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Racism in the Republican party

July 16, 2009

I was watching CNN this evening and saw an interview with Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee. The first question was about Young Republicans’ recent election of Audra Shay, whose racist comments on her Facebook wall caused controversy, but did not ultimately cost her the election. Steele argued that the comments were blown out of proportion and that racism is not unique to the Republican party. He said that the media gives disproportionate coverage to instances of Republicans’ racism because such cases fit into the liberal narrative about the Republican party.

Here’s the part that really caught my attention: When Wolf Blitzer followed up, asking “Since you became the chairperson of the RNC, have you experienced any forms of racism?” Steele responded, “No, absolutely not.” (I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find the video, but I’m sure I am not misrepresenting the interview.) Really? Really?!? The next thing he said was actually quite legitimate – that racism is a national problem that transcends party lines – but it seemed to undermine his own claim that he had not experienced any racism since he took his position. (I would be willing to bet any amount of money that white supremacist groups have made threats to his life.)

About 90 seconds of research revealed that this is most definitely not true. David Duke, former Louisiana representative posted this headline on his personal website: “To Hell with the Republican Party! GOP traitors appoint Obama Junior as Chairman of the Republican Party.” And Mike Huckabee’s opinions of Steele’s leadership abilities seem greatly tied to his race as well.

“I think [Steele] has sought to be, first of all, a very strong spokesperson… I’m not sure anyone else could be as effective in challenging the Obama policies any more so than Michael.” Why not? “Well, I believe that that no one is gonna be able to use the racism charge.”

Democratic politics are awash in racism as well, but there’s a reason that the narrative of institutionalized Republican racism persists, and these are just a few examples.

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