Fair. Balanced. American.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Romney: "We're going to hang" Obama

The media has given the Republican Party a free pass on racism for nearly half a century now. Don't believe me? Remember this?
Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign before an adoring white audience in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Neshoba County, the site of three of the grisliest murders of the civil rights era. "'I believe in states' rights,'" Reagan told his listeners. This hackneyed phrase signified something old and familiar but also something new: conservatism's simultaneous embrace of "'George Wallace inclined voters'" and its careful honing of a political message that avoided the increasingly discredited language of segregation and white supremacy.

This landmark event was recalled by the Boston Globe's Derrick Jackson in 2000, just as a future president, one George W. Bush, was about to reclaim the same precious mantle.
Last week, in a graduation ceremony mysteriously underplayed by the white press, George W. Bush earned his master's degree from the Ronald Reagan Institute of Race Policy and Management.

Reagan established the institute in 1980 by kicking off his presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss. The Neshoba County Fair for decades had been the legendary gathering spot of segregationists and near the site of the grisly murders of three civil rights workers.

Reagan took the microphone and, to the roar of thousands of white fairgoers, said, ''I believe in states' rights.'' Anyone who knows Southern race policy knows that saying ''states' rights'' is like waving a Confederate flag, telling racists they can do whatever they want to black folks.

Reagan was never hounded by the press as to how he could make such a statement and expect to be elected as president. [...]

Now, 20 years later, here comes George W. Bush. Stung by his defeat in the New Hampshire primary, Bush needed a trump card in the South Carolina Republican primary. This was a problem, since he and John McCain are running neck-and-redneck on issues dear to racists. Both have chickened out on saying it is time to stop flying the Confederate flag over the state capitol.

Bush may have found his ace. He kicked off his homestretch drive in South Carolina by speaking at Bob Jones University. Bob Jones represents one of Reagan's early signs of being antiblack. Reagan fought to revoke the Internal Revenue Service's authority to deny charitable tax exemptions to the school. The denial was over the school's ban on interracial dating.

The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, rebuked Reagan, saying schools that practice racial segregation can indeed be denied tax exemptions. Reagan would later appoint the lone dissenter, William Rehnquist, to chief justice. [...]

George W. took delight in validating this perverted version of Christianity, telling 6,000 students, almost all white, ''I look forward to publicly defending our conservative philosophy.'' He said he would seek ''compassionate results.'' But compassion could not have been foremost on Bush's mind, since it was only after the speech that he criticized the school's racial policies, not during it and not directly to the students.

His compassion is irrelevant when out of all the colleges in South Carolina, he chose the most racist and homophobic, a venue more discriminatory on paper than even the Neshoba County Fair. Speaking of papers, Bush's appearance was so outrageous newspaper and television reporters should hound him as to how he deserves the White House when he panders to such base thinking.

The tactic worked. Between this and saying John McCain had a black daughter, Bush rescued his primary campaign, winning the South Carolina primary and effectively ending McCain's shot at the nomination.

Every Republican presidential candidate since Goldwater has used some version of the dog whistle to attract white Southerners to the fold. That, after all, is the party's base.

Romney will be no exception, but he realized, as soon as he said it, that this gaffe was too overtly racist for the media. Catching the "error," he corrected himself quickly.

But he will surely hope that the hidden message came through loud and clear to voters in the party's white, Southern, evangelical base, with whom, as a Mormon, he will have real problems.

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