Race neutrality and policy: why I favor it

One of the reasons I am a Democrat is I believe that government can help make its citizen’s lives for the better; for me that includes things like safety nets for those falling on hard times AND stimulus for the economically disadvantaged.

Of course, one doesn’t get the policy that one favors unless those politicians that favor such policies get elected in large enough numbers to pass said policies, and that means winning votes from enough people.

So, how does one “get the votes?”

Given the make up of the US, the important body is the Senate, which gives 2 Senators for each state. This is important.

Now if one wants to pass some race specific policy, say one that specifically benefits Black people, one has to get enough votes to get it through the Senate. An important fact: 15 states have fewer that 5 percent Black people, and 28 have fewer than 10 percent. That represents 30 and 56 Senators respectively. The “Black vote” (which, of course, isn’t 100 percent monolithic anyway) cannot carry much, in and of itself.

And it appears that race neutral remedies are more popular with the public, on the whole. Via Matt Yglesias:

Joe Biden lost Florida this year even while winning the national popular vote by a large margin. That’s a clear sign that this longtime swing state is settling down with a distinctly reddish hue. At the same time, a referendum to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15/hour secured over 60 percent of the vote — a clear sign that this issue appeals across party lines. Polls from Pew and others routinely show 40 percent or more of self-identified Republicans backing minimum wage increases, along with overwhelming support from Democrats.

And the support isn’t just theoretical. In the 2018 cycle, states as red as Missouri and Arkansas approved minimum wage increases at the ballot box.

At the very same time, California’s Proposition 16 — which would have re-legalized affirmative action in college admissions and state contracting decisions — lost soundly in a much more progressive state where less than 40 percent of the population is non-Hispanic white.

Whatever the specific merits of these ideas, the political lesson seems fairly clear. Raising the minimum wage is more popular than the generic Democratic Party brand, while race-conscious admissions and contracting policies are less so.

He goes on to conjecture that perhaps that lesson is NOT learned on college campuses, where racial justice type programs are better received than programs to help the financially poor students. I talked more about this here.

What got me to thinking about this issue was this recent tweet from a professor:

Of course, it is important for policy experts to know the facts; and it doesn’t hurt if the public knows them as well.

But will saying “group A is much poorer than the rest of us” really drive people NOT from that group to back aid to set group?

My guess is “NO”: in the US, there is evidence that the poor and those with lesser levels of achievement are looked down on..possibly with contempt, disgust and disdain:

So pointing out that a group is not doing well might not be helpful in gaining support target to that specific group.

So, I think it would be wise to “market” such programs and policies in a race/group neutral way…and do so in an aspirational way…in terms of previous successful slogans: “Hand up, NOT hand out” and “Yes, We Can.”

Unfortunately, this goes against the grain of the “woke” wing of the party.

I hasten to point out that I am NOT saying that the logic of some of the wokes is faulty: one can point out that, in addition to segregation being legal and enforced IN MY OWN LIFETIME, one can point out practices like “redlining” and making it hard (if not impossible) for Black veterans to benefit from post WW II GI Bill programs directly impacted the current wealth inequality.

Nevertheless, when trying to win support from the majority (or plurality) that isn’t in that group, one has to take into account human psychology and to hit the right emotional tone. Something race neutral that disproportionally helps Black Americans might be more easy to get passed in Congress and signed into law.

It might not seem fair..and it might not BE fair. But policy is what we need and sometimes “by any means necessary” means communicating and packaging helpful policy in a way that does not alienate the voters that we need to have.

Author: oldgote

I enjoy politics, reading, science, running, walking, (racewalking and ultrawalking) hiking, swimming, yoga, weight lifting, cycling and reading. I also follow football (college and pro), basketball (men and women) and baseball (minor league and college)

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