Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Playing The Racist Long Enough Will Actually Make You A Racist


Mona Charen, a third-rate right-wing hack from the '80s, reared her head last night to implore Michael Steele to go-- and go quietly. "Go quietly" means stop telling everyone that the GOP is a racist party and that no one likes you because you're black. "Now," now pontificates wealthy, Jewish Mona, "with Voyeur making all the comedians’ monologues, Michael Steele is suggesting that he, like President Obama, is held to higher standards because he is black. It’s possible that some people are more judgmental about him because he’s black, but it’s undeniable that many people are inhibited from voicing their dissatisfaction with him for the same reason... At this moment, the Republican party needs more than ever to present a sober, serious, and ethical face to the public. Voyeur was the last straw. It would be an unselfish gesture for Steele to step aside."

OK, everyone has known that the Party of Lincoln was captured by Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Phil Gramm-- all former segregationist Democrats-- in the 1970s. And everyone knows that upwards of 90% of African-Americans vote for Democrats. The problem is, at least in the mind of elderly Republicans, that suburban moderates don't like racism. I'm guessing most of them are also already voting for Democrats. In fact, the new post-Mona Charen era Republicans barely even make much of an effort to hide what they are. In fact it was with a degree of sadness yesterday that I read how the new Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell is reviving Confederate History Month. Supposedly the move will "strengthen his position with his conservative base."
The two previous Democratic governors had refused to issue the mostly symbolic proclamation honoring the soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War. McDonnell (R) revived a practice started by Republican governor George Allen in 1997. McDonnell left out anti-slavery language that Allen's successor, James S. Gilmore III (R), had included in his proclamation.

McDonnell said Tuesday that the move was designed to promote tourism in the state, which next year will mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the war. McDonnell said he did not include a reference to slavery because "there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia."

The proclamation was condemned by the state's Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP. Former governor L. Douglas Wilder called it "mind-boggling to say the least" that McDonnell did not reference slavery or Virginia's struggle with civil rights in his proclamation. Though a Democrat, Wilder has been supportive of McDonnell and boosted his election efforts when he declined to endorse the Republican's opponent, R. Creigh Deeds.

This made me remember something from four decades ago, something I was reminded of when reading Rick Perlstein's historical look back on that era, Nixonland. Rick starts the twenty-second chapter of his opus with a discussion of Nixon's ill-fated nomination to the Supreme Court of G. Harrold Carswell. Carswell was Nixon's second choice after his first nominee Clement Haynsworth was rejected and, ultimately he was rejected as well-- later to be arrested and convicted of groping an undercover policeman in a Florida public toilet.
On January 19, 1970, President Nixon announced his next Supreme Court nominee, G. Harrold Carswell, a good ol' boy from South Georgia. An ad that Carswell had taken out advertising his run for state legislature in 1948 was discovered: "I Am A Southerner By Ancestry, Birth, Training, Inclination, Belief, And Practices. I Believe That Segregation Of The Races Is The Proper And The ONLY Practical And Correct Way Of Life In Our States." Staffers in the civil rights division in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare took in the situation with disgust and watched their boss for a response.

Nixon made it at a press conference on January 30 when asked if he would still have nominated Carswell if he'd known. "Yes, I would," the president responded. "I am not concerned about what Judge Carswell said twenty-two years ago when he was a candidate for state legislature. I am very much concerned about his record... as a federal district judge."

The Post reported on that record the next day: an embarrassing two-thirds of his decisions had been overturned by higher courts. Then it came out that in 1956 Carswell had schemed to make a public golf course private to keep blacks out.

People like Carswell and McDonnell are entitled to their opinions and they are also entitled to associate with whomever they please. People like Carswell and McDonnell, however, have no business getting anywhere near elective office where their narrow prejudices will work towards turning their fellow citizens' lives more untenable. There was a time when the major parties were embarrassed when it was discovered they had members like Carswell and McDonnell. Often they were relegated to fringe groups like the KKK and the Know Nothings-- in today's terms, the Tea Party.

I found it interesting yesterday when one of the most obstructionist and narrow-minded reactionaries in the Senate, Tom Coburn, stumping for re-election in Oklahoma-- does he even have an opponent?-- came face to face with the ugliness he has been so instrumental in not just permitting, but in creating. His must have been shocked when he realized the joke had gotten out of hand and that it wasn't just gameplaying by McConnell, McCain and Burr but the real full-blown fascist threat. Coburn stared the teabaggers in the face and was mortified to see the gross ignorance and overblown bigotry.
After a woman in the audience railed against the possibility of being put in prison for not obtaining health insurance under the Democrat’s new law, Coburn dismissed her remark and questioned the accuracy of Fox News reports on health care reform.

“The intention is not to put any one in jail. That makes for good TV news on FOX but that isn’t the intention,” Coburn responded.

Then, the Republican Senator, who was an arch-foe of the Obama Health Care bill, defended the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi against character attacks.

While discussing his policy disagreements with Pelosi Coburn said “she’s a nice lady,” which brought hisses and hoots from the crowd. But Coburn flatly rejected the crowd's animosity towards the liberal Speaker.

“Come on now. She is nice-- how many of you all have met her? She’s a nice person,” Coburn said as he went on to lecture the crowd about civility.

“Just because somebody disagrees with you dodn’t (sic) mean they’re not a good person,” Coburn said. “I’ve been in the senate for five years and I’ve taken a lot of that, because I’ve been on the small side-- both in the Republican Party and the Democrat Party.”

“What we have to have is make sure we have a debate in this country so that you can see what’s going on and make a determination yourself,” Coburn added and then again warned the crowd against the myths perpetrated on FOX News.

“So don’t catch yourself being biased by FOX News that somebody is no good. The people in Washington are good. They just don’t know what they don’t know,” Coburn said... Coburn closed the town hall by telling the crowd to read broadly and warned the mostly conservative audience about the danger of getting all their information from the same source.

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At 1:19 PM, Blogger Rena said...

To answer your question about Coburn, apparently he will NOT have a Democratic opponent. Unless they are keeping it very very secret. There has been talk about this "plan" offering some strategic advantage for down ticket candidates. We'll see how that works our for them, but I'm willing to bet that it won't be good.

At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

I don't know what Coburn's angle is--unless, deep down, there is some genuine sliver of moral value that has become truly sickened by the rise of hate talk and hate crimes in America. Alternatively, he could be positioning himself to head his party if the GOP ever gets a brain transplant.

Not that Coburn is exactly a rocket scientist, but if he takes a nominally dangerous and ethical position that really isn't dangerous for someone like him, he may play that in the longterm for greater political advantage.

#1 sounds a sincere, moral person, and #2 sounds like a Machiavel. Let's see: which one is closer to Coburn?


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