House Democrats received training this week on how to address the issue of race to defend government programs, according to training materials obtained by The Washington Examiner.
The prepared content of a Tuesday presentation to the House Democratic Caucus and staff indicates that Democrats will seek to portray apparently neutral free-market rhetoric as being charged with racial bias, conscious or unconscious.
In her distributed remarks, Maya Wiley of the Center for Social Inclusion criticized "conservative messages [that are] racially 'coded' and had images of people of color that we commonly see used" and proposed tactics for countering the Republicans' (presumably) racially-coded rhetoric.
According to Wiley's group's website, "right-wing rhetoric has dominated debates of racial justice – undermining efforts to create a more equal society, and tearing apart the social safety net in the process" for over 25 years. Wiley had been invited to run the Democrats "through their strategy and how they message and talk about stuff" pertaining to race and fiscal policy, a staffer for Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., explained.
As samples of race-coded rhetoric, Wiley reminded the Democrats of statements by Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Of Gingrich's famous comment about President Obama, her distributed remarks note, "Calling a Black man 'the food stamp president' is not a race-neutral statement, even if Newt Gingrich did not intend racism."
But the threshold for what constitutes racially charged messaging is not always so high. One of Santorum's cited comments was: "Give them more food stamps, give them more Medicaid is the administration's approach, rather than creating jobs." She also cited this comment from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., about raising taxes to fund government programs: "I've never believed that you go raise taxes on those that are paying in, taking from them, so that you just hand out and give them to someone else."
Wiley, who did not respond to the Examiner's inquiries yesterday, offered this warning to Democrats about talking to "someone [who] opposes racial justice" but could support Democratic policies: "Don't make the mistake of telling them they're in the problem. It's emotional connection, not rational connection that we need."
To that end, Wiley proposed the use of "race explicit" anecdotes to illustrate problems like the economic crisis. "Explain how each racial group is affected (recognize the unique pain of each group), but start with people who are White," she wrote in her distributed remarks. "Then raise racial disparities." For example, she offered the line: "Homeownership is the American Dream. It hurts the same to lose your home if you're White, Asian, Latino or Black."
Wiley urged Democrats to appeal to "white swing voters while building support among voters of color." She explained that Democratic outreach to white voters needs to communicate that "people of color are in pain and it's the same pain I, as a White person, would or do feel. It's [about] humanizing people of color."