Republican ersatz presidential candidate Sarah Palin, puts Representative Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, “in the crosshairs” in television commercials supporting a Republican candidate for Giffords’s seat in the U.S. House. Palin goes on TV in full camo with a loaded assault rifle firing it into the air and inviting others to “take aim” at Giffords. Both disavow any connection between what they did and said and the attempted political assassination of a member of the U.S. House. Both deny that their hate speech inspired the killing of six people and the wounding of 14. A 9-year-old girl died because she has already developed a passion for politics and a compassion for the people whom Giffords champions. The little girl died alongside a federal judge who dared rule against Arizona’s hate-filled law legalizing racial profiling under the guise of stopping illegal immigration. Palin calls the newspaper reports connecting her and others’ vitriolic speech against the Democrats and other liberals a “blood libel,” not aware she just insulted every Jew in the country.
Months earlier, Republican Representative John Boehner (now Speaker of the House) whips up what he knows is a very volatile branch of the Republican Party in the wake of the passage of health care reform. Republican members of Congress line the outdoor balcony of the House and incite an already angry crowd of Tea Party supporters. People in the crowd spit upon members of the House and shout “fag” and “nigger.” Some of these same representatives being spat upon had marched, were arrested, and beaten by white opposition during the 1960s Civil Rights movement. Some were witness to the political assassinations of the 1960s, when a U.S. president, a U.S. senator and a pantheon of Civil Rights leaders were gunned down for their “liberal” political beliefs. The Republican far right, to this day, insists that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. and is an “illegitimate” president. They perpetuate the myth that “Obama is going to take away our guns” just as they perpetuate the lie that he is Muslim, as if that disqualifies him from being president. A Republican member of the U.S. House, in complete and utter disrespect for his office and the office of the President of the United States, screamed “you lie” as the president was making a speech on health care. The Republicans would like the American public to believe in their characterization of all this as a backlash against health care reform and other facets of Obama’s “liberal agenda” or “socialist agenda.” Republican operatives, led by Karl Rove, started what they wanted us to believe was a “rising tide of conservatism” in this country. What they were really doing was systematically incorporating and encouraging their most far-right supporters to violent verbal attacks. As a political strategy, it worked for the Republican Party in the 2010 elections as it incensed far-right-wing nuts and moderate Republicans alike. However, the genie is out of the bottle and it is going to take a major change in Republican Party culture to get the genie back in, if it can even be done. Contrary to the advice from Republican strategists who recognized the harm that the far right is doing to their party, GOP members of Congress continue to play the fear game. They play to the most basic fears and prejudices of their mostly Anglo supporters, especially the elder population. They play up the fear that the Democratic Party represents a change from white America, under their control, to a diverse America lead by liberals and a black president. The GOP knows that eventually, simply because of ongoing demographic changes in the American population, that the white majority of the U.S. will be gone in a matter of a couple generations. Unless changes in law and policy will slow or stop the growth of non-white populations. The only other way for them to keep in power is apartheid rule. But, that can’t happen in America; or can it?
The GOP wants to give the impression that it is becoming a party that reflects the diverse population of America by recognizably cynical appointments of people of color to high offices within the party and by supporting a token number of Republican politicians who happen to be non-white. Equally cynical is their playing to the worst prejudices of black and Hispanic voters against gays and exploiting their religious values to lure them to the Republican column. However, most people of color recognize the split-tongue hypocrisy of the GOP’s image of champions of the Constitution while maintaining a political platform that supports exclusion of certain classes from its protections. Most of us recognize the speech of intolerance that is couched in “Christian values,” “family values” and “American values” for what it is; thinly disguised racial, religious and ethnic intolerance.
In getting into bed with the far right, Republicans have come down with a bad case of STDs. The GOP center can save them, but real Republicans must take their party back from the right-wing nuts and the purveyors of intolerance. To stay on the present track can only end badly, for the Republican Party and for the nation.
Harold A. Monteau is a Chippewa Cree attorney who resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was the chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission in the Clinton administration. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.