Daily Beast's Tomasky: 'Democrat' Racism is a 'Fantasy;' Minimizes Sharpton, Reid's Remarks

Michael Tomasky chided conservatives in a Monday item on Daily Beast for connecting L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his reportedly racist comments to the Democratic Party, playing up that Sterling's political affiliation is not "established fact at this point," as it is "based on two political contributions he made many moons ago" (Michael Hiltzik of the L.A. Times discovered Sterling's Republican registration several hours after Tomasky published his item).

Tomasky used the controversy as a jumping off point to downplay examples of racism/racial insensitivity from Democrats, such as past remarks by Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Harry Reid, as their political party has supposedly improved the lot of racial minorities:

...Conservatives love to point to those two remarks, and I'm certainly not defending them. But here's the contextual difference that conservatives either can't understand or won't concede. Biden and Reid both have long, long histories of supporting the Voting Rights Act, affirmative action, civil-rights expansions, a view of the Constitution that endorses a broad interpretation of the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment...Likewise Bill Clinton, who made some dubious comments in the heat of the 2008 primaries, like telling Ted Kennedy that "a few years ago, [Obama] would be getting our coffee." A horrible statement, but one made by an ex-president with a long record of backing civil rights (and at a time when they were under pretty stern assault from Newt Gingrich's House of Representatives).

This is something conservatives don't understand. Or rather, they understand it—but they can't acknowledge it. They can't acknowledge this larger context of Democratic support for the things that have mostly improved black people's lives and Republicans' almost total opposition to them since at least the 1980s....

The liberal writer led his item, "Donald Sterling and the Neverending Fantasy of 'Democrat' Racism," by noting that his "Twitter feed yesterday was full of clucking conservatives challenging me to write about the Donald Sterling situation, or daring me to, or wagering that I would maintain a hypocritical silence in the face of this clear 'proof' that Democrats are just as racist as Republicans." He acknowledged that these conservatives "have a fair point—just one—in that I do agree that having written several times lately about racism within the ranks of the Republican Party, it would be bad form of me not to write about Sterling," but then continued with his claim that Sterling's Democratic affiliation wasn't "established fact at this point."

Tomasky spent the following three paragraphs minimizing the political donations the Clippers owner made more than a decade ago, asserting that they "hardly make him some kind of Sheldon Adelson of the left" and that "his contribution history actually proves rather little. Besides, people change their political views over time." He soon added that "say for the sake of this column that he is a Democrat. What would it prove? I think it's quite clear what it would prove: There's one racist Democrat in American public life, who doesn't even have anything to do with politics beyond a few many-year-old contributions. Find me another. And I mean a real, serious racist who's said real, seriously racist things."

While Tomasky cited Biden, Reid, and Clinton, the Daily Beast columnist brushed them aside as not "real, seriously racist." What he glosses over, of course, is that if a prominent Republican/conservative figure had said such things, they would have made national headlines.

Moreover, there are more than a few examples of other prominent liberals/Democrats making equally insensitive or worse remarks. Just four months earlier, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry had to apologize for a panel that mocked Mitt Romney's adopted black grandchild. Back in April 2012, former Washington, DC mayor and current city councilman Marion Barry was caught in a racial firestorm, after he ripped Asian-American small businesses in black neighborhoods and Filipino immigrant nurses working in local hospitals.

Tomasky did later make a reference to Al Sharpton's racist past, but minimized his bigotry by comparing it to the actions of a notorious segregationist:

...There's a second aspect to the right-wing fantasy narrative on racial prejudice, which is its complete decoupling of prejudice from economic or political power. That is to say, they know deep down that real racism (white on black) has scarred millions of American lives over many decades, as blacks have been denied opportunities by whites who owned and ran things. But again, they can't acknowledge this aspect of the damage that racism has done. So they turn racism into a mere personal attribute, thereby divorcing it from any notion of political power. Once you've defined racism this way, then Al Sharpton can be as big a racist as Bull Connor. Now, I am a long way from being a Sharpton apologist. Ask Sharpton himself what he thinks of what I was writing about him during the 2001 New York mayoral campaign. But Bull Connor he never was and never will be.

Of course, the Daily Beast writer omitted that Connor himself was a Democratic politician.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan was a news analyst at Media Research Center