Dark Chocolate and the Derp Gap

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 4 2014 6:36 PM

Dark Chocolate and the Derp Gap

138083665-house-minority-leader-rep-nancy-pelosi-receives-a-kiss
She knows what he prefers to milk

Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

Earlier today I tweeted the pathetic tale of a Kentucky Democratic strategist who decided the best way to spend her Saturday was challenging the Bluegrass State cred of Sen. Mitch McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao. (As the strategist kept saying, Chao is Asian. This is not actually an impediment to her living in Kentucky.) A Twitterer informed me that "between this and the Pelosi tweet," it was a hell of a day for Democrats and racism.

The Pelosi tweet? I had to click over to Twitchy.com, the conservative site that aggregates Twitter talk, to find out what the Internet was reacting to.

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"As Democrats have reminded everyone on numerous occasions, today is President Obama’s birthday," wrote "Twitchy staff," by way of explanation. "Nancy Pelosi joined the 'happy birthday' parade today perhaps in a way that would have gotten her in trouble if she were a member of a different party. Now just imagine if a Republican said that."

Had a Republican said it, he would have reflected the reality that the Obamas prefer dark chocolate. Like most machines that can connect to Twitter, my computer can connect to a larger Internet, where this fact can be discovered in a few seconds, as in this 2013 tweet from Pelosi.

But as the comment thread from Pelosi's new tweet proves, lots of people assumed 1) that the Democratic leader in the House was making a racial joke (or gaffe) at the president's expense, that 2) the lack of outrage about this suggests that the media protects its own, and that 3) it made more sense to fulminate about the situation than to Google around about it. Between Mo Brooks and Dark Chocolategate, quite the day for projection about racial attitudes.

(More very serious analysis of the Derp Gap can be found here.)

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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