While settling in to my seat to get my morning cup of coffee, I spoke with a friend that frequents the coffee shop as well. As we exchanged pleasantries, I asked him if he had heard about the piece Richard Cohen wrote, that has earned him the scorn of many of the Liberals You Follow on Twitter. My friend, a fellow Black man, read the offending original paragraph from Cohen’s column, and shared with me a surprising analysis: he actually understood what Cohen was trying to say, and agreed with him completely.
Let’s go over Richard Cohen’s piece again, but with a twist:
Today’s GOP insists is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party.Instead they declare that it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional conservative views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.
The above is the offending paragraph, containing in bold three simple edits I added to it. When considering the rest of what Cohen was trying to convey in his column, these edits give the piece way more continuity, and correctly brings home the truth Cohen told about the bigoted ethnocentrism of the Right writ large. As a former conservative familiar with the voting patterns and fanatical fervor of the base of the Republican Party, Cohen was absolutely right: Chris Christie does not stand a chance in the 2016 presidential primary, so long as the man who shut the government down (Ted Cruz) and a plagiarist (Rand Paul) still dominate the conversation about possible presidential candidates.
Perhaps if Fred Hiatt, Cohen’s editor, had done a better job of checking through this piece for any type of flow errors (which he admitted he did not), calls for his forced retirement from everyone from Ana Marie Cox, The Huffington Post, Salon and the piece’s comment thread would never have happened. Ta-Nehisi Coates was mistaken in his polemic when he commented that this was not a matter of a breakdown in reading comprehension; not only was it a breakdown, it also shows how people can selectively read things to pick out the most offensive parts, especially when Cohen has written pieces that have offended on more than one occasion.
For my part, I respectfully decline to join with the liberal orthodoxy on this one in demanding Cohen’s ouster. While no doubt an offensive paragraph, I agree that calling for someone’s job because over a disagreement is completely unnecessary, especially with other major journalistic institutions actually peddling in lies and outright deceit. Cohen has said that he was attempting to show what the Right believes, and with much to support his statement these days, I am inclined to take him at his word on this matter.