Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
First, credit where it’s due: A few lonely Republican leaders are belatedly trying to clean up the party’s mess of crazy, from the racially tinged character attacks on Sonia Sotomayor to the unhinged rhetoric of the Birthers to the overall vicious and fact-free spew of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. It’s not working yet — Beck’s claiming Obama “has a deep-seated hatred for white people” on Tuesday might be a new low — but at least someone’s trying.
Sen. Lindsey Graham tried to kick off a new GOP flirtation with decency when he announced his vote to confirm Sotomayor last week. (Yet Graham wound up the only Republican on the Judiciary Committee to support her, with even supposed judicial moderates like Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch voting against her.) Then, after Birther madness reached a new high, a few mid-level GOP names — Mike Huckabee, Michael Steele and even fact-averse propagandists Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly — began distancing themselves from their party’s anti-Obama fringe. “Chairman Steele believes that this is an unnecessary distraction and believes that the president is a U.S. citizen,” a spokeswoman for Steele told the Plum Line’s Greg Sargent. Better late than never.
Still, Limbaugh and Beck continue to ratchet up their alarming and increasingly racist hatred for the president. Both of them have taken to insisting that the first president with a black father and white mother, mostly raised by his white grandparents, is a racist who hates white people. And look for this kind of crazy to escalate with the party base.
Limbaugh’s been on this beat for a long time, but the complicated Gates case inspired him to a whole new level of fiction. “Here you have a black president trying to destroy a white policeman,” the radio bully told his audience last Friday, the day Obama expressed regret over his quick judgment in the matter and invited Skip Gates and Officer James Crowley to the White House for a beer. On Monday he insisted, “I do believe [Obama is] an angry black guy!”
Weepy Glenn Beck has been even more hysterical, flatly declaring Obama a “racist” on Fox News and elaborating: “This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture.” Watch Beck blather below; listen to his response to the ensuing criticism here.
There’s a psychological term for this kind of unhinged behavior, and it’s called “projection.” These two racists are projecting their own racial feelings onto Obama. Increasingly, the ranks of the racially blinkered (and I include MSNBC’s Pat Buchanan here) are playing victim, insisting Obama’s modest moves — appointing a Latina justice, using the Gates case to speak out against racial profiling — are reversing the racial order wholesale, and putting white men on the bottom of the pile.
One look at Congress, the Supreme Court, Fortune 500 CEOs — or conversely, at prison cells across America — tells you how delusional the Beck-Limbaugh-Buchanan view is, but that doesn’t make it irrelevant. It’s likely to get worse, as persistent economic hardship plus a spike in right-wing racist rhetoric increases the appeal of scapegoat strategies.
It’s time for more decent Republicans to take a stand against the vicious anti-Obama racism of the party fringe and their broadcast fuhrers. On Monday Ohio Sen. George Voinovich blasted the dominance of his party’s Southern fringe, and its outdated Southern Strategy with its emphasis on racial division. Like Voinovich, I think GOP racism and race-baiting will consign the party to a long time in the political minority. But it could claim a lot of other victims along the way.
If you can stand to watch more right-wing crazy, this Media Matters video sums it all up:
Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America." More Joan Walsh.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)