Sunday, June 21, 2009

How Low Can You Go?

Leonard Pitts, Jr. has done it again. He has written a column that brought me to my feet cheering. The man is good, and while he hasn't quite yet replaced the departed Rosa Brooks in my heart, he's coming damned close.

The modern GOP was created in 1965 with a stroke of Lyndon Johnson's pen.

If that is an exaggeration, it is not much of one. When Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, he made a prediction: In committing the unpardonable sin of guaranteeing the ballot to all citizens regardless of race, he said, he would cause his party to lose the South "for a generation."

And indeed Southern Democrats, who for a century had bombed schools, lynched innocents, perverted justice and terrorized millions in the name of intolerance, responded by leaving their ancestral party in droves. They formed the base of a new Republican Party, a reality acknowledged by Ronald Reagan when he opened his 1980 campaign at a segregationist fair in a town where three civil rights workers were infamously martyred, by declaring, "I believe in state's rights."

In embracing its new Southern base, the Republican Party became the Repugnant Party on matters of race, a distinction it has done little to shed. So some of us were disappointed but not surprised last week when Sherri Goforth, an aide to Tennessee state Sen. Diane Black, came under fire for an e-mail she sent out. It depicted the 44 U.S. presidents, showing the first 43 in dignified, statesmanlike poses. By contrast, the 44th, the first African American, is seen as a pair of cartoon spook eyes against a black backdrop. Goforth's explanation: The e-mail, which went to GOP staffers, was sent "to the wrong list of people."

You may wish to let that one marinate for a moment.

And please, don't bother reminding me of Democrat Robert Byrd's onetime membership in the Ku Klux Klan; I make no argument that the Democrats are untainted by bigotry. Rather, my argument is that the GOP is consumed by it, riddled with it, that it has shown, sown, shaped and been shaped by it, to an abhorrent degree.

You think that's unfair? Well, after Goforth's e-mail, after "Barack the Magic Negro," and John McCain's campaign worker blaming a fictional black man for a fictional mugging, and a party official in Texas renaming the executive mansion "the black house," and an official in Virginia claiming Obama's presidency would see free drugs and "mandatory black liberation theology," and a Republican activist in South Carolina calling an escaped ape one of Michelle Obama's "ancestors," it seems wholly fair to me. Indeed, overdue.

Why, yes. Yes, I think that captures the GOP as currently constituted quite nicely. What is so stunning to me is that the racism being promoted by Republicans no longer is hidden behind code words or euphemisms: it's now showing up directly and brazenly. Apparently the election of an African American man to the presidency so galls these knuckle draggers that they've dispensed with the polite veneer.

Apparently Republicans prefer the 19th Century to the 21st. What they don't realize is that most Americans have grown up and moved on. That's why an African American Democratic president and a Democratic Congress was elected in 2008.

Enjoy your obscurity and irrelevance, Republicans. You've earned it.

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Anonymous Karin said...

Oh, nice one. Gonna send it around to my friends and family.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Irony: The very election of African-American Obama, in the eyes of the racist crowd, actually legitimizes the recrudescences of public racism.

5:47 AM  

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