Racists Like Ted Nugent Are Political Necessity for the Republican Party

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and that in the hours following a terrorist attack, Republicans will cry, “The time has come for Muslim leaders to stand up and say something.” In swallowing a dose of their own medicine, isn’t it high time Republican Party leaders stand up and say something about Nazi era racial epithets that are all too commonly used by the conservative base?

In recent years, rather than denounce racism, the Republican Party has established a disturbing trend of embracing racists.

Now it’s one thing when your average Joe Schmo calls the President a Muslim, but it’s another when a high profile figure, one whose endorsement is actively sought by Republican candidates, calls Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”

This week, while campaigning for Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, a video surfaced of Ted Nugent’s most recent racist rant:

“I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.”

Nugent’s vulgarity now joins a catalogue of outrageously racially charged obscenities hurled by the one hit wonder from the 70s. Nugent referred to Trayvon Martin as “gangster wannabe” who had a blood lust. In a 2010 op-ed in the Washington Times, Nugent wrote, “If Islam is the religion of peace, then I’m a malnourished, tofu-eating anti-hunter.” He went on to say, “But not all Muslims are religious whacks who deserve a bullet.” Ok, in his defense, he did say, “Not all.”

Now if you expected the Texas Attorney General Abbott to put as much distance between himself and Nugent as there is distance between Mecca and Obama, then you’d be sorely mistaken. At a Tuesday campaign event, Abbot praised Nugent as “a fighter for freedom in this country.” Abbott, when asked about Nugent's comments, said that he was unaware of them — including when specifically asked about a 2008 appearance on Fox News in which Nugent was asked if he would want to kill people who come illegally into this country.

Two days after Nugent’s rant went viral, Sarah Palin provocatively tweeted, “If Greg Abbott is good enough for Ted Nugent, then Greg Abbott is good enough for me.”

When Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson claimed black people happily sang their way through the days of segregation, not only did no one on the Right denounce him, but everyone from the House Speaker to the Louisiana governor embraced the reality television star.  Sen. Ted Cruz cried, “If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson. He expressed his personal views and his own religious faith; for that, he was suspended from his job. In a free society, anyone is free to disagree with him — but the mainstream media should not behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they disagree.”

Racism on the far right is not only confined to the party’s cheerleaders. Elected officials and legislative staffers have established a disturbing pattern of directing racial slurs at President Obama and the First Lady. During the 2008 campaign, Rep. Doug Lamborn called Obama a “tar baby.” A Republican activist in South Carolina compared Michelle Obama to a gorilla, and a Republican newsletter in California depicted candidate Obama surrounded by fried chicken, watermelon, and food stamps.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that since 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 67 percent. “This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president.”

So there’s a reason why the Republican Party won’t denounce racism: it can’t! At least not while nearly half of all Republicans still believe Obama was born outside of the United States, and another half believe he’s a secret Muslim. Lest we forget that the reason not a single elected Republican official accepted the invitation to attend the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington was out of fear of being primaried from the right. This is telling!

Party leaders are certainly not going to speak down to the racist elements among the base in a mid-term election year where voter turnout is typically older and whiter. A Nevada state representative even predicted 2014 would be a “good year for Republicans because minorities don’t vote.” Author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson writes, “The loud chorus from other Democrats, civil rights leaders, and even an online petition from an advocacy group begging the GOP to speak out against its naked bigots is a good preaching to the choir, PR gambit but it won’t change anything at the GOP top.” Hutchinson adds, “The GOP would cut its throat if it denounced its racists and racism, and really meant it. The shouts, taunts, spitting, catcalls, joker posters, N word slurs, Confederate and Texas Lone Star flag waving, by tea baggers is and has been an indispensable political necessity for the GOP.”

The problem for moderate and reasonable Republican leaders is the party’s base looks and sounds all too much like Ted Nugent and Phil Robertson, and they know it. That’s why right wing political operatives train their clients to use carefully crafted code words and phrases like “welfare queen,” “entitlement society,” and “food stamp president.” Of course, another favorite is “states’ rights.” The late Lee Atwater, a right wing campaign consultant, explained how Republicans could win the vote of racists without sounding racist themselves:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

The language of GOP racial politics is heavy on euphemisms that allow the speaker to deny any responsibility for the racial content of his message, but even when the language is clearly and overtly racist, the GOP either pretends it didn’t hear it or instead deflects it. Newt Gingrich was asked by CNN to comment on Nugent’s Nazi era like comments. The former Republican House Speaker called it “selective media outrage.” Deflect. It didn’t happen.

The GOP’s key dilemma right now is that it has to be a party that throws red meat to people like Ted Nugent while at the same convincing independents and urban moderates that it’s nothing like Ted Nugent. All this while at the same time calling on moderate Muslims to denounce extremists among their ranks.

CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America, and God Hates You. Hate Him Back. Follow him on twitter: @cjwerleman

 

 

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