What "Macacca" tells us about modern Republican leaders
I did not give much thought to the imbroglio involving Republican Senator George Allen's insensitive comments directed at a young man at one of Allen's rallies. Then, this morning, I read this post at Orincus and the links he provided (including this one from Salon.com).
The scent of racism remains embedded in so many Republican leaders in the southern region of our nation. Trent Lott, Sonny Purdue, and the whole movement to protect the Confederate flag are just the tip of the iceberg.
And even when a particularly racist candidate crops up in a Republican primary, the official Republican leadership has a problem denouncing such a person. See here for an example from 2004. And who can forget Lee Atwater and more recently Karl Rove, and the use of racism in campaigns? Or Ronald Wilson Reagan (Mr. 666) opening his fall 1980 presidential campaign in a small town in Mississippi where three civil rights workers had been killed in 1964--and proudly proclaiming his support for "state's rights" (the link is damning in its attempted defense of the comment).
Sadly, Allen's statement was not something unusual for him, either. Allen has a history of obsession about the Confederacy as the linked article from Salon.com and this article from NY Times columnist Bob Herbert note.
What Republican strategists understand is that racists do form a part of the Republican base. And racism is communicated by Republican candidates to racists (and give succor to the rest of us who may harbor latent racist attitudes) through a secret handshake or code, as Lee Atwater himself recognized. The way in which "macacca" rolled off the lips of George Allen is therefore emblematic, not an exception.
Taking this beyond racist appeals, Republicans have shown they know how to win close elections--through racist appeals (whether against blacks, Latinos, Asians or Muslims), through the overwhelming right wing television and radio media pundits who popularize talking points and "narrative" words that emanate from the Republcian National Committee, to fraud in elections and intimidation of voters in poor and black communities. "All we have to do is win on one day," is the unstated mantra of Republican strategists. "Who cares about polling six months after the election--other than for us to understand our strategy for the next election day?"
Democrats, and especially Independents who tend not to follow these things very closely, must not embrace such tactics. They must, however, recognize these tactics and openly denounce them upon seeing them. They must perservere against such tactics and work that much harder.
For that, I say, give some more money to the Ned Lamont campaign in Connecticut. Behind this article in Salon.com, which notes Lieberman's Republican-like racist appeals, is the fact that Lieberman's campaign is now becoming the ultimate Republican enabler to maintain control in the House and Senate. Maintaining Lieberman in power undermines Democratic Party unity, dilutes its message and strengthens the Republican political machine. The race in Connecticut is therefore a major battleground for the soul of our nation.