To me and to the vast majority of American voters, the use of racism in politics is viewed as among the most insidious and disgraceful activities in seeking votes. Unfortunately, such activity shows no sign of declining but rather picks up momentum with each pending election.
This shameful conduct has come to be expected as a hallmark of the efforts of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Princeton University's Cornel West and various other race-hustling luminaries acting under the guise of "civil rights activists." Let us face facts — so long as there is profit or political advantage to be gained by the fomenting of racism among the least educated and the ill-informed, it will thrive.
Directed at Republicans and conservatives, the most disturbing aspects of the charges of racism, both veiled and overt, are two-fold in that they are being leveled also by otherwise high ranking and "respected" members of government and the media and seemingly condoned by the stentorian silence of the Democratic Party's Congressional leadership.
This is by no means a new phenomenon — in 1998, the Missouri Democratic Party sponsored radio ads alleging that voting Republican would cause the burning of black churches while political fliers handed out in Maryland implied the same. Former President George W. Bush was identified as racist or racially indifferent to the plight of the black residents uprooted in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.
While a few in the journalism community did the homework to attempt a balanced view of the tea party movement, the bulk of the characterization has been one of racist tactics and irrational opposition to the president. Never mind the lack of evidence to support the theory, it has been accepted as gospel by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leftist media and a number of members of Congress.
Standing out among the most reprehensible is Indiana's Andre Carson, a leader in the Congressional Black Caucus who describes the tea party as viewing blacks as second class citizens. Carson further charged the tea party as a "Jim Crow" movement to block economic opportunities for blacks and other minorities.
The most offensive and also most recent examples of these ludicrous charges were voiced by Eric Holder, current attorney general of the United States, and by Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton.
Holder, under fire for denying knowledge of and responsibility for "Operation Fast and Furious," the ill-conceived selling of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, denied culpability, saying, "This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him. Both due to the nature of our relationship, and, you know, the fact that we're both African-American." The White House has thus far failed to distance itself from this cheap allegation.
Former Cabinet member and now syndicated columnist Reich deftly employs the allusion of innuendo and half truth in depicting the tea party membership as originating from the former Confederacy or border states with southern leanings. He quotes political analyst Michael Lind who likens the tea party to "the latest incarnation of an angry white minority — predominately Southern, mainly rural, largely male — that has repeatedly attacked American democracy to get its way."
This lumping of Republicans and conservatives into a "Southern strategy white racist camp" ignores history. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was drafted by Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen and the filibuster by 18 Democratic senators was broken by Republicans. As a matter of record, the final Civil Rights Act vote totaled 82 percent of Senate Republicans voting in favor and 80 percent of the House GOP in favor. On the side of the Democrats, 69 percent voted in favor in the Senate and 63 percent in the House.
As stated earlier, most American voters are immune to or reject outright these unfounded charges of racism. Nevertheless, there is a bloc of intellectually challenged or willfully ignorant voters who blissfully ignore reality and climb aboard their party's bandwagon of rumor, innuendo and outright lies. And, it doesn't take a large percentage of them to change the course of an election.
Now I am not so naive as to believe racism does not factor in our political and social narrative. Nor, having been exposed to the American culture for 70 years plus will I accept that racist behavior is monopolized by Republicans and conservatives. In fact, I can safely attest that in the matter of race relations, the ignorance factor is divided equally among Republicans, Democrats, conservatives and liberals.
That there has been great improvement in matters of race is indisputable — in 2008, the U.S. elected a black president.
However, the racial climate would be further thawed if the elected Democratic leadership, from the president on down, would publicly repudiate the unfounded and indiscriminate playing of the race card. It is as silly as it is unprofessional.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.