Again, let's be honest with ourselves. Racism is one of the key building blocks of Republican politics in the United States. Don't look at me with a straight face and tell me you don't realize that's true. That doesn't mean that all Republicans are racists. Far from it. It doesn't mean that a lot of Republicans don't wish the stain wasn't part of their party's recent political heritage. They do. But racism and race-baiting is the hold card Republicans take into every election. When times are good, guys like Mehlman 'reach out' to blacks and Latinos to try to take the edge off their opposition to the Republican officeholders. But when things get rough the card gets played. And pretty much every time.
This is essentially correct. However, I think it lets Republicans off to easy to say that appeals to racism are not necessarily evidence of racism. Racism involves the dehumanization of individuals because of a shared trait. The message of racist appeals is that the Republicans who engage in it believe that their personal advancement is worth the cost of stoking racist sentiments. The concerns of those who are subject to racist attacks are secondary to the concerns of Republicans seeking political power.
Is that not dehumanizing?
Saying that those who appeal to racism aren't necessarily racists may be technically true but it lets them off to easily. I would argue that such cold, political calculation is as bad as, if not even worse than, the underlying racism.
Frankly, I have more respect for an honest racist.