Republicans Are Racist? That Can’t Be

Michael Tomasky
Republicans Are Racist? That Can’t Be

Come on, fellow liberals. Calm down. I guess maybe it’s fair to call Cliven Bundy a racist. That “picking cotton” business put it over the top, and wondering whether they were better off under slavery. Even Sean Hannity, Bundy’s greatest media champion, threw in the towel last night: He wanted it to be “abundantly clear,” Hannity said at the top of his show, that he found the remarks “downright racist,” “repugnant,” “beyond disturbing,” and so on.

OK, so Bundy’s a racist. It’s fine to point that out. But point up the fact that he’s a registered Republican? That’s where I draw the line, friends. I mean come on. That’s just a coincidence. Total cosmic coincidence.

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Just like it’s a coincidence that that one black comic, a Barack Obama impersonator, was yanked offstage at an official Republican Party meeting in 2011 for telling a series of racially themed jokes. I mean, that could easily have happened at a Democratic—well, maybe not. But still. A coincidence. Just like it’s a coincidence that one federal judge who sent an email around to friends saying that Obama’s father was a dog happened to be a Republican.  Complete and utter accident of fate, the puny matter of his voter enrollment.

Those rancidly racist T-shirts and posters  one sometimes sees at Tea Party rallies? They’re just a coincidence, too. I mean, Tea Party people might not be Republican, strictly speaking, and it’s totally unfair to assume that! OK, Tea Party candidates run in Republican primaries, not Democratic ones, and ++the Tea Party caucus in the House doesn’t include one Democrat.  But still. Guilt by association!

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Bundy has a broad libertarian streak, too. But please, let’s not suggest that libertarian-leaning Republicans might be a little racist, too. I mean, again, what’s the evidence for such a statement? What—the fact that Ron Paul’s ghostwriter(s) of his newsletters in the 1990s had very clear Confederate sympathies?  If I were you, I would be careful about drawing any inferences from that. It was a long time ago. And a sentence like this one: “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began” ...well, admit it. It’s open to ambiguity. Can be interpreted in any number of ways.

What’s that? You counter by telling me that all that was two decades ago? OK. You’re right. And you’re right that it’s also a coincidence that his son Rand’s ghostwriter—that’s Rand Paul, the current Republican front-runner to be the party’s presidential nominee in 2016—on his book also has expressed sympathetic views about the Confederacy?  Remember this guy—called himself the Southern Avenger, was photographed wearing a stars and bars superhero kind of mask? It’s just a coincidence that he ended up in Rand Paul’s orbit.

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Really. Stop taking these little things out of context and acting like they constitute a pattern. They just don’t. OK? The pattern liberals ought to be worried about is the following one.

A century ago, or more, it was the Democratic Party that was playing footsie with the Ku Klux Klan. Even worse—the Klan, in the Deep South anyway, was almost an arm of the Democratic Party. Sure, it was a century ago, and the parties have completely flipped identities since then, but so what? I still don’t hear an answer! That’s No. 1.

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No. 2: Robert Byrd was in the KKK! That it was 60 years ago and that he recanted 40 years ago and that he hasn’t been a truly leading Democrat since 30 years ago and that he’s dead now, well, none of those things matter. Robert Byrd was in the KKK! This one fact will blot the Democratic escutcheon forever.

And No. 3: Everett Dirksen passed the Civil Rights Act, pal. Not Lyndon Johnson. Not Speaker John McCormack, not Majority Leader Mike Mansfield. They were all Democrats, you see, and they were compromised, polluted by the racists in their party. But Dirksen, the pure Dirksen. He made it all happen; the deus ex machina of the whole thing. Those people who point out that the Southern racists moved to the GOP, and that today’s GOP would have no room for the likes of a Dirksen… I have one sentence for them: Bobby Byrd was in the KKK!

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So really. Go after Bundy all you want. He’s deplorable, just like Sean Hannity said. But the idea that he represents anything? That others of similar circumstance might have views anything like his on racial matters? Shame on you. That he’s an enrolled Republican is, again, just a coincidence. Everything. The signs. The emails. The jokes. The ghostwriters. They’re all just coincidences. Got it?

And by the way—you still haven’t explained what Robert Byrd was doing in the KKK.

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