The hate they give
As the plague of racism spreads through the Republican Party, Sen. Tommy
Tuberville (R-AL.) has become a carrier, releasing a miasma of bigotry at a
Nevada campaign rally featuring Donald Trump last weekend (Oct. 8.)
Updating a hoary old stereotype, Tuberville claimed that Democrats are “pro-
crime. They want crime. They want crime because they want to take over what
you got. They want to control what you have. They want reparations because
they think the people that do the crime are owed that.”
Tuberville ousted an incumbent worthy of the seat in 2020 by tying himself
tightly to Trump’s ankle, and explicit racism remains a salient feature of the
Trump political brand. The former president launched himself on the political
stage as birther-in-chief, insisting that then-President Barack Obama, the
nation’s first black president, wasn’t born in America and was therefore
GOP leaders deny, of course, that the party of Lincoln has sunk into a fetid
swamp of racism. They point to a handful of misguided candidates of color
running for election under the Republican banner — the spectacularly
unqualified Herschel Walker being one of them — to fend off the charge. But
the evidence is all around.
Just a decade ago, GOP leaders issued a frank assessment of their failure to
attract voters of color, a report that came to be called an “autopsy.” The
authors urged Republican politicians to reach out to a diverse nation, with
specific recommendations for black voters, Latino voters and Asian-American
voters. It seemed a necessary antidote for a political party that was dying of
whiteness. But Trump descended the golden escalator in 2015 and figuratively
set fire to the report. Since then, many ambitious Republicans have set about
resurrecting the worst of the politics of the old Southern Dixiecrats, men and
women who believed in white supremacy and that they had a God-given right
Does Tuberville believe in white supremacy? He spent his pre-political career
as a college football coach, which demanded an intimate association with
young black men. Former players have talked about their surprise that he
aligned himself with Trump’s bigotry because he had seemed to have a
“personal connection” with his players, black and white, middle-class and
But if your ambition overwhelms your character and cynicism replaces honor,
your principles are fungible. George Wallace also came to his public racism
later in his career, after he lost a race to a more explicit bigot. After that,
according to lore, Wallace vowed he would never be “out-(n-word) again.
Even if modern-day Republican leaders don’t in the racism so many of them
espouse, some of their constituents do. With violence against minority groups
already on the rise, it’s dangerous and irresponsible for political leaders to
engage in hateful rhetoric. Their balderdash will be taken seriously by some
well-armed dimwit bent on taking the country back to the 1950s.
We’ve already experienced the tragic result of white nationalist propaganda,
which Trump, of course, elevated. In 2015, a self-professed white racist went
on a rampage in a historic black church in Charleston, killing nine people. In
2018, an anti-Semite attacked a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburg, killing eleven
worshippers and wounding six. Earlier this year, a white racist killed ten black
people and injured three in a Buffalo grocery store. In several incidents over
the last few years, Asian Americans have been bludgeoned on the street.
Tuberville doesn’t know any history (or civics or anything else of importance),
so he may not know that the great newspaperman Gene Patterson wrote a
brilliant column blaming white Southerners for the bombing of a black
Birmingham church in 1963 — an atrocity in which four girls were killed.
“This is no time to load our anguish onto the murderous scapegoat who set the
cap in dynamite of our own manufacture. We of the white South who know
better are the ones who must take a harsher judgment. We, who know better,
created a climate for child-killing by those who don’t,” he wrote.
Tuberville doesn’t know much, but he knows his racist diatribe was wrong. He
just doesn’t care.