"There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president."--President Jimmy Carter, September 16, 2009Thank you, President Carter.
We've been tip-toeing all around this ever since the media made note of the vitriol that was being expressed at some of the Republican campaign rallies last year. And, let's face it, Republicans have become experts at soft-peddling their racism in such a way as to make it palatable for Middle America. Now, watch how they howl in the wake of President Carter's truth-speaking.
President Carter's remark was offered as commentary about the breech of decorum exhibited by US Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) at President Obama's speech before a joint session of Congress. In effect, President Carter contends that Wilson's outburst was a sop to the racist element of the Republican party.
Representative Wilson's past behavior does little to dispel such assertions. He's an admirer of the wretched segregationist and original Dixiecrat, Strom Thurmond. The same Strom Thurmond who once said: "I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches." After Thurmond's death, when it became public knowledge that the late Senator had an illegitimate half-black daughter, Wilson denounced the story as a smear, even though Thurmond's own family acknowledged the woman's story as true. Wilson vehemently defended flying the seditious Confederate battle flag over South Carolina's state capitol. Wilson is a member of "The Sons of Confederate Veterans," which according to the Southern Poverty Law Center is a racist group.
As further evidence of the racism inherent in right-wing protests, consider also that, according to Ronald Kessler, author of In the President's Secret Service, the number of death threats against President Obama is four times the number of such threats against previous presidents. Are we to imagine that this is a result of President Obama's policies?
Although almost universally ignorant, not all tea-baggers are overt racists. But there is no denying the ugly, racist tone that permeates the tea-bagger protests.
President Carter has lived in the South, in Dixie, for his entire life. He is in a position to know the underlying sentiments of that region.
Regardless of the rhetoric that comes from hapless clown Michael Steele, or from drunken, lugubrious John Boehner, the fact is that there is a significant number of racists in the GOP; that the GOP is afraid to alienate these racists; that all of this is the result of Nixon's infamous Southern Strategy which came in the wake of the Civil Rights Act.
The White House, for its part, is trying to downplay the former President's remarks. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said "The president does not think [political opposition] is based on the color of his skin."
I suppose that President Obama might believe that. But he's a smart guy. A lot smarter than me. So, I doubt it. Politically, it makes sense for him to want to avoid this discussion. It's not a comfortable topic. But President Carter, showing true courage, has dragged the beast out into the middle of the room.
Here it is, people. What are we going to do about it?