Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
The sheepskin of George W. Bush may have said Yale, but the mouthful of “Bushisms,” from the “decider” to “misunderestimated” made him the butt of billions of dollars of “dumb” joke merchandise. Yet, in all of that, not one Democrat in leadership or running against W. took a shot at his staggering lack of intellect.
The same cannot be said for Republicans. The level of acrimony and bile injected into every political thought, particularly in regard to Mr. Obama, is cynical pandering to their core white audience who seem to think that he is the 3/5ths president.
While the media obsessed with Tim Pawlenty’s lack of teeth in attacking Mitt Romney last week, the barb directed at the President was completely missed:
“I don’t think you can prosecute the political case against President Obama if you are a co-conspirator [on health care.]” Pawlenty told reporters.
“Co-conspirator.” A person who takes part in a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has never been a secret. It was not smuggled in by the dark of night to the Congress, or passed in a Wisconsin Republican style of shameless partisan rewrite of parliamentary procedure.
South Carolina Republican congressman Joe Wilson was reprimanded by the House for his “You Lie!” outburst in the middle of President Obama’s State of the Union address, but Republicans rewarded him with more than $2M in campaign funds.  Wilson was also one of the “Magnificent Seven” Republican congressmen in the South Carolina legislature who went against their own party to remove one of the most racist symbols of white power, the Confederate Stars & Bars, from government buildings. 
Just for those who might think that this is a tradition of South Carolina, it wasn’t, by the way. As Christopher Hitchens notes in Slate about former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s support of racism in the 2008 campaign:
“The Confederate battle flag, to which Gov. Huckabee was alluding, was first flown over the South Carolina state Capitol in 1962, as a deliberately belligerent riposte to the civil rights movement, and is not now, and never has been, the flag of that great state.”
Of course, congressmen and senators may think that their particular brand of closet racism is relatively tame when compared to the big-gun GOP hate mongers. Ann Coulter, the Right-wing diatribe author who spills out extremist bile like the Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico spins these kind of clever turns of phrase:
“Liberals hate America, they hate flag-wavers, they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam, post 9/11. Even Islamic terrorists don’t hate America like liberals do. They don’t have the energy. If they had that much energy, they’d have indoor plumbing by now.” – From her aptly entitled book Slander.
The openly racial attacks against Mr. Obama by top voices in the Republican party and their propaganda arm are specific and disquieting.
Right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh drops some of the most baldfaced racism into his national talk show. His “Barack the Magic Negro” parody was both racist and in poor taste. His weekly racist rants are sprinkled with terms like ‘Halfrican-American” because he also spreads the Birther myth that Obama was born in Kenya and, even though less than 1% of the population of Kenya is Arabic, that it is an Arab country. 
Former candidate and current talker Mike Huckabee has repeatedly spread and accelerated known falsehoods about the President. His statement that Obama had ties to the Mau Mau rebels of Kenya reinforced both the Birther myth that Mr. Obama was born out of the country, and the image of him as an associate of dangerous gun-toting foreign radicals. Chris Matthews of MSNBC called Mr. Huckabee’s statements flatly “racist” on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Nearly fifty years of racism practiced by the Right has accelerated from quiet code to proud public disdain. Race-baiting has always been a staple of post-Eisenhower politics. Time Magazine’s Jack White noted in 2002:
“The sad truth is that many Republican leaders remain in a massive state of denial about the party’s four-decade-long addiction to race-baiting.” 
Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all used coded racial messaging to lure away disaffected, and largely racist, Southern white Blue Collar voters from the Democratic Party.
Reagan was by far the most egregious. Trent Lott, then a young congressman, set up one of his first major campaign speeches in his first presidential bid in Philadelphia, Mississippi. His call for “states’ rights” was the common code understood by white voters in earshot to stop any advances in civil rights legislation. In 1981, while in the White House, President Reagan was personally involved with arranging a tax exemption for Bob Jones University. BJU was prohibited from tax exempt status because they banned interracial dating. Discrimination is a cause for losing the exemption. In 1983, the Supreme Court struck down BJU’s exemption 8-1, sending a loud message that Reagan was dead wrong. 
Today, we see congressmen like New York’s Peter King conduct Muslim witch-hunts to keep the fear of 9/11 churning in the post-Bin-Laden world.
Marilyn Davenport, a christian GOP activist and party member in Orange County, California, was circulating this racist image around in her email, until a local newspaper, the OC Weekly, had a copy forwarded to them.
Written under the photo were the words: “Now you know why — No birth certificate!” In an interview with the OC Weekly, she said:
“I wasn’t wise in sending the email out. I shouldn’t have done it. I really wasn’t thinking when I did it. I had poor judgment.”
Normally, such an obviously racist email would be the end of someone like Ms. Davenport. Indeed, the county GOP Chairman, Scott Baugh, called for her to resign, particularly after she called the incendiary photo “much to-do about nothing.” The state GOP chairman also called for her ouster.
“I’m not going to resign,” Davenport told the OC Weekly. “I really have no plans to do so. My constituents have told me not to resign, and I’m very happy with their support. Everybody who knows me says they can’t believe people are calling me a racist. I am not a racist, but I do think I need to apologize again with different words.”Later she called herself “an imperfect Christian lady” and asked for forgiveness, citing the Bible.The current slate of Republican candidates have varying track records on racism and race baiting. Michelle Bachmann, the Tea Party cheerleader, has been an all-star Birther and blatant carrier of the water for white racists. Her 2005 rant about rioting in France, with gross inaccuracies about both Muslims and the television network Al Jazeera instigating the violence, is topped by her amazing claim that “not all cultures are equal.”
Gingrich immediately pulled the race card on Mr. Obama. In a May 13th speech, he called the President “the most successful food-stamp president in American history.” Rising star, Texas Governor Rick Perry, talks the racist code of “States’ Rights” and referenced segregationist Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. He embraced the fringe endorsing the Texas legislature’s resolution to secede from the union. His speech at a Tea Party rally:
“There’s a lot of different scenarios. Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that…. My hope is that America, and Washington in particular, will pay attention. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that? But Texas is a very unique place, and a pretty independent lot to boot.” 
The problem with all of this is not the vocal minority that has no problem espousing its racist viewpoints. It is the pandering to that anecdotally estimated 40% of the American public that harbors some level of racist viewpoint that infects their voting habits.
We cannot expect Republicans to wean themselves from racism, or improve their civility and rationality of attack on President Obama, when core color fear shared by millions provides them political kick. This is why Rush is still on the air, Ann Coulter is #7 on the New York Times Bestseller List, and Republican candidates other than Herman Cain have lots of racist jokers to deal out of their political card decks.
My shiny two.
Brian is on the road this week on the West Coast and will be blogging just a bit less until Sunday. – ed.