10 January 2010
Perhaps because it has a black man for a figurehead the Republican Party hopes Americans will believe its outrage over Senator Reid's dumb comments from 2008 about then-Senator Obama is genuine. That is, Republicans want you to think that they're really angry on behalf of black people over the Democrat's crack about "Negro dialect." To the extent that any Republican outrage expressed on this subject is genuine, it's on their old ground of resentment of the "double standard" that condemned Trent Lott for his praise of Strom Thurmond's entire career but lets Democrats off the hook for racially insensitive or even insulting comments. I expect to hear it from Mr. Right again, for instance, that Sen. Byrd is a former Klansman but has never suffered for it. Republicans want Reid's scalp as revenge for Lott's, but Reid, to my knowledge, has never even implicitly endorsed segregation in the way Lott did when he said Thurmond would have made a great president in 1948. And in the case of Byrd, the people who are qualified to judge on matters of racial sensitivity know what side he's on now. By crying "double standard" the Republicans are trying to say that anyone can call out anyone on alleged insensitivity, and that those who misspeak are objectively liable to some penalty beyond shame whether the people who would presumably have been most offended demand punishment or not. Every so often the Republicans try to remind people that they're the Party of Lincoln. On such occasions they hope that some momentary outrage against individuals might make black partisans suddenly change ideologies. The fact is that the GOP surrendered much of its credibility as a judge in matters of racial sensitivity when it embraced the likes of Thurmond in a reactionary pact to gain power in the 1960s. Having Michael Steele as a frontman will do little to correct the party's historic handicap, especially if he does no more than espouse policies and principles that blacks have presumably repudiated long ago. There's good reason for blacks and many others to be disappointed with or disgusted by the Democratic party, but one hopes that all such disgruntled people know better than to turn to Republicans as their only alternative.