February 2015 archive

Republican Sleight of Hand

A story that appeared in the NY Times this week reminded me of why I don’t trust Republican politicians, at any level of government, but especially at the national level.

In Rock Hill, a city of sixty thousand, in South Carolina, near the borders with Tennessee and North Carolina, nine black men were acquitted of crimes they committed in Rock Hill in 1961 – the crime of sitting at public lunch counter and asking to be served.

They weren’t exactly acquitted. In 1961 they were found guilty of trespassing and disturbing the peace. Eight of the nine served 30 days on a chain gang at hard labor. The ninth paid a fine.

But on January 28, 2015, a judge, John C. Hayes, vacated the charges that had been filed against the nine men, erasing their criminal history. He said to the men that they should never have been charged. The state prosecutor apologized to the men, although Kevin Brackett was not involved in the original prosecution.

Excuse me if I am not impressed.

During the 2014 gubernatorial election in South Carolina, incumbent Republican Nikki Haley, who is often mentioned as future GOP presidential candidate, during a televised debate, defended the displaying of the confederate flag over the state’s capitol building. Her reasoning: that flying the symbol of the confederacy honoring the men who died in a war to preserve slavery, was doing no harm to the state’s economy. She said it was “a sensitive issue.”

This is why I say I don’t trust Republicans. They distract us over here with the pardoning of nine Civil Rights marchers, a largely symbolic gesture given that these men had to live fifty years with a criminal record, while over here they defend the ultimate symbol of the enslavement of black men and women. How sensitive!

(Her comment about the state’s economy is ironic. After all, the South’s war to preserve slavery was about preserving the basis of their agrarian economy.)

In November of 2013, Ron Natinsky told a Dallas, TX group of republicans that the GOP would be better off if voters in the district in which he was running for County judge used election day to “spend their food stamps” than voting. The district is represented in Congress by the first black woman elected from that district and is overwhelmingly non-white. The GOP even posted the video of Natinsky’s comments on a web site, but did not take it down until a report of it reached the media. Natinsky claimed he didn’t remember what he said.

Ronald Reagan replaced the War On Poverty with the War On Drugs and in doing so sent one generation of black men to prison and condemned the next to growing up without a male role model in the home. The conservative-republican hand-picked Supreme Court grabs favorable headlines with their pro-gay-marriage rulings while they eviscerate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Chief Justice Roberts always checks which way the wind is blowing before voting.

Who can forget the Willie Horton strategy? Al Gore, running against Michael Dukakis for the Democratic nomination, questioned the Massachusetts furlough program that allowed Horton to get out of jail but never mentioned any cases specifically. It was George H.W. Bush during the presidential campaign who put Horton’s face in front of voters. As Lee Atwater said at the time, “By the time we’re finished, they’re going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis’ running mate.” Republicans have done well at the polls exploiting the white man’s fear of “darkie.”

And really, was there anything more cynical and condescending to women that selecting Sarah Palin as a candidate – for anything! let alone for Vice-President.

The republican leadership treats women with same dismissiveness they treat people of color. In an attempt to ban abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy, the red-meat party leaders (all male) added a requirement to the proposed legislation stipulating that, in the case of pregnancy due to rape, a woman must have reported the rape to police.


But it gets worse. When the female members of the party approached majority whip Steven Scalise they were assured their concerns had been heard. But as soon as their backs were turned, the proposed bill proceeded with the language unchanged.

This, by the way, is the same Steve Scalise who spoke at a Ku Klux Klan conference to raise campaign funds. I’m not surprised either.

Susan Douglas, a professor of communications at the University of Michigan, wrote that Republicans “have crafted a political identity that rests on a complete repudiation of the idea that the opposing party and its followers have any legitimacy at all.” Republican are calling for her to be dismissed from her tenured position.

I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I said that the Republican party experienced a significant shift to the right at the same time America elected its first black president.