Mitt Romney Abandons His Father's Civil Rights Legacy
The Republican Party, founded by militant abolitionists and once the political home of civil rights champions such as George Romney, has since the late 1960s been degenerating toward the crude politics of “Southern strategies” and what former Republican National Committee chairman Lee Atwater referred to as the “coded” language of complaints about “forced busing,” legal-services programs, welfare and food stamps. But the 2012 campaign has seen this degeneration accelerate, as the candidates have repeatedly played on stereotypes about race, class and “entitlements.”
On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum told a crowd of supporters, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”
Around the same time, Texas Congressman Ron Paul was scrambling to explain away old newsletters that went out under his name with sections suggesting that “95 percent of the black males in that city [Washington] are semi-criminal or entirely criminal” and describing the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as “Hate Whitey Day.” Order was restored in riot-torn Los Angeles, the newsletters suggested, only when welfare checks arrived.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who spent the fall talking about eliminating child-labor laws so that school janitors could be replaced with poor kids, and who regularly refers to Barack Obama as the “best food stamp president in American history,” arrived in the first-primary state of New Hampshire and announced: “I’m prepared if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”
All these remarks and revelations drew consternation. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People leaders rebuked Gingrich and Santorum, with NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous saying of Gingrich: “It is a shame that the former Speaker feels that these types of inaccurate, divisive statements are in any way helpful to our country. The majority of people using food stamps are not African-American, and most people using food stamps have a job.”
Now, as the Republican race heads for South Carolina, a state that has seen more than its share of racially charged campaigning, there is every reason to fear that things could get uglier. As recently as 2000, the Republican presidential primary campaign witnessed race-baiting phone calls that attacked John McCain for fathering a “black child” out of wedlock. (In fact, he and his wife had adopted a girl from Bangladesh.)
Repugs' racism in undeniable.