Thursday, October 26, 2006

As dirty as it gets

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Who's the new bogeyman for an increasingly desperate Republican Party? You know, the new scapegoat, the new incarnation of the Other? Why, it's the Latino immigrant, of course, as the editors of The New Republic point out in a new editorial.

Latinos only recently were "destined to form the bedrock of Rove's implacable Republican majority" -- "socially conservative and entrepreneurial," and hence Republican, in Rove's myopic view. And now? They're the targets of shocking GOP ads. The editorial is available online by subscription only, but here are a couple of examples:

-- "In North Carolina, House candidate Vernon Robinson is airing a spot depicting a white man who gazes at a sign that reads, help wanted: bi-lingual only! A narrator helpfully adds: 'These illegal aliens pay no taxes but take our jobs and our government handouts, then spit in our face and burn our flags.' Then, one Latino man grabs his crotch and another flips the camera a middle finger."

-- "Down in Georgia, Republican incumbent Mac Collins has used similar material to bludgeon his opponent, Jim Marshall. More in sorrow than in anger, the ad intones, 'Jim Marshall joined his liberal leader Nancy Pelosi and voted to waste our tax dollars printing election ballots in Spanish.' It's a complaint interrupted by the villainous voice of a Mexican bandido sneering, 'Muchas gracias, Señor Jim Marshall.'"

Um. Wow. Looks like the old "race-baiting" is back.

So much for the mirage of Bush's compassionate conservatism. So much for "the Bush ethos of tolerance" and "its political embrace of Latinos". Of course, this is the House GOP, not the White House, but, as the TNR editors argue, "the current moment raises serious doubts about his initial sincerity". After all, "Bush has shown hardly any willingness to stop the party he leads from spewing vile racism".

And vile racism it is. The GOP is back to its dirty old strategy of vilifying the racial Other and playing on detestable White fears and prejudices. It was Blacks not so long ago. Think Bush's father. Think Willie Horton. The recent Other is cultural and sexual, homosexuals, a persistent target of Republicans from the president on down. And now Latinos have joined gays and lesbians. They are the enemies of choice for a party that is exposing its inner self once again to the American people as it faces defeat at the hands of a resurgent Democratic Party. At least it's being honest about itself. At least it's stripped away the pretense of tolerance to reveal its true colours -- it's true colour.

Republicans had convinced a lot of people that they had changed. Apparently they haven't.

The unabashed bigotry is back.

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