Mistaken Identity

August 2003
New Republic;8/11/2003-8/18/2003, Vol. 229 Issue 6, p6
Conservatives in the United States have spilled a lot of ink denouncing two interrelated cultural trends. First, racial separatism--the abandonment of the civil rights ideal of integration; second, identity politics--the basing of political claims on racial, gender, or religious status. Around the time of the 1990 census, the Republican Party forged an unholy alliance with civil rights groups: Both would support an interpretation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that forced states to create majority black (or Hispanic) congressional districts wherever possible. The result was more black members of Congress and more Republican members of Congress--since, stripped of their Democratic-leaning black constituents, many white Democratic congressmen fell to Republican challengers. While the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 2003 favors integrated districts, the White House and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay do not. The Republican Party has fallen in love with racial separatism as well as identity politics. Since President George W. Bush took office, congressional Democrats have proved surprisingly effective in blocking his most conservative nominees to the federal courts. Democrats are doing the same thing with hard-right Alabama federal court nominee William Pryor Junior. Pryor is white and male. Democrats dislike Pryor's views on abortion and gay rights--they do not care whether he came to those views through Catholicism, Judaism, or by reading Edmund Burke.


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