Opinion
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) makes remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) makes remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler  

Advice from a liberal: 4 things conservatives must do to be taken seriously on poverty

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Bill Scher
Senior Writer, Campaign for America's Future
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      Bill Scher

      Bill Scher is the Senior Writer at Campaign for America's Future and the author of "Wait! Don't Move To Canada!: A Stay-and-Fight Strategy to Win Back America." He is a columnist for TheWeek.com, and the co-host of The DMZ with the Daily Caller's Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads.tv. He has been published by the New York Times, The New York Daily News and The New Republic, and has made appearances on CNN, MSNBC and NPR among other TV and radio outlets.

It doesn’t seem fair. Rep. Paul Ryan sticks his neck out to talk about poverty, and gets accused of a “racial attack” by a fellow member of Congress. Then that liberal rag Politico headlines “Is Paul Ryan Racist?”

Meanwhile, nobody played the political correctness card when President Obama launched the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative geared toward helping impoverished boys and men of color. Why is it only conservatives who get attacked for racism when discussing the root causes of poverty?

Well, you conservatives can cry “liberal media,” “political correctness,” and “double standard” all you want. But you may have noticed that you’ve been blaming others for some time and it’s not getting you very far.

Whatever merit your charges may have, the fact remains that conservatives have a perceived credibility problem when it comes to poverty, particularly as it relates to race. Until you take steps to fix it, no speech, interview, or report is going to solve it.

Have no fear! I am a liberal, and I am here to help.

No, I’m not going to say you must renounce conservatism and embrace a slew of Big Government liberal ideas to buy good graces from the liberal media. But if you ever want to convince anybody we can solve poverty on the cheap, you will need to show the public a different face and a different attitude.

Here are four critical steps conservatives can take to earn the credibility they need to be taken seriously on poverty, without dipping into the federal treasury.

1. Attack Racists. A Lot.

Part of your problem is whenever any conservative is accused of racism, your impulse is to defend them on the grounds of political correctness. In other words, you are prioritizing combatting political correctness over ending racism. That’s no way to show you care about ending racism!

Instead, you should become the bounty hunters of racism. You should be scouring right-wing media looking for opportunities to pounce. Whenever a Ted Nugent accuses the Obama administration of instigating a “the power struggle between the different races,” or a Megyn Kelley says that Santa can’t be black, or an Ann Coulter laments the “browning of America,” you should be merciless.

Commence the public shaming. Rush to MSNBC, CNN and Fox News. Pressure advertisers to drop columns by the race-baiters. Demand all Republican Party campaign committees cut off all funding to candidates that appear with any offender. Above all, mean business.

You will be stigmatizing racism in a way that will be effusively applauded and sincerely appreciated, shattering your bad reputation without changing your ideology and policy positions one iota.

2. Stop Pretending The Republican Party Didn’t Used To be Racist.

Another reason why the Republican protestations about race fall flat is they refuse to come clean about their own history, and constantly twist and omit history to claim Democrats are more deserving of the racist label.

Yes, yes, I know, I know. There were segregationist Democrats and progressives. President Woodrow Wilson segregated the federal workforce. Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive Party turned its back on southern blacks. FDR failed to stand up to the segregationists in his party on an anti-lynching law. There were Southern Democrats who tried to filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which most Democrats and Republicans in Congress supported. Yes, until his death in 2010 there was a Senate Democrat named Harry Byrd who once was in the Ku Klux Klan.

But when Republicans rattle off those factoids, and whitewash all of the other ones — about how liberal Democrats eventually won the intra-party battle with the Dixiecrats starting with Harry Truman’s 1948 civil rights package and Hubert Humphrey’s victorious flight to put in the party platform, how Dixiecrats were in league with conservatives like Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley to oppose certain civil right legislation, how many of those Dixiecrats became Republicans after the 1964 act passed (whereas Byrd stayed a Democrat and renounced the KKK and his past views) and how Republican leaders then embraced the “Southern Strategy” to win votes based on racist appeals — it reveals an aversion to taking responsibility and making amends.