article

08.22.10

The GOP's Long, Hot, Racist Summer

First came a harsh new immigration law and calls of white racism; then we turned up the heat with an “n-word” flap and the ground zero mosque hysteria. Kirsten Powers on a season of grievance jihads.

Welcome to the summer of hate.

These dog days have brought a veritable festival of racial demagoguery, from a phony “New Black Panther” controversy to Arizona’s draconian illegal-immigrant crackdown to the most recent “ground zero mosque” hysteria.

Leave it to GOP darling Sarah Palin to turn up the heat with a bizarre defense of the hateful Dr. Laura’s “n-word” rant.

What would make a police officer suspicious that a person was undocumented? If you guessed “brown skin” or “Mexican accent,” you are on the right track.

In a rambling Facebook post, the former Alaska governor asked incredulously: “Does anyone seriously believe that Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a racist?”

Why, yes, Sarah. Yes, we do.

This incident is instructive, because it bears the hallmark of many GOP blunders in the area of race. Palin truly cannot understand why anyone would think that Dr. Laura is racist, or why Palin’s defense of her is disgusting. In Palin’s world, apparently this kind of behavior is acceptable, which tells us quite a bit, actually.

In Palin’s world, Dr. Laura is a victim.

It’s the same world in which a single incident in a single voting precinct in Philadelphia in 2008 has become a rallying cry among conservatives who see black racism against white people lurking behind every bush.

The obsession is focused on two members of the “New Black Panther Party” who stood outside a majority black voting precinct and got into an argument with some white Republican “poll watchers” whom they called “crackers.” One NBP member was holding a billy club. The “New Black Panther Party,” which has no relation to the original, denounced the two men. Conservatives complain that if they had been Ku Klux Klan members, liberals would be screaming.

Here is a little history lesson: When the KKK showed up at a polling station in the South, black people would have rejoiced if the worst thing that happened to them was name-calling. The KKK came for one reason: to torture and kill blacks, which they did by the thousands.

Because the Department of Justice this summer only got a narrow injunction against the man holding the billy club, Newt Gingrich told Sean Hannity that Eric Holder should “resign over the racism inherent in the Black Panther case.”

It is worth noting that you hardly ever hear Gingrich or any high-profile Republican complaining about racism in America unless they are accusing a black or brown person of doing something racist to a white person.

They don’t get upset when talk-radio host Michael Savage, who reaches 8 million listeners a week, says things like this: “The scourge of illegal immigrants… are running rampant across America, killing our police for sport, raping, murdering like a scythe across America. The Statue of Liberty is crying, she’s been raped and disheveled. Raped and disheveled by illegal aliens!”

It really makes you wonder where anyone got the idea that some of the supporters of Arizona’s illegal-immigration law were racist.

Midterm Madness: 10 Hot Races to Watch

Tunku Varadarajan: John McCain's Embarrassing Last Act
Conservatives argued vehemently that because the law stated that racial profiling was illegal, no racial profiling would result from a law that compelled police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws. What would make a police officer suspicious that a person was undocumented? If you guessed “brown skin” or “Mexican accent,” you are on the right track.

Speaking of brown skin, the summer of hate wouldn’t be complete without a little Muslim-bashing.

Unless you live under a rock, you know that Newt and Sarah have unleashed one of their grievance jihads against the builders of a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan. Conservatives have accused the builders of being “radicals” who they say are free to build the “mosque,” which according to Dick Morris is a “terrorist command center,” anywhere but their desired location.

It seems obvious that the builders aren’t radicals, not only because the Bush administration worked with them in 2003, but also because if they were, it would be a problem for them to build anywhere, let alone Lower Manhattan. Moving a “terrorist command center” 15 to 20 blocks would hardly make it acceptable.

Let’s be honest: The problem is they are Muslims.

The argument that people’s feelings are still raw after the 9/11 attacks only makes sense if the group behind the community center was al Qaeda. To equate these moderate Muslims with that horrific act is pure bigotry, a bigotry that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former Gov. Howard Dean sadly signed on to.

President Obama waded into the fray with a lukewarm defense of religious freedom. For that, Rush Limbaugh dubbed him “Imam Hussein Obama.”

But he meant it in a nice way.

Kirsten Powers is a political analyst on Fox News and a writer for the New York Post. She served in the Clinton administration from 1993-1998 and has worked in New York state and city politics. Her writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Observer, Salon.com, Elle magazine and American Prospect online.