I'll let Josh Barro, whose conservative credentials are impeccable, say what I have struggled to comprehend about race and the right and this campaign:
There has been a clear strategic calculation here among Republican elites. Better to leverage or at least accept the racism of much of the Republican base than try to clean it up. I remember a moment in the 2008 campaign where John McCain argued with a voter who said that Obama was “an Arab.” This time around, either the candidates don’t care about standing up to racial misconceptions or have decided they can’t afford to.And at that, I'll let go of this thread.
And on a more substantive policy issue, you have Gingrich’s rejection of the idea that there is even a racial matter to discuss in the Martin case. You don’t have to assume that George Zimmerman is guilty of murder (Julian Sanchez has a good piece on this) to recognize that Trayvon Martin would likely to be alive today if he were white.
The question of what to do about that is complicated, but it’s clearly a public policy concern. Instead, Gingrich commits an error that is common on the Right—jumping from the fact that race relations have improved to a claim that black Americans no longer have special policy concerns worth discussing.
It’s disgraceful that Gingrich would call bringing up Trayvon Martin’s race disgraceful. It also undermines everything else that conservatives say about race, no matter how valid. How are Republicans supposed to be taken seriously when they say they understand black Americans’ policy needs when Newt Gingrich is spouting nonsense like this?
My challenge to conservatives who feel they get a bum rap on race is this. Stand up for yourself and your colleagues when you feel that a criticism is unfair. At the same time, criticize other conservatives who say racist things, cynically tolerate racism in the Republican base, or deny the mere existence of racial issues in America today. The conservative movement desperately needs self-policing on racial issues, if it ever hopes to have credibility on them. [More worth reading]