Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Richard Cohen Interracial Marriage Non-Troversy

A somewhat big political news story yesterday was a pile of baloney. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, a cranky old fart who regularly says stuff to get people going crazy, wrote a column about why Ted Cruz (or someone of his douchebaggy ilk) will beat Chris Christie in Iowa in 2016. Frankly, the fact that Chris Christie will do poorly with tea party voters in rural states is obvious. Can he be the 2016 GOP nominee? Who knows. Ask me in early 2016, when it actually is something you might intelligently guess. So this November 2013 column should just be another boring turd of irrelevant opinion everyone can avoid.

But to spice up the turd, Cohen inserted an awkwardly worded claim that conservatives hate gay marriage. Wait, did i say gay marriage? No, I meant interracial marriage.

Gawker article

Today's GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn't look like their country at all.

So this has generated a ton of stories about Cohen being racist (which seems dumb because he's not referring to himself and his own views). Its also generated a bunch of claims that conservatives don't actually oppose interracial marriage.


So, Cohen's trolling got the clicks and news coverage he hoped for, I guess.

The reality of his claim -- assuming we can ever understand what he means -- is a bit more complicated. It wasn't until 1997 that a majority of Americans said that they supported gay marriage. 1997! By 2011, Gallup found 86% approval, but the approval rating in the South was a bit lower at 79% (Midwest was 86%). It was also 79% among "conservatives", 77% among Republicans, and only 66% among those over 65. You look at these numbers a bit, and you can suspect its indeed possible that a majority of tea party republicans in some regions of the country are opposed to interracial marriage. To wit, a 2011 poll of Mississippi Republicans found that 46% thought interracial should be "illegal", and Sarah Palin had a high net favorable rating of +17 among those people as compared to those who thought interracial marriage should be legal.

Ultimately I don't think Cohen was even saying a "majority" of conservative republicans oppose interracial marriage. He is suggesting they do accept it, even if it makes them uncomfortable. BUT, there is no interracial couple running for the GOP nomination, so why he would focus on this issue is wholly unclear. Chris Christie is simply less "conservative" on many issues that tea partiers care about, that is his problem, not interracial marriage. Cohen's analogy of interracial marriage was more awkward than insane.


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