September 17, 2013 – Joan Walsh, editor-at-large of Salon.com and a political analyst for MSNBC, spoke to the Shorenstein Center about racial change and political polarization. “When politics gets almost completely racialized…and race gets thoroughly politicized,” she said, “it’s trouble for a country that was founded on E pluribus unum, and that has believed the core of American exceptionalism, in my mind, is the ability to bring people together.” Race is an example of how “we haven’t been able to pull together” as a country, she said.
Facing “demographic extinction,” Walsh said, some Republicans have attempted to reach out to non-white voters—“but [those Republicans] are losing the battle so far.” Yet among Democrats and liberals, she pointed out, there has been a “tone of exclusion [among the] Obama coalition,” which Ronald Brownstein of the National Journal calls the “coalition of the ascendant”—young people, minorities and college-educated women—and not blue-collar white voters or college-educated men.
To promote discussion on this topic, Walsh wrote an article in Salon in April, controversially titled “How to talk about white people,” which drew a flood of critiques, comments and outrage. And while she understands that “it’s tough to talk about white people,” Walsh argues that it is important, and “we need to try.” Nolan Bowie, adjunct lecturer at the Kennedy School, agreed with Walsh, and said that “we tend to avoid talking about race…but talking about it is part of the solution.”
Article and photo by Janell Sims, Shorenstein Center.