Most weeks, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich speaks with contributor Alex Carp about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week, the magazine asked him about the politicization of the Baltimore riots, Supreme Court oral arguments on same-sex marriage, and writers’ protests of Charlie Hebdo.
onservative reaction to the unrest in Baltimore sometimes looks like a page out of the old “silent majority” playbook. The right has so far blamed the crisis on unions, welfare, single-parent families, Democrats, the “animalism” of Baltimore residents, and President Obama. Is there a political agenda taking root to exploit this crisis in 2016?
If there is, the country is going to pay a huge price. To exploit urban riots as a wedge issue, as Richard Nixon did in 1968, is to pour gasoline on the flames. And there is reason to fear it is already happening. At the crudest level — as Larry Wilmore graphically demonstrated on Comedy Central last night — we have the spectacle of Fox News commentators falling over themselves to repeat the name of one particular Baltimore gang, the Black Guerrilla Family, over and over. (Such other Baltimore gang names as the Bloods and the Crips just don’t cut it anymore if you are in the scaring-whites business.) At the more serious level, we have a lead columnist in this morning’s New York Post all but wishing that New York might become “another Baltimore” so that blame can be placed on its Democratic mayor and the Democrats in general.
Then we have Rand Paul, who in an interview with the conservative radio host Laura Ingraham yesterday, joked that he was “glad the train didn’t stop” in Baltimore when he passed through it this week. Remember Rand Paul? This is the one Republican presidential hopeful who has been making a point of reaching out to African-Americans. He doesn’t seem to realize that not stopping in Baltimore is exactly the problem for him and his peers. Speaking as someone who has family there and has spent good chunks of the past four years there, I can join the many who attest that any national politician who didn’t know the despair in this city, 40 miles from Washington, was simply in a bubble, sleepwalking, or didn’t give a damn.
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