Tell us something we don’t know.
Maybe that’s an ungenerous way to respond to a study on an important social issue by a respected, nonpartisan think tank. But, if you’ve been paying any attention at all, that may be your instinctive reaction to last week’s report from the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute quantifying that Republicans, as a corporate body, are the most racist folks there are.
In other news, water is necessary for life, and Aretha Franklin was a pretty good singer.
Indeed, it’s amusing — or maybe “appalling” is the better word — to note that the report was issued only days after a white man appointed by Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis as a commissioner in the state’s only majority-Black county, abruptly resigned when pictures surfaced that seemed to show him wearing the white robe and pointy hood of the Ku Klux Klan. It also came just after Rolling Stone, citing “Confidence Man,” New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s new book about Donald Trump, reported an episode in which the 45th president, while hosting a reception for congressional leaders, “turned to a row of racially diverse Democratic staffers” and asked them to bring the hors d’oeuvres.
In other words, an ordinary week for the GOP.
The study used 11 questions to tease out respondents’ racial attitudes and construct what it called a “Structural Racism Index” scale. The median score on that scale, which runs from 0 to 1, was 0.45. For Democrats, it was 0.27, for independents, 0.45. But for Republicans, it leaped to 0.67. In fact, no matter how they diced up the respondents by party and race, no other group ranked nearly as high. “Republicans” and “white Republicans” — terms that are functionally redundant — tied for the lead. In second place at 0.58? “Republicans of other races.”
Again, this is hardly shocking. From the party’s scramble to keep Black people from voting, to its performative cruelty toward South American refugees, to its embrace of the most brazenly racist president since Woodrow Wilson, Republican bigotry has long been self-evident.
It is past time for the rest of us to face it, yet one still hears people, even at this late date, even in the face of multiple studies to the contrary, ascribe its descent into its current madness to economic stress. But that just ain’t so.
They have become what they are specifically because some of us are panicked at the thought of Black people, brown people, LGBTQ people, Muslim people and other historically disfavored people coming to visibility and power, and the GOP realized that catering to that resentment was a way to win votes. And also because there is no principle they will not abandon in doing so.
Muscular foreign policy? They make kissy faces at totalitarian regimes.
Support for law enforcement? Not when the laws are being enforced against Trump.
Street riots? They hate them — unless the street is Pennsylvania Avenue and the rioters are MAGA.
The one principle they will not compromise is the protection of straight, white hegemony. That’s why, in the words of a satirical old Randy Newman song, “keepin’ the (expletive) down” is pretty much the whole Republican platform. This is something the rest of us need to face promptly and squarely if we are to have any hope of understanding — much less fixing — what’s wrong with this country. What the PRRI report quantified is damning and sad, yes. But here’s one thing it isn’t.
It isn’t surprising in the least.
Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172. Readers may write to him via email at [email protected] His opinion does not necessarily represent the views of The Lima News or its owner, AIM Media.