Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Why are (some) Republicans unabashedly racist?

Kansas Republican Politics asks What Has Barry Done Lately?, and says of Senator Obama:
Dems decided that a young, kind of ethnic Senator with a funky name is just what their party needs.
I suppose that we can look at the current crop of Republican leaders and conclude that "Reps decided that old, extremely white Senators with Anglo-Saxon names are just what their party needs."

Of course, they'll claim (and perhaps rightly so) that they chose the best leaders possible, without regard to race. The reason I don't buy that is that ever commentary I see about Senator Obama coming from the right always, always, always refers to his race. Why not "a young, extraordinarily eloquent Senator with midwestern roots"?

My excitement about Obama derives from his eloquence, first and foremost. He expresses a passion and a depth that few politicians from either party can summon. I think that's a huge factor in his massive dominance across the state of Illinois. I lived in Illinois for a while, and while it's easy for Democrats to win in the northern half of the state, the southern part has politics not unlike those of Kansas. And Barack Obama, a biracial man with a funny name and unquestionably progressive politics, won nearly every county, even in the south. Some of those counties had a Klan presence not so long ago.

Obama won those counties by changing people's minds. He did it by having a powerful record of accomplishment in the state senate, of building coalitions across party lines and standing firm for what matters.

To dismiss all of that by reducing him to some "kind of ethnic" with "a funky name" is, quite simply, racist. It privileges race over substance. It isn't Jim Crow racism, it's a subtler sort of racism, but one that persists and does real harm. I could make some point about how calling him by his childhood name is as infantilizing as the Southern tradition of calling a black man "boy," but that's a stretch. I'll assume that's simple disrespect, not overt racism.

Senator Obama has a serious energy plan that would really help Kansas, he has passed amendments that benefit real people and advance that energy plan. He's sponsored and passed more amendments or bills of substance than Sam Brownback has in the 109th Congress. (To test this, go to Thomas, and choose the senator as a sponsor only, then either look for Passed/Agreed to in Senate or Senate amendment agreed to. "Substance" is anything that allocates funds or does more than just express hope that bad things stop happening.)