Josh Marshall saves me from repeating myself
In an otherwise solid run-down of the Republicans' Jungle Fever campaign against Harold Ford, Robin Toner has this passage ...
The furor puts Mr. Mehlman in a difficult position. He has spent considerable time as the national chairman preaching the inclusiveness of the Republican Party and its openness to black candidates and black voters. He said in an interview Wednesday night that he did not believe that this would damage his Republican outreach efforts.
Officials with the Republican independent expenditure committee, who include longtime allies of the Bush political circle, did not respond to requests for comment.
Please. It's not a difficult position, just a revealing one.
Like many in his position, on this issue Mehlman is a hypocrite and a liar. I doubt whether he has any strong racist dispositions himself on a personal level. It's just a tool he uses.
Again, let's be honest with ourselves. Racism is one of the key building blocks of Republican politics in the United States. Don't look at me with a straight face and tell me you don't realize that's true. That doesn't mean that all Republicans are racists. Far from it. It doesn't mean that a lot of Republicans don't wish the stain wasn't part of their party's recent political heritage. They do. But racism and race-baiting is the hold card Republicans take into every election. When times are good, guys like Mehlman 'reach out' to blacks and Latinos to try to take the edge off their opposition to the Republican officeholders. But when things get rough the card gets played. And pretty much every time.
This isn't surprising. It's expected.
For years on this site I've been saying that Democrats need to learn the meta-message behind Republican attack ads, especially on issues like terrorism and national security. Begging the refs to throw a flag in response to a vicious ad only telegraphs the message of weakness that was the aim of the attack in the first place. And in recent days not a few of you have written in to say, 'Josh, you always say Dems should not complain but hit back. So why are you turning the sites over to complaining full time about the Tennessee ads against Ford?'
It's a good question. And there's certainly a tension there, if not an outright contradiction. But here's my response.
I see the two cases as fundamentally dissimilar. When it comes to GOP race-baiting, calling them out, revealing them for who they are and what is they do, is fighting back. It's that simple. The dynamics of the issues are fundamentally different.
There are different visions in this country. There's one which for all its faults and shortcomings aspires to a national unity that transcends our many differences of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. and an equal share of dignity for all of us. Then there's the school of division and demonization. (Take a look at the ads GOP campaigns are running across the country. The issue of the day is keeping out the Mexicans.) That's the Ken Mehlman school, the tradition of Willie Horton ads and Jungle Music pasted over Harold Ford because these guys are afraid they may be about to lose an open seat in Tennessee, where they haven't sent a Democrat to the senate for almost two decades. It must be a reality that Mehlman appreciates with some measure of inner tension or conflict since gays have been the whipping boys of choice through much of the Bush years even as he himself has been, successively, White House political director, Bush Campaign Manager and head of the RNC. But then we all make our beds.
The point is that as vile as this race-hucksterism is, for my part I welcome the opportunity that Republican desperation provides, to show these guys for who they really are. Scratch the surface of 'outreach' Mehlman and he's a Southern strategy man after all. So, fine, bring it on. Cut away the veil and the mask. Let everyone come out from under their rock and be who they really are.
Let them lose their majorities and their souls.
posted by Steve @ 11:47:00 AM