Thursday, March 17, 2005

Racism in the GOP

I find it interesting in the fights over nominations to see how the GOP tries to use race to its advantage. In the Democratic circles I run in, discussion of various candidates first goes toward their beliefs, then focuses on whether they can win. Race can and does play a factor in the "can this person win?" question, but it is by far not the most important consideration.

Compare this to the GOP, who will throw up the first minority face they can find that will publically agree with what the evangelical base wants. In Illinois last year, when the GOP candidate imploded in a sex scandal, they faced a formidable Democratic opponent who happened to be black. Apparently not finding any qualified black candidates in Illinois who were conservative enough, the GOP imported Alan "Mary Cheney and my daughter are selfish hedonists" Keyes to be the sacrificial lamb.

Now Maryland appears ready to do its own version of affirmative action. I can only suppose that the GOP has figured that Kweisi Mfume will win the Democratic nomination for Paul Sarbanes' Senate seat next year. Which is why this item in the Congressional Quarterly popped up today:

The Baltimore SUN reports that Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. "said yesterday that neither he nor first lady Kendel S. Ehrlich intends to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, but he held out the possibility that Lt. Gov. Michael Steele could become the GOP's most competitive U.S. Senate candidate in decades." The governor "said the fact that people are interested in whom the Republicans will nominate is proof that the party is more relevant than it has been in years. 'This is a seat I believe can be won by the right candidate,' Ehrlich said of his party's chances. 'Michael Steele would be a wonderful candidate.'" Democrats have several potential contenders. Former Rep. Kweisi Mfume is already running; Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger has set up an exploratory committee. Reps. Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen are considering bids.

Race is a primary reason that many conservative salivate at the thought of elevating Clarence Thomas to Chief Justice once Rehnquist dies or retires. As my GOP-loving uncle put it, "I'd love to see the Dems be forced into the position of blocking the first black nominee to the Chief Justice slot." That's how the GOP thinks about black people; they are nothing but pawns. Some might argue the same of Democrats, but I would argue that in many places (especially in the South) black Democrats have real power in swaying where the party goes. Such statements like the one my uncle made not only show that the GOP doesn't care about qualifications as much as power and ideology, but they are proud of that fact. Clarence Thomas has been one of the least distinguished people to sit on the Supreme Court in a long time. Most of the time, he just echoes whatever Scalia says, or vice versa. It's like they share a brain. If Thomas is put up, I hope the Democrats do filibuster him. A Thomas Court would be a disaster. I'd rather have Scalia; at least he is smart and thoughtful, although I do disagree with his conclusions most of the time.

Of course, Dems fighting a Thomas nomination would be used by the GOP to go to the black community and say, "See, they don't like you at all! Vote for us!" This assumes the black community is too stupid to see through the smokescreen, which it is not. They saw through Alan Keyes, and they'll hopefully see through the rest of the tokenism of the GOP.

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