Mainstream Republican Racist

As people start looking beyond the midterm elections towards 2008, there’s one name that keeps popping up.

HANNITY: Who do you see that holds the Reagan mantle that you’d like to see run and win?
. . .
LIMBAUGH: Is there another Ronald Reagan out there? I don’t know, I don’t see one right on the horizon. But there’s only one Ronald Reagan.

But now you’re asking me for a name? You want a name?

HANNITY: You got one?

LIMBAUGH: It’s early. The danger with mentioning names is that you hurt the feelings of people that you leave out. I’m going to leave some people out because of time constraints, but when I hear George Allen speak, there’s a part of me, “Yes, rah-rah.”

Who is George Allen? Well, he’s a Senator and former governor of Virginia, but he’s also a rising star in the Republican party who’s got a disturbing past :

Campaigning for governor in 1993, he admitted to prominently displaying a Confederate flag in his living room. He said it was part of a flag collection–and had been removed at the start of his gubernatorial bid. When it was learned that he kept a noose hanging on a ficus tree in his law office, he said it was part of a Western memorabilia collection. These explanations may be sincere. But, as a chief executive, he also compiled a controversial record on race. In 1994, he said he would accept an honorary membership at a Richmond social club with a well-known history of discrimination–an invitation that the three previous governors had refused. After an outcry, Allen rejected the offer. He replaced the only black member of the University of Virginia (UVA) Board of Visitors with a white one. He issued a proclamation drafted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans declaring April Confederate History and Heritage Month. The text celebrated Dixie’s “four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights.” There was no mention of slavery.
. . .
Politically, Allen’s years in Palos Verdes were dominated by the lingering racial tensions from the riots in nearby Watts in 1965–when that neighborhood was practically burned to the ground–and the nationwide riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, which left other parts of Southern California in flames. It is with that context in mind that four former classmates and one former administrator at Allen’s high school described to me an event for which Allen is most remembered–and the first glimpse that the château-raised Californian might grow up to become a defender of the South’s heritage.

It was the night before a major basketball game with Morningside High. The mostly black inner-city school adjacent to Watts was coming to the almost entirely white Palos Verdes High to play. When students arrived at school on game day, they found graffiti spray-painted on the school library and other places. All five people who described the incident say the graffiti was racially tinged and meant to look like the handiwork of the black Morningside students. But it was actually put there by Allen and some of his friends. “It was something like die whitey,” says Campbell. The school administrator, who says he is a Republican and would “seriously consider” voting for Allen for president, says the graffiti said, “burn, baby, burn,” a reference to the race riots.

I’m all for giving people the benefit of the doubt and I do think people shouldn’t necessarily have to spend their entire lives apologizing for dumb shit they did as teenagers, but you’ve gotta draw the line somewhere and for me, trying to incite a race riot is unforgivable. Especially considering that Allen’s love for Confederacy hasn’t waned more than 30 years later. When compared to somebody like Sen. Byrd, who’s also got some racist skeletons in his closet, I haven’t seen much to indicate that George Allen has tried to make amends for his past. Jesus Christ, having a noose hanging from a tree in his office?! How can there be any doubt in people’s minds that George Allen is still a racist scumbag?

Before you chalk this up as another Republican who’s a closet bigot, let me remind you of Allen’s enormous popularity within the party :

With visions of 2008 dancing in their heads, National Journal ‘s political insiders made their parties’ picks for the presidential nod and came up with two senators, one seemingly obvious and one seemingly unlikely: Hillary Rodham Clinton and George Allen .

This week’s survey combined both the political and congressional respondents — 85 Republicans and 90 Democrats in all — and gave each potential White House contender five points for a first-place vote, four points for a second-place vote and so on. The New York Democrat ran away with her party’s vote, collecting 407 points and 68 first places. The Virginia Republican’s tally was smaller, with 229 points. His 19 first places tied with Arizona Sen. John McCain , whose points totaled 217.

That matchup raises a perennial question: How important is name recognition, even three years out? Although insiders know Allen — one said he was “Reagan-like in his appeal to GOP activists”; another called him a “real dark horse who should not be underestimated” — he might make voters scratch their heads.

If the Republican party was serious about putting its legacy of racism behind them (Southern Strategy, Dixiecrats, neo-Confederates, etc.) and truly believed Chairman Ken Mehlman‘s vow that it’s “not healthy for the country for our political parties to be so racially polarized”, party leaders wouldn’t be caught dead with a guy like George Allen. The remarkable thing isn’t just that Allen is welcome in the party (which can be explained away with meaningless rhetoric about having a “big tent”), but that this race-baiting, Confederate flag-waving bigot is considered a party leader. This is the guy the GOP wants to represent them in the election that will mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the passing of the Civil Rights Act?