Brian Beutler this morning opines that what Paul Ryan said about "inner city culture" is worse than we think (really?) because maybe Ryan isn't an overt racist; maybe it's worse, maybe he's a covert racist:
But let’s assume Ryan’s playing it straight, and his defenders, like Slate’s Dave Weigel, are correct when they argue that this is just how Ryan and other conservatives “think about welfare’s effects on social norms.” If that’s true, it’s actually a bigger problem for the right. If Ryan was even a little bit aware of how people would interpret his remarks, or understood the reaction to them when it exploded online, we could just say that some conservatives want to play the Southern Strategy at least one more round, and leave it at that. Close the book on this controversy, without drawing any larger conclusions about the state of conservative self-deception.Racism, in other words, is not a matter of intent (which limits it to skinheads and neoNazis and the remaining David Duke's of the world), it's a matter of culture. It's simply a matter of attitude, of presumption, of fundamental thinking. And it's as easy as having a political opinion, or a notion of what public policy should be.
But if Ryan genuinely stumbled heedless into a racial tinderbox then it suggests he, and most likely many other conservatives, has fully internalized a framing of social politics that was to appeal to white racists without regressing to the uncouth language of explicit racism, and written its origins out of the history. If that’s the case it augurs poorly for those in the movement who are trying to broaden the Republican Party’s appeal, because it’s easier to convince people to abandon a poor tactic than to unlearn rotten ideology.
We have met the enemy, and he looks a lot like us.
The beginning of wisdom is the recognition that you are involved in the situation, not just observing it.