed at certain groups more than others! We can accuse Middle Eastern countries or African countries as conducting genocidal activities, but do nothing about it unless there’s Oil involved! Then, we can figure out how to bomb the so-called enemy into oblivion!

    We can send billions and even trillions of dollars of weapons and national treasure somewhere else, at the behest of the wealthy! But those living under bridges or viaducts, those who live in tents, those who use a bed in a shelter and then wander the streets all day, there is no money! How many people don’t even eat everyday in this country? Well, I can guarantee you it’s quite a few! Because, I see them everyday.

    If Christians claim they believe in Adam and Eve, that would mean everyone is related, wouldn’t it? So that would mean everyone is family, right? That would mean you should be your brother’s keeper then right? That means you should love your neighbor, wouldn’t it?

    James the 2nd chapter, starting in verse 15, reads;

    If any brothers or sisters are lacking clothing and enough food for the day, yet one of you says to them;, “go in peace keep warm and well fed,” but you do not give them what they need for their body, of what benefit is it? So, too, Faith by itself, without works is dead. Nevertheless, someone will say: “you have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”…….

    “You see that a man IS to be declared righteous by works and not by faith alone…….. Indeed, just as the body without spirit is dead, also faith without works is dead.”

    See? Thoughts and prayers accomplish nothing! It’s your works, it’s your actions, combined with your faith, that can allow you move mountains! Words are words no matter how grandiose! Grandiose speeches just self-aggrandize those making them.

  15. Linda — Thanks
    The problem with “refuting” something is that you can’t prove a negative — you can’t “prove” you’re NOT a pedophile; you can’t “prove” you don’t sacrifice babies and drink their blood (oddly this same allegation was used against Jews). You can’t “prove” the election wasn’t stolen.
    What you can do is ask for proof over and over again and point out how ridiculous the lies are; How massive a cover-up would have to be to carry out all this claimed insanity? Ask people to ask themselves if their Dem relatives and friends (assuming they exist) really have the opportunity and willingness to carry out such debased evil without being found out. Where’s the proof? None of the horses’-asses that hammered Judge Brown-Jackson could “prove” she is soft on podophylla, they just implied it. (Josh Hawley’s record on sentencing recommendations is JUST Like Judge Brown-Jackson’!) Trump has NEVER proved the election was stolen. All of the reputable evidence (massive amounts) proves the contrary. He just says it was every chance he gets.
    Dems need to hammer that point home repeatedly — NO actual proof = Lies =NO guilt
    I hope the people on this blog are taking the time to contact their Democratic legislators about getting off their duffs to promote the TRUTH and congratulating the ones that do. I faxed Senator Schatz to thank him. We need to tell Schumer, Pelosi, Schiff et al to scream loud — that gets media coverage. Jamie Raskin is on the nightly shows a lot decrying the garbage. The others need to do likewise and fast. November will be here before we know it. (I don’t contact my reps here in coastal SC because they are horses’-asses!)

  16. Did not raise my hand!
    Being an old fellow, here, it is a bit comforting to read that the demographic changes will, maybe are already, having a positive impact.
    “Age cohort,” indeed! I was thinking along that line just before getting there. Yes, hanging on that long is the name of the game.

  17. The things leading Republicans are saying they want to do when they get back in power give Democarts plenty of ammunition to do negative advertising about where the Repulbicans want to take, and Democrats should combine that with positive advertising about where they want the country to go. On top of the things that they are directly talking about, we should be talking about all of the things that the Republican Supreme Court would do in undoing all of the laws based on the 14th Amendment, everything from the Bill of Rights applying to state legal actions, to all of the laws that follow from due process and equal protection. This includes everything from gay marriage and abortion rights to the very right to privacy and the Miranda requirements to be advised of your rights before speaking with the police that we all know from all the cop shows

    Professor Kennedy, how about a column on all of the current laws that could go away based on the Supreme Court reinterpreting the 14th amendment?

  18. Speaking of why the upper echelons of the Democratic Party do not speak out against false claims. It almost seems like the party in its current incarnation serves only to play the role as the Washington Generals to the Republicans’ Harlem Globetrotters.

    Also,I don’t know if it’s hubris,ignorance or just simply living in an ivory tower for so long,but it seems as if today’s Democratic Party also serves to willfully deplete all credibility toward good government measures. Real HealthCare being one of them.

  19. Possible ways to bring us together…
    Perhaps some simple realities …framed in language that is easily digested by those who live said realities.
    Example… Food prices over the top. One possible reason might be the stringent policies of current and previous administration(s) that clamped down on borders, thus denying entry into the US by laborers who helped with the planting and harvesting of our food.
    Crops ruined by severe weather damage. Link that thought to climate changes …due in part to intense global use of fossil fuel.
    Any reality that touches the basic foundations of our lives may be more likely understood and acknowledged.
    Finding common ground…and avoiding broad-brush labeling.

    A constant drone of the global problems that seem to many as unsolvable, creates a sense of hopelessness, anger, fear and rejection.

    Being quick to adopt ‘bumper sticker’ slogans with little or no context is counter-productive…case in point… “Defund the police”. Any who function with a working brain cell understands that people who live in high crime areas think it is insane to reduce policing.
    In context, however, there are many reforms needed that can be explained and mutually accepted by the general population..especially those in high crime areas.

    How often I’ve heard those who bandy about the slogans suggest that individuals and groups who are opposed to similar terms ‘should know’ what they imply.
    If ‘they’ don’t, and we do, and, if we think the ideas are necessary, then refrain from using terms that serve no purpose other than to be easily weaponized against those who are defending ‘terms’.
    I don’t think there can be resolutions to issues when the approach is to think in terms of ‘them and/or us’.
    Thinking in terms of ‘We the people’ might be needed by everyone.
    Even imagined pains are real to those who endure them.
    Dismissing concerns and relegating those who are expressing them as ‘less than’ is, in my opinion a dangerous way to achieve any hope of finding solutions.

    short four line poem named Outwitted by Edwin Markham:

    He drew a circle that shut me out-
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
    But love and I had the wit to win:
    We drew a circle and took him in!

  20. Thank you, Sheila, for your promise to the next generation. I’m sorry to tell you that my father made the same promise in the 1960s. He predicted that racism would die out when his father-in-law’s generation did. He would be appalled at the way Civil Rights has instead played out.

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