SAN DIEGO – Conservatives hate it when people toss around the word “racist” to end an argument when they seemingly don’t have anything else to say.
I always assumed that the reason for this frustration was that those on the right were tired of having that word hurled at them because of their clumsy handling of issues ranging from immigration to affirmative action to police brutality.
But it turns out the real reason that conservatives bristle when others use the word “racist” is because they want a monopoly. They want to be the only ones who get to use the word to end an argument when they seemingly don’t have anything else to say.
I guess they decided: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Apparently, those on the right – including many supporters of President Donald Trump – are not so worried about being honest, logical or consistent.
Not when discussing victimhood. Take my old friend, radio host Larry Elder, who I met nearly 25 years ago when we both hosted night-time shows for ABC Radio in Los Angeles.
I love it when he bashes “victo-crats.” Too many Americans refuse to take responsibility for their actions, so they use the actions of others as excuses. But I’d love it even more if Elder were an equal opportunity basher. Nowadays, conservative white men claim to be victimized by everything from racial preferences to illegal immigration to trade deals to political correctness.
Conservatives are no more honest and no more consistent when sorting out who is, or isn’t, a racist.
That’s the lesson I learned recently from watching another old friend from the media, Tucker Carlson, as he attempted to rummage through current events without tripping over his tongue.
The Fox News host ferociously attacks other people for daring to call someone else “racist.” It has become his signature move.
He used it recently. It all started after White House chief of staff John Kelly accurately described Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., as “empty barrels” that make noise, and Wilson responded by calling the phrase “racist.”
This counterpunch was predictable and dumb. But it wasn’t really credible enough to be offensive.
The offense came when another prime-time cable host, albeit with fewer viewers than Carlson has every night – MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell – piled on Kelly. He also suggested the former Marine Corps general was racist and went so far as to blame said racism on Kelly’s upbringing in segregated Boston.
No word on whether O’Donnell, himself an Irish Democrat, thinks growing up in Boston also made racists out of that most famous Irish-American family: The Kennedys. Stay tuned for that.
Not to be left out, O’Donnell’s fellow MSNBC host, Joy Reid, got in on the act by tweeting that her network colleague had “scorched” the former general for his unpardonable “dehumanization of a black woman.”
Gosh, liberals are such nice people, aren’t they? Salt of the Earth.
Anyway, Carlson wasn’t having any of it. On his show, he mocked both Wilson as yet “another disgraced politician alleging yet more fake bias crimes to hide her own failures” and called Reid’s tweet “grotesque.”
“The morons making the arguments are sick,” Carlson said deep into sermon mode. “It’s a symptom of disease to imagine racism behind every disagreement. It’s also, by the way, the death of traditional political debate.”
Those comments are spot-on. Which is why I wish someone else had made them.
You see, by his own definition, Carlson is himself a tad diseased and helping to kill what he calls traditional political debate. How? By shamelessly throwing around the word “racist” when he gets stumped by a concept or guest and doesn’t have the intellectual juice to get un-stumped.
Last month, I was invited onto his show to discuss a column in which I suggested that – after the Las Vegas massacre by Stephen Paddock, a white male who stockpiled high-powered weapons – it was time for law enforcement to profile white males who stockpile high-powered weapons.
To Carlson, this was anti-white racism. In fact, he called me a “racist” about a half-dozen times during the enchanted four minutes we spent together. So he criticizes others for using a word that he himself reserves the right to use – and to do so, if you’ll pardon the expression, liberally.
This only feeds my contention that – on matters related to race, and maybe a few others – white men get to play by their own set of rules.
What can I say? It’s good to be the king.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.