Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
Before the next ballot is cast, let us challenge Republicans: Take one pledge: Publicly denounce birtherism and racism at all campaign events, meetings. Repudiate its use by any Super PAC that advocates for you. No anti-Muslim talk. No birthers. Period.
It is not a news flash that America’s racist roots run deep. President Obama beat John McCain, but not until McCain, Palin, and the Republican Party pulled out all of the stops, unleashing those deep-rooted fears of African-Americans in power to try and win an election.
The election wasn’t that close, but it was closer than it would have been had McCain been competing against another white, male candidate.
Fast-forward to 2012, and racism is alive and well in the current GOP primary. Last week Latrice Phillips in The GOP and the Black Strawman pointed out the “code” that Gingrich and others use to stoke racial fears as a way of garnering votes. Remarks about turning poor children into school janitors, Santorum’s “blah” people remark about food stamps, and moments not always covered on the campaign trail are the river-wide undercurrent of racism fueling the GOP’s base. It has been with us through the pre-primary season, but it is particularly evident as the campaign moves into the former Confederate States of South Carolina and Florida.
It received a little coverage, but GOP hopeful Rick Santorum did absolutely nothing last week when a woman at a Lady Lake, Florida campaign stop said:
“I never refer to Obama as president because legally he is not, and well, he constantly says that our constitution is passé, and he totally ignores it. As you know, he does what he darn well pleases. He is an avowed Muslim, and my question is, why isn’t something being done to get him out of our government? He has no legal right to be calling himself president.”
Members of the audience cheered. Santorum smiled awkwardly, and did nothing to correct the woman, going for the applause line that he was trying to get him out of office by running himself.
When the press traveling with Santorum pushed that issue, his response was:
“Why do you guys ask these ‘gotcha’ questions like it’s my job to go out and correct everybody who says something I don’t agree with? It’s not my responsibility, as a candidate, to correct everybody who makes a statement that I disagree with. It’s not my job to go out and defend the president every time someone says something that I disagree with them. It’s a media ‘gotcha’ thing — If a woman has an opinion that is obviously not one that I have repeatedly said that I disagree with. At every turn, I don’t have to say that, OK?”
Actually, Ricky… it is your responsibility. Particularly if you are seeking the highest office in the land. You are not running to be president of the uptight right white people. You are running to be the President of the United States, so you better be able to defend the brown, yellow and “blah” people.
This business of the “gotcha” is so 2008. It worked for Sarah Palin. We’re hip to it now, or we should be. It’s code for: “Did something stupid come out of my mouth? Did I just do a half gainer hitting my head on the political diving board and I’m going straight to the bottom?”
We don’t care if you fail, Mr. Santorum. The process is supposed to wash out people like you who lack the character to lead this country. You would think, after watching John McCain do his own headsmack over the Birthers in 2008 when a similar hate-filled old lady in the crowd lobbed the Muslim bomb into his rally, you would have devised a comeback better than that.
Let’s give you a script that works:
“Thank you for your question. If we’re going to beat President Obama, we have a lot of ways to do it. I can name any of you a dozen reasons why I think he’s not the right man for the job, and I am, but I want to tell you something: This business of the president being a Muslim, or the birth certificate thing… Mr. Obama is a Christian and his birth certificate has been vetted over and over again. When we focus on stuff like this, though, rather than the issues, these things hurt our chances to make a fair case for why we should take the White House back.”
If you were smart, Rick, which it appears is not the case, you’d know that repudiating the racist old bat is not covering Mr. Obama’s rear end so much as it is showing a quality which you clearly lack: Leadership.
Leading isn’t just coming up with a policy. It should be also about inspiring people to rise to their better angels and at least temper their biases and bile in public. You should have shown better judgment than your guest at the rally did.
There is a reason that you didn’t do that though, Rick. You said it yourself to the media, though nobody caught you at it. REWIND and piece together the underlines:
“ If a woman has an opinion that is obviously not one that I have repeatedly said that I disagree with.”
It is possible, in your “gotcha” fluster that you misspoke (again). Or it is possible that you, or your subconscious, really meant to get the old woman’s racist message out there and that you don’t disagree with her.
The bottom line is that Mr. Santorum, Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Romney and Mr. Paul know all want to be the Allan Quatermain tapping the King Solomon’s Mine filled with golden racist voters, ripe for the taking. It’s not a poll anyone will talk about, but you have to figure that somewhere in the bowels of the McCain campaign someone cynically figured out the power of stoking racial fears against a Black American candidate.
The problem is that, in doing so, you are perpetuating one of the worst and darkest chapters of American history. The future may hold more or less government, more or less gun rights, and other issues, but one thing is increasingly clear:
We are e pluribus unim. Out of many one people. For the presidential aspirants and the party to condone racism in any form in this multicultural, rapidly diversifying nation demonstrates an immediate and overwhelming disqualification to lead this country. As much as the scared old white people would like to put that genie back into the bottle, catering to them shows that you do not “get” the country that you are going to lead for all the people, not just your friends.
So today, we’re calling on all of the GOP candidates, Super PACs, and political operatives to sign a pledge to disavow, and actively condemn the use of racism in a campaign, and correct guests and operatives who make racially charged remarks at your campaign events, or wherever you run into them.
It’s not a punishment. If you really want that large undecided voter base to give you a serious look, most of them, living in the 21st century, are looking for you to show leadership in race relations as much as they are policy about the economy or how you choose to rip the government down, brick by brick.
Think less Grover Norquist and more like Allan Quatermain. Be a LEADER.
Click here to sign the petition to the Republican Candidates.
My Shiny Two.