MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow yesterday charged that Republicans and conservatives know only one way of trying to expand their political influence â€“ by fomenting and exploiting racial fears and prejudices among their overwhelmingly white base of supporters.
Specifically, Maddow took issue with recent conservative criticisms of Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who is Puerto Rican, and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, who is black. Sotomayor, of course,Â has beenÂ criticized because of her obvious, longstanding allegiance to race-based politics, while Gates has come under fireÂ for recklessly accusing white Massachusetts police officers of racism.
â€œThis is chapter one of the art of Republican politics since Richard Nixon. When surrounded by a more popular opponent [i.e., Barack Obama] whose ideas you can’t necessarily counter or you donâ€™t feel confident countering, steer as far clear as you can of ideas and policy, and instead stoke racial indignation among your base when you can.â€
In the leftist world that Maddow’s mindÂ inhabits, there are no shades of gray; it’sÂ all very simple:Â Republicans and conservatives are racists (even if they donâ€™t realize it),Â while leftist Democrats are the anointed, the morally pure. It scarcelyÂ occurs to Maddow that if a white conservative criticizes a nonwhite leftist, he or she might be motivated by something other than racism. Rather, Maddow scoffs at whatever substantiveÂ criticisms conservativesÂ may in fact articulate; toÂ her, these are mere pretexts by means of whichÂ bigotsÂ seek to give their noxious views an air of legitimacy.
Reasoning from that premise, Maddow quite logically endorses any and all assertions by leftist Democrats that their conservative opponents are nothing more than an unschooled band of narrow-minded tribalists. Thus it would never occur to her that Barack ObamaÂ himself was guilty of trying to â€œstoke racial indignationâ€ among his â€œbaseâ€ when he said, during last yearâ€™s campaign: â€œTheyâ€™re going to try to make you afraid of me. [Theyâ€™ll say] â€˜heâ€™s young and inexperienced and heâ€™s got a funny name. And did I mention heâ€™s black?â€™â€
Nor, of course,Â did Maddow find fault with Obama tellingÂ his supporters on another occasion:
â€œThey [Republicans] know that youâ€™re not real happy with them and so the only way they figure theyâ€™re going to win this election is if they make you scared of me. What theyâ€™re saying is â€˜Well, we know weâ€™re not very good but you canâ€™t risk electing Obama. You know, heâ€™s new, he doesnâ€™t look like the other presidents on the currency, heâ€™s a got a funny name.â€™â€
For Maddow, assertions like Obama’s are nothing less thanÂ self-evident truths, not unlike these:
- In 1987, Ted Kennedy led Senate Democrats in their bitter fight to prevent the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. Not content to merely take issue with Borkâ€™s originalist judicial philosophy, Kennedy painted him as the moral equivalent of a Klansman: â€œRobert Bork’s America is a land in which â€¦ blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters.â€
- Following the purportedly inadequate federal response to Hurricane Katrina (many of whose victims were black) in 2005, Democrat Rep. Charles RangelÂ said: â€œIf you’re black in this country, and you’re poor in this country, it’s not an inconvenience — it’s a death sentence.” He then likened President Bush to Bull Connor, the Alabama police commissioner notorious for his racist opposition to the early civil-rights movement.
- On another occasion, RangelÂ denounced a Republican-led push for tax relief as a pernicious form of racismÂ that would have been endorsed by none other than Adolph Hitler. Fellow Democrat congressman Major Owens wholeheartedly concurred,Â ”These [Republicans] are people who are practicing genocide with a smile.Â They’re worse than Hitler.”
Rachel Maddow and her ideological ilk do not take issue with the underlying substance of any of the foregoingÂ statements. It is no exaggeration to say that they classify those who disagree with themÂ on matters of race as modern-day avatars of the Nazis.